Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton did not take the opportunity while speaking at his alma matter this morning to man up and come clean about his plagiarism and the facts surrounding the case, but rather lent a shovel to SWBTS President Adam Greenway, and together they dug Litton an even deeper hole that they backfilled with excuses, all the while repeatedly lying to the students present.
Greenway was given the task of giving cover to Litton, throwing him softball questions designed to create a convincing apologetic for his friend, which he did with gusto, asking:
Adam Greenway: “There’s been a lot of conversation, controversy and claims have been thrown around, particularly as it relates to your preaching ministry in the context of your service at Redemption Church in Mobile, where you’ve been the pastor now for many, many years. Talk to us about that, because there have been all kinds of statements and claims. You can imagine that when I posted on social media that we were hosting you for this conversation, there was a lot of snark that came back, particularly from the anonymous social media accounts that proliferate these days.
Fact Check, at the time of writing this, there are 96 comments to the post he is referring to 8 of which are from what could be described as either anonymous accounts, or accounts that seem anonymous, but rather link in their bio to their organization, with then reveals the person in the about me section. So to say that these were ‘particularly from anonymous social media accounts” is categorically false and a lie, as they accounted for less than 10% of the comments. But this comment echoes what Litton has previously said, that this whole brouhaha is being caused by and being driven by ‘anonymous accounts’ even though it was Jeff Maples at our sister site “Reformation Charlotte” that blew this whole thing open.
Adam Greenway: “But I’d love for you to just talk about- particularly in light of what has come to be known in the common parlance as the ‘sermon plagiarism controversy’. And I’d like to even hear…you accept the term ‘plagiarism’ to describe your actions in terms of your preaching ministry, yes or no/ why. Just help us understand for the benefit of our seminary community the issue here.”
The situation that we find ourselves in today is that series of messages we did last year on the book of Romans, which I want to just be honest with you, was intimidating for me. I’ve preached Romans before. But a lot of things have changed in my life in the last 10 years, that I may get to in a moment.
But when I approached that, I noticed that I had my commentaries about new commentaries, preparing for that series, we actually plan our preaching about two years in advance. And in that particular case, I started listening to JD Greer, who had done a series previously, and I was really moved by the way he handled some very challenging passages in Romans.
So I called JD and I asked him, I said, ‘first of all, would you mind sharing with me how you broke down the book of Romans to do it in one year?‘ which he sent me a spreadsheet with all that information, that was very helpful as a part of the preaching/ planning.
But then I said ‘there’s material here, do you mind if I use this material?’ He was very gracious, and I think he even quoted Adrian Rogers ‘if my bullet fits your gun, shoot it’. And I said that’s fine. And I appreciate it.
So there are in particular, a couple particular cases, times where I made statements that others have been able to line up with statements that come from the same text, the same passage that JD used. So to answer your question, I don’t consider that plagiarism.
“Line up the statements?” He and his wife plagiarized a Tim Keller sermon in 2012, his young co-Pastor also plagiarized Greear and did not give credit, and in fact, Ed Litton copied J.D. Greear sermons as early as 2015!, well before this Romans series began.
Where is the acknowledgment of that? Rather, we see a smorgasbord of plagiarized sermons where Ed Litton copied not just the outline and little snippets here and there, but copied illustrations as if they happened to him, and even copied the prayers!
He continues explaining that the reason why he may have copied other parts of the sermon, is because he hears a little too good, and in some way remembered sermons from years ago nearly verbatim, and then in some manner of confusion must have mixed up his memories with his own thoughts. Really.
“Let me tell you where my sin was. My sin was, I did not credit him to my church. And I’ve been asked why. And I’m a little mystified by that too, because I’m very transparent with my people. And the goal of using material, whether it’s written by (unintelligible) or international critical commentary or any other commentary you use, is to expound on the text and to make sure people understand the verse by verse meaning of that text.
So that was my goal. It wasn’t to become famous, because quite frankly, if that was my goal, I would not have picked JD Greer, as someone to quote. The problem was I did not credit him. And I have repented of that to my church. I have repented that to our leadership, and quite frankly, we’re in a process of changes.
I’m fasting from listening to preaching right now, because it turns out, I have a capacity to remember statements that are made in an audible sermon that I hear, that’s a little too good. And sometimes it gets mixed up.”
He continues, explaining that he is being refined by this persecution and that while his critics have meant this all for evil, God meant it for good.
“But the truth is, this has been a very painful process. It’s been a hot process for me, let me explain what I mean. You’re very familiar with the fact that the Scripture teaches us that we are being refined and I feel like I’m in a refiners fire. Now, I want to tell you this; it’s easy to criticize the force of the fire. Nowhere does the scripture tell us (unintelligible) The Scripture tells us to put our eyes on the refiner. Because he knows when to turn up the heat, he knows when to allow it to get to a certain place, he knows when to shut it off.
And so through this, I have accepted the reality of this fire, and I embrace it by the grace of God, and God is refining me. There is a depth in me that I have discovered, of insecurity, that needed praise for my preaching, that God has been in the process of burning out.
And it is a painful thing. And there are more things. As a matter of fact, some of my critics, if they knew what God knew about my heart, this would be a never-ending Twitter feed. But the truth is, God is far more gracious than I’ve ever been….
I could say what some may have meant for evil, God has meant for good. Because at the end of the day, the purpose of preaching is the saving of many souls. And my church has been incredibly gracious and loving and supportive. And I also have a unique process too. I’ve been mentoring young preachers for many years now. We have multiple campuses. We have live preaching on all of our campuses. And so we have a process of studying together and we have a process of working it out.
Now, when that became public knowledge, that opened up even more criticism, that I was perverting or misleading other students. But we’ve had honest candid conversations about how we credit and what we do with the information that we’re sharing with our people. And so we’re learning and growing through this experience.“
Greenway ends this portion by asking Litton what pastoral words he would give to students to learn from his mistakes with this whole scandal and the SBC President gives some very hypocritical advice.
“So if, if our view of the sovereignty of God is such that we believe he controls everything, even the suffering we live through, I think we have to embrace it. But let me say this for young pastors, or pastors (unintelligible), be transparent as you possibly can. Be real.”
Litton concludes by painting himself as a victim that is basically getting canceled, engaging in a bit of martyrdom
It is frightening to think about what can happen to your reputation. It is terrifying. But that is a danger. Proverbs chapter 19, or 29, rather, says ‘the fear of man is a snare’. And to me, it is probably one of the greatest struggles we as Southern Baptists have. We’re terrified of being ruined in public.
When this president, when I asked people to serve in Southern Baptist life, the most common question I get in response is ‘will they do to me what they’ve done to you?’
So what we’ve done is created an atmosphere that is quite toxic, to where good people will not serve for fear that a mistake or a sin that they committed five years ago could be brought up on YouTube, or that they could be paraded out and embarrassed and ashamed. And I’m gonna tell you something, it’s not fun. But by the grace of an Almighty God who died naked on a cross for me, you can overcome it.
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