Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference President Matt Henslee announced intentions to nominate a pastor from Texas in the presidential race of the country's largest Protestant denomination.
Religion News reported that Henslee will nominate longtime First Baptist Church Pastor Bart Barber after presidential candidate Willy Rice announced last April 6 the withdrawal of his nomination. The elections are set to occur at the SBC Annual Meeting this coming June in Anaheim, California.
"God gave me a friend who has modeled how to love, care, lead, serve, & more--all with a spirit of humility and prayer, devotion to God's Word, and an aim to make much of Jesus. Lord willing, I intend to nominate @bartbarber for president of the SBC," Henslee said on Twitter last April 7.
Accordingly, Rice was faced with the controversy of ordaining into a deacon a former schoolteacher who publicly admitted having sex with a minor. The said incident happened in 2000 with an 18-year-old student and the deacon has stepped down last week. Rice is the pastor of Calvary Church of Clearwater, Florida
The 52-year-old Barber has been the pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas since 1999. He is a vocal critic of the denomination's faction known as the Conservative Baptist Network. Barber revealed in an interview with Religion News that he did not expect to be part of the presidential race but has realized the need to participate in it fully due to circumstances.
"Although I've resisted doing this for quite some time, I believe we're at a point in the life of our convention where there are things that we can do just to be healthier as a convention. And by that I mean, to have a better spirit of cooperation, to work with one another better and be more productive in the things we're trying to do together," Barber said.
Barber revealed hopes that through cooperation the Southern Baptists will be able to move forward from years of controversial issues on race, politics, and abuse.
Christianity Daily reported previously that the Southern Baptist Convention has announced nominations for the presidential race to include Grace Baptist Church Senior Pastor Tom Ascol of Cape Coral, Florida; and church planter Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr. of Spring, Texas. Former SBC missionary Robin Hadaway is said to also be joining the presidential race. Ascol reportedly supports the Conservative Baptist Network and claims that liberals are taking over SBC.
The current president Ed Litton withdrew from running a second term also due to controversy. Litton, who won in 2021 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting held in Nashville, was faced with accusations of plagiarizing his sermons. Litton did apologize for the matter.
While an upcoming nominee for the post of vice president is Kingdom of Life Church Founder and Senior Pastor Alex Sands.
As per Barbers, the news of Rice withdrawing from the presidential race confirmed his decision to pursue his upcoming nomination. He said it felt like someone taking somebody away from a small business than from a large corporation. He contrasted himself with former presidents who came from megachurches. Though he expressed confidence that he is capable of doing more than being a pastor with a Twitter account. He revealed intentions of turning his fellow Southern Baptists away from the convention's political atmosphere filled with opposition research and "October surprises."
Barbers, who previously became first vice president of the SBC, was chosen to lead the 2022 Resolutions Committee of the convention. He was a part of the 2021 Resolutions Committee when it was deciding on critical race theory controversies. He also was a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees member at the time its president, Paige Patterson, was accused of mishandling sexual abuse allegations.
Coincidentally, a determining factor in this year's elections is said to be on the manner SBC leaders handled the issue of sexual abuse.