Southern Baptist Convention Considers Name Change

Twitter exploded last night with the news that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) might be considering a name change. At the meeting of the SBC’s Executive Committee, SBC President Bryant Wright appointed a task force to study the issue. Jimmy Draper will be leading the task force. Other members include Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, David Dockery, Tom Elliff, Kevin Ezell, Ken Fentress, Micah Fries, Susie Hawkins, Roger Spradlin, Michael Allen, Marshall Blaylock, Aaron Harvie, Fred Hewitt, Cathy Horner, Benjamin Jo, Bob Sena, John Sullivan, and Jay Wolf.

President Wright has asked the task force to consider four questions: 1) Is it a good idea, that is, is there value in considering a name change? 2) If so, what would be a good name to suggest? 3) What would be the potential legal ramifications of a name change? 4) What would be the potential financial implications?

It is clear that changing the name of the SBC is a tall order. Reports from the meeting last night suggest that the debate was very heated there. Online, folks are already weighing in against it (see Bart Barber’s post here). Albert Mohler puts the issue in perspective and gives a good historical overview of this question until now. I highly recommend that Southern Baptists read Mohler’s article.

What is my take on a name change? I grew up Southern Baptist, and the name still evokes an array of personal attachments that are very difficult for me to imagine giving up. Having said that, I do believe there are missiological advantages to changing the name that are obvious and weighty (not unlike the change from “Foreign Mission Board” to “International Mission Board”). But that does not settle the matter. The questions that President Wright posed to the task force will have to be answered and weighed in the balance before coming to a final conclusion. And of course the messengers to the annual SBC will have the final say. So I will be watching all of this very closely.

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Statements:

Bryant Wright: “The convention’s name is so regional. We are going to think through potential names that would better describe us without such a regional geographic limitation.”

Jack Graham: “The value of changing a name/brand is intangible. But change can create a new momentum and unity for a new generation of Baptists”

Alvin Reid: “Do we want a name that reflects who we were previously, who we are currently, or who we could be ideally?”

Jonathan Akin: “We’ve always had a global mission and a global task and we need to seriously look at the question of does our name — ‘Southern’ — cause us to be hindered from accomplishing that global task that God has given us.”

Jim Smith: “My thoughts in 2004 when SBC name change was discussed are pretty much the same today”

Freddy T. Wyatt: “When I tell people in New York City that we are Southern Baptist the typical sentiment is ‘Well go back’.”

Blogs and Commentary:

“Will the Southern Baptist Convention Change its Name?” – Albert Mohler

“SBC Possible Name Change?” – Jonathan Akin (Baptist Twenty-One)

“SBC President Proposes Name Change for the SBC” – SBC Today

“SBC Name Change Proposal” – Bart Barber

“SBC name change? Study, yes. Done deal, no.” [2004] – Jim Smith

“The ??? Baptist Convention: Considering Bryant Wright’s Task Force Recommendation” – Dave Miller (SBC Voices)

News Stories:

“Wright announces task force to study possible SBC name change” – Baptist Press

“Task Force Considers Southern Baptist Convention Name Change” – Todd Starnes (Fox News)

“Southern Baptist prez backs name change” – Bob Smietana (The Tennessean)

“Southern Baptists consider name change” – Bob Allen (Associated Baptist Press)

12 Responses to Southern Baptist Convention Considers Name Change

  1. EAJ September 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    It this like trying to sell a Bible to a larger audience by changing it from The Holy Bible to The Message, God’s Word,The Word, Good News or The Story – so on and so forth and then adding just under that whatever new title is the subtitle explaining the title which says The Bible? Changing the name is just plain silly.

    • Linda September 20, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

      Changing names is not silly. Even God changed names. ( Saul-Paul, Jacob- Israel)

      Also, brides change their names to represent a new unity with their groom.

      It could represent a sign of repentance of denominational pride and as an act of humility to bring about more unity among all believers.

      As a former Southern Baptist, I have left recently to join an interdenominational church for this very reason.

      So yes, this is about reaching a “larger audience”. Isn’t that the goal, becoming all things to reach as many as possible.? This should be prayed over seriously.

  2. Ian September 20, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    On several occasions I have introduced myself as a ‘Northern-Southern Baptist”

    In 2002, I joined a Southern Baptist Church in Seattle Washington. I have never lived in the South, my ethnic origins are decidedly un-Southern (read Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’?), yet I am a proud Southern Baptist and have served as a semester missionary with NAMB, a youth pastor with a Korean SBC church, and now a member of an SBC church planting team in Chicago Illinois.

    It may be a little selfish–but I would be up for a name change. I know tens of thousands of Southern Baptists in Northern states and serving around the globe would probably agree.

  3. KFI September 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    Recommendation: Orthodox Baptist Church

  4. Don Johnson September 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    http://pray4sbc.com/ allows submitting of name ideas.

  5. John September 20, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    twitter exploded? I hope everyone’s ok…

  6. Paul September 20, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    cru pt. 2. I think that’d be great.

    Actually, Orthodox Baptist Church hits the nail pretty firmly on the head, does it not?

  7. Casey September 20, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Maybe the 2nd Edition of Greg Wills book “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary” will have a new subtitle…

    🙂

  8. Nate September 21, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Linda’s earlier comment, “It could represent a sign of repentance of denominational pride and as an act of humility to bring about more unity among all believers,” and her subsequent line of being a former Southern Baptist, is exactly why many people might not want to change the name.

    If the overwhelming reason to change the name is to apologize for a former sin, and for other perceived sins, then every denomination should change their name.

    If we are changing because we feel that the regional name “Southern” is truly keeping us from missional opportunities in North America in the Northeast, North, and the Northwest, then discussion is appropriate. My concern is that many in the North, Northeast, and the Northwest will still discover that this is the former SBC and will have the same issues they currently have. There were (and probably still are) many church-planters in the 80s and 90s who didn’t even want to use “Baptist” in the name of their plant because people in the Northeast, North, and Northwest didn’t care for Baptists.

    So, it will be interesting to see how many of the names submitted will want to remove “Baptist” as well. Why is it that the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and even the E-free’rs aren’t concerned with their denominational monikers?

    If removing “Southern” can revitalize our missional efforts in church-planting in North America, then I am not against a name change. If, on the other hand, the name change would include removing “Baptist” then I am not only opposed, but staunchly opposed.

    My two cents on “Evangelical Baptist Convention” is that is we are copying the E-free denomination. Come up with something more original, like WBC – Worldwide Baptist Covention (although that is probably not all that original either).

  9. WGB from the Deep South September 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Time to change our Southern Baptist Convention President. Many of us are in total disgust that some in the SBC should even be contemplating a name change. History dictated why we are Southern Baptist. Leave the name alone, I am a member of East Fork Baptist Church, 1810, third oldest church in the Mississippi Association.

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