For the first time since 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) will have a one-term president, as current SBC president Ed Litton announced earlier this week that he would not seek a second term at June’s upcoming annual meeting in Anaheim, California.
The pastor of Redemption Church in the Mobile, Alabama made the announcement by video, sharing that God has called him to devote the next five to ten years to pursuing racial reconciliation within the local church—an initiative that will be shared more during the annual meeting.
Litton won 2021’s presidency by only a few hundred votes in a run-off with pastor Mike Stone of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia. Litton’s year of service will be remembered for his appointing of a task force to oversee a third-party review of the SBC Executive Committee’s alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims requested by its messengers at their 2021 annual meeting.
In addition to the task force, Litton’s presidency has also be clouded by multiple sermon plagiarism allegations regarding sermons that he preached prior to his being elected as SBC president.
“It’s no secret that this has been a difficult year,” Litton said in his video, “as we fought to emerge from two years of a pandemic. Many of our pastors and churches are struggling. We’ve also navigated some painful conflicts and intense discussions right now. I want to speak as plainly as I can—as I’ve previously stated—I take responsibility for my own failures and shortcomings, for mistakes I’ve made in the preparation and delivery of particular sermons.”
Litton told the SBC that he believes we are in a critical moment and believes “that nothing should distract us from what lies ahead.” During the annual meeting in Anaheim, the sexual abuse task force will present a full report with recommendations. “The messengers from our churches must be prepared to act upon the recommendations they bring forth,” Litton said.
Controversy Surrounding Litton’s Presidency
A video released days after Litton was named the new president of the SBC shows side-by-side clips of the pastor practically reciting word-for-word one of J.D. Greear’s sermons as his own. Litton apologized for not giving credit to Greear, sharing that he had Greear’s permission to use a collection of sermons he inquired about.
Days later, another set of videos were released depicting Litton using the same prayer, sermon points, sub points, and analogies. The allegations led to the deletion of over 100 sermons that his church had posted on YouTube. Litton was also accused of plagiarizing Tim Keller.