A Texas pastor who wants to unleash an “army of peacemakers” within the denomination was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday.
Bart Barber, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, was elected in a runoff with 60 percent of the vote. Tom Ascol, the senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., received 38 percent. Ascol was supported by the Conservative Baptist Network.
Matt Henslee, the pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church in Mayhill, N.M., nominated Barber. According to the Baptist Press, Henslee argued that Barber could “lead us through the battleground of our disagreements, to the common ground of our cooperation so that we can tell the world about the even ground at the foot of the cross,” the Baptist Press reports.
Barber, a biblical inerrantist and a conservative on such issues as abortion and same-sex marriage, has said he wants to help change how Southern Baptists talk to one another. The combativeness and divisiveness of the secular political culture has crept into the SBC, including on social media, he told the Baptist Press in May.
“I’m deeply concerned about what I think are some very unhealthy ways of talking with one another and about one another that are damaging our family of churches,” Barber said. “There are ways that the broader culture is pushing into the way we’re behaving as believers. ... What’s happening on social media is unchristian in so many ways.”
Barber often uses the hashtag #ArmyofPeacemakers. The hashtag, he said in a frequently-asked-questions section on his church’s website, represents how he views the SBC.
“I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention contains tens of thousands of people who are suited for and willing to undertake that task to protect our partnership for the gospel,” he said. “I believe that sometimes our rhetoric has become so inflamed, and the tactics of some among us have become so worldly and threatening that the peacemakers are intimidated into silence—the immune system has been suppressed. I want to embolden our army of peacemakers to step forward and bring us back together.”
Peace, he said, begins not at the top, but at the bottom of the denomination.
“It trickles up rather than trickling down,” he said. “I want to inspire those grassroots peacemakers to safeguard the work of our convention to pursue the Great Commission together.”
Photo courtesy: ©Public Domain/Southern Baptist Convention
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.