The Southern Baptist Convention is “the largest deliberative body in the world,” noted current SBC president Ed Litton. But it also is a family that seeks to honor the Lord and respect one another.
Speaking via Zoom June 7 to TAB editor-in-chief Jennifer Rash, Litton noted the two polarities come into play as the SBC convenes next week in Anaheim, California (June 14-15).
Sexual Abuse Task Force
Recent media focus has been on a recent report by the Sexual Abuse Task Force after investigating the SBC, and its recommendations for action going forward.
Litton, pastor of Redemption Church with campuses in Mobile and Saraland, Alabama, will complete his one-year term in Anaheim, declining nomination for a traditional second term.
“This year has been painful and challenging, but I felt God’s call to make myself available,” he said.
In response to a question about what his final week as president looks like, Litton said he’s preparing, doing the best he can do for the SBC and for the Lord, and engaging in “brush-up” work on parliamentary procedure.
“I’m not an expert, but fortunately we have solid parliamentarians at our meeting. Our messengers deserve to be led well.
Litton said he thinks Baptists are profoundly concerned about the Task Force report and have much regret for the victims of abuse it highlighted.
“We have the opportunity to face this issue — the good and the bad,” he noted. “We will work together going forward.
“Grassroots Southern Baptists are a good people. They expect justice and they love mercy and they’re humble people. It’s in our DNA to want to follow through.”
Rash asked about the struggle between the current issues and Baptist polity.
“We can do both,” Litton said. “We have opportunity not to run from it and look the other way.
“We are a very serious people, and we’re serious about our polity, but at some point we can’t hide behind our polity.”
Litton said he’s been thinking lately about Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).
“We can’t turn aside and deny human need. The Samaritan didn’t fix the problem fast. He entered into the pain of the man and engaged with him more than in a moment,” Litton explained. “We need to come to the table and stay at the table. We need to feel the pain of those who’ve been hurt, but we also need to act.”
The main reason “we are where we are,” Litton said, is because of the tenacious work of the survivors who wouldn’t back away. He added the task force report could be a “refining fire” making the SBC stronger and better.
“I’ve said I don’t always like the fire, or the source of the fire but I love the Refiner,” Litton declared.
‘A lot of grace’
Rash asked about the number of messengers expected and how they might prepare for the event.
“We have more than 7,000 registered this week, and some are expecting 8,000 or more,” Litton responded, noting, “We need a lot of grace, and a lot of grace for one another.
“We should address the issues and not personalities and people,” he added. “It’s against our rules to disparage others. We want to look for solutions. My job is to be fair, and to help people make sound judgments.
“Even those who don’t like me are praying for me!” Litton quipped. “I’m the most prayed for man in the Convention!”
He encouraged Southern Baptists to “pray for the Spirit of God to move.”
Rash noted a recent news report that Guidepost Solutions, which investigated and submitted the sexual abuse report, had “tweeted” its support for the LGBT movement, and some questioned its continued affiliation with the organization.
“I’ve been a pastor of a local church all my adult life,” Litton responded. “Of course pastors and churches have a right to talk about these issues. This is normal. I think at the end of the day we work through these issues.”
Litton said the annual meeting in Nashville last year was charged to investigate two areas, and the other one, perhaps overlooked, was racial reconciliation.
“We’ll have some very exciting news to share on Wednesday,” he promised. “I think the messengers will be pleased.”
Watch the full interview here.
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