The SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] world was shaken pretty dramatically last September when our president, Bryant Wright, appointed a task force to study the feasibility of changing the name of the SBC. As someone who lives outside the South, I’ve favored such a thing for a long time, so I welcomed this blue ribbon panel to study the issue.
They were tasked with answering four questions:
1. Is there value in considering a name change? 2. If so, what would be a good name to suggest? 3. What would be the potential legal ramifications of a name change? 4. What would be the potential financial implications?
I have no doubt that this very capable team will adequately explore the last two questions. These are not the kind of people who will ignore legal and financial issues. But I also expect that if there is a desire to change the name, these folks will also find a way to make it happen.
Is there a value in considering a name change? I’ve written extensively on my belief that there is. Others have said that there is not. I think that if Bryant Wright and the others did not see that there was some real value to the idea, they would not have undertaken the effort.
That leaves the second question – finding a good name. That has always been a sticking point for me. As much as I rue the regional focus of our current name, I’ve never been able to find one that is better. It would have made sense 30 years ago to use the name Cooperative Baptist Convention, but that was taken by a certain left-leaning splinter group. That one’s gone. There aren’t a lot of great names left out there. So are the names National Baptist and American Baptist.
Suggestions such as “International Baptist Convention” or “Worldwide Baptist Convention” sound great but they actually violate Baptist polity. Baptist work in other countries is not overseen by the SBC, but is affiliated with it. Our effect extends to the ends of the earth but our organization and authority stops at the borders here.
I sure hope they don’t come up with something silly like GuideStone or LifeWay. Nothing against those organizations, but I don’t want us using some name like that.
Maybe the committee will come up with something. I hope so.
What is going to happen?
So, now I will put on my prophet’s cap and try to figure out what is going to happen. Unless they delay, the report of the Task Force is due at the Feb. 20 Executive Committee meeting.
The Executive Committee will act on the proposal, then it will be reported to the SBC Annual Meeting [in June in New Orleans], if the Executive Committee approves it.
That is not a done deal; many on that committee were upset by the proposal and the way it was presented.
I’m going to take a stab at what I think is likely to be the proposal of the task force. I have no inside information, nor am I often good at predictions. But here’s what I think will happen.
1) The Task Force will bring a recommendation to change the name of the Convention.
2) They have already said that they are not going to remove the name Baptist as some were concerned they would do. We will be a Baptist Convention or Baptist Fellowship.
3) The greatest likelihood is that the name will be something like Great Commission Baptists, focusing not on our region or geography, but on our mission.
4) The recommendation will likely be a “dba” arrangement. We will legally remain the Southern Baptist Convention, but will be doing business as “Great Commission Baptists.” This will avoid the legal issue of changing the charter and allay some of the financial concerns.
5) The proposal will narrowly pass the Executive Committee – by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin. Several of those guys were torqued about the way the proposal was made, so there may be some resistance. But opposing a blue ribbon group like this will be hard and eventually the proposal will pass.
6) The Convention in New Orleans will NOT be poorly attended, and the debate on this proposal will be incredibly lively.
7) I suspect that there may be a full-court press as there was for the GCR. As a GCR supporter, I was bothered by the pressure put on at the Pastor’s Conference and at the convention itself. If something is of God it does not need human manipulation. I hope that Bryant Wright will just make the proposal, make the case and eschew the pressure tactics that the GCR guys used.
8) I hope we can have a reasoned discussion, but I suspect that this will become a festival of bloviation. “I’ve been a Southern Baptist all my life, and they are trying to ruin this great convention.” “If we don’t change the name, the lost will die and America will fall into the dustbin of history.” This discussion may set an all-time record for dogmatic and blustery discussion.
9) I would not put the chances of the proposal passing at greater than about one in three. There is an institutional momentum and change comes slow. I’m not saying that opposition to the name-change is just obstructionist traditionalism. I’m just saying that the burden of proof is on the name-change proponents, and I’m not sure they will meet the burden.
10) The Phoenix convention was pretty tame. New Orleans will be an e-ticket ride. (You young whippersnappers either Google that or ask your parents what it means.)
Those are Davenac the Magnificent’s insights into the future. What do you think will happen?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dave Miller is senior pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa. He is also editor of SBC Voices, where this was originally posted: sbcvoices.com.)