Litton and Adams enter four-way race for SBC presidency

A four-way race is shaping up for the election of president during the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville this June.

In January, Alabama pastor Ed Litton and Northwest Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Randy Adams also announced their candidacy. They join Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler Jr. and Georgia pastor Mike Stone on the ballot.

Former SBC President Fred Luter has announced his intention to nominate Litton. In 2001, Luter gave the nomination speech that led to Litton’s becoming SBC first vice president. Twenty years later, he feels Litton is the right leader at the right time for a new role.

“I have known Ed Litton for over 20 years. Our relationship started when we preached for each other as part of the SBC Racial Reconciliation Sunday during the month of February,” Luter told Baptist Press. “From there, our relationship developed to more than just colleagues to bring races together. We both shared the hope of drawing people closer to a relationship with Jesus Christ and then growing disciples for Christ. In both of our churches, our focus has been the same all of these years.

“With Ed’s commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, he is what our convention needs to help us refocus and recommit to the biblical principles of what this convention has been known for — evangelism and discipleship.”

Since 1994, Litton has been pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala. — known as North Mobile Baptist Church until 2014. A Southwestern Seminary graduate, Litton served at First Baptist of Euless, Texas, in the college and career ministry and in the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention Evangelism department. In 1987, he planted Mountain View Baptist Church in Tucson, Ariz.

Litton has also served in numerous roles in SBC denominational leadership, including the Resolutions Committee, Committee on Committees, as president of the SBC Pastors Conference and on the boards of various seminaries.

For the last six years — following the riots in Ferguson, Mo. — Litton has been involved in The Pledge Group of Mobile, a diverse group of area pastors seeking to further racial reconciliation. In late October, he helped write the “Deep South Joint Statement on the Gospel, Racial Reconciliation, and Justice.”

Litton said that amid a spirit of division in the country, Southern Baptists should be leading the way toward unity.

“Recently, I shared with my church, ‘A deeply divided nation needs a deeply united church,’” he said. “Simply and honestly, we are not there as a convention of churches. I fear our credibility is faltering. While the world waits deeply in need of Jesus, we have seen division grow in our SBC family.”

During Litton’s pastorate at Redemption, the church has averaged nearly 152 baptisms annually since 1994, with resident membership growing by 27.3 percent over the last 10 years. From 2018-2020, the church averaged 3.66 percent of undesignated gifts given through the Cooperative Program. From September 2019 through August 2020, it also contributed 12.33 percent of its undesignated budget through Great Commission Giving.

Adams, who has served the Northwest Baptist Convention since 2013, was expected to be nominated for SBC president at the 2020 annual meeting, but that meeting was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19.

He cited a desire for Southern Baptists’ focus to “be on the mission, with the Bible as our sole and final authority on all matters” in announcing his 2021 nomination.

In a post on his personal blog, Adams alleged the SBC is “in crisis,” saying: “We inherited a cooperative mission system where every church mattered and could contribute to sharing the gospel around the world. We are now destroying much of our mission capacity through failures in accountability, self-dealing, top-down centralized strategies and broken partnerships.

“I am being nominated to serve as SBC president because I will confront these issues. I will push for transparency and accountability at every opportunity.”

Adams, along with several other non-South state executives, has been involved in a prolonged dispute with the North American Mission Board over its allocation of funds to states related to church planting and evangelism.

In his statement, Adams alleged instances of corruption and lack of transparency at several SBC entities. He further claimed the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report, passed by messengers at the 2010 annual meeting, led to what he calls “the worst decade for Southern Baptists in our 175-year history.”

Adams is a member of Go Church, a church plant in Ridgefield, Wash. The plant reported 71 members and an average of 90 weekly attendees on the 2020 SBC Annual Church Profile (ACP). Of total undesignated receipts of $208,289, the church gave $18,461, increasing its giving through the Cooperative Program from 5.9 percent in 2019 to 8.9 percent.

The 2021 budget for the NWBC anticipates $2,845,000 in Cooperative Program gifts from member churches, with $569,000 (20 percent) being passed on to the national Cooperative Program allocation budget.

Before joining the Northwest Baptist Convention, Adams served as a pastor at three churches over a 20-year period. He also led the missions and evangelism team for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for more than eight years.

Russell Fuller, a former professor of Old Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will nominate Adams.

Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga., and immediate past chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, will be nominated for SBC president per an announcement by fellow Georgia pastor Kevin Williams.

A member of the steering council of the recently formed Conservative Baptist Network, Stone served for five years on Emmanuel’s staff before becoming pastor in 2002. Since then, Emmanuel has averaged giving 9 percent annually through the Cooperative Program and contributed approximately $2.5 million through December 2020. According to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, Emmanuel increased its giving in 2020 to $226,097 of its $2.1 million (10.4 percent) in undesignated receipts through CP.

In addition to his role as EC chairman, Stone has also been GBC president and chairman of the GBC Executive Committee.

Mohler was originally announced as a nominee for the 2020 annual meeting. After that gathering was canceled due to COVID, Mohler agreed in October to accept the nomination for president in 2021.

Mohler has been president of Southern Seminary since 1993. He is a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, which reported giving $66,000, or 6.1 percent of receipts, to the Cooperative Program in 2019.

He will be nominated by H.B. Charles, senior pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

Articles announcing Stone’s and Mohler’s nominations have appeared in previous issues of The Baptist Courier.