“Some people think that if they change the names of things, the things themselves will have changed, too.”
Three simple words — Southern…Baptist…Convention — conjure up various images in the hearts and minds of people around the globe. Some Southern Baptists find the denominational name endearing while others find it restrictive. Yes, this long established moniker is being scrutinized once more. Will it survive this time?
Since late last night the internet has been abuzz over the news that the Southern Baptist Convention may consider changing its name. According to the Baptist Press:
“Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright has announced the appointment of a presidential task force to study the prospect of changing the 166-year-old convention's name.
Wright, who was re-elected to a second one-year term during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix this past June, said he believes the study will be helpful for two main reasons.
‘First, the convention's name is so regional,’ he said. ‘With our focus on church planting, it is challenging in many parts of the country to lead churches to want to be part of a convention with such a regional name. Second, a name change could position us to maximize our effectiveness in reaching North America for Jesus Christ in the 21st century.’”
For those who know SBC history, this breaking news is nothing new. The Associated Baptist Press (ABP) emphasizes that SBC leaders have considered a denominational name change numerous times in recent years. Bob Allen writes: (link)
"In 2004 then-SBC President Jack Graham made a similar argument when he proposed a committee to study a new name to better reflect the convention’s scope as a national rather than regional body. Messengers at the 2004 annual meeting in Indianapolis debated the idea vigorously before voting 55 percent to 45 percent against a name-change study.
Southern Baptists have rejected attempts to rename the denomination eight times since 1965. Presented in 1999 with a motion by Executive Committee member Blaine Barber of Michigan to become the “International Baptist Convention,” the Executive Committee decided a new name was neither warranted nor desired."
The presidential task force appointed by Wright will be chaired by Jimmy Draper, former President of LifeWay Christian Resources. The Baptist Press article lists the other members of the task force who are:
— Michael Allen, senior pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago.
— Marshall Blaylock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.
— David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
— Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board.
— Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board.
— Ken Fentress, senior pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockwell, Md.
— Micah Fries, senior pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo.
— Aaron Harvie, lead pastor of Riverside Community Church in Philadelphia, Pa.
— Susie Hawkins, speaker, Bible study teacher and missions volunteer from Dallas.
— Fred Hewitt, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.
— Cathy Horner, Bible teacher and pastor's wife from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.
— Benjamin Jo, pastor of Hana Korean Baptist Church in Las Vegas.
— R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
— Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
— Bob Sena, retired director of Hispanic resource development and equipping in the North American Mission Board's church planting group.
— Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee.
— John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.
— Jay Wolf, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
Not only do some have a problem with the regional description "Southern", but the label "Baptist" bothers others. In recent years a number of Baptist churches have left the word "Baptist" out of the church name even though they are indeed affiliated with the SBC. For example, Two Rivers Baptist Church, which experienced an internal crisis a few years ago (see our archives), recently changed its name to "The Fellowship at Two Rivers" to distance itself from the conflict that severely impacted the church. This seems to be a growing trend among newer churches in the SBC.
The Associated Baptist Press article concludes as follows:
Previous efforts to rename the SBC have met resistance for reasons both traditional and practical, such as the cost of changing legal documents and signs and then passing the new identity on to more than 45,000 churches."
Al Mohler has weighed in on the matter in a blog post entitled: Will the Southern Baptist Convention Change Its Name?
Mohler begins his post with these words:
"Southern Baptist Convention president Bryant Wright has launched an effort to change the name of the Convention, or at least to give the issue serious consideration. He announced this intention as he presented his report to the SBC Executive Committee last night. Instantly, energy filled the room."
So energy filled the room at the mention of a name change?
President Wright expressed a desire to have individual Southern Baptists share their ideas about a potential new name for the denomination. To encourage input, Wright has set up a website at Pray4SBC.com
We will continue to keep tabs on the situation and provide updates when they are available.
Back in the 1950s, a popular Canadian quartet called The Four Lads sang of their confusion regarding a certain name change… The song seems to fit this topic very well.
Lydia's Corner: 1 Chronicles 4:5-5:17 Acts 25:1-27 Psalm 5:1-12 Proverbs 18:19