Southern Baptists: Name change too costly

February 23, 2012

When Southern Baptists gather for their annual meeting this June,
they will not be asked to create a new official name. Top leaders
decided that a change is not worth pursuing. Instead they will be asked
to approve a recommendation that Baptists end the name change discussion
but have the option of using the unofficial moniker "Great Commission
Baptists."

The recommendation was adopted February 21 by the
Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee after a task force
deemed a name change impractical. "I feel very thankful there was such a
positive spirit in receiving this recommendation," said SBC president
Bryant Wright in an interview after the committee's decision. "It's just
another way that we can be more effective in carrying the good news of
Jesus Christ to North America and the world."

Wright's task force
determined that the legal costs and logistical wrangling that would be
necessary to change signs and stationery and deal with trusts and wills
made a change unworkable. Plus, Wright noted, the voluntary nature of
Southern Baptists means that even if a name change had been approved,
"they don't have to follow it."

The optional use of "Great Com­mission Baptists" provides an answer to those troubled by the Southern in the denomination's official name, as well as its link to the SBC's Civil War–era defense of slavery.

The
unofficial title refers to Jesus' command that his followers spread his
message worldwide. "It gives a freedom to a church planter in Boston,"
said Wright. "If he prefers to just go by 'Great Commission Baptist,' we
are giving him the freedom to do that."

Paige Patterson, the
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president, a traditionalist
and a member of the task force, had long favored a name change but said
it is likely too difficult to pull off. —RNS