RICHMOND, British Columbia, Canada (BP)–Canadian Southern Baptists are just one vote away from adopting a new name — Canadian National Baptist Convention — to more accurately reflect their geographic location.
A final vote on changing the name will take place at next year’s annual meeting of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists. If the motion passes, Gerry Taillon, national ministry leader for the CCSB, said the convention would be ready by next fall for a full implementation of the new name.
Confusion caused by the word “Southern” in the convention’s title is a key reason for the change, Taillon said.
“To the uninitiated in Baptist and evangelical life, ‘Southern’ is a geographical term,” he said. “To the initiated, it reflects a heritage, a way of doing missions, a denomination [the Southern Baptist Convention] that’s impacting the world and world missions.”
Taillon said he believes the proposed new name accurately reflects “who we are” while reaffirming “our absolute loyalty and our prized partnership” with the Southern Baptist Convention.
“‘Canadian’ reflects our identity. ‘National’ reflects the scope of our churches right across Canada from sea to sea to sea. ‘Baptist’ is our religious heritage and our faith, our confession. And ‘Convention’ is the way that we actually connect our churches together to do more together than we could apart,” Tallion said.
Taillon said the convention has received support from the name change from fellow Baptists in the United States and in Canada.
“They were initially a little bit concerned as to what kind of name we would pick, but the feedback that I’ve got from all of the Baptists so far has been very, very positive,” Tallion said.
The initial vote on the name change was taken at this year’s annual meeting in early July, with the 125 messengers from the 45 churches represented at the annual meeting voting overwhelmingly for the new name.
The vote was the culmination of three years of prayer, study and broad consultations. Jeff Christopherson, president of the CCSB and pastor of The Sanctuary in Oakville, Ontario, said the name change has been a long process partly out of a desire to be sensitive to the memory of Southern Baptist pioneers who began serving in Canada in the 1950s.
“We needed to make sure we went through the process right, because we did want to honor the awesome heritage of those who went before us,” Christopherson said. “This is not about thumbing our nose at anybody.”
Also at the July meeting at Bethany Baptist Church in Richmond, British Columbia, messengers unanimously approved a motion calling on CCSB churches to collectively baptize at least 1,000 people during the next 12 months.
Ray LePage, pastor of Big Rock Baptist Church in Okotoks, Alberta, made the motion after CCSB Share Team leader Paul Johnson reported that 164 fewer people were baptized by the convention’s churches last year compared to 2005.
In 2005, baptisms in the CCSB stood at an all-time high of 899. Last year, that number had slipped to 735. The decline marked the first time since 2001 that there were fewer baptisms compared to the previous year, but that turned out to be a one-year anomaly as baptisms in 2002 began rising again.
Johnson said he suspects this could be a similar situation.
“Having said that,” he added, “we don’t want to ignore it and we certainly don’t want to get discouraged by it. We want to address it and say, ‘What can we do so this doesn’t happen again, especially how we can learn from it?'”
Although baptisms were down last year, church starts are approaching record levels. CCSB Start Team leader Dwight Huffman reported that 25 new churches were planted during the first half of this year.
“We have the possibility of planting more churches this year than we have ever [planted] in our history,” he said.
In other business during the annual meeting:
— Messengers welcomed two new churches, the Bridge International Church in Calgary, Alberta, and Renaissance Bible Church in Rawdon, Quebec.
— Christopherson was re-elected CCSB president. Also re-elected: Rick Lamothe, pastor of Sequoia Community Church in Ottawa, Ontario, as first vice president and Ralph Griggs, pastor of Dovercourt Baptist Church in Edmonton, Alberta, as second vice president.
— Messengers approved a 2008 CCSB budget of $2,456,073, an increase of 6 percent over the current budget, along with a $322,853 budget for international missions, up 3 percent. A $2,027,605 budget for the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary also was approved.
Next year’s annual meeting of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists will be June 30-July 2 at Community Baptist Church in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Frank Stirk is a writer for the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists.