Dr. Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention after contentious debate and a lot of dirty political maneuverings by his supporters. He was hailed by the academic elite in WokeEVA Inc. and the secular media as this moderate choice for the SBC after the convention attendees were able to beat back those terrible legalistic ultra-conservatives.
I’ll let readers do their own research regarding the aftermath of the 2021 convention and what all of it forebodes for conservative, Bible-loving Southern Baptists. What came to light within the week or so after the convention is what is most concerning.
Back in January 2019, then SBC president J.D. Greear, “preached” a sermon (really more of a TEDtalk) on Romans 1:26-32, where Paul condemns homosexual sin. Greear downplayed the seriousness of the sexual perversion by declaring homosexuality as no more sinful than heterosexual sin and saying how God speaks much more loudly about injustice, theft, and other similar lesser sins, and “whispers” about sexual sins. We as Christians, he says, should only whisper about those sins God whispers about. He was rightfully criticized and his sermon was another sad illustration of how big megachurch elites in the SBC were not only wildly off-target regarding the wickedness that struts throughout our culture, but also terrible handlers of God’s Word.
Fast-forward to the week of the 2021 SBC convention. Some alert soul happened to remember that Ed Litton had said something similar to Greear regarding God whispering about the sin of homosexuality. People who take sin seriously and know God has never whispered about any sin, especially the gross perversion of same-sex attraction and homosexuality, just face palmed and wondered why Litton wasn’t vetted before he was nominated to be the SBC president. Of course, he was vetted. Lots of solid men posted articles and podcasts detailing the problems with the man’s thinking and overall direction his leadership would take the SBC. But, no one really cared. They only wanted to beat those MAGAtard, white Christian nationalists who hate women.
While the SBC tumultuously wrestled over who would be the next president, another curious individual noticed that Litton’s whispering comments sounded way too familiar to what Greear said. He took the time to find Greear’s original sermon and then listened to Litton’s sermon preached exactly a year later in January 2020 on the same subject and was shocked — SHOCKED — to discover that there wasn’t a few similar comments, but entire sections literally plagiarized, including the opening illustrations and the exact outline of the passage! He edited the the two sermons together:
Many evangelical elites have roundly condemned plagiarism in sermons over the years. For example Justin Taylor contributed to an article at Desiring God, What is Plagiarism? back nearly 15 years ago. The same for Al Mohler who spoke against pastors plagiarizing sermons in one of his The Briefing daily podcasts, Plagiarizing in an Internet Age. Jared C. Wilson wrote for the 9 Marks blog an article entitled, “Thou Shalt Not Steal” that tells pastors that any plagiarizing of sermons is breaking the 8th commandment. And unironically, J.D. Greear wrote an article back in 2012, What Counts as Plagiarism in a Sermon? In it, he lays out 5 rules he follows so as not to plagiarize other men’s sermons, and Ed Litton broke every. single. one. of them.
Litton’s sermon on Romans is such a flagrant example of plagiarism that in a born-again, God-fearing Christian community that values holiness, obedience to God’s law, and personal integrity among it’s pastors, it should cause an instant disqualifying scandal for Litton. He should not only resign as SBC president, but also as pastor.
Regrettably, that won’t happen. Those who voted him in are not spirit-filled God fearing individuals who value God’s Word and personal holiness. It may be that a number of them aren’t even born-again, but I digress. In fact, all of those men who thundered against pastors plagiarizing sermons won’t say a word. Everyone will rush to defend him with some contorted, deformed version of the truth.
The sad reality is that such sermon mining has been going on for at least 2 decades since the advent of the internet. It’s not only practiced regularly by pastors at all levels, it’s actually encouraged by various websites who host prepared sermon outlines for either free download or purchase. The mindset excusing this naked intellectual laziness is that it frees up a pastor from having to spend his time in the study so as to concentrate on people and spreading the gospel. Why spend hours on a Thursday afternoon preparing a sermon when you can have one already made for you!? That way you can counsel, and hospital visit, and whatnot, and just read over the prepared sermon on Saturday afternoon.
It reveals the heart of a lot of what is wrong with the SBC and honestly, with the Church throughout the United States. No one values the Word of God anymore. They don’t want to study it or disciple others how to study it, and until that foundational attitude toward Scripture is changed in the heart of pastors and the people they shepherd, Bible-loving Christians will continue to be rolled by those latte-sipping worldlings.
Update as of June 27, 2021: Litton has responded to his plagiarizing by essentially confessing to it. In his statement, he says that he had permission by Greear to swipe his sermon. In a similar statement, Greear affirms that he did in fact give Litton permission to use it, so all is good and everyone should calm down. The problem, however, is that Litton at no point during the sermon alert his audience that he was borrowing heavily from Greear’s message from the previous year. That doesn’t help at all. Greear’s very first point in his article outlining his five rules for preventing plagiarism states,
1. If I ever preach the gist of another person’s sermon, meaning that I used the lion’s share of their message’s organization, points, or applications, I give credit. I don’t ever think it’s a good idea to preach someone else’s sermon… but in those rare times when you feel like you just can’t help it, you have to give credit. A sermon is a major thought unit. If it’s not yours, you have to acknowledge where it came from.
Litton’s sycophantic “yes men” all cheered those statements as “demonstrating integrity,” and said the charges of plagiarism need to be dropped. Well, if Greear’s rules are right, Litton certainly violated that first one.
Furthermore, as of Sunday morning following the revelation of his plagiarism, Litton’s church has scrubbed his Youtube channel or privatized over 100 videos of his sermons. That’s bizarre, and demonstrates a cover-up rather than the so-called transparency he and the SBC are supposed to be operating under these days. I have it under good authority that there are many other plagiarized sermons of his out there that are word-for-word verbatim. He and his team can scrubbed all they want but they must remember that the internet is forever.