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Op-Ed: Ed Litton is Disqualified From the Pastorate, But Is He Even a Christian?

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On June 15th, the Southern Baptist Convention elected Harry Edward (Ed) Litton Jr., the lead pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, as the president of the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination. For many, Ed Litton was just the “moderate” candidate Southern Baptists needed to bring unity in a denomination that is being torn apart by godless ideologies such as Critical Race Theory. For others, like myself, he was the progressive candidate who really didn’t stand a chance behind the other two serious contenders, Al Mohler and Mike Stone.

We were wrong; he did stand a chance. During a run-off election between him and Mike Stone–and relentless attacks on the conservative candidate, Mike Stone from Southern Baptist elites–Litton won the presidency only by a few hundred votes.

Heretical View of the Trinity

The day after Litton’s election, social media became ablaze with chatter around the statement of faith that appeared on Litton’s Redemption Church website. In that statement contained a heretical and condemned view of the Trinity known as partiality. The statement, which has now been removed from the church’s website after severe backlash, read:

Partialism, as opposed to the orthodox view of the Trinity that acknowledges the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each as fully God, instead teaches that each person of the Trinity is a “part” of God. Ed Litton made no public statement regarding the change, the change was merely silently made with no further comment. The story died and he was never held accountable by his peers or his church.

The Bible Merely “Whispers” About Homosexuality

The following week, Reformation Charlotte broke the story that Ed Litton’s views on homosexuality mirrored his predecessor, JD Greear’s views as they both preached a sermon out of Romans 1 contending that the Bible merely “whispers” about homosexuality while it “shouts” about other sins, such as greed and boasting. That story broke early morning on Monday, June 21.

By mid-day on that day, Reformation Charlotte’s story hit the national radio airwaves as Todd Starnes and Robert Jeffress offered commentary and denounced Litton’s and Greear’s statements. By the end of the day, the news had lit social media on fire and others, including Pastor Gabe Hughes, had tweeted it out.

Plagiarism or Borrowing?

A few days later, the first side-by-side compilation video was dropped by a friend of Hughes on the Romans 1 sermon which showed striking similarities between the entire sermon–not just the part about “whispering” about homosexuality.

By the way, did you know Reformation Charlotte has a Christian gear and apparel store? Check it out at ReformedGear.com.

This was when the floodgates opened on Ed Litton and Litton became caught up in a web of lies that he now appears to be desperately trying to hide from. On the 26th, the following day after the video was released, Ed Litton and JD Greear both released statements insisting that Greear had given Litton permission to use his materials for that sermon and Litton apologized for not citing Greear.

“I felt it important to address this in order to provide the truth and to take responsibility for places where I should have been more careful,” Litton said in his statement. “I am sorry for not mentioning J.D.’s generosity and ownership of these points. I should have given him credit as I shared these insights.”

The statements from both Greear and Litton, if left to their own devices, would lead one to believe that this was a one-time event and a genuine oversight. Believing the situation had been handled, Litton and Greear both disappeared from the scene and have taken no further responsibility for what has now turned into a plagiarism scandal of biblical proportions, pun intended.

Sermon Videos Scrubbed From Web

Litton’s Church also removed over one hundred videos from its YouTube channel with two conflicting reasons given as to why they were removed. According to the Baptist Press, the videos were removed by the elders of Redemption Church because “people were going through sermons in an attempt to discredit and malign our pastor.”

However, Ed Litton gave the Washington Times a completely different reason for removing the videos. “Mr. Litton said Redemption Church had removed dozens of his old sermons from its website,” The Washington Times reports, “because of a transition in web hosting and to conserve disk space, stating the older messages remain available on YouTube.”

Clear Plagiarism

Despite the fact that these videos were removed, it wasn’t enough to cover his tracks of clear plagiarism. Over the course of the next several days, a number of new videos dropped showing a clear link between Litton’s sermons and Greear’s sermons all throughout the book of Romans.

Some of the videos dropped over the next several days include:

Other videos have surfaced, as well, including one video that is 25 minutes long, from Romans 1:15-27. All of these videos prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Ed Litton has not only been plagiarizing JD Greear for years, but has presented these sermons to his congregation as his own work, deceived them, and lied to them repeatedly.

Ed Litton Doubles Down on SBC Podcast

On July 2, Ed Litton went on the SBC This Week podcast to defend his plagiarism. The podcast, which is an official podcast of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, failed to hold Litton accountable. On the podcast, Litton insisted he had done nothing wrong.

“It was a part of our study,” Litton says, “and it wasn’t just one sermon–I mean, you can hear illustrations and different statements throughout several of those sermons–and I had JD’s permission and encouragement.”

The host asks Litton if Greear’s sermons were just a type of commentary for him. Litton responded, “a lot of them I didn’t even listen to, I just went straight to the notes he provided. So, yes, very much like a commentary in that sense.”

“I was asked by good people,” he continued, “why didn’t you just credit JD?”

“I want you to hear my heart, this is not just an excuse or justification. I am sorry I did not.” Litton then went on to blame his preaching professor at Southwestern Seminary for teaching him that he did not need to cite his sources. Justin Peters, who also attended Southwestern Seminary, told Reformation Charlotte that it was highly unlikely that any professor at the seminary said that.

No Accountability

In 2006, Al Mohler joined Southern Seminary’s Dean of the School of Theology, Hershael York, to discuss what was a seemingly novel, but growing epidemic in churches around the nation–pulpit plagiarism. In that episode of his podcast, Mohler lambasted–calling it “despicable”–the practice of using another preacher’s materials in your sermons and presenting it as your own.

Other leaders addressed this as well, between 2006 and 2012. In 2010, JD Greear himself–who is now one of the defendants in the middle of today’s pulpit plagiarism scandal–said “I don’t ever think it’s a good idea to preach someone else’s sermon.” In a recent statement from just last week regarding the Ed Litton scandal, he said he had given Ed permission to use his materials. However, Ed Litton not only preached Greear’s sermons point-by-point and nearly word-for-word in some cases, but he failed to credit him.

“If I ever preach the gist of another person’s sermon,” Greear said, “meaning that I used the lion’s share of their message’s organization, points, or applications, I give credit.”

Also in 2010, D.A. Carson–co-founder of The Gospel Coalition–addressed pulpit plagiarism with very harsh words for those who practice it:

Taking over another sermon and preaching it as if it were yours is always and unequivocally wrong, and if you do it you should resign or be fired immediately. The wickedness is along at least three axes: (1) You are stealing. (2) You are deceiving the people to whom you are preaching. (3) Perhaps worst, you are not devoting yourself to the study of the Bible to the end that God’s truth captures you, molds you, makes you a man of God and equips you to speak for him.

Also in 2006, Tim Challies addressed the pressing issue of plagiarism:

A pastor who preaches a sermon that is not his own is typically attempting to give the impression that he wrote the sermon–that he did the research, studied the Bible, thought of appropriate stories or analogies, and assembled a convicting message. And yet, when the sermon is taken from another person, none of this is true. The pastor may have modified elements on the sermon, but he has not invested the time or effort in serving his congregation by doing the long and hard work of sermon preparation.

Today, these very same leaders have not uttered a word of condemnation against Ed Litton for doing the very thing they denounced and condemned in years past.

Further, his own church has thus far refused to take any disciplinary against him, and to make matters worse, it appears his entire elder staff are in on the scandal. Reformation Charlotte released another video demonstrating that Litton’s co-pastor, Taylor Anderson, also plagiarized JD Greear in another sermon from Romans 12.

Ed Litton Dismisses Allegations and Lies to Media

On July 8, A video surfaced of an interview that Ed Litton did with a local television station, WKRG, a CBS affiliated station in Alabama, where he dismissed the allegations against him. During the interview, the host asked Litton about the allegations.

“Where do those charges come from, do you know?” Bill Riales asked Litton. Litton sat there with a straight face and outright lied, answering “No, they are unnamed. So unnamed sources are presenting these things which should make everybody take a pause.”

This is demonstrably false and Ed Litton knows exactly who has been bringing these charges against him. Further, Ed Litton follows Reformation Charlotte on Twitter and he has been tagged numerous times with no response. Several others, including Tom Buck, Gabe Hughes, Alan Atchison, Justin Peters, Jordan Hall, James White, Chris Bolt, and many others have been very upfront–not anonymous–about these charges and all have welcomed conversation.

Further, there is a petition, which has been endorsed by Houston Baptist professor, Robert Gagnon, with hundreds of signatures calling on Litton to repent and resign–all names are visible on the petition.

Disqualified

At this point, there is no doubt for anyone in their right mind that Ed Litton is a serial plagiarist who has repeatedly lied to cover his tracks. The question is not “did Ed Litton lie and plagiarize,” the question is “because he lied and plagiarized, why is he still president?”

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.
–Proverbs 12:22

Many have excused the lack of accountability by citing church autonomy in the Southern Baptist Convention. The argument is that it is the responsibility of Ed Litton’s church to take action against him if he is in unrepentant sin. While this is technically true, it omits the other half of the truth. The Southern Baptist Convention does have the ability to disfellowship from a church that is not acting faithfully in accordance with the Scriptures. And if the Convention disfellowships from Redemption Church, this would effectively remove Litton from office.

The Scriptures clearly teach that pastors, elders, and overseers must be above reproach. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 gives these qualifications:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teachnot a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

As you can see, in the bold emphasis above, Ed Litton clearly does not meet several of these qualifications. Even the ones not highlighted are debatable. He is clearly not above reproach with his repeated lies and unrepentant sin. He’s obviously not sober-minded and self-controlled if he’s unwilling to even come face to face with his accusers. He’s definitely not respectable–he’s a liar, there are no two ways about it. And, obviously, he can’t teach if he has to plagiarize someone else’s sermons.

And lastly, one of the mantras that were repeated over and over at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in June when Ed Litton was elected was “the world is watching.” Clearly, the world is watching; and Ed Litton’s scandal has brought reproach upon the name of Christ and His Church as even national media, including Newsweek, the NY Times, the Washington Post, The Washington Times, and several other smaller publications have covered this story.

The world is clearly watching, and Ed Litton has shown the world that he is disqualified. While I will stop short of determining the state of his soul, it is certainly now a fair question to ask him: Is he even a Christian?

It is time to do the right thing. Repent and resign.

         

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