HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s annual meeting adopted a resolution opposing a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention.
The resolution passed by a show of hands vote during the closing session of the state convention’s Nov. 15-16 sessions at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.
Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright announced in September the appointment of a 16-member presidential task force to study the prospect of changing the 166-year-old convention’s name. Wright cited two reasons for the study: church planting limitations related to the convention’s regional name and reduced effectiveness in reaching a 21st-century audience with the Gospel.
Phillip Senn, a messenger at the Tennessee convention from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Troy, submitted the resolution titled “Resolution on SBC Presidential Task Force Considering a Name Change of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The resolution acknowledged Wright’s appointment of a task force and said “it has been argued that keeping the name Southern Baptist Convention could cause harm to our missionary efforts worldwide.”
The resolution noted that “messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention have repeatedly turned away such proposals” and that the SBC is “recognized worldwide as a convention of churches partnering together for ‘One Sacred Effort, the Propagation of the Gospel.'”
Among the reasons listed in the resolution for why the name change is not needed:
— “The costs associated with such a name change could be used for things that relate more closely to our task of winning the lost to Christ;
— “Many costs associated with such a name change would be borne by the churches associated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention;
— “There may also be other unanticipated negative consequences of such a name change.”
Messengers resolved to “support retaining the historic name ‘Southern Baptist Convention’ and oppose any change to such name.”
The resolution also stated that “we ask the president of the Southern Baptist Convention to cease the work of the task force” and that a copy of the resolution “be forwarded to each member of the SBC presidential task force, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the members of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
There was little discussion about the resolution. Senn said he supported the document as presented by the TBC Resolutions Committee.
Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, spoke against the resolution, saying “Southern” is a geographical term, not a theological term and that the task force’s assignment is only to study the matter.
“With this resolution we say we are not interested in exploring possibilities that make us more effective,” Robertson said. “At the very least, let’s study the issue.”
Wright, in a statement through Baptist Press after the Tennessee convention adjourned Nov. 16, stated, “We are asking all Southern Baptists to pray for the task force as we study and explore the possibility of a name change. The key question we are asking as we study all possible ramifications is, ‘Would a name change enhance our mission of better fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission in North America in the 21st century?'”
Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., emphasized when naming the task force in September that its role is to advise him on the questions he has given them to consider.
“Obviously, this is not an official committee empowered by a vote of messengers to an SBC annual meeting,” Wright said. “It is a task force I am asking to advise me as president on whether this is a matter we should bring forward for convention action.”
Wright said he hopes the task force will provide an interim report that he can share with the Executive Committee during its Feb. 20-21 meeting, with the possibility of a final report in time for the SBC annual meeting June 19-20, 2012, in New Orleans.
Any proposed name change, as well as other legal implications involved in a name change, would have to be approved by a majority of messengers at two consecutive SBC annual meetings, according to the convention’s constitution. The task force held its first meeting Oct. 26 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector (www.tnbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston and assistant editor Erin Roach contributed to this story.