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SBC President Bart Barber Defends Tweet Praising Rick Warren’s Advocacy for Religious Liberty for Muslims

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Pastor Bart Barber, a presidential candidate of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaks during its annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Newly-elected Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Bart Barber defended himself on Twitter regarding a tweet where he expressed gratitude for Pastor Rick Warren’s outreach to Muslims

“I’m thankful for @RickWarren’s courageous advocacy for full religious liberty for Muslims, our different opinions over pastoral complementarianism notwithstanding,” Barber tweeted on June 16. “It was a pleasure to meet him this week. #SBC22.”

While some responded positively to the tweet, a number of people reacted negatively, taking Barber’s words as an endorsement of Islam.

Bart Barber Begins His SBC Presidency

At the SBC annual meeting in Anaheim, California, this week, Bart Barber defeated fellow candidates Tom Ascol, Frank Cox and Robin Hadaway to win election as president of the SBC. His tweet’s reference to “different opinions” with Rick Warren alludes to the decision Warren’s church, Saddleback, made in May of last year to ordain women and give them the title of “pastor.”

One consequence of this decision was that Saddleback’s status as an SBC church was in question at the annual meeting. In discussion Tuesday, June 14, some, including Ascol and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, advocated that Saddleback be disfellowshipped for violating the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BF&M). The BF&M states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

During the debate, the Credentials Committee recommended that a study committee look into how Saddleback’s use of the title “pastor” applies to women on its staff. Hours later, Warren made a surprise appearance, taking seven minutes of a 15-minute miscellaneous business slot to read a “love letter” to those in attendance in which he expressed his debt to the SBC for the success of his ministry. 

“You’re never going to find another Baptist who agrees with you completely on everything,” said Warren, later adding, “But we manage to somehow get along with them. So as Western culture grows more dark, more evil, more secular, we have to decide: are we going to treat each other as allies or adversaries?” 

After Warren’s speech, the Credentials Committee announced that it was withdrawing its recommendation to evaluate Saddleback Church’s use of the title of “pastor,” leaving Saddleback in the SBC for now. The Credentials Committee will meet throughout this year and might take action on this issue at a later date.

Bart Barber Responds to Critics

Among the negative reactions to Barber’s tweet of appreciation for Warren were one from a user who said, “Americans love lofty ideals of which the consequences are lost to them. I don’t think you guys understand what unrestrained Islam looks like.” 

“Celebrating ‘advocacy for full religious liberty for Muslims’?” another said. “When did we start celebrating other gods?”

One user commented, “Sir, congrats on your election victory. How is Mr. Warren’s view on pastoral complementarianism compatible with the most recent BFM?”

Yet another asked, “How many other SBC ‘pastors’ (whatever that is) would be given an untethered platform to speak to SBC messengers at the spur of the moment?” To this Barber replied, “Any of them whose theological fidelity were being questioned and whose church’s disfellowshipping were being debated. See Robert’s Rules on Trials of Members and on Questions of Privilege.”