Faced with an unprecedented opponent in his quest for a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Texas pastor Bart Barber handily won reelection Tuesday, June 13.
The congenial pastor-farmer who was a late entry into the race last year — replacing another traditionalist candidate who withdrew — defeated a more conservative candidate who was nominated by the very person Barber replaced in the lineup last year.
Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, drew 7,531 votes to the 3,458 votes cast for Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga. Barber got 68.38% of the vote, and Stone got 31.4%
SBC rules allow presidents to serve two consecutive terms if they choose to and are reelected. Although on occasion a president has declined to seek reelection — as happened with Ed Litton in 2022 — no incumbent has been knocked out of office in modern history.
Stone is part of an ultra-conservative movement inside the SBC that has said it wants to “change the direction” of the denomination. He had the support of two key conservative groups, the Conservative Baptist Network and Founders Ministries.
The fact that the meeting is being held in New Orleans was predicted to help Stone’s chances of winning, because Louisiana Baptists tend to be notably conservative. Stone also had been campaigning on visits to various cities and via videos. Barber did almost no public campaigning.
The most conservative wing of the SBC has been upset with Barber because he has supported the work of the SBC Abuse Implementation Task Force, which they think has gone too far and has associated needlessly with a secular firm that has acted kindly toward some gay employees.
The ultra-conservative group has sought for several years to capture control of the denomination but has fallen short every time. Stone also was their standard bearer two years ago and lost the presidential race that year by about 500 votes — a much closer loss than this year’s 4,000-vote margin.
Barber was nominated for reelection by Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, who said: “He’s not owed a second term, but he’s earned it.”
“He’s not owed a second term, but he’s earned it.”
Stone was nominated by Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., who dropped out of the presidential race in 2022 amid a controversy about his handling of a church deacon accused of sexual abuse 17 years earlier.
In his nominating speech, Rice warned about a world filled with “apostacy” and declared Stone was rock solid and immovable in his convictions. “If you want to send a message, send it right now, send it today,” he said. “Chisel it in stone.”
Barber is no liberal, however. Although congenial in demeanor — his presiding over the convention Tuesday was notable for being unflappable and pleasant — he holds theological views those outside the SBC might consider severe. He opposes LGBTQ inclusion, opposes all forms of abortion, does not believe women should be pastors and preaches the inerrancy of Scripture.
However, he is seen as an institutional loyalist. Unlike some in the far-right of the SBC, he does not want to defund institutions and does not see liberalism lurking inside denominational leadership.