The Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest and most conservative religious groups in the country, stopped the charge of a more divisive, regressive group within the SBC and narrowly elected Saraland Pastor Ed Litton, who promised to bridge the racial divide in church.
The vote, with more than 13,000 members voting in person at SBC’s annual gathering in Nashville, was in doubt to the end. Litton got 52 percent of the more than 15,000 votes cast, edging out Georgia Pastor Mike Stone, a member of the new Conservative Baptist Network and a divisive candidate who made the repudiation of Critical Race Theory a central theme in his candidacy.
Stone campaigned heavily for the position — an oddity in SBC elections — by traveling to various churches to speak and appearing on a Fox News entertainment show prior to Tuesday’s vote.
But Litton’s compassion, along with a nomination from Fred Luter, the SBC’s only Black president, won the day. Numerous voters — referred to as “messengers” by the SBC — told media outlets that Litton’s past handling of racial issues and sexual assault cases within the church — another hot topic — swayed them.
Litton is the pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland and he also is a member of the Pledge Group in Mobile — a group of leaders from different racial backgrounds who are working to bridge the racial divide in the city.
The debate over CRT isn’t a new one for Southern Baptists. Emotions over the theory first came to a head in 2019, when the SBC adopted a resolution essentially accepting CRT but repudiating its misuse.
In response, the presidents of SBC’s six seminaries issued a joint statement last year repudiating the use of CRT. That prompted a diverse group of pastors, including Litton and Luter, to write that systemic racism is real.
Litton’s campaign was a direct reflection of that idea, as he made diversity and unity the central themes and received support from most of SBC’s Black and Hispanic members.