Ed Litton is the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, or the SBC. Observing some of the commentary online and engaged with a number of friends, one might think the communists just took over the Baptists. The more that one is involved in Republican politics, the more one is likely to think that and therein lies the problem. It is a problem of national importance as some now believe the nation’s largest Protestant denomination will break up.
Perhaps the Southern Baptist Convention will break apart, but I doubt it. There were four contenders: Randy Adams, Ed Litton, Albert Mohler and Mike Stone. Mohler is who I would have picked if I were a Baptist. The head of the Southern Baptists’ most prestigious seminary, Mohler has been a leading conservative in the SBC for decades. He is neither a shrinking violet nor a liberal. He is against critical theory, liberalism and the wokes. He supports the view that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and men and women live in a complementarian relationship.
Stone is a Georgia Baptist. He was the graduation speaker at my kids’ school this year where he read from the King James Version of the Bible. He is biblically rock-solid. He was backed by the most conservative members of the Southern Baptist Convention — some who would have backed Mohler, but they were still mad at him for not supporting Donald Trump in 2016, or thought he had not been vocal enough about critical race theory or too kind to people the hardcore bunch opposed. Mohler was rejected not for his views but for his lack of song and dance.
Adams was not really a factor, garnering only 673 out of 14,300 votes. I have laid out the dynamics like that to make a few points.
Stone and Mohler, the two men whose conservative bona fides are not in dispute, together captured 60% of the first ballot. In other words, 60% of the Southern Baptists meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, this week voted for someone who is indisputably conservative, indisputably against wokeism, indisputably against critical theory, indisputably for Biblical inerrancy and indisputably for complementarianism.
To say the Southern Baptist Convention will move left because, on the final ballot, Ed Litton got 52% of the vote is to engage in hysteria. Of the men I talked to about this vote, overwhelmingly they voted for Litton not because Litton is liberal but because they think Stone had both mishandled himself in several internal matters and, more importantly, because Stone’s most ardent supporters turned off so many people.
A lesson from the Trump era is that only Donald Trump can behave like Donald Trump and win. No one else can. Even then, the public rejected Trump’s behavior in 2020. A group of vocal and political conservatives surrounded Stone. They convinced themselves they either will win or liberalism will win. They have made themselves indispensable men who the Southern Baptist Convention made dispensable. Some of those same men are now, despite 60% of the convention voting for indisputable conservatives on the first ballot, intent on breaking up the Southern Baptist Convention because they did not get their way.
The tactics were, frankly, appalling. On social media accounts, I have seen them savage some ardently conservative men who did not back Stone. They disparaged Litton. They willfully engaged in character assassination behind anonymous Twitter accounts. They agitated as if it were both a political campaign and the world would end should they lose. The result is the Baptists rejected Stone in part because of his most ardent supporters’ behavior.
Litton’s election disrupts the media narrative. Most of the media expected Stone’s election. But God, too, has a hand in this. God’s will is being done. The people who now think the SBC is drifting left might want to pause, listen and know that God is still in charge. The Southern Baptists are not drifting left. They will not embrace critical race theory. They might, however, be ready to move on from making everything political and about Donald Trump. That would not be a bad thing.