I believe there are significant concerns that have been raised regarding Ed Litton’s use of JD Greear’s sermons.
I don’t like the way the concerns first came to light. None of us should be prowling the internet seeking someone to devour. I’ve been guilty of doing that before. It wasn’t right then. And it isn’t right now. We already have an adversary who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. When Christians seek to devour one another, they image the devil, not Jesus.
But legitimate concerns shouldn’t be ignored just because they came to light by illegitimate means. That’s the same argument I made to friends regarding the Russell Moore letters. You don’t have to like leaked letters to read the letters and be concerned. In the same way, you can be concerned about a pastor misusing someone else’s sermon material without affirming the person who set out to destroy him.
I want to be clear. Pastors should prepare their own sermons.
There IS some gray area regarding what level of citation is necessary for a sermon. I use lots of resources when I am preparing a sermon. But my sermons don’t have footnotes. I don’t publish a bibliography in our church’s weekly bulletin.
Still, everyone should agree that copying the exact outline of a sermon without attribution is not acceptable. Using another person’s exact wording throughout a sermon without any mention of that person clearly crosses a line. Even Ed Litton said that in the statement he released. If he was going to use JD’s sermon in the way that he did, he should have cited JD. So, we really shouldn’t be arguing this point.
That still leaves us with some unanswered questions. What is the full extent of Ed Litton’s use of other people’s sermons? Is it limited to JD’s Romans series? Is this a pattern throughout his preaching ministry? Why did he do it? What were his motives?
I believe the answers to those questions matter as his church determines how to proceed. I also believe that the only people who can adequately answer those questions are those closest to him, the elders of his church. I hope they will undertake a full review. This isn’t primarily about the SBC. It’s about a local church, the integrity of their pastor, and the faithful proclamation of God’s Word each week.
I agree with Jonathan Leeman in the following tweet:
This is first and foremost a local church matter that should be handled there. The elders of Ed’s church have a responsibility to hold Ed accountable and to shepherd the flock entrusted to their care. This is why I believe God’s design of churches being led by a plurality of godly men called elders is not only right but also good. I intend to use this situation to talk to my own church’s elders on Monday about the importance of them holding me accountable and making sure that their primary allegiance is to the Lord and then to the church.
Once Redemption Church has done their review and made a determination on how they will proceed, Ed can decide what he will do regarding the SBC presidency. There is no mechanism for messengers to remove a sitting SBC president during his term in office. The Executive Committee certainly has no authority here. The messengers will, Lord willing, get their say in Anaheim in 2022 if Ed decides to run for re-election.
In the meantime, Ed has significantly hindered his ability to provide the kind of unifying leadership that we hoped he would provide. That makes me sad for our convention. He will appoint a task force to oversee the EC investigation. He will appoint a Committee on Committees for the 2022 meeting. And he will moderate our meeting in Anaheim. That’s probably about it at this point.
In the meantime, let the rest of us focus our attention this week on the sermons God has called us to preach this Sunday. Our SBC will be better and healthier when we all devote more of our attention to our own work than we do the work of others. Me included.