Litton’s Female Worship “Leader” – One Last Insult From Scandalous Presidency

Ed Litton is nothing if not an innovator.

He broke new ground in giving up power and privilege by only serving one year as SBC president (the tradition is two). He pioneered applying modern environmentalism to the pulpit, where his “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” method of sermon preparation showed pastors that they don’t need to reinvent the wheel every Sunday. Ed even showed how God can be honored through a pastor telling another’s personal story as their own, so long as doing so has the desired effect for whichever carefully-acronymed sermon point he happens to be working.

Perhaps no innovation was as pivotal as when Ed showed us that popular racism narratives need not be true to be used as a personal rationale for infusing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world-preferred (and totally free from leftist baggage) addition of racial reconciliation. True or not, we have Kingdom work to accomplish.

While Ed’s innovations may have drawn widespread rebuke from Bible-thumping fuddy-duddies in the pews (you know, people too unloving to put preferred pronouns in their bios), his advancement of newchurch cultural engagement capitulation goes on unabated.

Now in a final slap in the face to the stubbornly stale keepers of the old religion (and more seriously, God Himself), Ed is bringing another innovation to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in the form of the corporate worship music being led by his church’s female worship pastor, innovatively called a “worship leader” or “worship arts minister.”

A Conversation with SBC President Ed Litton
JD Greear

Ta-da! Litton the Innovator brings us yet another magic trick of ministry – showing that all it takes to avoid those pesky Pauline prohibitions is to change the word we use. If only the early church had the vision to see this little workaround, perhaps it wouldn’t have failed so miserably in showing the kingdom diversity necessary to make world-soaked churchgoers comfortable with themselves!

Enter Redemption Church’s Abbie Maggio, leading thousands of saints in worship next month.

Maggio is interviewed in a video with Jonathan Howe (the Baptist Press Communications VP recently involved in selectively editing an interview with SBC presidential candidate Tom Ascol) where she reveals several very troubling things about her understanding of biblical worship and her upcoming role at the Convention. Most notably, Maggio reveals the man-centered framework unapologetically employed by modern music ministries.

During the conversation, Maggio decries the notion that worship music is entertainment, rightly noting that worship music allows a congregation to remember what God has done, but predictably frames her statements in terms of what worship does for us, rather than what it does for God:

It’s a unifier. It allows you to…you remember, okay, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And we have the same mission – we have the same goal. And it allows us I think, to take steps in the right direction with the proper outlet. Worship puts us in our proper place. We remember we’re a part of something much larger than just ourselves.

While Maggio claims to not want the worship to be “song service,” it is clear throughout the conversation that she sees the worshiper as the focus of corporate church music rather than the One the church is to worship. Maggio also betrays a pastoral approach in her focus on fellow worshipers (her people), as she notes to Howe:

You know, I know my people. Right? Like I can look… That’s one of the joys of the local church – is when you are invested for years in one local body you’re able to look across the congregation and you see stories. Right? You see – you know – this family who just walked through a cancer diagnosis or you see this family who, you know, their husband just lost a job and we’re worshiping together truly as a family – as a body of believers.

At this point you may be asking, What’s the big deal? So what if a woman is leading worship?

First, the man-centered approach Maggio employs would be equally disqualifying for a man. Yet the error is compounded when made by a woman, whom the Bible prohibits from serving in such a role.

Without writing a too-long-to-read exposition on the topic, it boils down to this: Prescriptively leading the gathered assembly in worship is teaching from a position of authority. Women are not permitted to teach nor exercise authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12). That’s it.

If a church does not approach corporate singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as a profoundly doctrinal activity under the necessary supervision of qualified and responsible elders, you have likely substituted Christian worship for emotionalized, self-serving entertainment like the vast majority of modern churches.

A worship leader – that is, a minister tasked with determining what words will be corporately proclaimed or one effectively instructing the congregation in real-time to proclaim the words – is both instructing and exercising authority, even if that authority has supposedly been delegated. The same reason a woman should not teach Sunday School or a small group Bible Study involving men is the same reason a woman should not effectively be telling men what theological statements they should sing in worship.

By the way, a woman can “lead” a song, if by lead we mean function as the primary vocalist. But if she chooses the song (without the active participation of an elder), or preaches a sermonette before she begins to sing, we have an exercise of teaching/authority, and we have a problem. It should also be noted that a woman acting in this capacity is also exercising spiritual leadership over her husband, a reversal of headship that Paul alludes to in 1 Tim. 2:13-14.

The question that must be asked when a church places a woman in a corporate leadership position is this: What need do we have to have this person serve right here, right now? Even if we believe there is wiggle room regarding the biblical prohibition on women teaching or exercising authority over men in this instance, do we need to take that risk?

In a church the size of Redemption, there are undoubtedly many musically-capable men who can serve as the worship leader. Yet Maggio is in the role for one of two reasons (likely both) – she wants to be in the role, or (more likely) the church wants to make sure the world knows that they aren’t like those backward churches who insist on maintaining the outdated cisnormative instructions found in scripture.

Maggio herself reveals this when she talks about “four things that you can plan to expect that kind of encapsulate what [her] heart has been in preparing,” which she says are “kingdom worship” (or so-called kingdom diversity – that is, visible diversity of skin color and gender), “highlighting ‘the West’,” which apparently means featuring musicians/singers from western states, worship that “transcends generationally” (playing some songs old folks like, apparently), and finally “Jesus at the center,” the Sunday School answer tacked on the end of the list of every other concern firmly focused on the needs and wants of the worshipers.

Ed Litton betrays both his church’s lack of understanding of the purpose of corporate musical worship and their willingness to ignore clear biblical teaching on the purpose of male headship in the church. Placing Maggio in a position to teach and exercise authority – even in a limited sense – over thousands of men at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting is yet another example of his disqualification from SBC presidency and (more importantly) from the pulpit of a true New Testament church.

The Road to Anaheim – Episode 16 from Baptist Press on Vimeo.

Author’s note: My wife and I will not participate in such a public display of disrespect for God and his Word. I will not teach her that I am willing to submit to the authority of a woman during the gathering of the saints of God. I encourage all Bible-honoring Southern Baptists to join us in either not showing up for this disobedient display or simply walking out when it begins and returning for business later.


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6 thoughts on “Litton’s Female Worship “Leader” – One Last Insult From Scandalous Presidency

  1. I’m with you on the dislike of Litton and the SBC, but that’s some pretty bad eisegesis you’re doing to cram your already-decided view on women leading singing into 1 Timothy. With such a low view of the authority of God’s Word and such a high view of man’s ability to foist his conclusions on the text, we’ll never win the war against the nominals…

    1. Hey Corey – as I said in the article, I have no problem with a woman being the “lead singer.” But that’s not what’s happening here. I have a high view of corporate Christian worship and believe that worship should be planned and led by qualified elders. This G3 article walks through my position in greater detail:

      1. That’s cool, David. As long as you don’t have a problem with her being the lead singer, then I’m good, and I would agree.

        1. There are some very small churches where women “lead singing” by essentially standing at the front and asking for hymn numbers from the congregation. They are just facilitating the singing of a song on key, and are not teaching or having authority over men.

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