Originally posted Monday, Feb. 20.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jimmy Draper, chairman of the task force that studied the question of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention, presented the following report to the SBC Executive Committee during its Monday night (Feb. 20) meeting. The task force was named by SBC President Bryant Wright last September.
We thank the president [Bryant Wright] for giving us the privilege of serving on this task force concerning the possibility of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. We have recognized that our role is not official. We are making recommendations for the president to consider in this matter. We fully understand that any potential change in the name and identification of the Southern Baptist Convention would not succeed without the support of the Executive Committee and the formal vote of the Convention itself.
We have had the benefit of having the reports of the three previous studies which were made in the last fifty years. I wrote all of our State Executive Directors and Entity Presidents of the Convention to seek their suggestions and input. We received much input from individual Baptists and Baptist organizations in this process. We actually received over 535 names for consideration of any potential name change, and for the sake of posterity, I will provide them as an attachment to the written copy of this report that we will provide to Baptist Press.
Our one desire from the beginning was to consider the removal of any barrier to the effective proclamation of the Gospel and reaching people for Christ. This is an issue that just won’t die. In fact, the first attempt to change the name was in 1903. Over the years since then, it has been presented to the Convention in one form or another 13 times. We felt that this is an issue that needed resolution so we could move forward with full energies to present the Gospel around the world.
We believe that the rationale for our recommendations should be widely presented to Southern Baptists for their full understanding of all the ingredients to this matter. Once that is done the issue will be decided by the Convention itself.
We understand that our recommendation does not obligate any person, church or Baptist entity to do anything. There is no connectionalism in Southern Baptist life, no hierarchy to dictate to the many facets that make up Southern Baptists. There is no action of the Convention itself which binds any part of Southern Baptist life to comply. Our commitment together is always voluntary.
From our discussions we have drawn some specific conclusions:
The name Southern Baptist Convention is a worldwide brand that identifies who we are. It speaks of our theology, our morality and ethics, our compassion, our ministry and mission in the world. Two things have occurred since the last study was made in 1999 that confirm this fact: the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
These two events thrust the incredible ministry of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts to the front page of public awareness. Recovery efforts in New York following 9/11 were marked by New York residents asking for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams specifically because of the thorough way they fed people, restored property and conducted themselves with kindness, integrity and energy. The same was true in New Orleans after Katrina.
The equity we have in the Southern Baptist name is enormous today. We believe that the potential benefits of a name change do not outweigh the potential risks that would be involved in a legal name change. Renaming the Convention would require a great cost in dollars, in energy, as well as re-branding the name to recapture the meaning that our name now represents. The value of the name change does not justify the risks involved.
At the same time, we are concerned about the negative perception that the word “Southern” may carry in certain geographic areas of North America. But even there the opinions are mixed on this issue. From leaders in non-Southern states, one-half of those we heard from reported that it would be a benefit to them to change the name, but the other half said it would not be a benefit. It is true that the leaders of African-American and other ethnic Southern Baptist Churches indicated that it would be helpful to them.
So how do we proceed to gain a win/win situation for the entire Convention? How can we retain the value of the Southern Baptist Convention brand and at the same time give opportunity for those who desire a different name in their area of ministry to have an acceptable way to do so? How could we remove an obstacle to reaching people for Christ and at the same time stay true to who we are? The name “Southern Baptist Convention” tells who we are, but it does not tell what we do.
We believe we have found a way to do that. We recommend to President Wright that the legal name of the Southern Baptist Convention not be changed for the reasons we have stated and for reasons detailed in previous studies. We further recommend that the SBC adopt an informal or “non-legal” name that could be similar to a descriptor or auxiliary name that would be approved for use by those who would prefer a different name. This would allow us to maintain the strong value of the Southern Baptist Convention name and at the same time suggest an alternate name for those for whom it would be beneficial.
I want you to hear from two of our task force members. Dr. Ken Fentress is pastor of the Montrose Baptist Church of Rockville, Md. He is one of the most gifted pastors in our Convention and has some deep convictions about this issue. After he speaks to us, Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will share his thoughts on this matter.
[Fentress and Patterson speak speak, then Draper resumes.]
Let me summarize again our conclusions. We believe that the equity that we have in the name Southern Baptist Convention is a strong name to identify who we are in theology, morality and ethics, compassion, ministry and mission in the world. It is a branded name that is recognized globally in these areas. We also recognize the need that some may have to use a name that is not associated with a national region as indicated by the word “Southern.” We want to do everything we can to encourage those who do feel a name change would be beneficial without recommending a legal name change for the Convention. We believe we have found a way to do that.
Tonight we are suggesting to the president that he make the following motion to the Executive Committee:
RECOMMENDATION: That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention report to the Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19-20, 2012, that it declines to study or develop a plan and implementation strategy for the adoption of a new name for the Southern Baptist Convention for all the reasons mentioned in the report issued on February 20, 2012, by the SBC president’s name change task force, as well as those in the 1999 report of the Executive Committee on the same subject.
And, further, that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recommend to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, June 19-20, 2012, that those churches, entities and organizations in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention which may desire to utilize a descriptor other than the term “Southern Baptists” to indicate their relationship with each other and their involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention and its ministries, use the descriptor “Great Commission Baptists,” a phrase commended as one fully in keeping with our Southern Baptist Convention identity, and
That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention report to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19-20, 2012, that it will study ways in which the use of the phrase “Great Commission Baptists” might be protected and preserved for use by those churches and institutions which find its use beneficial and will assess how using the phrase in various ways in its communications and publications might be helpful to those groups.
We deeply believe that if the phrase “Great Commission Baptists” is regularly used in publications and promotions of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as in state conventions, associations and churches, that it would provide an identification that not only tells who we are, but what our mission as Southern Baptists is — the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
This is our prayerful report to the president. Thank you for allowing us to report this to him and to you during your Executive Committee meeting tonight.
In addition to Jimmy Draper, the other members of the task force are:
— Michael Allen, senior pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago.
— Marshall Blaylock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.
— David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
— Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board.
— Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board.
— Ken Fentress, senior pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockwell, Md.
— Micah Fries, senior pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo.
— Aaron Harvie, lead pastor of Riverside Community Church in Philadelphia, Pa.
— Susie Hawkins, speaker, Bible study teacher and missions volunteer from Dallas.
— Fred Hewett, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.
— Cathy Horner, Bible teacher and pastor’s wife from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.
— Benjamin Jo, pastor of Hana Korean Baptist Church in Las Vegas.
— R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
— Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
— Bob Sena, retired director of Hispanic resource development and equipping in the North American Mission Board’s church planting group.
— Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee.
— John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.
— Jay Wolf, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.