One of the bigger surprises of SBC21 was the emergence of Ed Litton over Al Mohler. The establishment seminary president had a base of support from former students and from elite circles. But it appears that the North American Mission Board was backing a different candidate, Ed Litton. Litton’s strong second place finish indicated just how widespread the liberal drift had gotten in the convention and this was made even more evident when he and not the conservative candidate could build a coalition to reach majority. The coverage of the Washington Post would indicate that resources at the helm of Kevin Ezell backed Litton over Mohler.
One insider said NAMB has been pouring money into getting urban church leaders to the annual meeting to get enough votes to secure the presidency for Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor who has promoted work on racial reconciliation. Litton’s wife, Kathy, heads NAMB’s ministry for wives. A NAMB spokesman said it will send 150 church planters to the meeting this year.
It’s worth noting that NAMB funds the expenses of their messengers. This would essentially mean that Cooperative Program funds are being used to influence who would help oversee the program. This incestuous conflict of interest is the latest corruption of the North American Misson Board to become apparent. However this is not really a new concept.
Last month a theory was posited by Evangelical Dark Web that the spending on real estate for celebrity pastor church plants were a bribe or a sordid means of courting favor. JD Greear’s megachurch would have four houses purchased by NAMB funds. Greear would later become SBC President and make appointees that so far have been favorable to Ezell.
However a more surprising power struggle may be at play between Kevin Ezell and Al Mohler. Al Mohler has widely been viewed as the most powerful Southern Baptist, and certainly one of the most influential Evangelicals today. Ezell was at one point a creature of Al Mohler. But since helming the North American Mission Board, he has achieved power to wield funds and influence churches independent of Mohler. The relationship between the two is the Baptist Biumvirate.
However, power shared between two people is rarely stable. Caesar and Pompey turned on one another after the death of Crassus, and Marcus Lepidus was the clear beta male in the Second Triumvirate of Rome. And so the inevitable power struggle ensued. Kevin Ezell had no apparent reason to not see Al Mohler as a friend; thus why Mohler was the assumed candidate to beat. But it appears that the influence Ezell sowed with JD Greear was also sown through Ed Litton, given his wife’s prominent position in NAMB.
With Al Mohler’s apparent diminished influence, Kevin Ezell has emerged the clear kingmaker and most powerful man in the Southern Baptist Convention.