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June 17, 2004

A Baptist by Any Other Name ...

This will probably be my last Convention-related post, but I wanted to adress a subject that has been getting surprisingly little coverage in the blogosphere -- at least the part of it that I've been reading.

The SBC had proposed a study to determine whether or not it should change it's name to reflect it's international diversity.

Baptist Press has a pretty good summary of the issues, along with quotes from just about everyone who spoke up, either for or against.

It's not a new issue. The Convention has looked at a name change before, and has decided not to do it. The main contention is from churches that are not in the South. There is some concern that evangelistic efforts are hindered because of the name of the denomination.

I tend to agree with the messenger who said, "... when I go and witness, I don't ask if they want to be a Southern Baptist. I ask if they want to know Christ."

The major problem with the discussion was that people thought the proposal was to change the name. It wasn't -- it was to study the possibility of maybe changing the name. The only person to address this issue was a sweet lady from Dayton, Ohio, who called the President to task for not having any idea of the cost of the study. Of course, she was ruled out of order.

I had a major problem with not knowing the cost of the study. A budget should have been available for the messengers to look at. Writing a blank check to a Southern Baptist committee is probably the dumbest thing you can ever do, financially. But I want to address the idea of a name change.

Southern Baptist has nothing to do with location. Most everyone knows that by now. Southern Baptist is a brand name, just as Western Union and Southwestern Airlines are brand names. These latter two organizations are no longer regional, as they were when they were named -- and they haven't changed their names. Nobody thinks you can only send money through Western Union to Texas. Nobody thinks that Southwestern Air only flies west of the Mississippi. And people realize that there are Southern Baptists in every corner of the nation, if not the globe.

As far as connotations go, how long do you think it will take for the word to get out that the Southern Baptists have changed their name? Within a week, everyone who used to hate the SBC will now know that they need to hate the new name just as much.

A few years ago, the SBC decided to change the names of the Home Missions Board and the Foreign Missions Board to North American Mission Board and International Missions Board, respectively. They did this when I was a brand new Southern Baptist, so I figured that I would have no problems with the new names. Not so -- in fact, I still call them by their old names, and I had to think before typing the new names just now. Changing the name of the organization would do absolutely nothing but cost a LOT of money to change signs, letterhead, websites, legal documents, etc. It's a bad idea, and I'm glad it was defeated.

Posted by Warren Kelly at June 17, 2004 10:50 PM
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