Let’s keep reading:
At the time of Dilday’s ouster, Barber was a student at the Fort Worth seminary, where he enrolled in a Master of Divinity program after graduating from Baylor. He embraced Southwestern’s new, more conservative trajectory and it inspired him to eventually pursue a Ph.D there in 2000. …
Barber’s academic interests and his emerging political commitments played off each other. Conservative Resurgence leaders were championing the same ideals he was studying, such as religious liberty and local church autonomy.
“He (Barber) is not a legalist. He’s driven by principle, rather than law,” Yarnell said. “The principle of democratic congregationalism and doing things in order and in a kind way is who Bart is.”
Keep reading. And pay close attention to the blogging history of Barber vs. the Rev. Wade Burleson. Note this:
Burleson once supported Patterson and the Conservative Resurgence, but eventually became a vocal critic of the movement and its leaders. Barber took it upon himself to fight back, writing posts such as “Keeping Watch over the Establishment” in 2007 and “Why I love Dr. Paige Patterson” in 2008. …
To Barber, an attack against Conservative Resurgence leaders was an attack against the ideas the movement stood for. He and others like him became collectively known as the “Baptist Identity” bloggers.
“I very quickly handed out team jerseys to people, one side or the other,” Barber said.
Clearly, what happened is that Barber separated his loyalty to key Conservative Resurgence leaders to his dedication to basic theological principles supported by that movement.
The Tennessean story shows that. But it never connects the dots, as to what Barber believes now about basic theological questions.
If Barber has not changed, on doctrine, is he a “fundamentalist”? If the answer is “no,” then why not? How has he changed his theological beliefs, as opposed to his loyalties in terms of the personalities of SBC politics?
This is crucial: Did Barber break with Patterson over issues of theology or ethics? Here is a key moment:
Barber wanted Patterson’s eventual departure to happen with retirement, allowing him to leave on a positive note and avoid ugly conflict with the board.
That all changed with revelations about Patterson’s response to reports of rape on seminary grounds and a woman’s disclosure about domestic violence. In each of the three scenarios, Patterson responded with a seeming lack of compassion for the women reporting the abuse and showed deference to the accused.
At that point, there was no question in Barber’s mind. “It got to the point where I was going to save the seminary by firing Paige Patterson.”
Then, later, there is this — as the Southwestern board moved to oust Patterson:
Southwestern’s board tried to fire Patterson during a marathon 13-hour meeting in May 22-23, 2018, but were unable due to two holdouts. Barber was one of them. Instead, the board decided in that meeting to change Patterson’s title to president emeritus and asked him to retire soon.
After that May meeting, Patterson and his attorney fought back, which Barber felt was “just plain insubordination.” Also, a Washington Post article detailed one of the instances in which Patterson dismissed a female seminarian who reported being raped.
At that point, “there were two things I knew that shaped my vote to terminate Paige Patterson,” Barber said. “One was that I knew two people who had voted against firing him in the May 22-23 meeting whose opinion had changed.”
“The other thing was I had seen him (Patterson) fire people for far less and without so much attention to process,” he added.
Any signs of a theological change there?
Finally, at the end of the story, the Tennessean team stresses that Barber faces another crisis in which he gets to prove whether he is a good guy or a bad guy. In this case, the fight is about an issue — the ordination of women to ANY form of ministry — that represents a clash between two important beliefs in Baptist polity and theology. Will Barber stand, as in his past, for the autonomy of the local congregation, or will he take a conservative doctrinal stand, again, against the ordination of women?
That’s a tough call, in terms of doctrine and Baptist history. I would imagine that, for Barber, this is an agonizing choice — when it is stated in doctrinal terms.
There is that question again, the one the Tennessean never asked or answered: Has Barber changed in terms of his theological commitments? How has he changed?
FIRST IMAGE: Personal photo by the Rev. Bart Barber, circulated on X.