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Barber addresses sexual abuse prevention, gender roles in ministry and more

SBC President Bart Barber told reporters though some might think the decisions made at the June 13-14 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans may seem contradictory to those on the outside, they are based in Southern Baptists' desire to follow the Bible. Photo by Sonya Singh

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – During a press conference after his reelection as SBC President, Texas pastor Bart Barber answered questions about several different topics coming out of this year’s annual meeting, including sexual abuse prevention and gender roles in ministry.

Two actions taken by messengers to the 2023 annual meeting related to the convention’s complementarian beliefs and churches being in friendly cooperation with the SBC. Messengers also approved another year of work for the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, which will report again at the 2024 meeting in Indianapolis. 

“I think the messengers are saying that they want this fellowship of churches to be a fellowship of churches who do not tolerate sexual abuse, who are active in trying to prevent it, who are active in trying to serve survivors of sexual abuse,” Barber said.

“And also, that this is a fellowship of churches that is united by a belief in biblical doctrine that includes gender roles for the office of pastor.”

Barber appealed to Scripture as the basis of why Southern Baptists fall the way they do on these issues, which may seem contradictory to those outside of the Convention.

“On the political spectrum outside of the Southern Baptist Convention, that feels weird. It feels like it’s in tension because the idea of supporting survivors and trying to eliminate abuse feels like kind of a pro-feminist thing to do.  While the idea of limiting the office of pastor to men only feels like a very not feminist thing to do,” Barber said.

“So I understand why people who are not Southern Baptist have real difficulty trying to put a label on what has happened here, but we don’t really care whether one of them is feminist and one of them is not feminist. We just believe that they’re both biblical.

“The Bible calls us to defend those who are abused. To defend those who are weak. To oppose the kind of sexual misconduct that hurts people for the rest of their lives. We want to be a fellowship of churches who are all committed to that,” he said.

“And, to also be a fellowship of churches who are not afraid to say, we believe the Bible says things about the roles men and women that are worth following.”

Barber also expressed his gratitude for the new International Mission Board missionaries who were commissioned during the entity’s Sending Celebration, saying it was the most important thing the Convention did during the meeting.

“The thing that would be the most important to us, that may not be quite as important on the national scale would be that we have appointed and sent 79 new missionaries,” Barber said.

“If you’re Southern Baptist for a long time, you don’t even really know how newsworthy that is because you just think ‘Well, yeah, we have thousands of those,’ but 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 (June 13).

“That’s something that maybe is newsworthy because it’s not controversial. Everybody in that room is supportive of that effort. People from the outside might wonder how it is that people who, every year there is something that we’re discussing, that there’s difference of opinion and controversy, how on earth that group stays together.

“We stay together because of that. Because we’re committed to a mission of letting everyone in the world know about and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And have the opportunity to make a decision to follow Him.”

The full press conference can be viewed on the Baptist Press Facebook page.