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SBC President Bart Barber Emphasizes Unity, Provides Updates on SBC Committee Appointments in Written Address

Bart Barber update
Pastor Bart Barber preaches at First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. Barber, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has pastored the Texan congregation of about 320 people since 1999. A staunch theological conservative, Barber touts biblical inerrancy, opposes women serving as pastors and supports abortion bans. (AP Photo/Audrey Jackson)

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Bart Barber offered a midterm update on his work as the leader of the nation’s largest protestant denomination on Monday (Dec. 18), unveiling the theme for the SBC’s 2024 annual meeting and providing a report on the various committee appointments for which he is responsible. 

A new SBC president is elected at the denomination’s annual meeting every June. Presidents serve one-year terms and can serve two consecutive terms. Barber was re-elected for his second term at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans in June. His second term will expire in six months when the SBC holds its annual meeting in Indianapolis in June 2024. 

To begin his update, Barber revealed that he has chosen to center the theme of the Indianapolis meeting on Romans 15:5-6, which says, “Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.” 

Explaining that the section of Scripture in which these verses are found focuses on “how we should treat brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we have theological differences,” Barber expressed his belief that the most important task set before Southern Baptists right now is fastening themselves “to the truth with chains that cannot be broken without abandoning the biblical mandate to ‘please [our] neighbor,’ ‘live in harmony,’ ‘welcome one another,’ and ‘overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (all these are quotes from this section of Romans 15).”

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Later in his report, Barber said that he is recommending an extra session be added to the 2024 annual meeting, as “three ad-hoc committees [are] reporting to the messenger body in addition to all our normal business.”

“It is my belief that we will find it difficult to conduct all our work within the time afforded by only four business sessions,” Barber wrote.

Barber also provided updates on these “ad-hoc” SBC committees, starting with the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF), which is being led by North Carolina Pastor Josh Wester.

“Since assuming the role of SBC president, I have learned on nearly a weekly basis, including in recent weeks, of the great need our churches and institutions have for meaningful assistance with preventing and responding to sexual abuse,” wrote Barber. “The work of the ARITF is aimed at providing long-term solutions to meet these needs to ensure our churches and entities have proactively sought to prevent abuse and are prepared to care and respond appropriately in light of any instance of abuse.”

Directing Southern Baptists to the ARTIF’s “Ministry Toolkit,” Barber said, “I urge every pastor and every church to look carefully at this material, which contains helpful guidance for your church related to abuse prevention and response.”

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The second “ad-hoc” committee for which Barber has been responsible is the Cooperation Group, which has been asked to “study and make recommendations regarding the meaning of ‘friendly cooperation’ in the Convention’s governing documents.”