Newly re-elected Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Bart Barber emphasized unity and consensus during a press conference at the denomination’s annual meeting on Wednesday (June 14), focusing his comments on missions work, male eldership, and abuse reform.
To open the press conference, a smiling Barber told those in attendance that “one of the great blessings of this past year” has been getting to know members of the press, adding that they are not “everything they say you are.”
Bart Barber: Southern Baptists ‘Stay Together’ Because of Missions
Barber quickly moved on to what he sees as one of the most important stories of this year’s annual meeting: sending missionaries.
“We have appointed and sent 76 new missionaries. And if you’re Southern Baptist for a long time, you don’t even really know how newsworthy that is,” Barber said. “There are Baptist denominations in our country whose total mission force would be half or less of just the number of new missionaries that we appointed to put on the field in our time yesterday morning.”
Barber added, “Maybe that’s newsworthy because it’s not controversial. Everybody in that room is supportive of that effort. And it’s that work that we do that draws [people to] the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“We stay together because of that,” Barber said. “Because we are committed to a mission of letting everyone in the world know about and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and have an opportunity to make a decision to follow him.”
Barber: Southern Baptist Are ‘Unified’ on the Issue of Women Serving as Pastors
Barber then moved to address the SBC’s ongoing conversation about the role of women in pastoral leadership.
Referencing the decision to uphold the disfellowshipping of two churches with women serving as pastors, as well as a proposed amendment to the SBC constitution explicitly barring such churches from cooperation with the denomination, Barber said, “In every one of those cases, Southern Baptists demonstrated, from the messenger body, strong consensus around the idea.”
“And it’s not something that we made up. We have our governing documents, but then in addition to our governing documents, we have ancient, sacred documents that shape what we do as believers,” Barber said, referring to the Bible. “We believe that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Barber went on to clarify that Southern Baptists believe in the “priesthood of all believers,” which is why local churches are congregationally governed, which includes women actively participating in decision-making. Further, the denomination is governed by local churches as represented by delegates, called messengers, many of whom are women.
Nevertheless, Barber reiterated that most Southern Baptists are unified in the belief that the office of pastor, a term which Barber uses interchangeably with “elder” and “overseer,” is limited to men.