Ed Litton, newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has apologized for preaching a sermon similar to one preached a year earlier by former SBC president J.D. Greear without giving credit.
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.
Litton is pastor of Redemption Church, a multisite congregation in the Mobile, Alabama, area.
In a statement released this morning (June 26), Litton said Greear granted him permission to use “The Summit Church’s chapter and verse breakdown of Romans as we mapped out our entire series. … But 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,” Litton said.
Greear also posted a statement today, affirming that he had granted Litton permission to use the material.
“In January of 2019, I preached a message called ‘How the Fall Affects Us All: Romans 1:24–32’ on Paul’s explanation of the effects of the fall on us all, particularly in the realm of social and sexual disorder. The content of the message, particularly my three conclusions at the end about homosexuality (“Where the Church Gets This Wrong”), got a lot of traction, and clips and summaries of this message were shared on a number of blog and podcast sites. It was one of the most widely distributed messages I’ve ever preached at The Summit Church.
“Several months later, Pastor Ed Litton reached out and told me that he had really appreciated my take on Paul’s warnings in that chapter and asked if he could use some of the content with his congregation, as well as how we had broken down our entire series on Romans at The Summit Church. I told him that whatever bullets of mine worked in his gun, to use them! My own take on these kinds of things is usually shaped by the input of many godly men and women. Ed and I have been friends for many years and we have talked often about these matters, and I was honored that he found my presentation helpful.”
Litton said he used several resources to “think through how to structure the series and how best to communicate the profound truths we encounter in these passages.”
He found Greear’s message “insightful, particularly his three points of application” but regrets not giving credit to Greear, he said.
Litton’s sermons were pulled from Redemption Church’s website today.
Observations on culture
Greear’s points in this particular sermon have been criticized in the past. He said the controversy over the sermon — and Litton’s use of it — reflects a lack of trust within the SBC.
“I have said before — a culture of suspicion happens automatically; a culture of trust takes intentionality. Our convention desperately needs to build a culture of trust, and that starts with assuming the best about each other and giving the benefit of the doubt wherever we can,” Greear said. “I am praying for Ed Litton as he leads us to focus on the Great Commission.”