By Sharayah Colter
June 16, 2021
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After no candidate for the office of Southern Baptist Convention president garnered more than 50 percent of the vote June 15, 2021, at the Annual Meeting in Nashville, a runoff took place, and Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., secured the victory. Votes for Litton in the runoff election against Georgia pastor Mike Stone totaled 6,834 or 52.04 percent, versus Stone’s 6,278 votes amounting to 47.81 percent.
Prior to the runoff, Stone received 36.48 percent, Litton received 32.38 percent, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler received 26.32 percent, and Northwest Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Randy Adams received 4.71 percent.
In nominating Litton, Louisiana pastor Fred Luter appealed to the desire of many messengers to elect a pastor rather than a denominational employee as president of the Convention.
“Messengers, we need a pastor who understands what it is like to lead a church,” Luter said in his nomination speech. “We need a pastor who has love for God and for people. We need a pastor who can help ease our tensions and point us toward mission. We need a pastor who can help us refocus on the biblical principles of what this Convention is really all about.”
Luter praised Litton as a candidate who will help the SBC to focus on the Great Commission – something Litton noted ranks high in importance to him as he explained to news outlets about his preference to refer to Southern Baptists as Great Commission Baptists. He said the term, approved in a 53-46 percent vote by messengers to the 2012 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans as an acceptable alternative to the “Southern Baptist” moniker, better identifies the Convention and helps him to better minister in his own community.
“We are Great Commission Baptists,” Litton told reporters prior to being asked about his use of the term. “At times it seems like we are incredibly dysfunctional as a family, but we love each other. This is a family, and sometimes families argue in a way that you get to see it. But the reality is we will leave this place focused, with a direction–and I believe with a better direction–for the future.”
Litton noted the necessity of working out differences between Southern Baptists.
“Going forward, I want to be clear that I want to build bridges, not walls,” Litton said.
Concerning Critical Race Theory (CRT), Litton said people need to understand that it is a reality in culture but that CRT is not taught or believed in SBC seminaries, calling it a “distraction from real injustice.”
When asked about having received criticism for allowing his wife to preach with him, Litton called himself “complementarian,” and said he believes pastors must be male but that he also believes in the autonomy of the local church.
“The truth is the Baptist Faith and Message doesn’t speak to my wife with me in a series on marriage or a series talking about family, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t contain all the wisdom in the world. I believe the Word of God does, but my wife is an apt teacher, and she helps—helps me communicate to our people. She also provides a voice that our people need to hear.”
When it comes to ordaining women, Litton said, “I think that is something we are going to have to work out—we’re going to have to figure it out. The interesting thing about all that is that our associations are the places where most of those issues are confronted, and what we need to do is hear each other out and say, ‘now how do you define the role that you’re ordaining that person to?’ The best thing to do is not to make a national issue out of it, but to let that association work it out.”
A revision to the BF&M 2000 is not necessary, though, he said.
“There are calls for [a revision],” Litton said. “But I think it’s good where it’s at.”
Litton expressed gratitude for his successful election and appreciation for his predecessor, J.D. Greear, whom he said has “done an admirable job in every way.”
“It is a tremendous honor that Great Commission Baptists would place their trust in me,” Litton said.
Mohler congratulated Litton from the stage, during the Wednesday sessions of the Annual Meeting saying, “You will lead us with honor, and we will follow with honor.”
Stone also offered his congratulations to Litton in a social media post, writing, “Thank you to all who supported me in this effort. Our prayers and congratulations are to @EdLitton.”
Other officer elections
In the race for first vice president, Lee Brand won with 2,860 votes, or 52.93 percent. Brand serves as dean and vice president at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.
The race for second vice president entered a runoff after the first vote, resulting in the election of Ramon Medina, lead pastor of Spanish ministries for Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Medina won with 3,103 votes, or 53.22 percent.
With 3,545 votes, or 56.08 percent, messengers re-elected John Yeats as recording secretary. Yeats serves as the executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and has served 23 terms as recording secretary.
Don Currence, nominated by Kathy Litton, was elected registration secretary by acclamation.
At the close of the Annual Meeting, the Conservative Baptist Network, which endorsed Stone, Brand, and Chavez in their elections, published a post on social media June 15 offering a commitment to pray for Litton, Brand, Medina, Yeats, and Currence, that God will guide and direct them all as they lead the Convention.