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‘Indifference is killing us’: SBC Pres. Ed Litton tells pastors at racial reconciliation event

Ed Litton
Ed Litton is senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala. |

President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ed Litton, warned an audience that gathered for a racial reconciliation event at his Redemption Church in Mobile, Alabama, that “indifference is killing us” and in order to overcome racial prejudice, “we outta go and work at it.”

Litton — who won the SBC presidency in June amid a raging debate over the denomination’s stance on critical race theory and other issues with the backing of the convention’s first and only black President, Fred Luter — leaned into his long history of promoting racial reconciliation at the fourth annual Shrink the Divide conference to drive home his point.

Shrink the divide is a project of The Pledge Group, which is “a movement of leaders from different racial, denominational, and vocational backgrounds who want to shrink the racial divide in the Mobile, AL area.”

“I’ll tell you what’s killing us today. Nobody in the Southern Baptist Church that I am a part of, nobody in my church, probably nobody in your church would ever want to be called a bigot, but indifference is killing us,” Litton said, urging the diverse pool of participants at the conference to not look away from the suffering of people outside their communities.

“Racial stereotypes and hard feelings, pre-judgements don’t instantly go away … we outta go and work at it,” he said.

Critical race theory, which is an ideological framework that some legal scholars say interrogates the relationship between race, law and power, became a lightning rod for disagreement in the denomination in 2020, leading some prominent black Southern Baptist leaders to leave the denomination.

The tipping point for many of the pastors who left came after the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the revised Baptist Faith & Message in 2020 when the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents, comprised of the leaders of the denomination’s six seminaries, voted to reject CRT as incompatible with their faith while condemning “racism in any form.”

The situation then led several outspoken SBC pastors to call for the denomination to rescind Resolution 9 “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality,” which was adopted with much dissent in the summer of 2019.

At their annual meeting in June, Southern Baptist messengers affirmed their commitment to racial reconciliation and the sufficiency of Scripture to address issues of race by adopting a resolution that avoided the contentious debate over critical race theory.

On Sunday, Litton focused on the Gospel to explain that racial reconciliation requires more intentional action to achieve because “time doesn’t heal all wounds” and prayer isn’t enough by itself.

“Ignoring doesn’t heal all wounds. Just praying and saying it’s going to get better doesn’t heal all wounds. Believing in a God who heals, yes, that’s what heals wounds,” Litton said. “But God also requires that we make intentional treatments of those wounds that we are persistent and consistent with one another, that we are always a source in the Body of Christ, all of our churches, to experience love and prayer and care for one another.”

To help him illustrate how Jesus’ ministry transcended racial lines, the SBC leader cited the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and that of the woman at the well in John 4.

“Only Christ can change the heart. We have a sin problem, not a skin problem. The only solution is Jesus. And I know people in the name of Jesus have done some horrific things, which makes [the] responsibility [of those] who name Him today even greater,” Litton said.

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