In his first press conference after being elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bart Barber addressed the “historic” stand messengers took for sexual abuse survivors. He also addressed the discussions surrounding racial reconciliation and acknowledged how the election of a rural pastor for SBC president is a “break from tradition.”
Among other officers elected during the annual meeting are Victor Chayasirisobhon for first vice president, Alex Sands for second vice president, Nathan Finn for recording secretary and Don Currence for registration secretary.
Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church Farmersville, Texas, opened the press conference addressing the Sexual Abuse Task Force’s report and the adoption of recommendations put before messengers on June 14 to appoint an Abuse Reform Implementation task force and to launch a database of the “credibly accused.”
Barber will be dedicating “his energies and prayers” toward the task ahead, he said, seeking God’s will for the appointment of the approved ARITF.
Predators ‘put on notice’
“Yesterday was a historic day for the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said in his opening statement to the media.
“One year ago convention messengers created the Sexual Abuse Task Force and demanded that the investigation be thorough, unflinching and unredacted. For a year this process has been unfolding, and although there have been many twists and turns, our convention’s polity has worked in the end.”
Barber’s hope, he said, is the June 14 action by Southern Baptist messengers will “put predators on notice.”
“Sexual predators have used our decentralized polity to try to turn our churches into a hunting ground,” said Barber, noting predators have in some cases moved from church to church, from scandal to scandal, “manipulating our system to hide from accountability and pick off the sheep one by one.”
“Predators have realized the vulnerabilities of our system; it is time for Southern Baptists to realize how nimble and resilient our Baptist polity can be to put sexual predators on notice that Southern Baptist churches are a dangerous place for them.”
‘Break from tradition’
Barber, who is pastor of a church in a rural community, said his election is unique compared to most years when messengers have elected presidents from larger-sized congregations and cities.
“The honor of this office is not lost on me, nor are the responsibilities,” he noted. “It’s hard to find a denomination of churches that is more ethnically diverse than the Southern Baptist Convention, and I hope to lead our continued growth in that way.”
In a runoff election on Tuesday, Barber defeated Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, for the office of president, drawing more than 60% of the vote. Other candidates for the office of president included Robin Hadaway and Frank Cox, who announced at the last minute his plans to be nominated.
“Each of these men is a leader among Southern Baptists in his own right,” said Barber, noting his desire for more unity in the SBC, “and our best hope for our future is that they and all such leaders will join forces to solve the problems that Southern Baptist churches face.”
For more stories from the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, visit thebaptistpaper.org/sbc2022.