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The Collective SBC Response to Harvard Plagiarism Scandal is a 180 U-Turn from the Ed Litton Plagiarism Scandal

by | Jan 3, 2024

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The Ed Litton plagiarism scandal, first brought to light by Reformation Charlotte, now known as The Dissenter, struck at the heart of the Southern Baptist Convention’s commitment to integrity and truth. This controversy began not with the unearthing of sermon similarities, but with a more pointed issue: Litton’s echoing of J.D. Greear’s statement on homosexuality, that “the Bible whispers about sexual sins.” This statement, steeped in theological implications, was the spark that ignited a firestorm of controversy and scrutiny.

In the maelstrom of this scandal, one glaring truth emerged: the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) upper echelons, or the “elites,” as they’re referred to by the underlings, particularly leaders like Adam Greenway, Danny Akin, and Bart Barber, engaged in a blatant and calculated game of defense for Litton—a tactical maneuver to shield Litton from the full brunt of his ethical failures.

Greenway, embroiled in his own saga of financial mismanagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), was a key player in this charade. His defense of Litton, amidst his own storm of overspending and questionable fiscal practices, painted a picture of a leadership deeply entrenched in hypocrisy and self-preservation. The sheer audacity of Greenway’s actions—defending Litton while himself being investigated for serious financial misconduct—speaks volumes about the rot in the system. The SWBTS saga, rife with allegations of overspending and misuse of funds, was a telling backdrop to Greenway’s stance in the Litton scandal​​.

The episode at SWBTS, where Litton was invited by Greenway to speak amid his plagiarism scandal and make excuses for it, was a prime example of these elites running cover. Greenway, as the president of SWBTS, not only failed to challenge Litton but allowed him to continue peddling his narrative unchallenged, effectively becoming an accomplice in the cover-up​​.

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Bart Barber, the current SBC president, also defended Litton. But he went much further than that—he twisted the Scriptures to justify plagiarism. In a bewildering display of logical gymnastics, Barber equated the Gospel of Mark’s relationship with the Apostle Peter to Litton’s plagiarism, suggesting divine inspiration in what was clearly a moral failing.

This scenario within the SBC was not just a failure of individual morals but a systemic collapse of ethical leadership. It was a brazen display of the “11th Commandment” in the SBC: Thou shalt not criticize fellow SBC leaders, especially the anointed ones within the establishment. The reaction to Litton’s scandal laid bare a deeply entrenched culture of double standards, where the severity of ethical breaches is measured not by their nature but by who commits them.

Andrew Walker, the associate professor of Christian Ethics and Apologetics and associate dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently noted on Twitter that “we really do not adequately understand the depths of intellectual corruption running throughout American institutions.” A quick perusal of his feed shows an inordinate amount of time spent addressing the Claudine Gay/Harvard scandal.

And though he’s right, the same search of his Twitter account returns zero results of him addressing the Ed Litton plagiarism scandal. In fact, the only reference we could find from his account to Ed Litton was praise:

Yet, in an obvious disconnect from the handling of the Ed Litton plagiarism scandal, the recent controversy surrounding Claudine Gay, the former president of Harvard University, provides a vivid example of differing responses from leadership figures within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Claudine Gay faced allegations of plagiarism in her scholarship and came under intense scrutiny following her congressional testimony about antisemitism on college campuses. The scandal culminated in her resignation, just six months into her tenure, marking the shortest presidency in Harvard’s history.

The response from the SBC leadership to Claudine Gay’s scandal is in deep contrast with their reaction to Ed Litton’s plagiarism controversy. While many SBC leaders defended Litton or remained silent, they have been notably vocal in condemning Gay for similar allegations. This shift in response exposes a glaring hypocrisy in the SBC leadership’s approach to ethical standards. While the collective Southern Baptist leadership stood by Litton, they are now actively criticizing Gay for analogous actions. This raises critical questions about the consistency of ethical standards within the SBC leadership and whether certain elites are granted a form of immunity based on their status or connections within the organization.

This hypocrisy speaks to a deeper issue within the SBC—a crisis of integrity and accountability. When leaders selectively apply principles based on personal alliances or institutional loyalty, it undermines the very foundations of trust and credibility that the church should uphold. The differing reactions to Litton and Gay’s situations reveal not just a double standard but a troubling pattern of political maneuvering and image management taking precedence over straightforward truth-telling and moral consistency.

Such behavior, unbecoming of any religious institution, particularly one that prides itself on adherence to scriptural truth, should prompt a serious introspection within the SBC. It’s time for a reevaluation of what it means to be a leader in the SBC, where integrity and honesty should be non-negotiable virtues, not variables adjusted for convenience or political gain.

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