The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recently approved a proposal from the name-change task force formed regarding changing the name of the convention. The recommendation was to keep the legal name the same, but to add a tag line of “Great Convention Baptists”. This unofficial name could be used in those areas where this might be better received. You can read more about it here.
So why the name change? There is of course the fact that the SBC is no longer a southern organization. It’s geographical reach extends globally. There certainly could be a case to change the name to reflect this. However, that was not the primary motivation. The main reason for the change was, as Jimmy Draper, chairman of the task-force says, “The name ‘Southern’ is a barrier to the Gospel in some regions of the country.”
Why you ask? Well, as we all know, us Southerners are perceived as backward, country red-necks, so there is that. The real reason has to do with the SBC’s historical ties to slavery and racism.
While I understand the logic of changing the name, I still have some lingering questions about this proposal.
- Is the offense at the name ‘Southern’ really about regrettable history, or is it really that we are Christian, Baptist, or some other factors? In other words, will this new name really open new doors of ministry or is it just to make us feel better about it?
- If the purpose of the name change is to reduce offense to unbelievers, why only add a not-legal tag name? That is, even if church chooses to use GCB naming, at the end of the day, they will still have to acknowledge that they are Southern Baptist.
- Along that same line, are we creating a “bait-and-switch” situation? Are we calling ourselves one thing, “Great Commission Baptists”, only to really reveal later that we are Southern Baptists? What are the implications of that?
- If the purpose of the is, again, to reach people who are turned off by the ‘Southern’, why now use a second name that has very little meaning to an unbeliever?
- What are the possible negative connotations of “Great Commission Baptists”? For example, will some government leaders in certain countries perceive it as a direct implication of proselytizing, which may be shunned or illegal there, and thus hinder ministry in those regions?
- Who will experience the great impact from the name change? Unbelievers who now think GCBs are terrific or Southern Baptists who feel better about themselves for adding this new name?
- Is it worth it? Will adding this tag-line be worth the cost, time, and educating necessary to make it effective?
At the end of the day, I agree with Ed Stetzer thoughts. Changing the name, or rather, adding to the name *may* be good, but changing actions is better.