NASHVILLE — Ed Litton would have been completely happy remaining a neighborhood church pastor.
Instead, Litton finds himself main the biggest Protestant denomination within the U.S. because it faces continued divisions over race, a intercourse abuse disaster and the function of girls in ministry.
Litton, elected Tuesday as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is seen by many as a pastor who will help Southern Baptists unite and keep away from an exodus of minority members frightened about whether or not they have a future house in the conservative denomination.
“I think in some ways, I was ready to go home,” he told reporters Tuesday night. “I told my church last week, I said, ‘If next Wednesday morning I wake up and I’m just your pastor, I am so good with that.’ The highest honor of my life is to pastor a local church. But I also have a deep burden for people that I love. And I want to do whatever I can to help us pull this together. I’m not Superman. I have no magic.
“But I do know this individual and his identify is Jesus. And they know him, too. And so I believe we will discover that frequent floor.”
Who is Litton? Here’s what you should know in regards to the Alabama pastor.
Where does Ed Litton pastor?
Litton, 62, is senior pastor at Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, exterior Mobile.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in religion and theater from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, a master of divinity from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a doctorate of divinity from The 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’s been the senior pastor at Redemption since 1994.
He served as the Southern Baptist Convention’s first vice president from 2001-02.
How did he get into the ministry?
Litton said he didn’t grow up going to church.
“I used to be in a house with alcohol that dominated our household. My mother and father’ marriage was dissolving,” Litton said. “I used to be about 7 or 8 years previous when a Southern Baptist pastor related with my dad and commenced partaking him with the gospel.”
He said his dad wasn’t ready. But the pastor kept pressing in, loving his dad and inviting him to church. “The day got here the place every part appeared to unravel like low cost sweater, and my dad cried out to God,” Litton said.
“My dad was delivered and let loose, which is totally inconceivable to occur, other than God. And I knew from that time on – that did not immediately change my life – however I had a entrance row seat on a miracle, and I knew that change had taken place.”
He said he gave his life to Christ and became a church planter after he went to seminary and began working in Tucson, Arizona.
What about his family story?
Litton was married to Tammy Litton for 25 years. She died in August 2007 in a car accident. 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 a tremendous life and a tremendous ministry that unfold everywhere in the state of Colorado, and he was killed in a automobile accident after they had been on a household trip,” Litton stated.
“We had been about the identical age when this stuff occurred in our lives. And it alters the course of your life. In some ways, you assume your life’s going a sure route when all the sudden every part appears to alter and also you’re uncontrolled. So we each have a profound sense of ache, struggling in our life that has modified us. And I believe it is modified us far for the higher.
“We love to tell people the story that there is a God who loves us, and he doesn’t, doesn’t go distant in the most painful things in life.”
His spouse serves as director of planter partner growth for the North American Mission Board, the conference group that helps church buildings attain and serve of their communities and past.
What is Ed Litton’s work on race?
Over the previous six years, Litton has been concerned with a coalition referred to as the Pledge Group. It’s a gaggle of leaders from totally different racial, non secular and vocational backgrounds who wish to bridge the racial divide in Mobile.
Litton additionally helped write, in keeping with the Baptist Press, the “Deep South Joint Statement on the Gospel, Racial Reconciliation, and Justice.”
The statement, signed by a diverse group of church leaders in Mobile, Montgomery and Charleston, S.C., came in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
“The ache, the worry, and the trauma in our communities revealed a division that many hoped had been relegated to the previous,” the statement read. “We notice that the issues we face are broad, the division attributable to sin goes deep, and the hearts and souls of our neighbors stay profoundly and justly damage by this sin. To ignore this, or hope it can go away, is to turn out to be the detached priest within the Parable of the Good Samaritan.”
Southern Baptists tackle essential race principle however not by identify: Here’s why.
“We imagine that each individual it doesn’t matter what their shade, tradition, or creed is made within the picture of God and due to that they’ve infinite value, worth, and dignity,” the statement continued.
At one point, the statement said that church leaders too often focused more on “protecting issues comfy than on making issues proper.”
The statement said they believe that Jesus mandates Christians work toward a “reconciliation that’s centered on his redemptive work for humanity” and that too often people of color alone carried the burden of working toward racial unity.
How will he bridge the racial divide?
In speaking to reporters Tuesday, Litton said much growth in Southern Baptist churches over the past three decades has come from minority members.
“Asian American teams, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, they’re rising at a charge of 232%, whereas our Anglo congregations are in decline,” Litton said.
“So we’re grateful for them. They make up a big variety of who we’re. So sure, the very first thing I say is, we wish you right here. We love you right here. We cannot attain each man, girl, boy and woman on this nation with out you right here.
“And I’m just so grateful for my brothers and sisters in Christ, of color, and I’m so thankful for them. We have much to learn from them.”
Litton stated his method is a “Gospel-centered” one.
“What’s my motivation for doing it? It’s not to be hip or cool. It’s not to even catch up with the times,” he stated. “My goal is to say, ‘Jesus, how would you have me to treat my neighbor?’”
Litton recalled the parable in the Bible of the Good Samaritan.
“When we see in our communities folks which are struggling or are hurting, we have to cease our busy lives and we have to assist them. It’s simply that straightforward. It’s simply that fundamental and I believe that’s the remedy.”
He said would encourage Southern Baptists to “get out of the bubble” and ask God to open their eyes to what is going on in their community
With the Pledge Group, Litton said the members take simple steps.
“We make a pledge that’s so easy, and it appears so small. But we smile,” he said. “We smile at folks that won’t appear like us, assume like us or vote like us.”
In the days after Floyd’s death, Litton recalls going to Costco and seeing a Black man in line in front of him. The two ended up parked next to each other, Litton said.
“He checked out me and he simply stated, ‘I got to talk to someone.’ And he simply began pouring his coronary heart out, how damaged he was and how drained he was of this stuff,” Litton recalled. “And we simply stood there. And for one second, an exquisite second, it was not a Black man speaking to a white man. It was two males who had been deeply involved about their tradition, deeply involved in regards to the neighborhood they stay in and simply discovering commonality.”
He said that type of experience doesn’t just help the overall culture.
“It helps us be the folks God referred to as us to be,” Litton said.
Contributing: The Associated Press.