The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) elected an Alabama pastor to be its new president on Tuesday following a series of fights over Critical Race Theory and its handling of a sexual abuse scandal.
Ed Litton, the senior pastor at Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, defeated Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor, in a runoff election. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler and Northwest Baptist Convention executive director Randy Adams were also on the ballot. The Southern Baptist Convention represents 14 million Christians in the U.S. and is the second-largest denomination in the country behind only Roman Catholics.
— Albert Mohler (@albertmohler) June 15, 2021
Litton expressed his desire for unity following a tough campaign that featured fights over the church’s handling of sexual abuse and Critical Race Theory.
“We’re a family, and at times it seems like an incredibly dysfunctional family,” he said. “But we love each other.”
Stone congratulated Litton in a tweet.
Thank you to all those who supported me in this effort. Our prayers and congratulations are to @EdLitton
— Mike Stone (@PastorMikeStone) June 15, 2021
Stone leads Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia. He was supported by the Conservative Baptist Network (CBN), which describes itself as “believ[ing] in a just society for all based on biblical truth, opposing racism and sexism in all forms, and therefore reject[ing] worldly ideologies infiltrating the Southern Baptist Convention, including Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and other unbiblical agendas deceptively labeled as ‘Social Justice.'”
A group of black Southern Baptist leaders threatened to leave the denomination if Stone was elected president. Dwight McKissic, a prominent Southern Baptist pastor from Arlington, Texas, said that Stone “made statements that Black Baptists would find anathema, regarding racial matters and politics.”
Russell Moore, the former president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention (ERLC), announced his resignation from the body and the SBC overall in a letter that an ERLC member leaked to Religion News Service on May 29. Moore blamed a group within the SBC for “attack[ing him] with the most vicious guerilla tactics on such matters” of race and sexual abuse. (RELATED: ‘Break Her Down’: Southern Baptist Leader Covered Up Sexual Abuse Allegations, Seminary, Says)
Meanwhile, the CBN argues that Moore and outgoing SBC President J.D. Greear offered only “vague generalities and nameless accusations.”
“The gospel is and must remain above all. This is precisely why the Conservative Baptist Network rejects Critical Race Theory in our prayerful pursuit of a just society. CRT is not only lower than the gospel; it is anti-gospel,” CBN said in a February statement.
The SBC announced in September 2020 that some churches would drop “Southern” from their names due to concerns that they would be associated with slavery. “Our Lord Jesus was not a White Southerner but a brown-skinned Middle Eastern refugee,” Greear said at the time.