Southern Baptist leader suggests name change

September 21, 2011

Does the Southern Baptist Con­vention need a new name? The president
of the nation's largest Protestant denomination, Bryant Wright, who is
also a pastor in Marietta, Georgia, says the idea should be explored
again for the sake of evangelistic success alone.

"The name
'Southern' really no longer reflects who we are as a convention in
reaching all of North America," Wright said in a video posted on the
Pray4SBC.com website. He added that the word doesn't play well in places
like Boston, New York, Idaho, Wyoming and Michigan. "With 'Southern' in
the name, it's really a barrier in seeking to do ministry in areas like
that," he said.

Wright's plans, announced at a SBC Executive
Committee meeting Septem­ber 19, sparked debate, ac­cording to Baptist
Press, the denomination's news outlet. Some committee members said the
plan should be re­viewed by lawyers or voted on first by Baptists at
their annual meeting next June, but both recommendations were voted
down.

Wright said any recommended name change would need to be
approved at two consecutive annual meetings of the denomination, which
has been grappling with stagnant baptism rates and declining membership.

Southern
Baptists have debated a possible name change numerous times before. At
their 2004 annual meeting, 55 percent of voters defeated a measure that
would have set up a committee to study the matter.

In a 2008 poll
by SBC-affiliated LifeWay Research, 27 percent of Southern Baptist
pastors agreed that the name "Southern" is a "hindrance" while 68
percent disagreed.

Wright appointed Jimmy Draper, who led the SBC
Sunday School Board in 1998 when it became LifeWay Christian Resources,
to lead the study committee.  —RNS