Pastor Bart Barber of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, has been elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, taking the helm of the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
At the SBC Annual Meeting held in Anaheim, California, on Tuesday, Barber was elected in a second ballot runoff with 3,401 messenger votes, representing 60.87% of the vote.
Barber will replace SBC President Ed Litton, who was elected last year and announced in March that he would not seek reelection, becoming the first SBC president in decades not to do so.
In addition to Barber, the other nominees for SBC president were Tom Ascol, longtime senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida; Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia; and Robin Hadaway, senior professor of missions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Florida Pastor Willy Rice was originally nominated for SBC president and had accepted the nomination, however, he later withdrew his candidacy due to a reported personal backlash.
Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference President Matt Henslee nominated Barber, saying in a statement released in April that Barber was “what Southern Baptists are when they are at their best.”
“Whether I was starting in ministry about 10 miles from him or pastoring churches 600 miles from him, Bart has been a phone call away for counsel or help as I navigated the ups and downs of ministry,” stated Henslee, as reported by the Baptist Standard.
“Now, as his associational missionary and fellow pastor, I have a front-row seat to a man who loves his family well, shepherds his church with care, and still finds time to encourage pastors and promote unity in our convention.”
In the first ballot on Tuesday, which involved 6,847 messenger votes cast, Barber led with 47.58% of the vote, followed by Ascol with 34.06%, Cox with 12.95%, and Hadaway with 4.97%.
Because no candidate received enough votes on the first ballot to be elected president, a runoff vote was held between Barber and Ascol after the first ballot results were announced.
A staunchly conservative voice in the SBC, Ascol announced his candidacy in March, telling the Baptist Press that he was running because “I love the SBC and am grateful for all the wonderful things God has done in and through the Convention.”
“I believe we are in need of a course correction so that regular Southern Baptist churches can have a voice and can help hold our institution and entities accountable to the churches that own them,” Ascol added.
“If we don’t do this, then we will lose many opportunities to be united to spread the Gospel of Jesus around the world.”
In a runoff ballot consisting of 5,587 votes, Barber won with 3,401 votes (60.87%), versus Ascol’s 2,172 votes, or 38.88% of the vote.
Held in Anaheim and scheduled for June 14-15, the annual meeting had approximately 11,000 people in attendance on its first day, which included 8,095 messengers.