This is a post about why Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church just north of Mobile, Alabama, will be a good president for the SBC. I’m not writing about the other candidates up for election next month in Nashville, so this isn’t meant to be a comparison. We have enough of that going on. But, I wanted to write about my knowledge of Ed and his wife Kathy and what I’ve seen of his life and ministry over the past 5 years. This is my first post here at Voices in a couple of years, but I was motivated to write about Ed Litton because I believe him to be a good man.
I first met Ed and Kathy at the SBC in St. Louis at the SBC in 2016. We had dinner together after being introduced by a mutual friend. I immediately picked up on his sincerity, humility, and interest in other people. He asked questions and listened. When he spoke, he did not promote himself or what he had done in ministry or how big his church was. I knew little of his resume after that dinner, but I felt like I knew him and his wife, Kathy, as well.
A year or so later, Ed contacted me and said he was passing through my town, Montgomery, AL, and wanted to see if we could grab dinner at a local Chick-Fil-A. I didn’t know him well and was kind of surprised by the request, but we talked and he asked how I was doing, encouraged me, built me up, and ministered to me. I was engaged in a hard ministry season and Ed took time just to encourage me. No strings attached. In my experience, I’ve found this to be rare among older pastors of large churches and among those who are SBC leaders. There is so often an assessment of what someone can do for someone else, how important they are, what group they are in, and what they offer before a relationship grows. Ed Litton wasn’t like that at all. He just treated me like I was a human being with no pretense or angles or strategy on how to do this thing or accomplish that thing.
He also talked a lot about Jesus and the love of God.
A correspondence began after that. Every few months I’d get a text just checking in. I learned about the incredible movement he was helping to lead in Mobile, Alabama with Black and White pastors and churches focused on Cross-centered, gospel-based racial reconciliation called Shrink the Divide and its attending fellowship of church and community leaders called The Pledge Group. I learned about Ed’s heart for unity amidst ethnic diversity and biblical justice rooted in the gospel. Ed brought the leadership team of The Pledge Group to Montgomery to better understand the difficult racial history there and how Jesus can bring healing through the Cross. We walked the streets together, told stories, shared our hearts, wept, and looked to Jesus for hope for our cities.
I’ve been able to see Ed work with networks of pastors in other cities to stand on the common ground that we have in Jesus and to address old divisions through the power of the sacrificial love that flows from the Cross. Through those meetings and interactions, Ed has always displayed patience, grace, wisdom, joy, a sense of humor, and a gentle spirit that has been able to work through difficult issues with friends who needed steady and prophetic leadership. In my observation, he has consistently lived out the call to love God and love people sacrificially.
When I moved to California to pastor an SBC church two years ago, Ed reached out every once in a while to encourage and pray for me and to check on how I was doing. That shouldn’t be considered rare, but honestly, it is. When my father’s health was declining rapidly right before he died last November, Ed would text to ask how he was doing. There was just a consistent level of concern and encouragement expressed that I kept being amazed by.
Again, none of this encouragement was necessary. I wasn’t a church member. I wasn’t someone who could help him with anything. I would not have thought less of him if he didn’t reach out. I was just a pastor from another town he met a few years before. But, Ed has a humility and sense of interest in others, a desire to listen, and a voracious curiosity to learn and apply what he has learned to help build others up. In the midst of all that relational stuff, he also has a backbone made of iron, strong conservative theological convictions, a deep devotional love for God, and a great appreciation for truth and commitment to do the right thing no matter the cost. There’s a combination of courage, integrity, and compassion there that benefits those he works with and leads, as well as benefits all who know him.
I have no idea who will be elected president of the SBC in June. I’ll leave that up to the messengers and to God’s providence. But, if Ed Litton is elected, I am confident that he will do a good job in the midst of trying times, not just because of what he believes theologically, or because of what he has done, or because of who he knows. Rather, I believe he will do a good job because he has character and integrity, he operates in humility, he trusts and lifts up Jesus, he has suffered and experienced the love of God in the midst of great grief, and he calls us to find our identity (no matter our diverse backgrounds) at the Cross of Christ TOGETHER. That combination of attributes are what I believe we need in positions of servant-leadership right now.
I hope to be at the SBC in Nashville next month, Lord willing, to vote for Ed. Perhaps I’ll see you there.