Last Tuesday, The Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting, where Ed Litton pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, was elected President of the organization. He also discussed cultural issues such as gender and race.
The denomination has been having a variety of debates regarding how to properly adapt to America’s fast-changing culture. SBC’s established leaders, along with departing president J.D. Greear, believe that traditional Baptist theology can be promoted while adopting a more welcoming tone on culture war issues, such as sexuality.
According to The New York Times, “They embrace the theological red lines drawn in the 1980s, when conservatives wrested control of the denomination in defense of the inerrant truth of the Bible. But they resist attempts to attach the denomination to Republican causes.”
Yet, SBC faces more issues as Litton is considered too conservative, upholding strict, traditional Baptist values. “I believe in the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of God’s word,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “I am pro-life, and I believe that marriage is between a man and woman.” Litton also believes that women should not lead churches.
However, Litton’s others believe that his claim is contradictory because his wife has co-preached sermons with him, which they see as a violation of biblical strictures. He retorted, “I am a conservative but I’m not angry about it.”
Litton’s election also triggered further division regarding the issue of racism in America. Last year, SBC released a statement on Critical Race Theory that created tension amongst African American pastors in the organization. “We stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form, and we also declare that affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message,” SBC wrote.
Black pastors suspect that SBC is siding with Former President Donald Trump who denounced Critical Race Theory, believing that it’s “psychological abuse.” Since Litton’s election, many fear that he will carry similar political views as Trump and other predominant white evangelical figures in the denomination.
According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 70% of white evangelicals believe that killings of Black men by police are isolated, 75% oppose the goals of Black Lives Matter, and 71% believe discrimination against White Americans has become as big as a problem against minorities.”
Rev. William D. Mckissic Sr, the founder of Cornerstone Baptist Church, recently decided that his congregation will no longer serve under SBC, because of its position on Critical Race Theory. “Black pastors are not going to sit around and allow the Southern Baptist Convention to put their knees on our pulpits,” he shared with BNC News.
The National Southern Convention hosted a resolution committee in 2019 that adopted a position that was balanced and Biblical, affirming certain official aspects of Critical Race Theory like the value of diversity in all aspects of society, while identifying and rooting out structural racism in society. Mckissic believes that when Confederacy began to rise in states like Alabama and Texas, those Confederate leaders contradicted what the National Southern Convention said, so organizations like SBC started to side with Confederate notions so as to maintain “financial gain.”
After Litton’s election, Josh Buice, the pastor of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church west of Atlanta, prepared an email for his congregation asking for prayer about the status of its future in SBC. Buice wrote on Twitter that Litton’s victory was “indicative of a leftward theological move that will necessitate your church’s departure from the SBC.”