Bart Barber reflects on SBC spotlight, challenges as president

“We probably all had somebody in our life who disagreed with choices that we made but loved us anyway. … We’re not ashamed of the Christian sexual ethic. We believe it’s important. We believe it’s part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ."

Following a late night on the road home after preaching in Oklahoma City, Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber admitted he was physically running on fumes.

On Monday morning (Oct. 10), the day after the release of Barber’s interview with 60 Minutes, he tweeted out, “I promise to make replies eventually. But for right now (full transparency) … I’m about to take a middle-of-the-day nap. Seven hours of driving and a really late arrival home last night have done me in.”

It’s been a whirlwind the past few months for Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church Farmersville, Texas. In addition to his ministry and prioritizing his role as husband and father of two children, Barber also manages an active herd of cows on a piece of property he refers to as “Unmerited Ranch.” Among the herd’s leading characters are Bully Graham and Lottie Moon, both of which appear occasionally in Barber’s social media videos.

It’s a lot to keep up with, Barber acknowledged in an Oct. 11 interview with The Baptist Paper. He shared about his recent months in the SBC spotlight, surprises and challenges along the way, and his one-on-one-interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Anderson Cooper.

Reflecting on ’60 Minutes’

Overall, Barber said he thought the 60 Minutes interview was handled “honestly and fairly.” In the episode, Cooper and Barber discuss a variety of issues including the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force report, abortion, same-sex unions and politics.

“They took what may have been six hours of footage, by the time it was all said and done, and edited that down to 15 minutes,” Barber said. “They did fact-checking with us and others. I thought they did a good job with all of that.”

While he went into the interview looking forward to talking about “what Southern Baptists believe and also about how we’re meeting the internal challenges that we face as Southern Baptists now … there were things that didn’t make the edit, that I think were as helpful as the things they included,” Barber said.

Still, “they honestly and fairly represented what I said, and I didn’t say anything I didn’t think was true, so I felt good about where the whole thing landed,” he noted. “They had to fit everything into a pretty small package.”

For instance, Barber shares with Cooper, who is openly gay, that Southern Baptists are “committed to the idea that gender is a gift from God. We’re committed to the idea that men and women ought to be united with one another in marriage.”

Not all Barber had to say on the issue was aired, however. Among comments not making the final cut were: “We probably all had somebody in our life who disagreed with choices that we made but loved us anyway. … We’re not ashamed of the Christian sexual ethic. We believe it’s important.

“We believe it’s part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ,” he said. “One man, one woman for life. Sex outside of that in any way is sin — a violation of God’s law. But also, anything that keeps me from loving you is sin because God has called me to love you as my neighbor.”

Navigating criticism, earning trust

While Barber has received mostly positive feedback on the interview, a few voices have disagreed with his responses related to politics and some sexual abuse survivors claim he didn’t say enough when asked about the recent investigation by Guidepost Solutions into accusations that the SBC Executive Committee mishandled reports of sexual abuse.

“I’m not upset [sexual abuse survivors] made some negative comments about all of that,” he said. “I believe after the way they’ve been hurt, we need to earn their trust, and I’m content to just earn it, rather than complain about not having it yet.”

Serving as SBC president is going to involve criticism and sacrifices that include time away from family and some rare Sundays away, Barber acknowledged, but he remains thankful for the opportunity.

“I’ve got a great team here at the church,” he said. “It’s a small team but it’s a great team — and it extends beyond the people who are paid.”

He added, “I’ve got a lot of lay leadership at my church who are just fantastic and they’re helping while I’m having to be away, more than I normally would be away.”

Needed encouragement

Despite the challenges he knows are ahead, Barber said the encouragement he receives along the way keeps him going, such as a text he received the same morning of The Baptist Paper interview.

“I had a pastor text me telling me that there’s a guy who’s an atheist that he’s been sharing the gospel with for quite some time,” Barber explained, noting the man called the pastor and said, “I saw that SBC president on 60 minutes, and that makes me want to talk to you some more.

“You know what,” Barber shared, “I can do this for six more months on the encouragement of that alone.

“One of the reasons I was reluctant to be president of the SBC was because I wanted to keep loving the SBC,” he said. “I was worried that the political intrigue — or whatever else — would be something that would make me say ‘Gosh, this is so messy and difficult.’

“This has been the opposite. I’m so much more in love with who we are as Southern Baptists.”

To see full 60 Minutes interview, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was originally written by Shawn Hendricks and published by The Baptist Paper.


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