Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Baptist Press and written by Brandon Porter.
NEW YORK (BP) – SBC President Bart Barber was a guest of Anderson Cooper on CBS’ 60 Minutes program Sunday (Oct. 9). The 13-minute segment dealt with issues of sexual abuse in the SBC, political division in the United States surrounding former President Donald Trump, the separation of church and state, abortion, immigration and same-sex marriage.
Barber was elected as president of the Convention at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in June in Anaheim, Calif.
“I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention faces some unique challenges right now. I felt like God was calling me to try to give leadership at this moment to help Southern Baptists move forward,” Barber told Cooper.
Sexual abuse in the SBC
Cooper asked Barber about claims that abuse allegations were called into the SBC Executive Committee and were ignored by EC leaders.
“We didn’t just ignore them. Sometimes we impugned in their motives, sometimes we attacked them. The reason why I’m president of the Southern Baptist Convention is because our churches do not agree with that and have taken action to correct those things,” Barber said.
Cooper reported that Barber told him about the attempts of the SBC to drive out sexual abuse.
“Bart Barber says he’s cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation and appointed a new nine-member sexual abuse task force that’s building a registry for credible reports of abuse to help churches track predators,” Cooper said.
“I have strong feelings about this. I’m, it’s not just anger, although I’m angry about it. God called me to be a pastor when I was 11. I believe in this. For people to sully this hurts me. I’m not doing this to try to accomplish some [public relations] objective for us. I’m doing this because I want to serve God well,” Barber told Cooper in the interview.
60 Minutes turned to Eastern Illinois University professor Ryan Burge for commentary on the actions of the SBC EC in the year’s leading up to the investigation of the alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims.
“They actually kept a list of over 700 names of people who had been credibly accused. What they said though, is we couldn’t give that to the churches because local churches have autonomy in who they hire and fire for pastors. We can’t tell them they can’t hire this person,” Burge said.
Cooper asked Burge about the actions of the EC.
“Were they calling law enforcement and letting police know that there was a predator at this church in this state?”
“The Executive Committee had the list. Put it in a drawer and didn’t tell anyone about it for over 10 years,” Burge, who is also an American Baptist pastor, responded.
In an edit created by the producers of 60 Minutes, Barber immediately responded, “That’s the mindset that we’re repudiating and moving against.”
Contrary to Burge’s claims, the list was not a secret list of unknown abusers but a collection of news reports about abuse allegations that were already publicly available.
Last May, EC interim counsel Gene Besen pledged to release the list of alleged and convicted abusers collected under former SBC EC executive vice president and general counsel Augie Boto’s direction by an unnamed, former EC staff member. As of August 2018, there were 585 names on the list, Guidepost Solutions revealed in its report.
The list was released May 26.
National political climate
When asked if Barber believes Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States, he replied, “I do. Absolutely. I pray for him consistently as the President of the United States. I believe he was legitimately elected.”
“That’s a big deal,” said Burge.
He pointed to his research that he says reveals “… 60% of white evangelicals believe the election was stolen in 2020. And many, many Southern Baptists go to church every Sunday believing that Southern Baptist pastors have been afraid to speak about that from the pulpit because they know lots of people oppose that in the pews.”
Cooper questioned Barber about how he said he had voted in the 2016 and 2020 election.
Barber said he did not vote for Trump in 2016 but did in 2020.
He pointed to the “documented” way Trump treated women and his rhetoric concerning immigration that Barber called “wrongful.”
Barber said Trump’s consistent pro-life support and work on sentencing reform compelled him to change his mind in 2020.
When pressed on how the events surrounding January 6, 2021, would affect his future decision at the poll, Barber said, “I think a lot of Southern Baptists would be thrilled to have the opportunity to support someone for leadership in our country who’s strong on the values that matter to us. Who can do that without putting the vice president’s life in danger?”
Cooper asked about Christian nationalism, citing a clip from Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) who, in the clip, said “the church is supposed to direct the government.”
Barber responded strongly, “It stands contrary to 400 years of Baptist history and everything I believe about religious liberty. I’m opposed to the idea of Christian dominion—churchly dominion over the operations of government.”
On the topic of abortion, Cooper noted the shift in the SBC’s position from 1971 to 1980 to what he called for “narrow” exceptions “to cases where pregnancy threatened the life of the mother.”
Barber told Cooper, “Our interest with abortion is not to police everybody’s sex life. Our interest with abortion is that we believe that’s a human person who deserves to live.”
Cooper pressed Barber on the implications of a recent case of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who allegedly became pregnant after she was raped. According to reports, she was unable to obtain a legal abortion in Ohio due to strict laws so she traveled to Indiana for the procedure.
The reporter asked if the pastor believed the girl should be forced to carry the baby to term.
“I don’t want that to sound like I don’t have tremendous compassion for her and her circumstance,” Barber said.
“I wish we could put an end to 10-year-olds being raped. I’m trying to work against child sexual abuse because I think that’s atrocious.”
Cooper asked, “But you don’t see forcing a 10-year-old child to go to term with a baby from rape as abuse of a child?”
He replied, “I see it as horrible. I see it as preferable to killing someone else.”
On same-sex marriage
Barber was also asked about his stance on same-sex marriage.
“We’re committed to the idea of gender as a gift from God. We’re committed to the idea that men and women ought to be united with one another in marriage,” he said.
When Cooper asked if he believed gay people “should be converted out of being gay,” Barber responded, “I believe sinners should be converted out of being sinners, and that applies to all of us.”
Cooper pressed, asking, “Can somebody be a good Christian, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and be gay or lesbian and married to a person of the same sex?”
Barber replied no.
The interview with Barber took place at FBC Farmersville, Texas where Barber has served as pastor for 23 years.