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Messengers defeat motion for straw poll on SBC name

ATLANTA (BP)–After two Southern Baptist Convention messengers proposed new names for the SBC, messengers declined June 15 to take a straw poll on whether they favor a name change.
A messenger from Agape Baptist Church, Petoskey, Mich., asked messengers “to consider changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention to the International Baptist Convention.”
His motion also proposed a straw poll in which messengers would take a ballot vote that would not “bind the convention or the [SBC] Executive Committee but only serve as a guide for further study.”
Messengers “overwhelmingly” defeated Barber’s motion, said SBC President Paige Patterson, who observed the vote taken by a show of hands holding ballots.
In speaking for the proposal, Barber said a name change would open doors, facilitate racial reconciliation and be consistent with Scripture.
“The name change will open doors to church planting and building healthy churches that will bring a new era in our denomination,” Barber said.
Regarding racial reconciliation, Barber suggested the word “Southern” may be seen as negative since, for example, one southern state did not ratify an anti-slavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution until 1995.
“If we’re going to reach the black communities of North America, we should not be slow in bringing about change,” he said.
During floor debate, only one messenger spoke against Barber’s motion.
Jeff Johnson, Central Baptist Church, Grants, N.M., said, “‘Southern Baptist’ is a term for a theology — not a term for a location. It is a term we’ve come to respect.”
One messenger proposed amending the name in Barber’s motion from “International Baptist Convention” to “Scriptural Baptist Convention.”
“I think we ought to stay with [the initials] SBC and call it the Scriptural Baptist Convention,” said James McCullen of First Baptist Church, Mountain View, Mo. “We have turned our convention to Scripture and to the inerrancy of Scripture.”
Keeping the initials “SBC” would prevent having to change such things as stationery and church signs, McCullen noted.
Darril Deaton, of Friendship Baptist Church, Litchfield, Conn., opposed McCullen’s amendment, saying it might be objectionable to other Baptist groups.
“We’re trying not to alienate lost people, but when we call ourselves the ‘Scriptural Baptist Convention,’ we’re going to offend all the other Baptists in the world,” Deaton said.
A day earlier in its pre-convention meeting, the SBC Executive Committee had turned down a motion by Barber to recommend a name change in its report to the convention.
In February, the Executive Committee had adopted a report that found “no compelling rationale” for a name change. That action was in response to a 1998 motion calling for a feasibility study of a possible change.
In other business, a motion to target a billboard outreach advertising campaign to homosexuals prior to the 2000 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., was referred to the North American Mission Board.
Some observers had expected an attempt to move the year 2000 SBC meeting from Orlando, despite the Executive Committee’s previous recommendation against doing so.
Advocates of moving the 2000 convention had opposed meeting in the city that is home to Disney World, since numerous Christian groups have called for boycotts of the Walt Disney Company, citing what they see as “gay-friendly” policies. The SBC joined the call for withholding business from Disney in 1997.
The billboard advertising motion was proposed by Wiley Drake of First Southern Baptist Church, Buena Park, Calif. He said billboard messages should express love for homosexuals while simultaneously calling them to repentance.
Under convention rules, Drake’s motion was referred to NAMB, since it deals with the internal operations of an SBC entity.

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  • Keith Hinson