First of all, let me be clear – it isn’t because I agree with him about everything. If you delve back into the history of SBC blogging, you will find that I got to know Bart by DISAGREEING with him on almost every issue that mattered in the early “Baptist Identity” days. I’m not sure either of us changed our minds on those issues, but we forged a friendship anyway. Folks, when I was a candidate for Second VP a decade ago, Bart endorsed my opponent! (Still haven’t fully forgiven you, Bart!)
It is not just my friendship with him that is the basis of my recommendation. Yes, I consider him a close friend. I’ve traveled with him to Africa several times, sharing Christ with a (an?) UUPG in Southern Senegal. On those trips, I’ve seen the kind of man that he is – you get to know someone pretty well on trips like that. He is the real deal. We spent a lot of hours discussing convention business and brainstorming. It is because of those trips that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bart has the character and integrity, the ability, the wisdom, and the expertise to be our president. Still, that is not why I am endorsing him.
I am certainly not endorsing him because of his tastes in coffee (he hates it, nearly a disqualifying sin), in ice cream (he continually insults my hometown ice cream, Blue Bunny), or sports (he goes out of his way to disrespect the best sports franchise in history). He actually has the worst hat collection in the Western Hemisphere. These are things I overlook in grace.
It is my strong opinion that the SBC should elect Bart this week.
I called Bart before Willy Rice announced his candidacy and asked him if there was any chance he would be willing to run. He told me he’d been contacted by another group that was about to announce a candidate and he’d agreed to support him. When Willy had to back out of the race, I contacted him again, begging him for permission to nominate him. That rascal Matt Henslee beat me to punch and had already gotten Bart to agree. I was planning to coerce him if he didn’t agree at first.
In our private conversations among the Voices gang, we ridicule the grossly overused phrase, “for such a time as this.” I am tempted, in this case, to dust it off and use it. I believe that Bart is the man the SBC needs in this hour “for such a time…” no, I just can’t do it. We need God’s power, healing grace, his strength, and I believe that the SBC needs to elect Bart Barber as its next president.
I would give the following reasons.
1. Bart handles difficult moments well.
I’ve been in some chaotic and tense moments with Bart. He always keeps his head about him. One of the things that has impressed me about Bart is how he responds with grace to those who attack him.
Few of us will forget the moment a few years ago in Dallas when he was under harsh attack for his work as a trustee at SWBTS. In an electric moment, he addressed the convention and those bringing the hostile motion. He was humble, and conciliatory, but his words were powerful. He carried the day.
We have real issues and we need a man with Bart’s wisdom, insight, and tact. Bart is the man we need piloting us through these troubled waters.
2. Bart promotes unity.
The SBC is fractured and in danger of spinning apart completely. I’ve had people complain privately to me asking why Bart was saying nice things about this person or that person, even people who have lobbed subtle or direct attacks at him. It isn’t an act.
There are two ways we can seek unity in the SBC.
- We can seek the unity of uniformity through conquest. This tactic is alive and well in our convention. Some want unity only with those who agree with them in every aspect. Those who disagree are labeled as woke, as liberal, as racist, as whatever, and they are canceled. Some will only be happy when we excise everyone from the SBC except those who agree with our group in every possible way.
Two things will be true of the SBC if we continue to walk this road. First, it will be a small group. The fracturing will result in us becoming a lot of little conventions or independent churches. Second, those left will find something else to fight about. The nature of fighters is to fight.
- We can seek the unity of cooperation. That’s Bart’s way. He encourages people to dissent – he genuinely believes dissent and disagreement are core Baptist principles. As long as people adhere to the BF&M 2000, we should be able to disagree on other issues and walk together in fellowship. Let’s call this a unity of cooperation.
Cooperation among people who differ on many issues is the heart of the “Baptist Way.” At this point, we must reject the concept us unity through conquest, through conquering, the “unity of uniformity,” and choose “unity of cooperation.”
Bart represents that path.
3. Bart LOVES being Southern Baptist.
A lot of people think being a “company man” is an insult. Of course, it is if the company man is blindly loyal and refuses to see problems or face them. Anyone who knows Bart knows that isn’t him. When the evidence at Southwestern came to fore, he did the right thing, even though it cost him dearly. I know it hurt him, but he did the right thing.
Still, Bart LOVES the SBC and all that is involved. Our early disagreements had much to do with Baptist Identity and his beliefs about that. Without resurrecting some of those skeletons, being Baptist isn’t something he does, its who he IS! He’s all in. He loves our seminaries. He loves our missions program. He loves our churches. He loves who we are and what we do.
I have a question.
Why would we consider someone who seems to be aggravated by who we are and what we do? Yes, the SBC has problems – big ones. Bart and I have discussed them at length. He’s no cheerleader for all things SBC who ignores our issues. But he loves this convention. Wouldn’t you rather have a president who loves our convention, who loves who we are and wants to make it better, who believes in it?
4. Bart is not a status-quo guy.
You may think, from some of what I’ve said, that Bart is a “protect the status-quo” kind of guy. NOPE! He is insightful. He sees the problems and finds solutions. I can’t share some of the things I know because he’s shared them with me in private and I’m not sure they are public. Before he left Southwestern, he presented a radical plan to deal with an abuse issue that had happened there. I am not sure that’s been made public, but it was brilliant, powerful – a SOLUTION.
He doesn’t just complain about problems. He sees a problem and finds a solution – within our polity, a workable solution.
I could go on. Frankly, I’m guessing most of you have already decided how you will vote. In the event someone is still deciding, all I can say is that I know Bart. He is the real deal and he is what the SBC needs.
For once in my life, I think I know what I am talking about!