Ed Litton Plagiarism? New SBC President’s Church Deletes Over 100 Sermons After Accusations

"In an article Newsweek published on Monday June 28, 2021, the publication said it discovered over 140 videos were either removed or hidden on Redemption Church’s YouTube channel." - C.Leaders

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Mark_Smith's picture

Who decided sermons have to be 100% original works and any deviation from that must be fully annotated using Turabian style and mentioned in sermons?

For a hundred years how many preachers quoted Spurgeon? How many just copied him?

Who cares? I certainly don’t.

Sermons are not academic works with claim of originality. They are tools to train, equip, and edify the body of Christ.

My $0.02.

Mark_Smith's picture

There is a big difference between me publishing a paper or textbook, and me speaking to my class or making some presentation in the observatory. When I'm teaching or speaking to a group I say many things that I have picked up from listening to astronomy videos, documentaries, talks, various astronomy texts and books I have rad over the years. It all gets jumbled together. No one wants public speakers to continually be citing their sources. Just talk...

My $0.02

Bert Perry's picture

Evidently Litton's church feels that it's sufficient enough to remove them. 

My take is that if a pastor is consistently using another person's work as if it were their own, they're cheating themself and their congregation of the benefit of real preparation.  They are making themselves look more educated and prepared than they actually are--it's really deception.

For perspective, Litton is 61, so theoretically he's been in a pulpit for over 35 years, and Greear is 48--so theoretically Litton has preached ~1000 sermons since Greear came to the pulpit, probably half that amount since Greear became prominent.  So the degree to which Litton has been borrowing Greear's work is quite significant IMO.  If I became aware that my pastor was appropriating other peoples' work without attribution to that degree, I think I'd bring that to the attention of the deacon board for possible personnel action.  It wouldn't just be a matter of removing sermons from the website.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JohnBrian's picture

My father, a missionary pastoring 4 churches at the same time (among everything else he did) received sermon outlines from an organization in England. He used those as the foundation for his sermons and built on them. It is likely that others who used the same resource preached sermons that were slightly different than his.

When I pastored I used sermoncentral.com for outlines and built on them, but the resulting sermon was my own. With the scrutiny over Litton, I wonder if what my father and I practiced would be considered to be "appropriating other peoples' work without attribution."

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T Howard's picture

Did Litton use the same sermon outlines, illustrations, etc as another pastor? Or, did he just quote from someone in his sermons without stating, "so-and-so said ..."?

There's a difference.

If you're lifting the body of your sermon from someone else, that's being dishonest and lazy. If you're quoting from someone as an illustration / etc, that's less worrisome to me.

EDIT: I read the article, and it appears Litton did lift a lot of content from Greear's sermons as he preached through Romans. I wouldn't be comfortable with that level of borrowing.

Jonathan Charles's picture

Litton said that church sermons were put together by the church preaching team of eight men who met weekly "to discuss study insights, outlines, and approaches to the text, in addition to consulting commentaries as well as other books and individuals."  The matter of consulting other individuals had to do with listening messages of other pastors who had preached the text under consideration.  

 

Don Johnson's picture

First, as to ethics, I think that when you use material from others, some acknowledgement should be made. I've used outlines from others and developed the rest of the message myself, but (I hope) I've always acknowledged it. Doesn't have to be a formal footnote (though I try to put that in the written copy), but one should say, "these main points (or these sub-points) I got from a commentary" or "from a friend" or what have you. Don't have to always name the source when speaking, in my opinion, but let your hearers know you are using the material of others.

Second, simply removing a group of sermons from public view is not in itself proof of widespread plagiarism. It could be that they are being cautious and may restore them in due course.

However, third, this...

Litton said that church sermons were put together by the church preaching team of eight men who met weekly "to discuss study insights, outlines, and approaches to the text, in addition to consulting commentaries as well as other books and individuals." 

Really? that is astonishing. I can't imagine a sermon having any life in it if you have a "preaching team of eight men" and you are simply regurgitating the notes they come up with. Where is the fire and drive of the Word of God in your soul? How can you call your people to Holy Spirit revival and reformation? Aren't you just delivering a religious speech to satisfy the need of saying something for the service?

Perhaps I'm over-reacting (I've never been known to do so before!!!), but it might be good to have a source for that quote. I can't imagine any preacher in good conscience standing in the pulpit and delivering something like that and calling it a sermon.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

I've not done a lot of sermons, but in other speaking, sometimes a committee vetting ideas can be very helpful.  One wants the end product to be something the speaker can say and "engage" with, of course, but the committee thing is not that bad, really.

No doubt that removing the sermons doesn't prove plagiarism in all 100+ sermons, though.  At its best, it's a sign the church is taking things seriously.  At its worst, it's covering tracks.  The one thing I can say is that since it's 100 sermons they've taken down instead of everything since they went online, that they have some idea of where to look.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

I am a church member. I have never been a pastor. I have preached sermons but never as a pastor. Just me here, but I couldn't care less where you got your sermon from. Make it biblical, theologically sound, instructive, and edifying. That's all I care about.

 

dgszweda's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

I am a church member. I have never been a pastor. I have preached sermons but never as a pastor. Just me here, but I couldn't care less where you got your sermon from. Make it biblical, theologically sound, instructive, and edifying. That's all I care about.

Also, lets be honest.  There are only so many ways you can preach many passages.  Over the last 2,000 years, if you were able to map all sermons preached I am sure there is significant crossover.

Mark_Smith's picture

dgszweda wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

I am a church member. I have never been a pastor. I have preached sermons but never as a pastor. Just me here, but I couldn't care less where you got your sermon from. Make it biblical, theologically sound, instructive, and edifying. That's all I care about.

 

 

Also, lets be honest.  There are only so many ways you can preach many passages.  Over the last 2,000 years, if you were able to map all sermons preached I am sure there is significant crossover.

All I meant was I've preached but never as a pastor who regularly does so. That's it. Nothing else.

 

My point is the AVERAGE church goer doesn't care where the sermon comes from. Just those who are looking to criticize.

Don Johnson's picture

If they found out that a pastor regularly simply used sermons he found online and didn't do any study to speak of himself?

I have known of cases.

The average church goers in those cases weren't impressed. The pastor isn't a "paid preacher" but if he isn't putting any work into the study, what other duties is he not putting any effort into?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mark_Smith's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

If they found out that a pastor regularly simply used sermons he found online and didn't do any study to speak of himself?

I have known of cases.

The average church goers in those cases weren't impressed. The pastor isn't a "paid preacher" but if he isn't putting any work into the study, what other duties is he not putting any effort into?

A guy doing that is doing other things wrong. He is also probably poorly trained.

 

Joeb's picture

Stone's supporters in the CBN/SBC were not happy campers when their man didn't win.  Litton was attacked by them for this and being a Liberal.  Now the plagiarism is an issue no doubt    However STONE'S supporters are also upset because LITTON is going to give the Victims/Advocates Community the Independent Investigation and audit they want vs the Whitewashing Machine the SBC Executive Community was using.  
 

The CBN/SBC crowd were loaded for bear when they went out for a break after the election.  A group went right over to the VictimsAdvocates Booth and verbally attacked the young lady victim there. They knew who she was and her allegations apparently smeared  STONE in some way.  The victim's name is Hannah Kate Williams and her SBC Father Pastor raped her impregnated her and with the help of a Church Deacon did a back alley abortion on her to cover up a crime worthy of life in prison.  Daddy dearest also attacked her sisters. Hannah reported the matter fully to National Rep a short time after the incident and in fIne Corrupt Godly Men fashion nothing was done.  Rachel DeHollander backs Hannah's allegation and was with Hannah and her Sibling Victims when they came forward in 2019.    

The above verbal attack got so bad a Pastor who was watching out for Hannah had to rescue her and bring her out to her car to go home.  After she left these STONE supporters attacked her on the Internet and via phone calls and possibly vandalized her house.  According to this rescuing Pastor STONE was right there as it went down.  Hannah said one lady E Mailed and said HANNAH tempted a Godly man into falling. Yeah sure underage HANNAH wore a skimpy outfit to tempt daddy and after she got pregnant by Daddy willingly submitted to a back alley abortion.  Another Pastor called her a HARPY for allegedly saying stuff against STONE.   
 
My point with this CBN/SBC crowd is  willing. to throw anything they can at Litton to muddy him up.  The viciousness of them going after HANNAH is unbelievable and shows their wickedness.  I wonder where they learned that behavior ie DONALD TRUMP.  Funny how these CBN/SBC Pastors are all such super TRUMPERS but have no morals and should be tossed from their pulpits.  Like Jerry Vines Paige Patterson's buddy in crime who 4 weeks ago was put on Liberty's executive committee.  Birds of a feather flock together.  Gilyard's victims were not happy about that appointment.  

Once again the above just proves in spades ♠️ that Bob Jones University is the only honest game in town for Larger Christian Higher Education.  They laid out ALL THEIR SINS.  
 

 

josh p's picture

“I have but one comment to make about this—it is utterly dishonest unless you acknowledge what you are doing. I never have understood how a man can live with himself, who preaches other men’s sermons without acknowledgment. He receives the praise and the thanks of people, and yet knows that this is not due to him. He is a thief and a robber; he is a great sinner. But, as I say, the amazing thing to me is that he can possibly live with himself.”

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2007/03/lloyd-jones-monday-t...

Joeb's picture

Josh I agree 100 % with your statement.  However STONE and his buddies have done far worse as I pointed above. Litton is wrong doing plagiarism.  As a Pastor you should be expected to prepare your own sermons.  Anything short of that is wrong.

 Should Litton resign as SBC National President. Absolutely not.  The Victims/Advoctes have one chance to get a correct accounting for the Criminal activity these CBN/SBC Executive Committee Members appear to have participated in protecting their Criminal Pastor buddies. Enough. These dudes are all interconnected via the Christian Right. That Bum Jerry Vines being put on Liberty's Executive Committee just plain stinks and says it all.  It's the greater evil.  
 

 The only reason the plagiarism is being brought up against Litton is because these CBN dudes don't want their criminal acts exposed.  Aiding and abetting Church Sex Perps in my book outweighs plagiarism any day of the week. These dudes are all about Prolife but when it comes to the living like the young sisters in Christ in the SBC they are expendable.  

Bert Perry's picture

...comes to mind regarding the travails of the SBC, and really a lot of the rest of us.  We seriously need internal repentance in many ways, or else this kind of nonsense will go on forever.

Back to the topic, one thing that comes to mind is that as I've led my family in devotions, and as I've taught/preached through Matthew at nursing homes, is that when I sit down and get ready to teach a passage, I find that a hint from a commentary is nice, but I rarely fail to see something just entrancing in the passage, especially the Gospels.  Maybe I'm weird, but there's almost always something in my gaze that is in certain respects akin to a young man gazing on the woman who will become (or is) his wife.

(OK, ya'll KNOW I'm weird, but let's leave that aside a moment!  Ha!)

Back to the point, we can blame laziness, or overwork, but I wonder at some point if our problem is that too many really don't have that sense of wonder with Scripture anymore.  I hate to even suggest this, but....

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

I believe the "hero pastor" culture has contributed to the problem of plagiarism as "regular" pastors aspire to a type of ministry that doesn't fit their context. I'm not a pastor and I preach infrequently but one thing I am learning is to know your audience. I don't see how a pastor, who has been given charge over a specific flock, can cannibalize a sermon from someone else and regurgitate it for his own congregation. 

Mark_Smith's picture

I just listened to the most recent SBC This Week podcast where they had Ed Litton on to ask him about this. His church is multi-site so they use a team approach to building sermons. Sure, Litton does most of the heavy lifting in general, but others review sources and report on what they have learned to contribute to the sermon.

In light of this, I think the group just left out that Greear was the source for the outline of this part of the Romans sermon series. No malice. No issue really until the anti-Litton crowd came looking for dirt.

Move on.