CBF participants dispute reporter's allegation of abuse
___By Bob Allen
___Associated Baptist Press
___ATLANTA (ABP)--Participants and witnesses are disputing a Baptist Press reporter's allegation he was intimidated and physically accosted while covering a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting.
___Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's official news service, published a story July 5 charging abusive treatment of Russell Moore, a freelance writer employed by
Baptist Press to cover the Fellowship's general assembly June 29-July 1 in Orlando, Fla.
___In the story, Moore alleged an individual identified as "a former Foreign Mission Board missionary" physically and verbally accosted him because he was upset with BP's coverage of the meeting.
___The same story also said CBF leader David Currie "publicly rebuked" Moore, inciting boos, hisses and disparaging remarks aimed at the reporter.
___"I am disappointed that a CBF leader felt the need to create an intimidating atmosphere for any individual, whether a journalist or not," Will Hall, the new SBC Executive Committee vice president in charge of Baptist Press, said. "Moreover, I'm saddened about the apparent abuse that resulted for our reporter."
___According to the BP story, Moore was confronted July 1. "He started screaming and yelling at me ... ," Moore said. "He called me a (expletive deleted) liar and said I had no integrity."
___Moore said he asked the man to step aside and allow him to pass. "Then, he pushed me against a wall, berated me, jabbing me in the chest with his finger as he spoke. I asked him to discontinue the conversation again, but he continued to pursue me, yelling a curse."
___Moore said he feared for his safety.
___The individual, whom Baptist Press identified in a complaint to a CBF official but not in the news story, declined to discuss the episode.
___But the CBF official, Communications Coordinator David Wilkinson, said he had a lengthy conversation in which the unidentified person gave an account substantially different from the Baptist Press report.
___According to Wilkinson: The former "missionary," who served two years in the FMB's Journeyman program for young adults, said he was sitting behind an individual who was taking copious notes during a general session. Later he asked Moore, who was not wearing a press nametag, if he were a reporter and whom he represented.
___The individual admitted saying Moore's coverage of the CBF meeting lacked integrity and was unethical, and that he stepped in front of Moore when he made a move to leave. However, he vigorously denied he pushed Moore, put his finger on his chest or swore at him.
___Wilkinson said he told the Baptist Press director of the contradictory account and offered to organize a conference call to sort out the matter. Hall balked at including Moore, and Wilkinson withdrew the offer.
___The next day, Baptist Press ran a story expressing Hall's "deep concerns after a Baptist Press reporter was accosted" during the CBF meeting. The story relied solely on Moore's account, without a response from either the CBF or individuals named.
___Currie, executive director of Texas Baptists Committed, also disputed details of Moore's descriptions of a small-group session he led about how state political groups relate to CBF.
___The Baptist Press story said Moore "was pointed out as a reporter" and that he was "booed and hissed" when Currie attacked the news service.
___Currie said he asked if a Baptist Press reporter were in the room and that Moore introduced himself. Some in the room audibly "groaned" when the reporter was identified, Currie said. "I said: 'Be nice. He has a right to be here.'"
___Witnesses supported Currie's account.
___Currie denied he "rebuked" Moore, because he had never heard of him. He admitted, however, he did criticize stories by other BP writers as "hatchet jobs" and of using "Hitler's big lie" propaganda to discredit the CBF and related movements.
___Currie said he told persons considering starting a "mainstream" Baptist organization they would have to deal with unfair treatment from Baptist Press, including the repeating of false statements until they become widely believed.
___As an example, Currie referred to BP coverage of a statement made during debate on the SBC's Baptist Faith & Message article on Scripture. In an effort to restore language establishing Christ as the criterion by which the Bible should be interpreted, Texan Anthony Sisemore remarked, "... the Bible is still just a book."
___"What he was trying to say," Currie said, "was not that the Bible was any book like 'Tom Sawyer' or 'War and Peace.' The Bible is a book, but we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
___SBC leaders "knew that," Currie said, but continued to repeat Sisemore's quote as representing the moderate Baptist view. "No moderate leader I know believes the Bible is 'just' a book," Currie said.
___As recently as June 26, BP ran a story about the possibility the Baptist General Convention of Texas might sever ties with the SBC. The story quoted an SBC leader as describing the choice that would face churches as those who believe the Bible is just a book and those who don't.
___"When you say that Texas Baptist leaders believe the Bible is just a book, you know you aren't telling the truth," Currie said.
___Moore could not be reached for comment by press time.
___Hall said he stands by BP's coverage of the CBF meeting and declined further comment.
___Currie, who just completed service as the chairman of the Fellowship's finance committee, also said, "CBF does not give one penny to support the promotion of homosexuality," another of Moore's allegations.
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