Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton announced Tuesday (March 1) that he will not seek a second year in office and will instead refocus his attention on racial reconciliation efforts at the local and national level.
Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, made the announcement in a video posted to his church’s YouTube channel.
Citing past work with fellow pastors in the Mobile area to bridge racial divides in that city and “bring about a gospel-driven unity and reconciliation,” Litton said God had “birthed something very amazing.”
He said he sees an open door for the larger family of SBC churches “to embrace a very simple strategy to pursue this kind of work that will bridge the racial divides throughout our communities [and] throughout North America and bring about a gospel-centered racial reconciliation.”
Litton said he feels called to devote the next 5 to 10 years of his life to the work of racial unity, and that he will be more effective leading from the office of pastor rather than SBC president. He plans to provide more details about a “grassroots” strategy for racial reconciliation at the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, in June.
Reflecting on his tenure as SBC president, Litton said he has seen Southern Baptists “at our best” and called it a “tremendous honor to serve as the president of our Great Commission Baptist family.”
“I’ve seen Send Relief and state conventions coordinating disaster relief teams to respond to fires in Colorado, flooding and hurricanes in New Orleans and tornadoes in Kentucky and Tennessee,” he said. “I’ve also been to our southern [U.S.] border and seen firsthand the mission works sponsored by one local association and a lot of churches, providing six meals a week for people who are in desperate need and sharing the love of Jesus Christ with them and a hope that only Jesus can bring.
“I visited churches and seminaries and have spoken at conferences and events where I have met so many Southern Baptists who share with me about the countless ways God is moving in their lives, in their churches and in their communities.
“Our family of churches is animated about one sacred effort — a desperation to see the Great Commission fulfilled by getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. This is the reason we cooperate together, and it is the heartbeat of our convention.”
He addressed controversy that has plagued his term as president and said he is responsible for mistakes he has made in sermon preparation and delivery.
Shortly after the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting, allegations emerged that Litton had plagiarized a sermon from his predecessor J.D. Greear. Both sermons use Romans 1 as their text, and both deal with the sin of homosexuality. At several points, the comments from the two preachers are nearly identical, but Litton did not cite Greear when he delivered the sermon.
Litton said Southern Baptists are at a “critical moment” as the convention awaits a report from the Sexual Abuse Task Force called for by messengers, appointed by Litton and tasked with investigating allegations that instances of sexual abuse were mishandled by Executive Committee members.
Litton said messengers needed no additional distractions as they prepare to act on the recommendations of the task force.
“I earnestly believe we must be united in our pursuit of that one sacred effort to reach the nations for Christ, and we must keep working to eradicate the stains of sexual abuse and racism from our convention,” Litton said.
The 2022 SBC Annual Meeting and related events will be held in Anaheim, California, June 12–15.