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Southern Baptist Convention: Presidential Uncertainty and Factionalism

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

SBC 2021 in Review: Part 3

Presidential Uncertainty and Factionalism

Who is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention?

One of the reasons why this year’s meeting was so well attended was due to the Presidential election. As I noted in my letter prior to the convention, 4 men were up for nomination. That fact, in and of itself, does not speak well for the state of the convention. The SBC by-laws state that a President must be elected either by a clear majority (the physical raising of ballots at the meeting) or by more than 50% of a secret ballot vote.

During this year’s convention, being that 4 men were running, the election started with a secret ballot vote. At the time of the vote on Tuesday morning, there were 15,678 messengers registered. Of those, 14,300 votes were cast.

  • The first vote results were: Ed Litton received 4,630 votes (32.38%), Mike Stone received 5,216 votes (37.48%), Albert Mohler received 3,764 votes (26.32%), and Randy Adams received 673 votes (4.71%). 17 ballots were disallowed (0.12%).

Being that no man received the required 50% vote, a second ballot vote was taken with the top 2 considered: Litton and Stone.

  • At the time of the second ballot, 13,131 votes were cast. Ed Litton received 6,834 votes (52.04%) and Mike Stone received 6,278 votes (47.81%). 19 ballots were disallowed (0.14%).

You’ll notice that a significant number of people did not vote the second time around (1,169). This could be due to several reasons. The second vote was taken in the afternoon, and people may have been out of the convention room; or it could be that people did not vote because they did not support either Litton or Stone.

In the end, Ed Litton emerged the President-elect having received 52.04% of the second ballot votes; a mere 556 vote difference. This does not bode well for the convention for a number of reasons.

  • First, the fact that four men—who represent different priorities within the convention—were nominated and ran, does not say, “unity.” In fact, it says something quite the opposite.

  • Second, the fact that Ed Litton won by only 556 votes does not say “unity” either.

I noted factionalism above, and I believe that it is clearly present and seen in the 2021 SBC presidential election. By factionalism, I mean smaller groups (factions) that are competing for influence and control.

Aside from Randy Adams, each of the other 3 men represent clear groups within the larger SBC.

  • Al Mohler, the current President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, represents the academic, intellectual Christian tradition that is steady in the face of cultural change. He is a faithful defender of the Christian gospel in an ever increasingly hostile culture. He has, and continues to appear in the public square to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Mike Stone is a pastor from Georgia and a part of the Conservative Baptist Network. This network is a group of pastors and churches who profess to see a liberal drift in the SBC and are seeking to stand against it. Stone is also the immediate past president of the Executive Committee (which is under investigation for accused cover-ups of sexual abuse cases).

  • Ed Litton was a bit of an outlier before the convention. He pastors Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama. He is known for his involvement is things like racial reconciliation and dealing with issues of sexual abuse. Litton has fallen under criticism due to preaching a number of sermons with his wife. When asked about the issue, “Litton pointed out that the [SBC] extends local church pastors freedom to decide according to their convictions. He explained that in inviting his wife to preach with him, she was under his authority.” Most recently, Litton was accused of plagiarizing past SBC President, JD Greear, in one of his sermons. While the issue with Greear seems to have been worked out, Redemption Church has removed approximately 140 0f Litton's sermons following the plagiarism issue.

The Presidential election did not go the way I would have hoped. The 2021 convention messengers chose a man relatively unknown and untested in the public square (Litton) over a man that has proved himself able and faithful again and again (Mohler). Personally, I voted for Mohler, and continue to believe he is the steady voice we need in these concerning times, but I do pray that Litton will lead well and stand for what is right.

  • The main functions of the SBC president are in the appointing of persons to influential committees, the forming of task forces, study groups, and the like. He also serves as the public figurehead for the convention to the wider culture and world.

  • The President presides over the annual convention meeting.

Up Next: 2021 SBC In Review: Critical Race Theory

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