SBC 2023 BRIEFS: Barber reelected, constitutional amendment moves forward, and more

NEW ORLEANS—Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, was reelected to a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 13 at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting.

Out of 11,014 messenger votes, Barber received 7,531 votes (68.38%), while Georgia pastor Mike Stone received 3,458 (31.40%). There were 25 ballots disallowed.

Barber was nominated by Jarrett Stephens, senior pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. Stone was nominated by Florida pastor Willy Rice.

Barber has served as pastor of FBC Farmersville since 1999, as well as in a number of roles in the SBC and SBTC, including on its executive board from 2008 to 2014 (serving as chairman and vice chairman).

— Baptist Press, Texan staff

Constitutional amendment clarifying stance on female pastors moves forward

A motion to clarify Southern Baptists’ stance prohibiting women to serve as pastors was passed by messengers on June 14.

The motion, first brought last year by Virginia Pastor Mike Law, received the required two-thirds vote by messengers. Another two-thirds vote of approval is necessary at next year’s annual meeting to proceed with the amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution.

The motion that passed was amended from its original version, which was referred to the SBC Executive Committee last year at the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Juan Sanchez, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, offered the amendment to Law’s motion.

Article III lists five points that place churches within the definition of cooperation with the SBC. The amended motion calls for a sixth, adding churches that affirm, appoint, or employ “only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”

— Baptist Press

Abuse reform task force renewed for another year

A task force approved by the messengers to the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting reported progress to 2023 messengers on June 14. The eight-member Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force reported its activities over the past year to messengers and closed with a recommendation that messengers approve the renewal of the task force for another year.

Messengers approved continuation of the task force by a hand vote.

Highlights of the report included the creation of a MinistryCheck resource that allows churches to vet candidates for leadership, provision of tools to help churches safeguard people in their ministries, and resourcing and cooperation with state conventions as they seek to better protect their own churches and people.

“We want to see Southern Baptist churches across the country be the safest places for your children and your family to hear the gospel of Jesus,” said ARITF Chairman Marshall Blalock, a pastor from Charleston, S.C., during his oral report.

— Gary Ledbetter

Messengers uphold removal of Saddleback, 2 others after appeals

NEW ORLEANS—Three churches that were disfellowshipped by the Executive Committee in February were denied their appeals to be reinstated to the SBC on June 13. The decision of the vote of the messengers to deem the churches not in friendly cooperation with the SBC was announced the following day.

Two of the churches—Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.—were removed because of their decision to call female pastors. The third church to appeal, Freedom Church of Vero Beach, Fla., was removed for failing to resolve concerns regarding an abuse allegation against its pastor.

After hearing the appeal of each church and a response from the Executive Committee, messengers voted by ballot to reject each appeal by majorities of 88% (Saddleback), 91% (Fern Creek), and 96% (Freedom Church).

— Gary Ledbetter

SBC resolutions address AI, office of pastor, other topics

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans approved nine resolutions on current issues, mostly without controversy. Resolutions are submitted by Southern Baptists and are also developed by committee members. The committee noted 23 submissions received by the deadline in late May.

A resolution on artificial intelligence was the first ever for the SBC. The statement emphasized the Bible’s sufficiency to answer ethical challenges presented by emerging technologies, as well as highlighting the centrality of human dignity.

The legacy and responsibility of women in fulfilling the Great Commission was the subject of another resolution. This one celebrates women who have served the convention as teachers, mentors, leaders, and missionaries. The statement also affirmed the worth and gifting of women for God’s purposes.

Although minor amendments were discussed, the resolutions engendered very little controversy among messengers and were each passed without significant dissent. Resolutions offer the messengers to a particular meeting to express their opinions on current issues. While instructive, they are not binding on the convention.

— Gary Ledbetter

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