NASHVILLE – Ed Litton would have been happy to remain pastor on site.
Instead, Litton leads the largest Protestant denomination in the United States as it faces persistent racial divisions, a sexual abuse crisis, and the role of women in service.
Litton, who was elected the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday, is viewed by many as a pastor who can help Southern Baptists unite and avoid an exodus of minority members who are concerned about being in the conservative Denomination have a future home.
“I think in a way I was ready to go home,” he told reporters on Tuesday evening. “I told my church last week, ‘If I wake up next Wednesday morning and I’m just your pastor, I can do it so well.’ The highest honor of my life is to pastor a local church. But I also have a deep burden for the people I love. And I want to do whatever I can to help us bring this together. I am no superman, i have no magic.
“But I know this person and his name is Jesus. And you know him too.
Who is Litton? Here’s What You Need to Know About Alabama Pastor.
Where’s Ed Litton Pastor?
Litton, 62, is a senior pastor at Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, outside of Mobile.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in religion and theater from Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a PhD in Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
He spent the early years of his ministry in Texas and Arizona before moving to Alabama, where he has been a senior pastor at Redemption since 1994.
From 2001 to 2002 he was the first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
How did he get into the ministry?
Litton said he didn’t grow up attending church.
“I was in a house with alcohol that ruled our family. My parents’ marriage broke up,” Litton said. “I was about 7 or 8 years old when a Southern Baptist pastor contacted my father and taught him the gospel.”
He said his father wasn’t ready yet. But the pastor pressed on, loved his father and invited him to church. “The day came when it all seemed to fall apart like a cheap sweater and my father was screaming to God,” Litton said.
“My father was given birth and released, which is absolutely impossible without God. And from that moment on I knew – it didn’t change my life immediately – but I had a front row seat in a miracle and I knew a change had happened. “
He said he gave his life to Christ and became a church planter after attending seminary and starting work in Tucson, Arizona.
What about his family history?
Litton was married to Tammy Litton for 25 years. She died in a car accident in August 2007. They have three children, Josh, Tyler and Kayla.
In 2009 he married Kathy Ferguson, who was married to a Baptist pastor in Denver. Her husband also died in an accident.
“They had an amazing life and ministry that spread all over the state of Colorado, and he was killed in a car accident while they were on a family vacation,” Litton said.
“We were about the same age when these things happened in our lives. And it changes the course of your life. In many ways, you think your life is going in a certain direction when suddenly everything seems to change and you are gone so both have a deep sense of pain, suffering in our lives that has changed us and I think it has changed us for the better.
“We love to tell people the story that there is a God who loves us and he doesn’t, doesn’t distance himself from the most painful things in life.”
His wife is the director of founding marriage development for the North American Mission Board, the congressional organization that helps churches reach out and serve their wards and beyond.
What is Ed Litton’s work on races?
For the past six years, Litton has been part of a coalition called the Pledge Group. It is a group of leaders of diverse racial, religious and professional backgrounds who want to bridge the racial divide in Mobile.
Litton also helped write the Deep South Joint Statement on the Gospel, Racial Reconciliation and Justice, according to the Baptist Press.
The declaration, signed by a diverse group of church leaders in Mobile, Montgomery and Charleston, SC, came after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
“The pain, fear and trauma in our communities have revealed a division that many hoped would be relegated to the past,” the statement said. “We realize that the problems we face are wide-ranging, the division caused by sin is deep, and the hearts and souls of our neighbors are deeply and rightly hurt by that sin. To ignore this or to hope it will go away is to become the indifferent priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan. “
Southern Baptists take up the critical theory of race, but not by name: Here’s why.
“We believe that every person, regardless of skin color, culture or creed, is created in the image of God and therefore has infinite worth, worth and dignity,” the declaration continues.
At one point the statement said that church leaders too often focused more on “keeping things comfortable than doing things right”.
The statement states that they believe that Jesus instructs Christians to work on “a reconciliation centered on His redeeming work for humanity,” and that too often people of color alone bear the burden of work for racial unity .
How will he bridge racial segregation?
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Litton said that much of the growth in the Southern Baptist churches has been caused by minority members over the past three decades.
“Asian American groups, Hispanic, African-American, they’re growing at a rate of 232% while our Anglo communities are in decline,” Litton said.
“That’s why we are grateful to them. They make up a significant part of us. So yeah the first thing I say is we want you here. We love you here. We can’t reach every man, woman, boy and girl in this nation without you here.
“And I am so grateful to my colored brothers and sisters in Christ and I am so grateful to them. We can learn a lot from them. “
Litton said his approach was “gospel-centered”.
“What’s my motivation for doing it? It’s not about being hip or cool. It’s not even about moving with the times,” he said. “My goal is to say, ‘Jesus, how should I treat my neighbor?'”
Litton recalled the Bible parable of the Good Samaritan.
“When we see people in our communities who are suffering or hurt, we have to stop our busy lives and help them. It’s just so simple. It’s just so basic and I think that’s the cure.”
He said he would encourage Southern Baptists to “get out of the bubble” and ask God to open their eyes to what is going on in their church
With the Pledge Group, Litton said, members are taking simple steps.
“We make a promise that is so simple and it seems so small. But we smile,” he said. “We smile at people who may not look like us, think like us or vote like us.”
In the days after Floyd’s death, Litton remembers going to Costco and seeing a black man in line in front of him. The two finally parked next to each other, Litton said.
“He looked at me and just said, ‘I need to talk to someone.’ And he just started pouring out his heart about how broken he was and how tired he was from these things, “Litton recalled. “And we just stood there. And for a moment, a lovely moment, it wasn’t a black man talking to a white man. They were two men who were deeply concerned about their culture, deeply concerned about the community they live in, and just finding common ground. “
He said that this type of experience doesn’t just help general culture.
“It helps us to be the people God has called us to be,” Litton said.
Contribution: The Associated Press.