Conservative Baptist Network meets in Cordova, warns of 'woke' seminaries, blasts Ed Litton

Lee Brand, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaks with Randy Adams, Tom Ascol, Russell Fuller, Rod Martin and Allen Nelson Friday at Mid-America Theological Seminary. The event was promoted by the Conservative Baptist Network.
Lee Brand, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaks with Randy Adams, Tom Ascol, Russell Fuller, Rod Martin and Allen Nelson Friday at Mid-America Theological Seminary. The event was promoted by the Conservative Baptist Network.

A particularly conservative segment of Southern Baptists compared their cause today to the Conservative Resurgence that began in 1979, after the Southern Baptist Convention had drifted to the theological and political left.

"If the Lord would be gracious to us one more time and we turn back to him in true repentance and faith, then perhaps once again we can honor the Lord as individual Southern Baptists, as churches and, yes, as our denomination,” said Russell Fuller, former professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

A group of about 125 gathered Friday night at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova to hear from a panel of six men in an event promoted by the Conservative Baptist Network, a group that’s trying to urge the already conservative Southern Baptist Network further to the right.

At one point, another 218 had tuned in to a live stream of the event.

On the Cordova campus, the six men on the panel stressed that they love the Southern Baptist Convention, but that they believe “the check engine light’s on,” said Allen Nelson IV, pastor of Perryville Second Baptist Church in Arkansas.

That "check engine light" comes from perceived increasing liberalization in the denomination, which the group described as coming from the social justice movement, racial reconciliation, acceptance of preferred pronouns and critical race theory.

They also thrashed current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ed Litton, who defeated the Conservative Baptist Network’s supported candidate Mike Stone by 556 of the 13,131 votes at the convention’s annual meeting in Nashville in June.

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“Do we not believe in God? Do we not fear God? This is stunning to me,” said Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Florida and founder of the Reformed Baptist group Founders Ministries. Ascol is not officially involved with the CBN, but is perceived as a supporter of the network. “Let’s get some leaders who are willing to stand up and say this is what is right, this is what is wrong, Brother Litton we love you and you’re disqualified and need to resign.”

Following the SBC annual meeting, Litton faced scrutiny for plagiarizing sermons after a video surfaced on YouTube comparing one of Litton's sermons to a sermon from J.D. Greear, a North Carolina pastor and Litton's predecessor as president.

Litton apologized for using material from Greear's sermon without credit, but said he had permission to use the material.

“His soul is in danger because he continues in unrepentant action. Pray for him. Pray for your church,” Nelson said.

Preparing for Anaheim

The group acknowledged that things didn’t go the Conservative Baptist Network’s way in Nashville earlier this year, when Lee Brand’s election as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention was the sole electoral success for the network. Brand, who hosted the panel, is on the Conservative Baptist Network’s steering committee and is also vice president and dean of Mid-America.

Panelists Friday pointed toward next year’s annual meeting, which will be in Anaheim, with Rod Martin, founder and CEO of The Martin Organization, saying the convention is key to removing Southern Baptist personnel without creating a new denomination.

If 10-20,000 people turn out to Anaheim, “you don’t have to start something else,” Martin said. “God is calling you to this, I have belief with all my heart. We should do it, we can do it, we have to do it.”

Martin has served as senior advisor to PayPal founder and CEO Peter Thiel and to former Apple CEO Gil Amelio and as policy director to Gov. Mike Huckabee.

A member of the CBN’s steering committee, Martin resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee along with a swath of resignations from CBN supporters after the committee voted to waive attorney-client privilege as part of an ongoing inquiry into the group’s handling of sex-abuse allegations.

The six seminaries operated by the Southern Baptist Convention were particular targets of the panelists, with Fuller accusing them of corruption and theological compromise.

Mid-America is Southern Baptist by theology but operates independently of the Southern Baptist Convention. Unlike the six seminaries supported by the Southern Baptist Convention, it does not receive funding from the SBC’s cooperative program.

“Especially in their seminaries there are two gospels being taught,” Fuller said. “One’s a true gospel, Christ and him crucified. But there’s another gospel, and they’ll still say Christ and him crucified, but they’ll go a step further and if I could just summarize, it’s the word ‘woke.’ They’ll say racial reconciliation. There’s other words they’ll use for this gospel. You cannot combine modern philosophical theories whether it be critical race theory, things like believing in sexual orientation, you can’t take these things and combine them with the true gospel. You get a corrupted gospel. But right now in our seminaries and our Southern Baptist colleges that are connected to these seminaries, it’s these things that are being taught.”

Martin called things like critical race theory and queer theory a “Marxist nightmare,” saying they are antithetical to the gospel since “one group need never repent and one group may never repent.”

The key to correcting the leftward drift, the group said, is reminding the entities and institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention that they belong to the churches.

“I think too often we have allowed national SBC and maybe at the state level as well the leadership role that belongs to the church,” said Randy Adams, executive director-treasurer of the Northwest Baptist Convention. “We did not form conventions to dictate to churches how to do missions.”

Katherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at, 901-529-2799 or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Conservative Baptist Network meet in Cordova: warns of woke seminaries