Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church Farmersville, Texas, and active denominational leader, was elected 64th president of the Southern Baptist Convention June 14 during the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California.
Barber received 3,401 votes on a second runoff ballot, garnering 60.87% of the 5,587 total votes cast in the runoff. In a four-way presidential bid that included Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida; Robin Hadaway, senior professor of missions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Barber and Ascol claimed the top two spots for the runoff. Ascol received 2,172 votes for 38.88% of the votes in the runoff. At the time of the presidential runoff election, 8,098 messengers were registered.
On the first ballot, Barber received 3,258 (47.58%) of the 6,847 votes cast. Ascol received 2,332 (34.06%) votes, Cox received 887 (12.95%) votes and Hadaway received 340 (4.97%) votes. At the time of the first ballot for the presidential election, 8,095 messengers were registered.
‘Encouragement of others’
In announcing his intention to nominate Barber as SBC president, 2022 SBC Pastors Conference president Matt Henslee said, “Barber is what Southern Baptists are when they are at their best,” referencing FBC Farmersville’s support of the Cooperative Program and direct support of missionaries, and church planters as well as Barber’s personal involvement in the local Baptist association, state convention and denomination.
Although Barber said he had “rebuffed the encouragement of others to accept the nomination” for several years, he “relented” this year … “accepting the possibility that God might want me to help improve the health of the convention while holding an official position for a while.”
Acknowledging numerous challenges facing the SBC, Barber believes that today’s challenges “pale in comparison to those faced by our forefathers,” who were often martyred for their faith. He wants to call Southern Baptists “to lean into our historical doctrinal commitments. … I believe when all of these challenges have passed, we will still be standing.”
More about Barber
Barber, who has served FBC Farmersville since 1999, joins a long list of pastors who have served in the SBC president’s role in recent years. The past 11 SBC presidents served as pastors, primarily of megachurches in the South, during their term of service. The most recent SBC president who was not serving as a pastor during his tenure was Paige Patterson, SBC president in 1998 and 1999, while he was serving as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. The most recent Texas Baptist pastor to serve as SBC president was Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano (2004, 2005).
In addition to his pastoral role, Barber, 52, chaired this year’s SBC Committee on Resolutions. The native of Lake City, Arkansas, preached at the SBC Pastors Conference in 2017, served as SBC first vice president (2013–2014), and served on the SBC Committee on Committees in 2008. Additionally he served on the executive board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (2008–2014) and as a trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (2009–2019), where he also taught as an adjunct professor (2006–2009). He also is involved with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
Barber earned his undergraduate degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and received his master of divinity and doctorate from Southwestern Seminary. His doctoral dissertation dealt with a denominational split among Arkansas Baptists in 1902, with Barber suggesting that “they all should’ve gotten along with one another,” his church website states.
Discussing some concerns that the denomination is drifting into more moderate theological perspectives and practices, Barber told the Christian Index, “The most readily observable ‘drift’ in the Southern Baptist Convention is a drift away from fairness in making accusations and from civility in discussing differences. I would like to lead us to make our fellowship healthier,” concluding, “I want to work as a peacemaker, bringing together people of goodwill who are influential within these families of churches and strengthening the bonds that hold us together.”
Speaking to The Baptist Paper, Barber put it this way, “The president of the SBC can, with God’s help, steer us away from creating new divisive controversies and toward resolution of old scandals. By doing so he can eliminate distractions and obstacles that compete with revival for our prayers and affections. That’s my hope … to be the minesweeper clearing the way ahead of the ship of revival.”
What about the SATF report?
In response to the May 22 report of the Sexual Abuse Task Force, Barber wrote in his blog that the report “demonstrates very well that these bad decisions (deliberate mishandling of abuse allegations) arose out of a fundamental misunderstanding of the distinctive Baptist belief in the autonomy of the local church.”
He concluded, “Sometimes our assertions of local church autonomy have seemed insincere to the people on the receiving end of them. Do we want people to take seriously what we say about local church autonomy? Then we should demonstrate with actions our commitment to love them to the fullest extent and seek justice for them to the fullest extent that we can achieve within our beliefs.”
On a personal note
Barber and his wife, Tracy, have been married for 30 years. On their wedding date of May 30, 1992, at First Baptist Church Waco, Texas, Barber still had braces on his teeth and admitted in a social media post that he had gotten his hair “done” for the special day.
“It was a day of big hopes and big hair,” he said in a Facebook post on his 29th anniversary, realizing, “It was about us, but it wasn’t about us at all. That is, my life (and hers) has been touched by that covenant of marriage in ways that reach every part of me. And yet…God has led us on a path that has touched other people and the Kingdom.”
The couple have two adopted children, Jim and Sarah, whom they homeschool and a dog named Rowan who pouts if he is left home alone.
He occasionally posts “walking videos” on his social media channels, sometimes meandering indoors in a retail setting in a coat and tie and sometimes hiking outside with a ball cap and T-shirt. Comments on his walking videos are sometimes thoughtful responses and at other times good-natured critiques.
His church website states that in his spare time, Barber has a private pilot’s license, is a self-identified “tech geek” and musician, playing the guitar, banjo and mandolin. He writes for the SBC Voices blog and for his own blog, titled PraisegodBarebones. His favorite hobby is simple: “Learning something new.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — For more coverage of the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting, visit thebaptistpaper.org/sbc2022.