SBC Life Articles

Not the First Time SBC Has Considered a Name Change


Between 1965 and 2004, the Southern Baptist Convention was asked to consider changing its name at least seven times, rejecting the idea on each occasion.

Some alternate names suggested by various individuals in the past included "United States Baptist Convention," "Baptists for Christ," "United Baptist Churches," and "Agape."

Among the reasons cited for rejecting a change in the past:

• A 1999 opinion by the SBC's attorney stated that amending the denomination's charter to change its name could make the Convention subject to laws requiring changes in its "instruments and practices, its governance structure, and perhaps its polity."

• Popular sentiment was in opposition.

• Difficulties could arise in securing websites with the acronym corresponding to a new name.

• There was no consensus on an acceptable alternate name.

• Churches choosing to use the name "Southern Baptist" in their names or materials had prospered, even in non-Southern areas.

• The name "Southern Baptist Convention" had become a brand denoting a theological position more than a geographical region.

An earlier name-change proposal came in 1965, prompting two years of discussion and study. The study included a survey of Southern Baptist pastors and laypersons which found that only 45.7 percent agreed or mildly agreed that a name change should continue to be explored.

At the 1974 annual meeting, W. A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, moved that the president appoint a committee to study the possibility of a name change. The work was assigned to a committee of seven chaired by Chauncey R. Daley, editor of Kentucky's Western Recorder.

The committee's report in 1975 concluded, "The Committee of Seven understood its assignment by the Convention was to study the existing sentiment on a name change and report its findings to the Convention without specific instructions to make a recommendation. However, in light of its findings it is the committee's considered judgment that the name of the Southern Baptist Convention should not be changed at this time."

Messengers adopted the report.

The topic arose again in 1983 when a messenger from Florida moved that the Executive Committee study the possibility of changing the Convention's name to "The United Baptist Churches." In response, the Executive Committee reaffirmed the SBC's 1975 decision not to change its name.

A 1989 motion called for the appropriate committee to recommend a name describing the Convention's purpose, rather than a geographic region. Once again, the Executive Committee recommended retaining the name, SBC.

The following year, a motion called for "an ongoing committee to . . .propose a 10-year plan" for changing the SBC's name to the "Cooperative Baptist Convention." For the third time in seven years, the Executive Committee, again citing the earlier studies, recommended no change.

In response to two motions at the SBC's 1998 annual meeting, the Executive Committee again considered the feasibility of conducting a formal name-change study. It produced a ninety-one page report, concluding that a formal name change would not serve the best interests of the Convention, and again declined to recommend such an action to the Convention.

In response to its report, a messenger asked the Convention during its 1999 annual session in Atlanta to conduct a "straw poll" on changing its name to the "International Baptist Convention." Messengers defeated the motion, voting not to take such a "straw poll."

Most recently, a motion at the 2004 annual meeting in Indianapolis to authorize the SBC president to appoint a committee to study a name change was defeated on a ballot vote (44.6 percent: yes; 55.4 percent: no).


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