Dr. Albert Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Fifteen years ago plagiarism in the pulpit was on the front pages of America’s newspapers. Here is some of what he said on his podcast back then. The highlighting is mine.
The Albert Mohler Program
December 7, 2006
Would your pastor steal? I am not talking about material things or money. I am talking about words. The scandal of plagiarism in the pulpit is something that is affecting churches across this country as pastors, some of them, are being confronted with that fact that they are not preaching their own sermons but are instead preaching material developed and preached by someone else.
I would venture to say there is hardly a major community in America that has not had a public scandal associated with this, perhaps even in recent years. When it starts making the front pages of the nation’s newspapers, we are talking about preaching here, something is going on that demands Christian attention.
The word is “plagiarism” and it is not necessarily a common part of the vocabulary of day to day Americans just thinking about the moral issues of the day. We understand embezzling and lying. We understand adultery and divorce. We understand the issues that have moral consequence but a lot of people simply do not have the vocabulary word, “plagiarism,” quite directly in hand. Let me tell you what it is. It is intellectual theft. It is the theft of someone else’s ideas, presented as your own, or someone else’s words, or someone else’s material.
In this day you have instant access to thousands of sermons over the internet, in a day when so many sermons are available in printed and audio form in various ways, it turns out there are a good number of preachers who simply aren’t going into the study and spending hours and hours each week preparing sermons. Instead they are preaching someone else’s material.
You know words are our business. I can’t imagine preaching someone else’s words. Or copying someone else’s words and claiming them as my own. … What is not new under the sun is theft. What is not new under the sun is laziness. And what’s not new under the sun is falling short of your ministry to preach the word. I’m sorry but this is just one of the most despicable practices I can imagine!
There are a lot of synonyms for “despicable.” Here are a few. Contemptible, loathsome, detestable, reprehensible, abhorrent, repugnant, repulsive, disgusting, offensive, shameful, wretched, disreputable, discreditable, unscrupulous, unprincipled.
Last month, when the decade long deceit and plagiarism of Ed Litton was exposed in America’s newspapers, Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman with Ben Lacey did a podcast on the subject. You can listen to it here.
Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C., President of 9Marks Ministry, and Professor of Pastoral Leadership at the SBTS. Leeman is the Editorial Director for 9Marks. 9Marks is a very influential organization among Southern Baptists.
Here is an important excerpt from the podcast.
Leeman: What is plagiarism?
Dever: Taking someone else’s material and claiming it is your own.
Leeman: Okay. Is that pastorally disqualifying?
Dever: If it is a repeated pattern, I would say yes because it goes to both the Eight Commandment about theft and the Nine Commandment about deception.
The next day (July 8) Leeman put out this tweet with a thread to follow.
Second, here are 9 thoughts on plagiarism plus 4 replies to justifications for it that I’ve heard. (A thread). https://9marks.org/pastors-talk/episode-175-on-plagiarism-in-the-pulpit-with-ben-lacey/…
Here are “thoughts” 2, 4, 7, and 9.
2. To preach another man’s sermon is to violate the eighth and ninth commandments, assuming you present the sermon as your own.
4. To preach another man’s sermon without attribution once, perhaps, can be confessed and overlooked. I believe a pattern of doing so disqualifies a man. He’s not “above reproach.”
7. The devil wins when we downplay plagiarism and people lose trust in the honesty and integrity of pastors, because faith depends on faithful voices speaking truthfully. And trust in those voices is a key ingredient in their being heard. IOW [in other words]: Plagiarism is a big deal.
9. It’s finally the responsibility of a church and its elders to take responsibility for plagiarism in their pulpit.
Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Jonathan Leeman agree. Ed Litton is disqualified from ministry. But here’s the kicker. None have called for him to resign as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Jason Allen also addressed the issue indirectly in this tweet. He received push back from Litton backers. Allen is the President of Midwestern Southern Baptist Seminary.
Re re-preaching other’s sermons, I believe: One *ought* not preach another’s serm (w/ rare exceptions) even w/ permission & attribution. One *must* not preach another’s serm w/out permission & attribution. If this appears to happen, the church’s elders should review & resolve. 4:32 PM · Jul 5, 2021
Replying to @jasonkeithallen
Dr. Litton has explained his methodology & addressed this matter in a manner that has merited respect. We’ve chosen to extend grace, as we’ve all needed at some point in our lives. Really disappointed that a sem prez wld [seminary president would] dishonor an SBC prez. AM [Al Mohler] pledged honor to EL [Ed Litton], can’t you too?
This reply from Dwight McKissic involves deception, a misunderstanding of grace, slander, and lying. Litton did not address the matter in a manner that merited respect. Extending grace doesn’t mean excusing sin or withholding discipline. Mohler expressed support of Litton (not honor) the day he was elected. That was before the long term deceit and plagiarism became known. Allen didn’t dishonor Litton. He spoke the truth.
And let’s be clear, Litton’s sin is not confined to plagiarism in the recent past. It is FAR MORE serious and long term! Furthermore, the leaders in Redemption Church aided and abetted Litton in his sin. That is why they are covering up the nature and extent of his sin to this day. Read this article to examine the evidence and understand the issues.
Saturday, August 7, 2021 at 5:32PM
I sent this article to over one hundred old and new Executive Committee members of the Southern Baptist Convention on August 7. I appealed to them to appeal to Ed to repent and to discuss the matter at their upcoming meeting in Nashville, TN on September 20-21 at the SBC headquarters.
From: Philip Robertson
Sent: Tuesday, August 3, 2021 3:00 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Cc: Rolland Slade
Subject: RE: Please Appeal to Ed
I wanted to acknowledge receipt of your email. Thank you for following a Mt. 18 approach and reaching out to Ed Litton directly. It is regrettable that you haven’t received a response. While I share some of your concerns, I’m not sure there is anything the Executive Committee can do. At this point, I think it is up to Dr. Litton to decide what he should do. While I am not in a leadership position [i.e. an officer] on the EC, I just don’t think there is anything the members of the EC can do, as far as I know, other than pray for Dr. Litton and his church. He will have to make his own decision as to whether he feels a need to resign.
From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Tuesday, August 3, 2021 3:52 PM
To: Philip Robertson
Cc: Rolland Slade
Subject: RE: Please Appeal to Ed
Thanks Philip. You are kind to write.
I realize the EC has no authority to request Ed’s resignation but members have a lot of influence. I’d like to see the EC pass a non-binding resolution requesting Ed resign in light of Scripture and for the gospel’s sake.
I’d also encourage individual members of the EC, who know and don’t know Ed, write him and his pastoral staff, appealing for the same action. That would be a tremendous service to our Lord Jesus.
I sincerely hope and pray Ed responds to God’s invitation of grace.
[End of correspondence.]
From: Jeremy Morton
Sent: Sunday, August 8, 2021 7:04 PM
To: Brent Detwiler
Subject: Re: Please Appeal to Ed
Lord bless you, Brent. So sorry I’m just now catching up with the emails, I have been traveling. I hear your concern and am praying for great wisdom from the Lord! May His will be done.