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New SBC President Ed Litton Talks About CRT, Women in Leadership, and Sexual Abuse in Press Conference

“CRT is a reality in our culture,” Litton said, “and I think people are afraid. I don’t think they need to be afraid within the SBC. It is not taught. It is not believed among our seminaries. No one is endorsing it.” But because it is a reality in our culture, Litton said, “We need to understand it. We need to seek to help find justice….We have a higher tool [that] is the Gospel. The Gospel is the tool that we look at to say that we seek justice, and we are under command to seek justice.” Litton reiterated that he can’t predict if the ‘CRT Panic’ will end and hopes the SBC can have honest discussions that don’t turn into allegations. “Hurt and pain takes intentionality,” he said. “It takes people spending time listening and doing what we can to try to heal wounds, and these are old wounds.”

Discussing how he will approach the divisions about race that exist within the SBC, Litton said, “The only approach I want to be a part of is a Gospel-centered approach. In other words, what’s my motivation for doing it? It’s not to be hip or cool. It’s not to even catch up with the times. My goal is to say, ‘Jesus how would you have me treat my neighbor?’ ”

Ordaining Women in the SBC?

Mike Stone’s supporters were vocal over their concern about a marriage sermon series Litton had previously co-led with his wife. Litton responded, “I’m a complementarian. I believe that the pastor/elder of the church has to be male, the primary teaching pastor of the church. But I also believe in the autonomy of the local church. The truth is, the Baptist Faith and Message doesn’t speak to my wife with me in a series on marriage, or a series talking about family. I don’t know about you, but I don’t contain all the wisdom in the world. I believe the Word of God does. But my wife is an apt teacher and she helps me communicate to our people. She also provides a voice that our people need to hear. I felt absolutely free within my convictional status, the Baptist Faith and Message, and the Word of God to invite my wife to come up. She is under my authority as her pastor. We did that together and I am very proud of her.”

A follow-up question asked whether Litton felt churches that ordained women as pastors could join the SBC in the near future. “I think that’s something we are going to have to work out,” he said. “What we need to do is hear each other out…’How to do you define that role that you ordained that person to?’ ” Litton went on to say the Baptist Faith and Message doesn’t address ordination. “The best thing for us to do is not make it a national issue of it, but let that association work it out. The Baptist Faith and Message does not address ordination. We are going to keep it within those boundaries as much as we can.”

When asked if he is in favor of editing the Baptist Faith and Message to provide better clarification regarding women leadership within SBC churches, Litton said, “There are calls for that, but I think it’s good where it’s at. I think there needs to be a wideness to this. Complementarism doesn’t need to be narrowed; it needs to be as wide as it is in the Baptist Faith and Message. And I am good with that.”

Reactions From Twitter

RNS’ Bob Smietana posted on Twitter a quote from an email he had received: “We prayed long and hard about it and our prayers revealed: Jesus was rooting for Mike Stone for president. Lucifer was rooting for progressive activist Ed Litton for president. But Jesus wouldn’t interfere.”

Fellow nominee Pastor Mike Stone sent out a congratulations on his Twitter page: “Thank you to all those who supported me in this effort. Our prayers and congratulations are to @EdLitton.”

Founders Ministries President Tom Ascol posted: “Amen. Grateful for you, brother. Praying for @EdLitton as he leads.”