March 1 turned out to be an active day for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ed Litton — and much of it was spent at Samford University in Birmingham.
Along with sharing a message with Samford University undergrad students during campus worship, Litton also preached during Beeson Divinity School’s worship service an hour later and participated in an early afternoon live podcast interview.
As he left campus headed to his next gathering in the Birmingham area, a pre-recorded video was released announcing his intention not to run for a second term as SBC president.
Citing past work with fellow pastors in the Mobile area — where he serves as senior pastor of Redemption Church — to bridge racial divides and “bring about a gospel-driven unity and reconciliation,” Litton said God had “birthed something very amazing.”
He said he sees an open door for the larger family of SBC churches “to embrace a very simple strategy to pursue this kind of work that will bridge the racial divides throughout our communities [and] throughout North America and bring about a gospel-centered racial reconciliation.”
Litton explained in the video he plans to refocus his attention on racial reconciliation efforts and senses he can be more effective in that effort from the office of pastor rather than SBC president.
During his sermon at Beeson, Litton also shared about the group of pastors in his community and how they come together for the past eight years to have painful conversations about race and race in America.
“I’m not woke but I have been awakened by the living God to other people’s pain,” he said, referencing some interpretations of race-based conversations and attempts at navigating the divides as a threat to conservative theology. “This is not a theory. This is the gospel. The gospel requires us to love one another.”
Litton also described the pain that comes with pastoral ministry.
“If you’re a leader and you’re not in pain, you’re not leading,” he said, referencing Psalm 84. “When you lead people to change, they’re going to resist because they’re afraid of pain. We’re disconnected in our communities. We stopped feeling the pain in our neighborhoods. We’ve stopped looking upon the brokenness that we are a part of.”
Following the chapel service, Litton was the guest of honor of a luncheon hosted by Samford President Beck Taylor, Samford Provost Mike Hardin and Beeson Dean Douglas Sweeney. After the lunch, Litton was interviewed for the Beeson podcast by co-hosts Sweeney and Kristen Padilla, manager of marketing and communication for Beeson Divinity.
During the podcast, Litton said that Southern Baptists are “at a very critical moment.”
“There are two profound stains on our garment: one is racism, and the other is abuse,” he said. “The one clear message that came out of Nashville for me was that it was my task to address those two issues.”
The podcast episode will air on Tuesday, March 8.
Watch Litton’s sermon on Beeson’s YouTube channel.
Watch Beeson alumna Jennifer Rash's interview with Litton on March 2.