TORONTO (BP)–After being known for 20 years as the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, messengers to the annual meeting in Toronto voted to take the first tentative step toward considering a new name.
By a show of hands, roughly two-thirds supported a motion instructing the CCSB national leadership board to name a committee to study “the possibility of a name change … that will better reflect our mission in our nation and our world.” The committee will present its recommendation at next year’s annual meeting in Calgary.
Stan Harris*, professor of church planting and evangelism at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, introduced the motion during the July 6-8 CCSB sessions at Canada Christian College.
Having “southern” in the title has proven counterproductive, Harris said.
“When Canadians think ‘south,’ they think ‘America.’ And so we’re called ‘the American denomination.’ That’s not helping us reach Canadians,” he said.
“Our name needs to represent what we are about, instead of where we came from. We need to celebrate where we came from, we need not be ashamed of where we came from, but we need to look to the future.”
This is not a new issue for the board, which last considered a name change two years ago. And as CCSB President Rob Blackaby acknowledged from the podium, “[T]his is an emotional issue.”
“At that time,” said Scott Plavnick, a past CCSB president, “there was enough discussion about it that we could see both sides. We weren’t sure that we needed to jump into the middle of it with both feet and make a recommendation for a change.”
Ben Marshall, executive director of the CCSB Foundation, cautioned the convention that a name change involves “more than a new letterhead.” He said it would mean meeting a number of legal and governmental requirements before a newly adopted name ever became official.
But Harris pointed out that other Canadian Baptist denominations have opted for new names, and for the same reason.
“Most people would not know, for instance, that North American Baptists are actually German Baptists. But they had the sense to know that Germans are in Germany, and so they changed their name,” he said.
A similar motion to study changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention — because its churches now blanket all of the United States and not just the Southern states — also was debated at its annual meeting in Indianapolis in mid-June. It was defeated.
Frank Stirk is a writer with Horizon, newsjournal of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists.
*Name changed for security concerns.