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Ed Litton Plagiarism? New SBC President’s Church Deletes Over 100 Sermons After Accusations

Pastors and Plagiarism

In the second decade of the 2000’s, J.D. Greear wrote an article titled “What Counts as Plagiarism in a Sermon,” where he said, “The question of plagiarism in sermon preparation is rather tricky, primarily because we are interpreting a document (the Bible) which has been interpreted by thousands of people for the last 3000 years. Almost everything we say has already been said elsewhere.”

Explaining that he did a study regarding the “official rules” of plagiarism, Greear wrote, “They’re really hard to nail down.” Greear gave five rules he follows, one of which is: “If I ever preach the gist of another person’s sermon, meaning that I used the lion’s share of their message’s organization, points, or applications, I give credit.” He followed that by telling his readers, “I don’t ever think it’s a good idea to preach someone else’s sermon… But in those rare times when you feel like you just can’t help it, you have to give credit. A sermon is a major thought unit. If it’s not yours, you have to acknowledge where it came from.”

“My dilemma is that I have listened to Tim Keller now so much that I tend to plagiarize him before even hearing him teach through a particular passage,” Greear wrote. “By that I mean, I know how he’ll spin a passage even before I hear him do it, and I will sometimes end up doing that even without hearing him teach on it.”

Pastor James Emery White wrote the article “Pastor Plagiarism: 10 Do’s and Don’ts.” In it, he said, “Don’t ever use another person’s creative outline without attribution.” White also told his readers and fellow preachers, “Don’t justify plagiarism by trying to spiritualize it with ‘It’s all for the Kingdom‘ or ‘It’s not really theirs, because God gave it to them’ kind of statements. That is true of everything, such as our property. Yet God says, ‘Don’t steal.’ That includes intellectual property, too.”

In closing, White said, “The point is that good communicators borrow material all the time, but ethical ones let you know where they borrowed it.”

Leaders Respond

9Marks editorial director, author, and pastor Jonathan Leeman was asked if he still stood by a 2015 statement he made that read: “If a pastor is consistently using someone else’s sermons or portions of sermons without giving credit, he should not be a pastor.” Leeman responded, “Yes, I hold this view. I pray the Lord keeps me faithful to it. I’ve not looked into Litton stuff. First people who should are his own elders (if he has them). 2nd, his congregation. 3rd, perhaps SBC exec committee? Not sure who is formally responsible for his role as prez.”

SBC pastor Josh Buice wrote on Twitter, “A constant mantra that was repeated from the microphone at the #SBC21 was that ‘the world is watching.’ Yes, they are, indeed.” [sic]

SBC pastor Dwight McKissic also wrote on Twitter saying, “It’s sending the message of GRACE. Ed Litton has given an honest account of his actions. He’s admitted where he erred. His statement has been acknowledged & accepted, including his admission of error by many SBC pastors, including me. Why can’t you grace him, & move on? POLITICS!” Then he posted his thoughts about plagiarism saying, “On plagiarism: ‘Those among you without sin, cast the first stone.’ Including all the CBN boys, if every sermon you’ve preached was combed looking for evidence/examples of ‘plagiarism,’ which one of us would not be guilty? I would be, & practically every preacher I’ve read/heard.” [sic]