New SBC President Litton's Apparent Plagiarism

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C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
In a very shocking video that has been circulating online, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ed Litton, appears to be preaching essentially the same sermon to his congregation on Romans 1 that J. D. Greear delivered to his congregation a year earlier.

It is hard to understand how this can be anything other than plagiarism. But this much is clear, Ed Litton at the very least owes an explanation to his congregation and to the churches of the SBC. If it is what it looks like, I would say it is grounds for removal from office.

Below is the video in question, and it is rather stunning.

 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
All these skinny jeans type sermons are essentially the same. It's kind of like a political speech. There really isn't no new content. All platitudes.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
I actually just watched this video right before seeing this thread and was completely blown away...not only by the similarities, but in the content.

Years ago I was working alongside a few other men to disciple the youth we had at church and I noticed one brother using phrases and expressions in his messages that I knew weren't original to him. Moreover, some of the stuff he was saying was doctrinally dangerous. When I first approached him and asked if the sermons were his he affirmed that they indeed were. A few weeks later after hearing a few weird things taught I asked a second time and he got rather defensive. To make a long story short, I transcribed a portion of the next message he gave and searched online with it and found that the entire time this guy had been paying a subscription fee online for permissions to download transcripts of other people's sermons. When I approached the guy a third time on it he finally fessed up and told me he was too busy to study the text and prepare a sermon each week. I got him to agree to step down from his teaching position, but when I discussed all that transpired with the senior pastor he dismissed it all as no big deal and felt it was okay because it was just the youth that he was preaching to, as if what we were doing was minor league baseball and what he was doing with the adults was the majors. Ever since then "sermon borrowing" has been a real pet peeve of mine. Sigh.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Worst of all, Litton appears to take the borrowed story of visiting a pagan temple and ascribes it to his own personal experience, which would be an outright lie.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Worst of all, Litton appears to take the borrowed story of visiting a pagan temple and ascribes it to his own personal experience, which would be an outright lie.
While there certainly is plagiarism going on here, Greear is actually the guy who speaks of the temple in first-person experience, and Litton is the one ascribing the story to Paul Tripp. If the story is originally Tripp, then Greear is actually plagiarizing, too!
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
While there certainly is plagiarism going on here, Greear is actually the guy who speaks of the temple in first-person experience, and Litton is the one ascribing the story to Paul Tripp. If the story is originally Tripp, then Greear is actually plagiarizing, too!
Bingo. This is the wrinkle in this story that really blows my mind.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Senior
I think the way of love would have us believe that what he is doing is truthful and legitimate, unless or until proven otherwise. Just because his ministry may not be approved by many, doesn't mean anyone should be hasty to try to tear down his character, until there is substantial truth that a proper conclusion may be brought to. I don't know the details, nor do I really even care, but I did watch the video. I will say that it definitely does seem suspicious.

Maybe he got approval to use this sermon outline? All of us have to gain our knowledge from somewhere, and that's what we share with others. None of us read the Bible only, and only use the Spirit's guidance to write sermons. I would say the majority of what pastors say in their sermons was something they have learned from somebody at some time. In this man's case it just seems like he was taking a lot of somebody else's sermon and applying it to his own. Does that necessarily make it wrong? Is that something that should disqualify somebody?

If that's what he did, I think it would be ethical to at least give the original writer credit. But anyway, if he is a Christian, we want to try to protect his reputation until he is proven to be in the wrong.

Maybe he is already proven to be in the wrong. I don't know, but it just seems like a lot of speculation from what I see.

Have a good day!
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I think the way of love would have us believe that what he is doing is truthful and legitimate, unless or until proven otherwise. Just because his ministry may not be approved by many, doesn't mean anyone should be hasty to try to tear down his character, until there is substantial truth that a proper conclusion may be brought to. I don't know the details, nor do I really even care, but I did watch the video. I will say that it definitely does seem suspicious.

Maybe he got approval to use this sermon outline? All of us have to gain our knowledge from somewhere, and that's what we share with others. None of us read the Bible only, and only use the Spirit's guidance to write sermons. I would say the majority of what pastors say in their sermons was something they have learned from somebody at some time. In this man's case it just seems like he was taking a lot of somebody else's sermon and applying it to his own. Does that necessarily make it wrong? Is that something that should disqualify somebody?

If that's what he did, I think it would be ethical to at least give the original writer credit. But anyway, if he is a Christian, we want to try to protect his reputation until he is proven to be in the wrong.

Maybe he is already proven to be in the wrong. I don't know, but it just seems like a lot of speculation from what I see.

Have a good day!
Why would any pastor of any sense agree to the use of his sermon near verbatim without a proper attribution or even a mere casual acknowledgment? This is just setting folks up for scandal.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Senior
Why would any pastor of any sense agree to the use of his sermon near verbatim without a proper attribution or even a mere casual acknowledgment? This is just setting folks up for scandal.
I honestly don't know if he did or if he didn't. Do you? If he did not give credit, I do think this is not being above reproach, for sure.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
While there certainly is plagiarism going on here, Greear is actually the guy who speaks of the temple in first-person experience, and Litton is the one ascribing the story to Paul Tripp. If the story is originally Tripp, then Greear is actually plagiarizing, too!
Yes, I'm sorry, I was mixing up Greear and Litton. Thanks for the correction!
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
I started thinking about it and wasn't there a bit of similar controversy a few years ago among two well known Scots in the ARP? Current/former pastors of First Presbyterian in Columbia? Maybe it's more common than I thought...
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I started thinking about it and wasn't there a bit of similar controversy a few years ago among two well known Scots in the ARP? Current/former pastors of First Presbyterian in Columbia? Maybe it's more common than I thought...

Yep. People's sermons started to look a lot like Sinclair's. I think more often than not someone takes notes from earlier and then without realizing it, incorporates those notes into the new sermon. Still wrong but not as outright.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Maybe he got approval to use this sermon outline?

This is like one guy giving another guy permission to kiss his girlfriend. You might get the permission, but no decent person should do it.
All of us have to gain our knowledge from somewhere, and that's what we share with others.

Almost every seminary and university in America has near-identical plagiarism guidelines. Most of those work for sermons, too.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
A statement by J.D. Greear on the issue.

 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
So... now I've locked the thread, closing it. Reserving for myself the last word.

I think JDGreear's explanation is sufficient to account for all the relevant facts.

Now, for a word about our own board and its use as a conversation space: There is a reason why we don't encourage our internet presence to be used as a platform for one side in a forum-war. The PB isn't a "discernment ministry," and we limit our membership; so equal time isn't an option for a number of people "we" may disagree with to come on and defend themselves. "We" disagree among ourselves, air it out, and try to do it in a relatively civil manner, keeping in mind biblical standards for disputes. The PB isn't going to be beneficial if it is perceived as a site that targets people (even if they are wrong) or disparages venues and sites and institutions promoting errors.

Of course, being FOR something and certain ideas (that come from people), being "confessional" within a defined tradition, the PB will inevitably stand at odds with other people, institutions, and internet spaces. But, to my knowledge the PB has never answered any attack or published disagreement, if leveled against the board or a particular member. Whoever "they" may be, they are entitled to their opinion and any mud they feel like slinging. Our position is: 1) body of work, and 2) scoreboard. We indeed must mark them who are divisive and a threat to the church, but we must do it with care and following good principles.

The PB needs also to be careful about taking on the character of a broadcast medium, a bulletin board for the purpose of "getting the word out" about this and that. Especially about "perpetrators" and "victims." There's so much victim Olympics going on today, people are overeager to shame and be at the front of denunciations; because getting in early means extra points for being on top of the situation. One of the sad collateral damages of the current climate is the concept of due process. It gets trampled in the rush to judgment, and people think little of it... until they sure wish it was still around to provide THEM some legitimate cover when the target is painted on their own chests.

This PSA is an appeal to all our members to "think before you post." You don't want to have to walk it back after taking a precipitous stance. You don't want to have to say, "Well, it's still a problem generally," or "He's still/ that institution is still wrong 90% of the time." Doesn't make us look any better, for perpetuating a false narrative, disseminating fake news.

***EDIT*** I'm adding an additional word, to make it clear that
1) there was little doubt whether borrowing or some other "common usage" of the sermonic material was done; no attention to both synopsis-presentations could evade the growing impression that one source was their basis

2) what could not be proved (and was denied by the purported victim) was that this repetition was done surreptitiously, that is without the permission of JDG who, as the first speaker, gains the benefit of the doubt as to originality

And because the allegation in its original form pertained to illegitimate and surreptitious, uncredited borrowing--i.e. rank plagiarism of a fellow minister's labor--when that charge was explained away by first-hand reportage, that allegation immediately fell. "This man is a thief, and doesn't deserve to be leading the SBC," was refuted by the so-called victim.

Reporting the common-source as a "plagiarism" failed the fundamental test of plagiarism, and for that reason--like any reputable news-outlet would be required to do to preserve its integrity--some end to the discussion, and a correcting of the false idea had to be brought.

As there could be (and are) other issues related to the practice of using someone else' material to teach or preach, and how one presents the material he gathers, and on what basis one gets a reputation for standing as a minister of the gospel, let me further clarify that shutting down this thread does not prevent discussion of such issues, even (or especially) as they pertain to this man or these men.

But this thread had to end. Thanks for listening.
 
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