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‘Every Way That I’ve Served Southern Baptists, It Has Left Scars’: Bart Barber Elected SBC President, Accepts Challenges That Lie Ahead

Barber shared that someone expressed excitement to him over his nomination as SBC president and the prestige that comes with the role. Barber replied to the person’s comment, “Every way that I’ve served Southern Baptists, it has left scars.” Nevertheless, Barber made it clear that “this family of churches is worth it.”

“It’s worth enduring some slings and arrows. It’s worth working through the difficulties of the coarseness, the crass discourse that’s out there in the world [and that] has come into our family of churches,” he shared.

Barber said that he knew that difficulties would lay ahead in accepting the role and praised God for the scars he already has, because now he is able to ignore horrible things said about him on social media and actually love the people who say them.

Barber said that he can look at what someone has said and “know that it was wrong, know that it was slanderous, and say that Jesus died for that person and that person is a brother or sister in Christ…Jesus said the way to solve the problem is to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. So having watched what has happened, not only to Ed, but the other people recently, I’m determined to do that, to do it every day, to do it with extreme vigilance, until the Spirit of God turns things around.”

When questioned about whether sexual abuse survivors would feel comfortable reporting their abuse in a male dominated church leadership structure, Barber said he had strong feelings.

Referring to himself as a “committed congregationalist,” Barber shared the complete transparency of his church practices, from his salary to what the church spends money on, with the congregation even possessing the authority to fire him—as he put it—at a moment’s notice.

“When you have a church that has true congregational polity,” Barber continued, “every member of the congregation is a reporting point. And you have female reporting points…almost all of those churches have more women than they do men. So there’s a strong female presence in the body of the church.”

Barber said, “We can hold to complementarian theology about the office of pastor and still have a lot of places for people who are not pastors but still have genuine freedom to speak into the life of the church and create reporting points for abuse.”

“I don’t want to lessen our commitment to biblical truth. I want to strengthen our commitment to biblical truth,” Barber explained. “I believe that within complementarianism, there is plenty of room for us to open reporting points and access points and have a renewed vigilance to say what we believe and live it out.”

Barber will succeed Ed Litton, lead pastor of Redemption Church in Mobile, Alabama, as SBC president at the close of this year’s annual meeting.