The race for the SBC presidency gained three additional contenders in January in Randy Adams, Ed Litton, and Mike Stone. They join R. Albert Mohler Jr., who announced his intention to run again after a bid in 2020 was stalled due to the canceled Southern Baptist Convention.
The candidates, all who announced much earlier than previous year’s candidates for president, represent several of the most pressing issues facing the denomination, including social justice, racism and reconciliation, and overall strategy and direction.
Adams, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, planned to run for SBC president in 2020 before the SBC annual meeting was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“Although the 2020 Annual Meeting was cancelled, the rationale for my candidacy a year ago has only strengthened,” Adams wrote on his personal website. “The SBC is in crisis. We inherited a cooperative mission system where every church mattered and could contribute to sharing the gospel around the world. We are now destroying much of our mission capacity through failures in accountability, self-dealing, top-down centralized strategies, and broken partnerships.”
Adams said he will confront those issues. “I will push for transparency and accountability at every opportunity and make great effort to crush corruption. The focus will be on the mission, with the Bible as our sole and final authority on all matters.”
Adams, who has served as state executive since 2013, previously led the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s church outreach team, and also pastored churches in Oklahoma and Texas.
Baptist Press reported he, along with several other non-South state executives, has been involved in a prolonged dispute with the North American Mission Board over its allocation of funds to states related to church planting and evangelism. In announcing his intention to run, he also claimed the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report passed by messengers in 2010 led to “the worst decade for Southern Baptists in our 175-year history.”
“The GCR shifted control to the national body away from the state conventions and your typical SBC church,” Adams told Baptist Press. “Our cooperative strategy is supposed to ensure that every church has a place in that system. When churches lose their place, they lose their voice.”
The pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., will be nominated by former SBC president Fred Luter.
“With Ed’s commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, he is what our convention needs to help us refocus and recommit to the biblical principles of what this convention has been known for—evangelism and discipleship,” Luter said.
Litton, who has pastored his church since 1994, previously served at First Baptist, Euless, Texas, and with the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.
Since the riots in Ferguson, Mo., six years ago, he has been involved in The Pledge Group of Mobile, a diverse group of pastors seeking to further racial reconciliation. He helped author the “Deep South Joint Statement on the Gospel, Racial Reconciliation, and Justice” in October 2020, and also joined a group of Southern Baptist pastors in signing a statement on “Justice, Repentance, and the SBC” in December 2020.
Litton’s wife, Kathy, was elected SBC registration secretary in 2019, but sent her letter of resignation to Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd in order to “help maintain the highest standards of integrity in our voting processes.”
Upon accepting the nomination, Ed Litton referred to the SBC’s “critical ethic and apologetic to all people”—love for one another.
“As a convention of churches, we need a greater vision than merely slowing a decline. What if the SBC would become known for how radically we love God, love one another, and love the world? Genuine, transforming love is the credibility and the fuel of a believer, a church, and a convention on mission. I’m allowing my name to be put forward because I want us to be the convention God has called us to be.”
Stone is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga., and former chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. He also serves on the steering council for the Conservative Baptist Network, which launched in 2020 in response to concerns over the SBC’s direction on social justice issues.
“At this critical moment in our history, Southern Baptists need to be led by a trusted local church pastor with strong convictions about the sufficiency of Scripture, a passion for evangelism, and deep experience in the work of our convention,” said Kevin Williams, current president of the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC), in announcing Stone’s nomination. Williams called him “the kind of experienced pastor and statesman Southern Baptists need.”
Stone served for five years on Emmanuel’s staff before becoming pastor in 2002. He has also served as GBC president and chairman of the GBC Executive Committee.
The second nominee announced after Mohler said he would run again, Stone Baptist Press he had spoken to the seminary president the day his own nomination was made public.
“I did not seek this out; I feel like it’s a case of the position seeking the person,” Stone said. “But God confirmed this in my heart and my wife’s heart through a set of circumstances. As I shared with Dr. Mohler this morning, I’m not running in opposition to anyone, but being obedient to God to what I sense is his call on my life.
“I truly feel the SBC will be best led by a pastor. With deep gratitude for an entity leader’s influence, the SBC is a convention of churches and needs leadership that is daily in tune with the local church.”
Mohler announced in October he would again allow himself to be nominated for the post, telling Baptist Press his reasons for running remain largely the same. He cited “big questions of mission and conviction and vision” for the SBC going forward.
“I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to help Southern Baptists,” Mohler said. “And I hope to do that, if allowed by the convention, in order to bring together Southern Baptists—associations, state conventions, and at the national level, and pastors and churches—into a deeper commitment to what Southern Baptists believe and our cooperative mission together.”
Messengers will elect the denomination’s next president at the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, June 15-16.
-From Baptist Press