CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island, Canada (BP)–Messengers to the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists annual convention overwhelmingly voted to change the convention’s name to the Canadian National Baptist Convention, culminating a process that began four years ago.
Messengers also approved a church to church covenant which Jeff Christopherson, outgoing convention president, said defines the “substance” of where Canadian Southern Baptists are heading.
A total of 136 messengers, along with 148 guests, registered for the June 30-July 2 convention at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
In balloting on the new name, 86 percent voted in favor of the change; 14 percent against.
“We’re still Southern Baptists, that did not change,” said Gerry Taillon, CNBC national ministry leader, addressing messengers and guests at the
“Our relationships with Southern Baptist churches, associations and agencies are just as solid as ever.”
In an interview following the convention, Taillon said the change was needed to establish the Canadian convention’s identity, noting, “It was necessary to clear up confusion with the uninitiated who come to all the wrong ideas of who we are.”
Taillon told the messengers that each of the four words in the new name holds significance:
— Canadian as the identity for the convention.
— National as the scope for the convention’s churches across Canada.
— Baptist as the convention’s heritage and belief system.
— Convention as how the organization works together.
The convention’s new name in French — Canada’s official languages are English and French — will have the same CNBC acronym: Convention Nationale Baptiste Canadienne.
The proposed change did cause discussion prior to the vote.
Shan An, pastor of Dixie Baptist Church in Toronto, said he would go along with the final decision, but he thought the Southern Baptist name was valuable. In addition, he described the word national as “outdated.”
“There is nothing wrong with CCSB,” An said. “It is what we heard for 20 years.”
In support of the new name, however, Dwayne Bartley, pastor of Cambrian Heights Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, said he thought national is a “very good Canadian word” and name changes have biblical precedent.
“There were times when someone changed their identity when God was getting ready to do a new thing in their life,” Bartley said.
The vote was the second and final vote on the convention’s new name. In the first vote in July 2007, 97 percent of the messengers at the annual convention in Richmond, British Columbia, voted in favor of the change. The Canadian convention’s constitution requires two votes for changes to the document.
Jeff Christopherson, pastor of The Sanctuary in Oakville, Ontario, and outgoing CNBC president, said the process for changing the convention’s name began in July 2004 when messengers at the annual convention in Toronto recommended appointment of a study committee to look at the possibility of a new name.
In November 2004, the convention’s National Leadership Board, under Rob Blackaby as board president, named a study committee representing a wide variety of views. The committee sent out a survey to every CCSB church and received 124 responses.
In November 2005, the committee submitted a report to the National Leadership Board indicating there seemed to be a “heart” for changing the convention’s name.
However, the committee set two non-negotiable parameters: the words “Baptist” and “convention” would remain part of any new name since they represent the heritage and values of the convention and how Southern Baptist churches in Canada work together.
In July 2006, the leadership board presented messengers to the annual convention in Ottawa with a recommendation in favor of the name change, with the first vote slated for the 2007 annual convention.
Taillon said implementation of the new name would be gradual.
As a cost-saving effort, he said the convention will use CCSB letterhead, stationery and other materials as long as they last. However, he said it is already possible to access the convention’s website at the new address, www.cnbc.ca, while staff e-mail addresses also will be changed.
Also, some paperwork is yet to be filed for the name change go into full effect, Taillon said.
However, the convention’s logo with the Canadian maple leaf emblem with a cross in the middle will not change.
Taillon also emphasized there would be no change to the convention’s commitment to Southern Baptist ministries. The Canadian convention, he said, has six partnerships with state conventions, while there are thousands of U.S. churches partnering with individual Canadian Southern Baptist churches.
“We have never been so closely connected with Southern Baptists as today,” he said.
CHURCH TO CHURCH COVENANT
The church to church covenant will be “a symbol to churches that you are not alone,” said Bob Shelton, leader of the convention’s church strengthening team. “We’re in a covenant together. That is the way God designed it to be.”
The covenant asks churches to make five commitments:
— To affirm the church as God’s primary vehicle for advancing His Kingdom by committing to share Christ, send missionaries and start and strengthen churches, connecting churches in association and valuing the contribution of each church as unique and significant.
— To honor the rich heritage God has given Canadian Southern Baptists by upholding a commitment to the CNBC Statement of Faith, being on mission with other CNBC churches and partnering with Southern Baptist entities and churches.
— To practice God’s desire for interdependence by realizing churches can do more together than alone, accepting responsibility for one another and giving sacrificially through the Cooperative Program.
— To welcome God’s protection found in accountability by initiating dialogue with churches and leaders in times of need, welcoming assistance of churches and leaders in times of crisis and praying together for forgiveness and restoration in times of moral failure and spiritual distress.
— To protect the unity of CNBC churches by praying for one another, refusing to gossip or compete with one another and demonstrating Christ-like unity and love to one another.
“This isn’t so much a legal document as it is a relational document, a covenant that we will work together,” Shelton said. “It reflects where we want to go as a convention.”
The initial draft of the covenant was introduced by Rob Blackaby, then-president of the National Leadership Board, at the 2005 annual convention in Cochrane, Alberta.
The covenant was then brought up again at the annual convention in Ottawa, Ontario, in 2006 but was tabled at the 2007 annual convention in Richmond, British Columbia, to wait for a final draft.
While messengers approved the document at this year’s annual convention, an implementation process will be worked out by the National Leadership Board in its November meeting.
Shelton said implementation of the covenant for current CNBC churches would be voluntary, but new churches seeking to join the convention would need to agree to the covenant as a prerequisite for affiliation.
“We would like all churches to buy into it, but especially new congregations,” he said. “We feel like this represents our core values.”
Paul Johnson, leader of the convention’s “Share” team, speaking at the annual convention, said last year’s baptism report was disturbing because for the first time in many years the trend for the number of baptisms in the Canadian convention was down in 2006.
“All of us felt like something was wrong,” he said.
However, he said figures for 2007 were more encouraging as the number of baptisms for 2007 totaled 768, an increase of nearly 5 percent.
Much more needs to be done, however, to reach the convention’s 100,000 goal in baptisms in another 12 years.
For the convention to reach its goal, Johnson said Canadian Southern Baptists will have to increase their current rate of baptisms by 10 times and then continue that number for the next 12 years.
“We haven’t asked God for a difficult goal, we’ve asked him for an impossible goal,” Johnson said. “We’re asking God for 100,000 miracles.”
In other business:
— Vancouver Olympics support: Messengers approved a resolution offering the convention’s support for ministries connected with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. The CNBC voted to partner with the WestCoast Baptist Association in the outreach effort through prayer, volunteers and other resources.
— Budget: Messengers approved a $2,361,068 budget for 2009, which includes a 3 percent cost of living increase for CNBC employees and allocates 26.5 percent of Cooperative Program gifts from Canadian Southern Baptist churches to SBC national and international missions and ministries.
Because more than 80 percent of the Canadian convention’s revenue comes from U.S. sources and the U.S. dollar has dropped in value in recent years, Taillon said the convention has had to cut 45 percent of its expenses over the past two years. In addition, the convention has lost three staff positions that have not been replaced.
“In the midst of all of this,” Taillon said, “we have continued to move our convention ahead.”
— New officers: Messengers selected Rick Lamothe, a pastor with Sequoia Community Church in Nepean, Ontario, as the new CNBC president, succeeding Jeff Christopherson, who has been the teaching pastor at The Sanctuary in Oakville, Ontario. Joey Mask, pastor to students at The Potter’s House Community Church in Westbank, British Columbia, was elected as first vice president and John Evans, co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Charlottetown, as second vice president.
— Newly affiliated churches: Messengers welcomed 15 new churches into the Canadian National Baptist Convention: Filipino Baptist Church and Lighthouse Baptist Ministries, both of Edmonton, Alberta; Eden Korean Baptist Church, Rockbridge Church and Southside Agape Christian Fellowship, all of Surrey, British Columbia; Bethel Romanian Church, Abbotsford, British Columbia; Kingdom Harvest Missional Church, Scarborough, Ontario; Assemblee Evangelique Bon Samaritain, St. Georges, Quebec; Church of Loving People, Langley, British Columbia; Margaree Valley Baptist Church, Margaree Valley, Nova Scotia; Bay Road Baptist Church, Timberlea, Nova Scotia; Tli Cho Baptist Church, Rae Edzo, Northwest Territories; Eglise Baptiste Haitienne Salem, Hamilton, Ontario; and Tapestry Church/Tuscany, Calgary, Alberta.
— Foundation report: Ben Marshall, executive director of the CCSB Foundation, announced he has stepped down after 10 years in his position so he and his wife Tania could work with an orphanage in Cambodia.
Harold Campbell is a journalist who lives in Kansas and volunteers as communications and prayer coordinator for Baptist ministry in Quebec and eastern Ontario.