How an Ed Litton Plagiarism Allegation became Sermongate
Ed Litton, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, is embroiled in a plagiarism scandal. It shows no signs of abating. The plagiarism allegations have exploded from one sermon to multiple ones dating back at least as far as six years. The church removed hundreds of sermons from its website prompting the scandal to be called Sermongate—reminding everyone that a coverup is usually worse than the underlying scandal. Here is a timeline of the scandal tainted Ed Litton SBC Presidency.
On June 21, 2021, Reformation Charlotte published a story showing that Ed Litton promoted the same theological talking points regarding LGBTQ issues. The RC report showed Litton said, “the Bible whispers about sexual sins” like homosexuality.
On the same day, the story rocketed to national attention as Dr. Robert Jeffress discussed the theological problems with Litton’s stance about homosexuality based on Romans 1.
Dr. Jeffress speaking on the Todd Starnes show said, “When you go to Romans 1, when Paul writes about the topic of homosexuality, he doesn’t use his whisper voice. He says that it is unlike any sin in the universe because it is not only the cause of God’s judgment but a result of God’s judgment. Paul said when people reject the truth about God, He gives them over to homosexuality, to what the Bible calls degrading passions and unnatural acts.”
Following the controversy over Litton’s preaching on Romans 1, a firestorm erupted June 26 when an anonymous YouTube user posted a video highlighting extensive, sometimes word-for-word similarities in J.D. Greear’s sermon on Romans 1 and Litton’s sermon on Romans 1.
This video lasting about seven minutes created a firestorm and sent Internet sleuths searching for other examples of plagiarism from Ed Litton.
This looked like a coverup and attracted the attention of mainstream media outlets like Newsweek.
Later Saturday morning June 26, Ed Litton admitted he used J.D. Greear’s words without proper attribution. Litton published the statement on his church website.
It immediately drew the approval of some SBC Elites who praised the now admitted plagiarist. We pointed out how SBC Elites including academic leaders like SEBTS President Danny Akin—the most influential SBC President following the latest SBC Election—SEBTS Provost Keith Whitfield and former SBC President James Merritt all praised Litton by calling him honest, transparent, etc.
Naturally, we mocked these claims pointing out that SBC Elites are telling everyone that “Ed Litton’s plagiarism is a model of integrity and Ed Litton’s hiding the evidence on YouTube is a model of transparency.”
By Monday, June 28, 2021, the scandal hit high gear with new allegations that Ed Litton bragged he lied about his sermon preparation time. This shows that Litton and Redemption Church’s actions of hiding the sermons sent people online looking for more things Litton failed to hide.
And this search turned up a wealth of new information.
Justin Peters published an excerpt from Litton’s latest public sermon of June 27, 2021, where Litton appears to borrow and claim for his own a story published by a female Christian writer.
Reformation Charlotte compiled video evidence of additional Litton plagiarism of J.D. Greear during the series on Romans.
Here is a video compilation of similarities found in the sermons on Romans 13.
They also found similarities in multiple other Romans sermons.
The Washington Times penned a follow-up story on July 2 pointing out what some claimed to be inconsistencies in Litton’s and Redemption Church’s stories.
Also, on July 2, Ed Litton appeared on SBC This Week to talk about the scandal and attempt to pivot away from his personal ethical sins to discuss his plans for a sex abuse investigation. Litton’s comments raised many additional questions about what SBC seminaries teach preachers regarding plagiarism and academic standards in SBC institutions. This is given additional importance given the fact some SBC leaders like Danny Akin and Keith Whitfield praised Ed Litton.
Belying the narrative established by J.D. Greear and Ed Litton that this was only about the 2020 sermon series on Romans, the Capstone Report was able to reveal the extensive borrowing occurred much earlier than previously reported.
Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton borrowed extensively from J.D. Greear sermons as far back as six years ago. In a sermon on Acts 4:1-21, Ed Litton preached in 2015 sometimes identical sections of a 2013 J.D. Greear sermon.
What is next? We will update.
Photo credit to Reformation Charlotte.