ANAHEIM, California. – Bart Barber is a staunch Southern Baptist conservative who would welcome bans on abortion, opposes critical race theory, and believes that only men should serve as pastors.
But Barber, who was elected the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday, says he has a track record of engaging with those who disagree on these and other issues. He has called for an “army of peacemakers” amid bitter political fighting in the country’s largest Protestant denomination.
He beat three other candidates and eventually won a runoff at the SBC national meeting in Anaheim. His closest rival, Tom Ascol, had complained about too much “alertness” in the denomination and tried to push it further to the right.
In the runoff, Barber won about 61% of the delegate vote versus 39% for Ascol.
Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, says theology was at the heart of the epic Southern Baptist Battles of the late 20th century, in which conservatives gained control and ousted moderates from leadership and teaching positions. But today, “secular politics is setting both the tone and the subject matter of many of our most hotly debated issues” and creating a “toxic” environment, he said on his church website.
Barber has also expressed dismay at the mean behavior attributed to some SBC officials in a recent investigative report detailing how the denomination is blocking victims of sexual abuse.
“I pray that God will give me the wisdom to know what to do,” he said in a recent radio interview. “We are sailing into uncharted waters.”
He has said Guidepost Solutions’ damning 288-page investigative report, with disturbing details about how the church has abused allegations of sexual abuse and abused victims, is just the beginning of a long and arduous journey.
“The work is not done yet,” he added. “We got the report but I think everyone in the survivor community that I’ve heard from has said reports are one thing, but we’ll see if this family of churches has the courage and determination to take action.” seize.”
He agreed to the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force’s suggestion that approved at Tuesday’s AGM Hire a national officer to receive reports of allegations of abuse and determine which church or organization within the denomination should respond.
Barber, 52, pastors a predominantly white church in rural Texas where about 320 people attend each week, which is remarkable given that many SBC presidents in the past have pasted large churches. He was appointed chair of the 2022 SBC Resolutions Committee by SBC President Ed Litton.
Barber served as first vice president of the SBC from 2013 to 2014 and as a trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas from 2009 to 2019. During his tenure at the school, Paige Patterson, an architect of the Conservative takeover of SBC, was removed as seminary president for his response to student rape allegations. Barber also helped develop legislation to protect churches and other charities from civil liability for reporting suspected sex offenders, which became Texas law in 2019.
Barber has spoken about moving the denomination away from polarization and towards unification.
“I believe that at times our rhetoric has become so inflamed and the tactics of some of us so mundane and threatening that peacemakers are intimidated into silencing,” he said on his website. “I want to encourage our army of peacemakers to step forward and bring us back together.”
While rejecting critical race theory, Barber said he would like the denomination to include and accept all Southern Baptist congregations. He has said that few in the SBC embrace the theory and that it shouldn’t be the great controversy some have made it.
Barber is anti-abortion and has the expected reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade in 1973 by the US Supreme Court that could end the nation’s legal right to abortion. Barber also said he believes “the best legal approach is to prosecute abortion providers for having abortions.”
Barber says he is “not a Calvinist” – a theological system that emphasizes the complete power of God over man’s free will. It has been controversial in Southern Baptist circles for decades. While many prominent Southern Baptists promote Calvinism, Barber says he cannot accept one of their tenets—that God predestines only some to be saved.” But he said Southern Baptists can work together despite these differences.
He interprets the denomination’s creed, the Baptist faith, and the message as prohibiting women from any role as pastor, not just as the senior pastor of a church. He said this attitude is not “inherently rude” or “misogynistic,” and he’s trying to listen to advocates of gender equality. At a time when many churches have multiple ministers, Southern Baptists have debated how to apply their official stance that “the office of minister is restricted to men.”
Smith reported from Pittsburgh.
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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/15/texas-pastor-bart-barber-elected-southern-baptist-president/ Texas pastor Bart Barber was elected president of the Southern Baptist