Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church, Saraland, was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention June 15 during the SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.
Litton received 6,834 votes, gaining 52% of the votes cast in a runoff between him and Mike Stone. Stone received 6,278 votes, or 47.81% of the ballots cast.
In the first vote, 14,300 ballots were cast out of 15,678 messengers.
The first ballot vote totals were Randy Adams, 673 votes (4.71%); Litton, 4,630 votes (32.38%); Al Mohler Jr., 3,764 votes (26.32%); and Mike Stone, 5,216 votes (36.48%). Seventeen ballots were disallowed in the first vote.
That sent Litton and Stone into a runoff, since more than 50% of votes are required for election.
Former SBC President Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and the SBC’s only black president, nominated Litton.
“The SBC has reached the tipping point. Our numbers are down matched only by decline in trust in one another,” Luter said. “We need strong yet humble, bold yet kind leadership. … We need a uniter and Ed is uniquely qualified to do that.”
“Ed Litton brings a compassionate and shepherding heart. We need a pastor who has a love for God and God’s people. We need a pastor who can help us refocus on the biblical principles of what this convention is all about,” Luter said, concluding with a lighthearted, “Take it from Fred, vote for Ed.”
Litton has served as a pastor for 34 years. He also served 7 1/2 years as a church planter in Arizona.
In announcing his agreement to be nominated back in January, Litton said he and his wife, Kathy, had prayed about the opportunity and sensed God’s leading to say yes.
Since 1994, Litton has been pastor of Redemption Church, Saraland — known as North Mobile Baptist Church until 2014.
A Southwestern Seminary graduate, Litton served at First Baptist Church, 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, Tucson, Arizona.
He also has served in numerous roles in SBC denominational leadership, including as president of the SBC Pastors Conference and on the boards of various seminaries.
During Litton’s pastorate at Redemption, the church has averaged nearly 152 baptisms annually since 1994 with resident membership growing by 27.3% over the last 10 years. From 2018 to 2020, the church averaged 3.66% of undesignated gifts given through the Cooperative Program. From September 2019 through August 2020, it also contributed 12.33% of its undesignated budget through Great Commission Giving.
Kathy Litton currently serves as director of planter spouse development for the North American Mission Board.
During his presidential press conference the evening of June 15, Litton said he plans to focus on uniting Southern Baptists.
“My goal is to build bridges and not walls, help people connect and talk through things, have open and honest conversations,” he explained.
“What God has called me to do is help us remember again why we are a family — to get good news to as many people as can hear it, welcome it, receive it and know it. That’s why we choose to cooperate together.”
Litton acknowledged he realizes to rebuild trust among Baptists means he will need to help lead those cooperating with the SBC to work out differences currently causing friction within the denomination.
“Our unity ultimately is the gospel,” he noted. “The gospel calls us to be reconcilers. We are always looking out for His interest above our own. Our mission is reconciliation to connect us to God and to one another.”
Stance on hot topics
Responding to a few hot button topics, Litton said he believes:
- The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a helpful tool “broad enough for interpretations.”
- The primary teaching pastor of a church “has to be a male, but I also believe in the autonomy of the local church.”
- Critical Race Theory is a reality in culture but not in the SBC. “I think people are afraid but don’t need to be.”
Litton is the third SBC president from Alabama.
Jonathan Haralson served from 1889 to 1898 and Jaroy Weber served from 1975 to 1976.