SBC President Bryant Wright has formed a task force to study a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This announcement immediately brought passionate arguments, tweets, and Facebook statuses on both sides of the question.
Baptist21 believes there is no harm in forming this task force to ask the tough questions about our identity and mission. There is no harm in them bringing a recommendation to the floor of the SBC annual meeting and allowing messengers to discuss and vote on it.
No doubt there will be passionate rhetoric used on both sides as we move towards the SBC in New Orleans. Our prayer is that the discussions will be done in a spirit of humility and with an eye toward our kingdom cause in the world. Along the way, here are some of the main questions we think the task force, and ultimately the whole convention of churches will need to answer about our identity:
1. Identity and Heritage- Can we change the name of our convention without destroying our great heritage?
Baptist21 wants to be clear that we love the heritage of the SBC. There is much to be grateful for here. In fact, if it weren’t for faithful Southern Baptists we would not have received the gospel, at least from a human perspective. Also, there are plenty of recognizable men in the line of Southern Baptists for us to be grateful for… we stand on the shoulders of giants like Boyce, Broadus, Mullins, Truett, Lee, Criswell, Rogers, Patterson and more. These men have passed down to us the gospel, a love for theological education, and a passion for the nations. We have plenty in our heritage to be grateful for… and we would never want to jettison the good things in our heritage. Would a name change threaten that?
On the other hand, there are also some black-eyes in our heritage particularly when we think of the moniker “Southern” in SBC and recognize that slavery was at the heart of our origin. What are we to make of that?
2. Identity and Origin/Purpose- Does the name SBC best fit the purpose for which the SBC was started in the first place?
The heritage question is an important question, but we think the more important question is this one about purpose and mission. The SBC started with one purpose, the propagation of the gospel to all nations. Does a regional identity marker like “Southern” best position us to propagate the gospel among all nations and people groups?
3. Identity and North America- Does the name SBC hinder church planting and evangelism efforts outside of the South?
Almost weekly we have conversations with planters or pastors outside of the south who say something along the lines of “I love the SBC and our heritage, but people around here who are not southern don’t want to be associated with a southern convention.” The truth is that we never intended to be a geographically locked convention because we recognize the call of our King to advance the gospel into places where it is not.
Almost immediately on Twitter last night we saw pastors and planters in the North cheering this announcement as something that will lessen confusion and help them. Freddy Wyatt, Pastor of Gallery church in NYC (@FreddyT) tweeted, “When I tell people in New York City that we are Southern Baptist the typical sentiment is ‘Well go back’.” These matters need to be weighed carefully.
Does the identity “Southern Baptist Convention” create an unnecessary roadblock to kingdom efforts in the cities of North America where there is little gospel witness?
Conclusion- This task force has a gigantic assignment on their hands and many difficult questions to answer, not to mention legal and financial issues that need to be considered. Does the current name hurt our mission? Will a change threaten our heritage? As much as we love our heritage, we think the most important question to be asked and answered by this task force and the convention is, “Does the name SBC best position us to reach this nation and all nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
What do you think?