Southern Baptists upset conservative fave for Church president; vote to oppose Equality Act

Wed. June 16, 2021 7:12 AM by Gerald Farinas

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The Southern Baptist Convention elected a new president—after a runoff that crushed the leading conservative choice.

Convention delegates also voted to officially oppose the federal Equality Act that would add LGBTQ protections to the original Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Southern Baptists make up the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

Rev. Ed Litton of Alabama squashed Georgia's Rev. Mike Stone—the favorite of the ultra-conservative Conservative Baptist Network. Litton won with 6,834 votes to Stone's 6,275.

Litton admitted that news of the delegates' split between spiritual Baptists and those who want Baptists to be more forceful and involved in the cultural wars as a “family dysfunction.”

“This is a family and sometimes families argue in a way that the neighbors get to see it,” Litton said. “But the reality is we're going to leave this place focused. We'll leave this place with a direction – and I believe a better direction – for the future.”

Litton was endorsed by Black delegates who view him as a pastoral figure who would help the Church through the national reckoning of historic racial injustice.

But the Conservative Baptist Network aimed to galvanize the Church into an all-out war against critical race theory being taught in schools and fighting LGBTQ rights—quickly becoming more accepted by Americans as a whole.

Critical race theory are curricula that teach students the laws of America and how they historically affected Black people and people of color.

The delegates decided to approve a very broadly worded resolution covering race and racial injustice. But they stopped short specifically attacking critical race theory on paper.

Eight other resolutions were passed.

Chief among the nine total was opposition to the Equality Act.

The Southern Baptist Convention—like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—argue that the Equality Act will take away the Church's right to discriminate against those who fail to match the teachings of the Church.

The resolution calls the law—now sitting in the U.S. Senate for final approval—"one of the greatest threats to religious liberty in our nation's history.”

For example, if the law were passed, congregations who rent spaces to the general public would not be allowed to discriminate against a lesbian couple who want to use the space for their wedding or birthday party.

Likewise, a homeless housing program led by a church, would not be allowed to turn away a transgender youth because of their simply being transgender.

Litton is also being tasked with leading on the issue of predatory ministers and sexual abuse of minors committed by Baptists.

Unlike the Catholic Church, Baptist churches have a less centralized hierarchy—and holding leaders to account is much more difficult when local congregations are willing to hide improprieties.

“There's no bishop to go to like Catholics have,” an American Baptist Church member explained to

The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 when it split with the present-day American Baptist Churches over the issue of slavery. Southern Baptists supported slavery.

As of 2020, Southern Baptists have 47,592 congregations and under 14.1 million members.

Southern Baptists have a hard line against LGBTQ persons and the idea of gender identity. They are doctrinally against marriage equality.

In disagreement, the American Baptist Churches allows congregations to decide for themselves if they want to perform same-sex marriages and ordain LGBTQ persons to the ministry.