Ed Litton says he did not plagiarize & God forgave him so he’s moving on from Sermongate

Ed Litton continues I’m Not A Crook Defense

Disgraced Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton offered another non-apology apology for his plagiarism. In fact, Litton said that he did not plagiarize J.D. Greear because he had permission to use the sermon and despite that he did not plagiarize, the Lord forgave him and he is “moving on” from the Sermongate scandal.

I didn’t do this. What I did. What it appears that I did, I don’t think it is exactly what actually I did, but the point is when I did it, I wasn’t trying to make a name for myself. I was trying to help my people understand Scripture,” SBC President Ed Litton said when asked about Sermongate on a podcast of Baptist fanboys. “I’ll be honest with you; Romans is an intimidating book for me. You guys are a lot smarter than I am, so it probably isn’t as intimidating for you. But it was. So, I did rely on that. Here is the problem. I had permission, which I think means it is not plagiarism. The problem was that I didn’t and it is obvious that I did not tell my people exactly the source that it came from. I didn’t cite the commentaries either. So, that’s why I have apologized to my people. They have very warmly accepted that. Our leadership and I sat down and talked about how we can correct this and we are in the process of correcting that.”

Note a few things from this word salad. First, Ed Litton does not think he did anything wrong because he was only doing it to help people. That is how every pragmatist thinks—I can compromise on this because it is for a good cause. In other settings, this is known as an “ends justify the means” mentality. It is condemned by Christians and for good reason.

Second, notice the manipulative way Litton tries to play humble—Romans is intimidating for me, probably not for you. The faux humility is manipulative and a huge warning sign about the gaslighting that you should expect from someone like this. A man who ran for SBC Convention president is by definition not a humble man. He has an ego—an ego that makes him believe he is somehow either chosen by God or of great ability.

In other words, Litton isn’t a humble man. He’s a politician. And judging from this podcast, he is a very bad politician because he is so transparent.

But, back to the excuses.

Litton explained that during the “process of outlining” Romans (dividing the book into a series for homiletical exposition) that he remembered his “friend” J.D. Greear had already outlined the book of Romans.

“So, I called him and said, ‘Could you send me the spreadsheet,’ he keeps this on a spreadsheet, ‘that shows me how you outlined it. I want to see how mine is lining up,’” Litton said. “In that process, he gave me permission not only to do that but he said, any material at all, you are welcome to it.”

Permission is the bedrock of Litton’s defense. He claims that it was OK to use Greear’s words unattributed because he had permission.

However, this would result in a failing grade in secular colleges and Southern Baptist seminaries.

Ed Litton focused his excuses on the Romans sermons based off J.D. Greear.

“The best I can describe, most of it, not all, but most of it centers around a Romans series that we did last year,” Litton said.

This evades any discussion of the other sermons, dating back to as early as 2012 where Litton borrowed not only from J.D. Greear’s Romans series but a Tim Keller sermon on marriage and another J.D. Greear sermon on Acts from 2013.

Where is an explanation about the use of illustrations and stories in those sermons? The focus on the Greear series on Romans is a distraction that allows Litton to avoid giving account of his decade-long plagiarism.

Litton spends a great deal of time defending how he used Greear’s sermons.

Litton said, “Here is what I want to make very clear: Like any pastor, I used his material to help me outline it and I resourced his material after I had done the Greek work, after I had read my commentaries trying to get a sense of how this passage needs to be explained to my people. There is a couple of places in particular where we shared the same outline. And there is a couple of places in particular where I used a lot of phrases that he did. And I just want to say this, I want to be clear, I think the older you get the more set you get in language and you tend to rely on what you have used in the past. I’ve always been the guy who wants to always figure out, am I really connecting with my people? I want them to understand this.”

This attempt to communicate is a key element of Litton’s defense. Again, he wants you to understand he did this wrong thing for the right reason.

Litton said he understands people are concerned based on what they are reading and seeing about the plagiarism.

“I understand why some people are concerned,” Litton said. “I really do because of what they are hearing. There are videos. Even people in my church, we have sat down and talked about it. There are publications. Things being said.”

And Litton said honesty is important for a leader.

“I take this very seriously. This is what I shared with my people every week: You had trust in me for 27 years to be a man of truth and so I have to tell you the truth and if you can’t trust me then I have no basis of leadership in this church. And so, we are grateful for the opportunity to address it. But the other thing is, I believe the Lord has forgiven me and I believe the Lord is helping me learn an even stronger, better way to communicate. And we are moving on.”

Last thought, does the Lord forgive someone who is unrepentant? Because, Litton is saying he didn’t plagiarize and all he did was preach Jesus. That entire conversation does not sound like a contrite person.

Litton is unrepentant. In fact, Litton continues his I’m Not A Crook Defense.

H/T to Tom Buck for finding this interview.