In case you missed it, last week, Reformation Charlotte broke the story that the newly-elected Southern Baptist president, Ed Litton, had plagiarized JD Greear’s 2019 Romans 1 sermon downplaying the egregiousness of sexual sin and saying that the Bible only “whispers” about homosexuality. In Greear’s sermon, he took a quote from Jen Wilkin, who said that we ought to “whisper” about what the Bible “whispers” about and “shout” about what the Bible “shouts” about, and that the Bible appears to only “whisper” about homosexuality while it “shouts” about other sins, such as greed, boasting, and materialism.
It turns out that Ed Litton didn’t just plagiarize that line, but, according to Greear’s own words, Ed Litton copied nearly the entire sermon and he gave Litton permission to do so. Greear writes in a statement on the controversy:
…Pastor Ed Litton reached out and told me that he had really appreciated my take on Paul’s warnings in that chapter and asked if he could use some of the content with his congregation, as well as how we had broken down our entire series on Romans at The Summit Church. I told him that whatever bullets of mine worked in his gun, to use them!
In 2010, JD Greear wrote an article denouncing exactly what Ed Litton did copying Greear’s sermon.
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That article has now been deleted–however, it still exists on archive.org’s Wayback Machine (and may also exist elsewhere, but not at the original link he tweeted out in 2010). In that article Greear writes:
If I ever preach the gist of another person’s sermon, meaning that I used the lion’s share of their message’s organization, points, or applications, I give credit. I don’t ever think it’s a good idea to preach someone else’s sermon… but in those rare times when you feel like you just can’t help it, you have to give credit. A sermon is a major thought unit. If it’s not yours, you have to acknowledge where it came from.
Ed Litton did not give credit. Despite the fact that Greear now says that he gave Litton permission to use his sermon, it would appear prudent to give credit for using it. This publication, with permission, will quote, rewrite, or even republish in their entirety articles that were written elsewhere; regardless of permission granted, we always cite the source of the quote. Not to do so is plagiarism–in Litton’s case, it’s merely “plagiarism with permission.”
That being said, Litton issued a statement of his own, acknowledging that he used the sermon without proper attribution, apologizing for “mentioning J.D.’s generosity and ownership of these points,” and that he “should have given him credit as I shared these insights.”
So Greear seems to be just fine with sermon plagiarism without attribution now while ten years ago, he was staunchly against it. Contradictory to what he wrote in 2010, he acknowledges that he and Ed Litton collaborated on Litton’s sermon and apparently, guided Litton into changing a few key details. “I did convey to Ed where I got the inspiration for the story, and Ed, having never lived in Asia, chose to tell the story in Paul [Tripp’s] words and attribute it to Paul [Tripp].”
So why the change of heart? Is it because Litton is the kind of woke, liberal Southern Baptist president that Greear endorsed? Is it because Greear is willing to put aside his own convictions in order to advance an ideology that he agrees with but is contradictory to Scripture? We can’t know for sure Greear’s heart–or how much of it can simply be attributed to both Greear’s and Litton’s general ineptitude–but it sure appears to be sinister on the face of it. In fact, Greear’s statement goes on to spend an inordinate amount of time blaming his critics rather than acknowledging the actual controversy. It appears to be just more of the same Evangelical “Quid Pro Quo” and mutual covering in the name of unbiblical “unity.” After all, they have their own kingdoms to protect.