Posted by: baptistthinker | September 21, 2011

Uh-Oh: SBC President Names Task Force To Investigate Name Change, Heads Explode, Conversation…errr..Shouting Matches Erupt

Well, SBC President Bryant Wright has made a few folks upset, and excited others. Monday evening SBC President Bryant Wright has announced a task force, not funded by the convention, that will investigate whether or not a name change is needed. The Twitterverse popped to life with hundreds of SBC members taking to Twitter to tweet passionately about whether or not they supported such a move. The SBC Blogosphere quickly sprang into action as well, as SBC bloggers tackled the issue with gusto. Salvos have been fired from both sides of the issue, some adamantly declaring that the SBC should change it’s name, and others making it clear that the SBC without the name “Southern Baptist” is tantamount to heresy.

In all honesty, Saturday I was thinking about this very topic, and working on a blog post in my head about whether or not the SBC needed a name change. Monday, I still didn’t have the blog post written out, so I chose to sit back and watch what happened once the fireworks started. And it has been interesting to watch. I would love to sit and have a conversation about this issue with other Southern Baptists, and that’s why I’m writing this blog post. I realize that in blogging and tweeting, facial cues and body language can’t be read. Only the written word can be read. I’m going to probably make some strong statements, but if you could, please understand that while I would say these things in person, I would not be saying them with extreme force and hatred ringing in my voice. I would be talking with you respectfully, but with conviction and humility(to one degree or another, I hope). I don’t believe that I’m better than any of you, I’m just bringing a different perspective to the table. A perspective that yes, I feel strongly about, but that I don’t know is necessarily the correct one. I didn’t grow up Southern Baptist. I didn’t grow up in the South. I’m an outsider, who is now in the SBC. I love the Southern Baptist Convention. I personally grew up Independent Fundamental Baptist. I love the co-operation of SBC churches, I love the work the SBC has done in foreign missions. I love the way the SBC has stood strong for Biblical truth over the years.

As a Yankee who has moved to Southern Baptist country, I’ve posted some observations about the Bible Belt. I would personally, strongly encourage SBC Messengers to vote to change the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. Perhaps to something like Great Commission Baptist Convention, or the Cooperative Baptist Confession, or the Global Missionary Baptist Convention, or the International Baptist Convention. Where I grew up, there was one Southern Baptist church that I knew of in my area. And almost everybody I knew just looked strangely at the church, because we didn’t understand why a Southern Baptist Church would be in the Northeast. My home state of Delaware is right on the border of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. I like to say that it’s the best of both worlds, with delicious foods from both regions. Delaware is also what I personally call the “Bible Belt of the Northeast”. There’s a significant amount of Protestants in that area, compared to states further North. Granted, a Protestant in the Northeast is significantly different than a Protestant in the Southeast. But let’s talk about some reasons why the SBC should strongly consider changing it’s name.Some of these I am admittedly stealing from this older blog post from a couple years ago.

1. The name “Southern Baptist Convention” wasn’t a good idea when it was first named. In fact, I’ll go further. The Southern Baptist Convention was began in sin. It started when Baptists in the South got a little upset that they couldn’t appoint missionaries who were slaveholders, because Northern Baptists refused to allow it to happen. Baptists, throughout North America, originally fought for the equal rights of men, and opposed slavery. Baptists welcomed slaves into their churches, and even ordained black slaves as ministers. But as slavery became culturally established in the South, Baptist ministers began to stop opposing slavery, and found ways to accommodate the wealthy gentry of the South by interpreting Scripture to condone slavery. In 1844, Basil Manly Sr, President of the University of Alabama, pastor, and plantation owner with 40 slaves, decided to lead a move against the position of Northern Baptists forbidding missionaries to be slaveholders. He drafted the Alabama Resolutions, and presented them at the Triennial Convention in Philadelphia(Baptists in the United States were largely united under the Triennial Convention at this time). These Resolutions included the demand that slaveholders be permitted to be appointed to denominational offices. The Resolutions failed. Baptists from the South then attempted to have a slaveholder appointed as a missionary by the Home Mission Society, and when he was rejected(as he held slaves and missionaries were not permitted to take servants with them), Southern Baptists interpreted this as a violation of their rights. The next year, the Southern Baptist Convention was founded. So let’s just say “Okay, maybe our convention was founded as a really bad idea. And maybe the name carries some negative baggage because of that.” This brings me to my next point.

2. There is some negative baggage associated with the name Southern Baptist. Particularly within the African-American community of the United States. And not just for slavery, but also for Jim Crow and segregation. Now, granted, not all African-American persons still hold a grudge against the SBC. Not all are aware of the history of the SBC. But some are. If  a name change would reduce that negative baggage, and make our convention have a broader appeal to more people, would that be enough of a reason to change the name of the Southern Baptist Convention? If not, why not? Granted, the SBC did issue an apology for racism 16 years or so ago. But would a name change be more helpful? This issue needs to be explored, as much as any other, as an important issue in the SBC name change controversy.

3. SBC church leaders outside the South will often hide the word “Southern”. It really isn’t, and I hate to use this word, “relevant” to people outside the South. Let’s face it, you slap “Southern Baptist Church” on a church sign in Massachussetts, and it’s going to be a bit of a turn-off at times. It’s hard enough to plant a Baptist church in the Northeast. The name “Southern” isn’t really helping.

3. Would our Southern Churches like to be known as “Northern Baptist”? Think about it. Would your church in south Mississippi like to be a part of the “Northern Baptist Convention”? Or would you like to move your churches denominational affiliation to the Korean Baptist Convention? Or how about changing your church to the state convention of Vermont, when your church is located in Florida?

4. Our denominational name is based on a geographical location, not on a Biblical vision or Biblical imperative.

5. Churches outside the Bible Belt South might consider joining us, if our name weren’t “Southern”.

6. There’s no good reason to keep the name Southern. Seriously. Can you think of one? Why should we retain “Southern”, when we’re trying to broaden our reach outside of the traditional “Bible Belt”. We’re planting churches in Vermont, Main, New York, Wyoming, California, and we’re keeping “Southern”? Seriously? Why? What good reason is there for that?

But, I don’t think it will happen. Not any time soon anyway. Why? Because many Southern Baptists are highly resistant to change. And the name “Southern Baptist” is deeply entrenched within the hearts and minds of many, many Southern Baptists. In many cases, they grew up in Southern Baptist churches. They’ve been surrounded by Southern Baptists their entire life. They live in, and were raised in, the South. It is their identity. And right there, is possibly part of the problem. Is it possible that many of my brothers and sisters have found more identity in being a Southern(emphasis on Southern) Baptist than they have found in Jesus Christ. Now, I’m not alleging that they aren’t saved, or that they are without Christ. I’m saying that they have, because of geographical and cultural reasons, placed their identity more in a denominational identity than in finding their identity in Christ. It has become an idol. And idols need to be broken eventually. I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t fight to retain the Baptist identity. I’m very strongly a Baptist. The Baptist denomination, I believe, most closely resembles the New Testament church. So let’s keep Baptist. But let’s drop “Southern”. I don’t see a need to keep the name “Southern”.

Am I wrong? Is my thinking way out in left field? Is there some reason that I don’t know of, why we should keep the name Southern Baptist Convention?

Here’s some more blog posts by others on this topic.

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

Link 4

Link 5

Link 6

 

 

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