So, Southern Baptists are thinking of changing their name. Two reasons are offered as a rationale: “the name is too regional and hinders effective efforts to plant new churches;” and, the “name has become a liability because it is too often associated with divisively partisan politics” (AP).
A more recent article (ABP) noted the convention’s Executive Committee cannot make up its mind about a name change. They want to keep the official name and then add “Great Commission Convention” for branding purposes. I guess an alias is helpful from time-to-time.
There is no question the word “Southern” is clearly regional and needs changing if the convention wants to expand. I remember conversations about changing the name thirty years ago; too bad it was not changed then.
The name’s association with ‘divisively partisan politics’ and, I might add, simple old-fashioned narrow mindedness, is a great labiality; of course, this is the fault of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders of the last thirty years. In the mid-1970s SBC was conservative but reasonable and thoughtful. No more. I am old enough to remember the rhetoric of the mid-1980s, fundamentalists were out to purify the denomination (get rid of the ‘liberals’) then God would bless the convention and it would soar to new heights. To use an Obama term, “they drove it in the ditch.”
Ideologues always drive organizations into the ditch; it is their nature.
Friend and foe alike resonate with a name change for the SBC. In my opinion, the name change should await a few more retirements. A handful more of SBC ideologues need to retire before the name is changed else it is nothing more than a new coat of paint on an ugly barn. They have ruined one name; why give them a new one to tarnish?
The name needs to change as a new generation of pragmatic leaders move into positions of responsibility. New leaders have the opportunity to drop the ideological side-show and get focused on God’s mission in the world, which has been forgotten amid battles about inerrancy, infallibility, Calvinism and artificial purity.
While there is a part of me which would like to suggest a few new names for the convention (Republican Baptist Convention, Stuck-in-the-Mud Baptist Convention, Yesterday-is-Better Baptist Convention, Calvin Baptist Convention, etc) I think it is critical the SBC develop a new name and a new brand. As an evangelical denomination it has a place of importance in American religious life. A new beginning could provide a much healthier perspective, if new pragmatic leaders emerge at the same time.
I am not so sure “Great Commission Convention” is the right move. It they want a new face for a new century they need to drop ‘convention;’ association, a historic Baptist term, or network would be an improvement.
Even those who make a mess of their lives deserve a new beginning. Of course, only a fool would offer a new beginning to an unrepentant ideologue.
Grace and Peace,
New blog home: roncrawford.net