NASHVILLE (BP) – Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton reported Monday night (Sept. 20) on the Gospel work he has witnessed during the first months of his presidency while urging Executive Committee members and guests to model and speak Christ’s message for those inside as well as outside the church.
“My heart is heavy about this gathering,” he said. “I think all of us feel the weight of it, and we need to find a way forward for the glory of God together.”
Litton’s address came just a few hours after EC members entered a closed session to debate whether waiving attorney-client privilege as requested by the Sexual Abuse Task Force could affect the committee’s fiduciary responsibilities to the Convention. SBC messengers voted in June for Litton to appoint a task force to oversee a third-party investigation of the EC’s handling of sexual abuse claims and treatment of victims. Earlier this month, the task force named Guidepost Solutions to handle the review.
The motion called for the Executive Committee to “agree to the accepted best-standards and practices as recommended by the commissioned third-party, including but not limited to the Executive Committee staff and members waiving attorney client privilege in order to ensure full access to information and accuracy in the review.”
Guidepost has since asked the EC to waive attorney-client privilege.
“Our convention is struggling right now,” Litton said, “and it’s a crisis of trust. However you label it, there’s a solution and that solution is with us. Our churches want to see our entities working together in harmony, and they want to see the EC leading the way.”
The Southern Baptist family has “genuine concerns” for how abuse cases will be handled, he said. “The people are watching, and what they’re looking for is openness and transparency.”
Litton pointed to Executive Committee responsibilities originating from the floor of the annual meeting each year.
“We could talk all day about what your assignment is … but folks, we cannot disconnect ourselves from Southern Baptists,” he said. “On that floor from the world’s largest deliberation that lasts two days, they do direct us in the way we should go, and they are concerned.”
Litton, who is pastor of Redemption Church near Mobile, Ala., also addressed an overall lack of civility and perceived losses of influence and certainty. Southern Baptists are a family of churches, he said. They should be marked by love as Jesus said in John 13:35 and should outdo one another in showing love (Romans 12:10).
“In the toxicity of the conversation and lack of civility, we do the opposite,” he said. “We should honor one another [and] those who are struggling. The mood of our times is to attack, demonize, make allegations and threaten. We are seldom slow to speak and slow to anger. Why not come and reason together instead of promoting tribal hostility, ungraciousness and suspicion of one another?”