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.
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’.”
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