Monday, September 19, 2011

SBC Name Change Proposal

Tonight at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, President Bryant Wright led the Executive Committee to appoint by fiat a task force to study a name change for the denomination (BP). In a matter of hours, Twitter is already alive with discussion over the proposal. People are likely to take sides on this matter based upon their opinions of the idea of changing the name alone. I'll give my opinion on whether we should change the name of the SBC at the end of this post. For now, I'd like to direct your attention to the procedural intricacies of this proposal.

First, it might be helpful to give a brief review of the history of this concept. The messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention are not as clearly on record in our opposition to Satan and Hell as we are in our opposition to changing the name of our denomination (not necessarily a good thing). It has been voted down and voted down and voted down, starting since long before I realized that I was either Southern or Baptist—since long before anyone discussing this matter today was ever born. In 1974, W. A. Criswell came to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention and asked them to appoint a study committee to explore a possible name-change. The messengers approved the committee, the committee chose not to change the name, and Dr. Criswell honored the will of the messengers.

In 1999, an attempt was made by members of the Executive Committee to initiate the name-change process within the EC rather than on the convention floor. The Executive Committee declined to do so. An excellent report by Augie Boto outlined the advantages of retaining the historic name of the convention.

In 2004, SBC President Jack Graham asked the messengers in the convention meeting to appoint a task force to consider a name change. Graham, astute president that he was, noted that by 2004 this question had come to the convention floor "seven or eight times" and opined that our convention needed in 2004 "to stop meeting and just talking about this…We need to either put it to bed forever or get on with it."

The convention chose to "put it to bed forever" by a considerable margin.

Here's hoping that, when we use "forever" in speaking about the promises of the gospel, Southern Baptists mean something longer than eight years!

The question of a name-change arose during the GCR debates of recent memory, but no name change task force arose out of the GCR report.

And now, SBC President Bryant Wright has chosen to lead the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to take an action that the messenger body of the SBC has explicitly and repeatedly refused to take—to appoint a task force to study a name change. The normal course of affairs is for SBC Presidents who desire the appointment of task forces to ask for the approval of the convention's messengers before doing so, especially on questions of such importance. Why not follow that time-honored process now?

On Twitter, Dr. Albert Mohler reported that Wright had indicated that he followed this process "out of respect for the SBC Executive Committee." I can understand how it would be an indication of respect for the Executive Committee to make them the people from whom Wright sought authorization to take this action. And yet, if it is an action of respect to seek this consent from the Executive Committee, is it not therefore, by Wright's own definition, an action of disrespect of the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention to decline to seek their consent for this action, especially since the seeking of messenger consent is the standard operating procedure of the convention in matters such as this? Certainly, it may be inadvertent disrespect, but it is disrespect nonetheless.

Southern Baptists on various sides of the issues that we face in this day and time are demonstrating what I believe is a dangerous inclination to belittle and disrespect the messenger body in order to accomplish at all costs the will of the empowered few. This threat was evident during the GCR process when anti-GCR voices were privately expressing the opinion that the messengers of the convention COULD NOT instruct the Executive Committee to do anything—that the Executive Committee was not beholden to the messengers of the convention to follow their instructions. This threat was evident during the GCR debate itself in Orlando when the rules of order were violated and the rights of a messenger were trampled underfoot as he attempted to amend the GCR recommendations. But for the courage of a bold lady standing at a microphone, our convention might have done something possibly illegal that day. This threat is evident tonight, when rather than poll the convention messengers to see whether their opinion has changed on the question of appointing a name-change task force, the action has been taken to short-circuit the expressed will of the SBC and to have this task force after all, messengers be…disrespected.

Let no one supporting such a thing ever breathe a word of criticism about unelected, unaccountable activist judges wresting legislative authority out of the hands of the people where it belongs. Let no one supporting such a thing ever utter the slightest complaint about Presidential Czars and Executive Orders bypassing the will of the Congress. People on all sides of SBC debate have adopted an "ends justifies the means" approach to our denominational polity. We need to repent of it. We need to quit it. We need to start acting in good faith.

Now, I promised to offer my opinion of the name change idea itself. Here it is. If this process goes forward to the messengers of the convention, then I will fully support a name-change so long as it removes the word "Baptist" from the name of our denomination. When the will of the messengers has become an obstacle to get around by any means necessary rather than the sacred core of our polity, then we are no longer Baptists, and we no longer deserve to own that name.

63 comments:

Wes Kenney said...

Well said, as expected.

Steve Lemke said...

Good post. Read the SBC Today article in the morning. It has some of the responses in the Executive Committee which didn't make Baptist Press.

Ron P. said...

Astonishing!

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

Had to read your last paragraph twice, er 10 times before I understood it. You are correct, I too will support a recommendation from this task force to change the name so long as it includes the removal of the word "Baptist". As you said, this type of shenanigan proves there is nothing Baptist about taking the decision making process from the hands of the people.

However, this should not surprise us as we are battling once again the inerrancy issue within the convention.

Blessings,
Tim

peter lumpkins said...

Bart,

When I read the BP report of Wright's announcement about what he had approved and whom he had appointed my blood-pressure spiked. If this unilateral act by our president does not slay the skeptical attitude that our convention is definitively nudging toward a top-down, ecclesial polity, then the whole question is lost, and along with it, our Free Church heritage.

A Resolution on Baptist Polity for the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention is already being drafted...

With that, I am...
Peter

Tom Parker said...

Tim:

You said:"However, this should not surprise us as we are battling once again the inerrancy issue within the convention."

Wow!! You are copying and pasting the above on as many blogs as you can.

We are not battling inerrancy in the SBC!

It is just not so.

Why try to create more problems in the SBC where they do not exist?

It is time for a name change with or without Baptist in it.

pastorsteveweaver said...

Dear Bart and other brothers,

I share your concern for Baptist polity and the rights of the messengers of the convention. However, I fear there is a bit of an overreaction here in Bart's post and in some of the comments in this thread.

Here's what I mean: It is impossible to unilaterally change the name of the SBC. It will have to be voted on in two consecutive years at the annual meeting according to her constitution. This is not what Bryant Wright and others are trying to do and if they tried they couldn't.

In Bryant Wright's own words: "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." (http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=36156)

Thus, all the discussion of circumventing Baptist polity misses the intention of the task force.

Of course, you will no doubt counter that the convention has already spoken loudly on this matter. You have demonstrated this well in your post already. I don't, however, believe this fact precludes the issue from being addressed again with the best possible information.

I think (though I don't know for sure) that this is the spirit of this action. I believe that it exhibits the qualities of good leadership that I'm sure that you (Bart, and other pastors) utilize in your local churches. A church may have decided something in the past without the best information. As a pastor, you have a responsibility to lead the flock and help them make the best possible decision with the most pertinent information. The ultimate decision's is the congregation, but the issues need to be presented clearly. This is what I see President Wright doing in this situation.

Please tell me how I'm wrong. :)

BTW, I'm ambivalent about a name change. I love the history and tradition of the Southern Baptist Convention, but I realize that it may be challenging to use the name in certain contexts. I don't think it will harm anything to hear the task force's report, so that the messengers of the SBC can make the best possible decision.

Your friend,
Steve

Lynn Snider said...

Very well said Bart. Thanks for the reminder of how many times this has been addressed, and how many times Southern Baptists have spoken to this issue!

Karen Scott said...

I fear that this is not really an effort to simply change the name of the SBC. It seems to me that this is an effort to begin a full scale identity change as to who we will be in the future.

Pastor James said...

This is a waste of energy. Change the name, don't change the name, it doesn't really matter at all. We continue to be distracted by foolish details which matter little for eternity. "Jesus I know, Paul I know but who are you (SBC)?" I fear this will soon be our epitaph in hell regardless the name we call ourselves unless we get focused on the things which matter.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, welcome the new "Semi-Calvinist Community Church Network, hosted by Google+"

It seems the most dangerous development in Baptist life in the past decade was the realization that Calvinist and Arminian anti-congregationalists have a common enemy.

Pastor-led, or elder-led, just so long as it isn't member-led.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

A few things. First, no one suggested Wright can unilaterally change the name. We know this. However, to suggest it is not problematic for the president to unilaterally appoint a task force on his own without any authority to do such--not to mention a task force on an issue decidedly defeated only recently in SBC life--is hardly sober. This stands as an abuse of the office of president.

In addition, how, please tell, can they possibly study the issue adequately without the necessary funds? The last quote was, if we recall correctly, a cool quarter-mill to get the job done. The task force "volunteers" who say they'll fund their own way surely does not include soliciting the necessary vendors to also "volunteer" their services to study the issue properly. Also, for those task force members who are either denominational or entity employees, who do you suppose is footing the bill for them to participate? Yes, that's right; undoubtedly it will be CP dollars.

Second, the president does not need advice on whether or not to bring this issue to the convention. He is not "the" elected leader of Southern Baptists. We don't have "a leader" like that in SBC polity. We elected Wright for one reason--to represent us, not re-invent us. His appointive powers are limited to those expressly given in written form, which, from what I can tell, do not include making up ad hoc committees with specific duties about changing anything about the SBC.

Finally, you mentioned churches may have decided an issue in the past without the best info. Of course. However, only a mega-church pastor (and perhaps 'elder-ruled' churches) like Wright could get away with unilaterally appointing a committee to study an issue the church had definitively voted down only a few short years earlier.

If, for example, a church had voted 5 years ago not to relocate, what church would take it well if the Pastor announced out-of-the-blue on Sunday morning "I've appointed a task force to study the question of whether or not our church should relocate"? I think it's obvious what'd happen--Fireworks.

Hence, to bring up similar situations in the local church only negates the idea even further.

With that, I am...
Peter

Anonymous said...

Whether or not this issue has been voted on multiple times in past years shouldn't have any bearing on whether or not it needs to be voted on again. If people still feel the same way about it like the did years ago, it will only get voted down again. Simply put, the name needs to change. We are no longer bound by a geographic location as our name implies. It does create a barrier to the Gospel. Sadly, it's a barrier that shouldn't be there, since its only a name. But this doesn't relieve the fact that from experience that name carries some negative connotation amongst the lost and unchurched. Let us cherish our heritage in the name, but not hold it so tightly that we suffocate our future, which is what some of us are willing to do.

wc04 said...

Forget about procedure because that is your clear problem here, would it be better to change the name since we are no longer in the south and the name "Southern Baptist" is really a hinderance to our goals. I am more concerned about that then what our sentiment about times past is or about procedure (Again, I am not asking if procedure was handle right, I am simply asking if we should change the name).

Anonymous said...

Some are completely missing the point. The point is definitively not whether we should debate the name change. Nor is the point whether a debate has merit. Nor is it the point whether we've already voted on an issue and therefore the issue is closed.

The point is, whether the president has side-stepped the Southern Baptist Convention by setting up an ad hoc committee to study an issue the convention has not raised. It's a fairly easy question to answer.

With that, I am...
Peter

Bart Barber said...

Dear Steve,

Brother, thanks for a good comment that helps me to clarify my position. Let's do it with algebra. ;-)

I think we can all agree that it is bad faith and contrary to Southern Baptist polity to have this situation: 1. The messengers vote not to do 'x'. 2. The president of the convention subsequently does 'x' anyway.

Now, if 'x' = "Change the name of the convention," then you are right and I have overreacted. The President has not changed the name of the convention. However, 'x' really equals "Appoint a task force to study changing the name of the convention." That is precisely the question that the convention last faced in 2004 and that it again, for yet another time, explicitly voted not to do. And yet, that's precisely what the President and the EC have done.

I do not have a problem with somebody wanting us to study this. Anyone should be able to go to the convention floor and ask to do that. But when the convention has already voted not to do so, the ONLY way that we should be doing it is if the convention should reverse its previous decision.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

About the merits of changing the name...

1. If there is a name that better and more substantively tells who we are as a people and what core principles guide us as churches, then I would be pleased for us to have the very best name available, as measured by those criteria.

2. The attempt, however, will be to try to find the name that means the least possible. Absolute vacuity will be the prized objective--something like "Guidestone" or "Lifeway" that is a made-up-word that means entirely nothing. I would consider a change to such a name to be an enormous step backwards. This much will be certain: If "Baptist" remains in the name, it will only remain in the name after an enormous fight (whether behind the scenes or on the floor) to keep it.

3. In any event, changing the name of the convention will do LESS THAN nothing to help church planting or evangelism. The church we're helping to plant in Montana is a typical crypto-Baptist church. J. Edgar Hoover would have trouble ferretting out their denominational affiliation from their sign or literature. Any local church can make as little or as much as they desire of their denominational connection.

4. The end result will be that we will ignore whatever the new name is. Churches like mine are not going to change the sign. Churches in pioneer areas are not going to use the new name, either. Even if the new name ceases to be the "negative" that is their embarrassment over our doctrines, it won't be a "positive" either. Why would they use a name that nobody knows and that means nothing?

Tom Parker said...

Peter:

You said:"The point is, whether the president has side-stepped the Southern Baptist Convention by setting up an ad hoc committee to study an issue the convention has not raised. It's a fairly easy question to answer."

I just do not see how the President of the SBC does not have the authority to set up an ad hoc committee?

Bart Barber said...

Tom,

Let's put it this way. Let's presume that, under normal conditions, the president does indeed have that authority. But these are not the normal circumstances. What about the case in which the messengers have explicitly voted NOT to have such a committee. Do you think it is right for the president to appoint a committee over the explicitly expressed objections of the messengers?

Anonymous said...

I guess there are two comment streams, on the name change:
I would be in favor of changing the geo/ethnocentric-historically-linked-to-slavery name with the word "international"

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

If I were starting the SBC over today, I'd probably name it something other than "Southern Baptist Convention." Baptist would stay in. Convention would stay in. Something other than Southern wouldn't cause me apoplexy.

pastorsteveweaver said...

Thanks Bart for the response. I like your use of algebra. I understand your point. But what the convention has rejected previously was a task force designed to recommend action to the convention (similar to the Great Commission Task Force). Wright's task force does not do this. It seems to be (from his statement which I quoted in my first comment) simply an advisory committee for him as president on whether to bring this up to the convention again. It is a bit awkward and a very fine distinction, but I think this distinction protects against any wrongdoing. Thus, I still think you have overreacted. Nevertheless, I am thankful for your post and the awareness that it raises to this issue. There is a real danger here that needs to be avoided. I just don't think Wright crossed that line yet.

Anonymous said...

Tom

If you'll read the by-laws, you'll find specifically what powers are vested in the presidency. And, you'll easily see there is absolutely no accommodation to setting up ad hoc committees as his leisure.

With that, I am...

Peter

Howell Scott said...

Bart,

Thanks for the analysis. Have been at a BCNM Executive Board meeting this week and was unaware of the latest developments until just a few minutes ago. I would say I am surprised with this raw usurpation of power by the ruling elites within the Convention, but this has become standard operating procedure, as you well stated, "the ends justify the means."

The one thing that continues to amuse me about all this is that the powers-that-be in the Convention are using the same principles that President Obama has employed against his opponents since taking office. I'm not sure which would be worse -- that the "leaders" within the SBC are intentionlly using these principles or are only using them "by accident." With each passing day, I think I know which it is. And, as an inconsistent Calvinist, let's just say I don't believe in "accidents."

Bob Cleveland said...

What I haven't seen is any studied information, perhaps just opinions but studied nonetheless, as to how the name "Southern Baptist Convention" hinders the work of advancing the Kingdom. I've heard opinions, but I don't know that the ones I've heard are anything more than simple opinions.

The fact that the messengers have voted not to even study the matter brings to mind the old saw from Despair.com:

"None of us is as dumb as all of us".

E. Turner said...

During Bob Reccord's administration, NAMB commissioned a study of church names. If I remember correctly, specifically the goal was to determine if "baptist" was detrimental. The polling group was not denominational, but secular. They determined the name of the church was irrelevant to whether people attended.

Bart Barber said...

I sure would love to be able to read the results of that study!

Les Puryear said...

Does anyone truly believe that the name "Southern Baptist Convention" is keeping anyone out of the Kingdom of God? Does our current name limit the power of God to change the hearts of men?

For those who say that our name is harmful to the Kingdom, I question whether or not they know the God of the Bible. He is not limited by anything.

Les

Bart Barber said...

Agreed, Les!

Anonymous said...

Funny, I've read the London Confession of 1644, which provides the basis for most later Southern Baptist confessions and formulations. To contend that polity is "sacredly" based around the democratic will of the people is misguided at best and disingenuous at worst. Additionally, as the US grew more democratic, so too did Baptists in their polity.

Be careful not to read the present into the past in your argumentation about Baptist thought and leadership. Leadership has always been exercised by those entrusted with that office. In many cases, leadership's job is to identify things to be corrected. The Philadelphia Confession of 1742 states: "A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church, so called and gathered, for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which He entrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops, or elders, and deacons."

To enshrine practice as "sacred" as though it were somehow derived from Scriptures is foolish. Acts shows how a minority of believers had to challenge Peter and others in their withholding of the Gospel from the Gentiles. This was a small committee of leaders who were acting in a manner as called by Scripture. I don't see this as against "Baptist" traditions. What makes someone a Baptist is not necessarily congregational government, but rather adherence to the idea that regenerate church membership through believer's baptism is the key. Otherwise, New England Congregationalist churches could claim to be Baptists by that standard.

Pastor Mark Mitchell said...

I see the powers that be continue their hyper-pragmatic agenda that has nothing to do with the lingdom of God or depending on the Holy Ghost to reach in people's hearts. Instead they continue to cause disunity and division unnecessarily. The spirit in which all this is being done is not the spirit that comes from heaven above.

C Owen said...

Oh, we Baptists and our contoversies over such important matters as music, versions of the Bible, Sunday night church, what we wear, and now this. The question on any manner should be does it allow us to reach more people (and I'd say those outside the South and overseas would be the best to give us insight on that issue)and does it square with the Scripture (and I think Scripture would be nuetral on a name change--as long as the words in the name lined up with scripture. I'm not so sure you could make a case for Roberts Rules of Order in Scripture by the way). The great solution--we rightly have many 'Biblically-correct' disagreements with the churches of Christ--but the one thing that they got right was the name--Churches of Christ--so let's adopt that name, I'm sure that won't creat any controversy (sic).

Ken Rucker said...

Sounds like the "task force/committee" that the messengers voted down is different in scope and purpose from the task force that Wright put together. For that reason, I believe we should trust the process and see what the task force has to say. What are we afraid of? Are we concerned that they will recommend in New Orleans that we should form a real committee to study a name change, and that the messengers will approve it? If that's what we're afraid of, then we should check our motives on opposing the formation of the task force.

Bart Barber said...

Ken,

I don't see how it is different in scope and purpose. Both are groups appointed by the president to study a possible name change for the Southern Baptist Convention.

So, I think President Wright should trust the process and see what the convention has to say. What is he afraid of? That the messengers will vote against having the task force? If that's what he's afraid of, then he should check his motives.

Lin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My question is how does "Baptist" polity = biblical polity?

Ken Rucker said...

Bart,
As I understand it, the 2004 request by Jack Graham was for a task force that would have reported back to the messengers of the convention and given recommendations directly to the convention since it would have been essentially created by the convention. The task force that Wright has created will report back to the EC, not the convention. Were this task force to come back and provide recommendations for a name change, then I believe the next step would be to ask the messengers of the convention itself to create it's own task force to bring recommendations back. So, yes, from my understanding, the scope and purpose of the two groups is in fact different.

So my question remains (which apparently you liked since you used it yourself)...what are you afraid of in this process?

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

Feel free not to be a Baptist if you believe Baptist polity to be unbiblical. Baptists believe in and support your freedom of religious choice.

Bart Barber said...

Ken,

What you're giving is a distinction without a difference. One might as well say, "The Graham task force in 2004 was going to be formed in JUNE, this one was formed in SEPTEMBER. Totally different!" And yet, the bald assertion that such trivia makes all of the difference is no proof of anything. Your argument does not disprove that the will of the 2004 messengers is not being circumvented; you're merely spelling out the mechanism by which President Wright is doing so.

In fact, the major distinction that you make (this task force reports to the EC, not the convention) is nonsensical given the nature of the EC. The Executive Committee IS the convention ad interim. Reporting to the Executive Committee IS reporting to the convention.

What do I fear? I fear the evolution of a polity in which we elect presidents without debate or careful examination who then have virtually unfettered power to overturn decisions that the messengers have made in our assembly.

Anonymous said...

Bart, you said,"One cannot ignore the phenomenon that an alarmingly growing number of Southern Baptist churches is removing the word "Baptist" from church signs throughout the nation."

What is wrong with that if you are reaching more people? You can still have the same doctrinal statement, give to CP etc... How many new SBC church starts have Baptist in their name?

Ken Rucker said...

Bart,

I think your characterization of the distinction I make is unfair and a misrepresentation, but hey, it's your blog.

So what you "fear" is a change in the polity of the convention and the election of presidents who have "unfettered powers"? I don't think there is any foundation for your "fears'. Fear not, Bart...for the convention itself will not let this happen. Forgive me if I sense that you are being a bit disingenuous as to what you really fear.

Bart Barber said...

Ken,

Fifty years ago people would have said that Baptist churches would never permit congregationalism to be taken away from them. And yet, today, an increasing number of "Baptist" churches have nothing that can legitimately be called congregational church governance ongoing within them. What's more, these non-congregationalist churches are disproportionately the ones from which we elect SBC presidents.

And so, the result is that, increasingly with the passing years, we have presidents of the SBC for whom that very experience—their service as presidents of the SBC—is the one and only experience in their lives in which their ideas actually have to gain the consent of other people before they can be implemented.

To suggest that non-congregationally-minded pastors of non-congregationalist churches never might seek to circumvent congregationalism in the polity of the SBC is, dare I say it, naïve.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

It is indeed possible, although one is ashamed of being a Baptist, to be a Baptist in spite of oneself. And yet, the doctrines are being abandoned as well. Congregationalism is being eroded away. Church discipline is rare. The doctrine of baptism is weakening (consider the examples of John Piper or Henderson Hills, Oklahoma City). I could go on.

That the disappearance of the Baptist name and the disappearance of Baptist doctrines is taking place at the same time—that's no coincidence.

Ken Rucker said...

Probably a blog-debate for another time and place, but what specifically makes a church (in your view) "non-congregationalist", and what first-hand exposure to church business meetings at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church do you have to be able to declare them to be such?

I don't deny my naïveté; however, it just might be my naïveté that makes me "hopeful" that the SBC is moving towards a greater willingness to "put everything on the table" in order to become even more obedient to the Great Commission.

Bart Barber said...

Ken,

I made no specific declaration about Johnson Ferry.

Michael (formerly Anonymous) said...

Bart, I simply am curious how one comes to the conclusion that "baptist" polity or Congregationalism = biblical polity.

My desire is to be biblical before baptist. The first church didn't call themselves baptists. They didn't label themselves as such. I simply do not understand your point of view, so I am asking for further explanation.

The only churches that I have ever been apart of are Southern Baptist Churches. I believe there is no greater network of churches. I am grateful for our history and for our dedication to biblical theology.

However, I'm afraid that like a previous poster stated, we have allowed American democracy to influence our churches more than the teachings of the Bible. I also believe we have allowed the history and traditions of men to out weigh the ministry of God's Word.

I'm not suggesting that I have the answers or that you are wrong. This is just something I am wrestling with and thought that since you have a strong opinion on the matter, that you would be a good resource of information from your perspective.


If you are not interested in such a conversation, I'll simply move on.

Jeff Jones said...

I agree with the need to see if a name change is warranted. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, my heritage goes from Georgia, to North Carolina (since before the Revolution), and finally back to the Pilgrims. I spent some years in the Methodist church, five of those as a local pastor, many more as a lay speaker. I have been back in the Southern Baptist church since 1996.


The first and foremost purpose of our local churches and their associations is to glorify God and do His will. The primary authority for living is the written Word. Denominations serve a useful purpose in helping like-minded Christians who share some common traits fellowship and serve God together. But denominational attributes should never be allowed to get in the way of fulfilling personal and corporate obedience to God's Word, and our personal fellowship with Him.



As Christians, we are citizens of the Father's Kingdom first. As Christians who live in the US, we are blessed to have the nation we have. As Christians who live in the Southern US, we are doubly blessed. :) But where we live pales in comparison to our 1st and final home, and we must never forget that. We are here but for a short time, as sojourners, to do His will. If my allegiance is more to the South (which I dearly love) than to my Lord, then I am in active rebellion against Him. If my allegiance is more to the US (which I also dearly love) than to my Lord, then I am in active rebellion against Him. 100, 1,000, 1,000,000 years from now, you and I as believers will be neither Southern nor American, and it will not matter to us one whit in that eternity.

If the name "Southern" offends the lost or a weaker brother or sister who believes the stereotypes and myths associated with being Southern, then apply the same principle that Scripture gives on eating meat offered to idols in front of a weaker brother who would be offended. If the SBC changes its name, I am no less Southern, no less American, and certainly no less Christian. It is no loss to dispense with those things that are not critical to our faith and our relationship with Christ, in order to reach the lost and edify the saints as we are commissioned to do. I am appreciative of Bryant being a pioneer on this, and "taking the arrows".

In our local church, we offer Christ. Those traits of the Baptist tradition that are not in conflict with Scripture help enrich our worship and our fellowship. As Bryant often points out, we should have everchanging methodologies and an unchanging message. So long as the message is that of Christ, so long as the written Word is still the authority (and especially above man's traditions), so long as our first focus is on Christ and doing His will - the name of our group within the Church Militant is of lesser importance.

volfan007 said...

Jeff,

I just find it simply amazing that the SBC started so many churches out West, and up in the Northeast; whenever it was the SBC, who started those churches. How in the world did that happen with us having a name like Southern Baptist Convention? And, how did we become the largest missionary movement in the world? I mean, with a name like Southern Baptist, how did we do it?


Just scratching my head....

David

PS. Jeff, if we do change the name, then I wont lose one minute of sleep. But, I really think its a huge waste of time, energy, and money.

Bart Barber said...

Michael,

It's a great conversation to have, but probably one that deserves a blog post unto itself. Or, you could read "The Baptist Way" by Stan Norman, "Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches" by John Hammett, etc. I agree with them.

Bart Barber said...

And, with the specific question of the task force in view, I would simply say that it is always the ethical thing to do to abide by the decision-making structure that you've agreed to follow. Even if one were to suggest that Bryant Wright does not believe Southern Baptist polity to be biblical, certainly the fact that he was elected by that polity and has a good-faith obligation to abide by it would make it unethical to sidestep it.

Bart Barber said...

Hey, Michael. I've been blogging a long time. I forget what all I've written. As it turns out, I've already written the post you're asking about.

Here's the second installment, which has a link to the first within it:

Biblical Basis of Congregationalism

Ken Rucker said...

David,

So is your argument, "since it worked in the past, it must be sacred cow that we protect at all costs"? So, regardless if it offends another brother or might be a barrier to fulfilling the Great Commission, we need to keep it, because it worked in the past.

I'm not saying the current name is offensive or is a barrier to fulfilling the GC (that's what the task force should be studying), but if it is and we don't change it, then how is that different from me insisting on my right to eat meat (1 Cor 8 & 10), when doing so causes others to stumble?

Are we more committed to the name "Southern" or to the Great Commission?

Bart Barber said...

Ken,

What mystical bit of knowledge is available to a "study committee" that's not out in the open for the whole world to see? It seems to me that David is simply providing evidence that is in the public domain already.

I authored an entire post using publicly available information and demonstrating how meaningless this sort of thing is.

Although I am not a Calvinist, I actually believe, where the rubber meets the road, in the efficacy of the work of the Holy Spirit in evangelism and church planting. If the Holy Spirit is at work within us, ridiculous trivia like an organizational name will not pose any hindrance whatsoever. If He is not at work within us, then we're wasting our time anyway.

Forget all of this Madison Avenue style nonsense. Let's focus on substance.

volfan007 said...

Ken,

No, the name is not a sacred cow to me. My point is that we have done a whole, whole lot of starting churches out West and in the North...with the name of SBC! It has not seemed to hinder us starting Churches before, so why, all of a sudden, is it such a big deal now? In other words, why is it gonna hinder our mission work all of a sudden? That's what's leaving me scratching my head.

I mean, we've done as much, or more, than any other Evangelical group of Churches on the planet for years and years....all with the name of Southern and Baptist in our name. Now, all of a sudden, this is a big problem?


Also, I have a feeling this is a way for some people, who want to just jello into the greater, Evangelical world, to get rid of "Baptist." And, it would be a way of getting rid of a lot more than just the name.

I dont know, but I suspect that.

David

Ken Rucker said...

David,
I can appreciate your logic, but all I'm suggesting is since there is a possibility that the name "southern" may be a barrier, then why not have an actual bipartisan committee study the potential impact of changing (or not changing) the name)?

Also, I think we should caution ourselves against considering how well we're doing in fulfilling the Great Commission. We may be "doing better than other denominations", but we're not doing very well. We (Southern Baptists) are in decline (http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2011-06-12-baptisms_11_ST_N.htm). As Ed Stetzer said in that article, "this is not a blip, it is a trend". We are in decline while the population trend continues upward. What is the condition of those churches in the North and West? Are they still there? What about the churches that need to be started in similar areas? What about the ethnic churches that need to be started in order to reach our diverse population? I'm not willing to say, "well, our name was good enough to work in the past, so they'll just have to learn how to deal with it".

Now is not the time for SBC'ers to rest on our laurels, but to put everything on the table, in order to reach the mission field God has put us among.

volfan007 said...

Ken,

I think you're swallowing the bait, hook, line, and sinker, on some the rhetoric floating around out there. Brother, like Bart, I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to convert people, disciple people, and start churches. I'm not into Madison Ave. sales techniques a whole lot.

Also, the SBC has done a lot in reaching out to the Black community, and to all the other Ethnic communities out there. We have a lot of Black Churches, Chinese Churches, Latino Churches, etc. in our SBC today! We're doing a whole, whole lot in that area...even with the name Southern and Baptist in our name.

Brother, I believe we'll fufill the Great Commission...not by changing our name, and spending thousands and thousands of CP dollars, which would've gone to missions changing it...but instead, by God's people falling in love with Jesus and WANTING to fulfill the Great Commission.

David

Ken Rucker said...

Bart,

Very good job on that article about the potential need for a name change. I appreciate you linking me to that; however, something tells me you may not be the most objective person in the world with respect to this issue.

Neither am I, admittedly. That's why we need a bipartisan committee to study these implications objectively.

Bart, to be honest, I am a bit shocked how you can call the concerns of fellow brothers in the Lord "meaningless", "of no substance", "ridiculous trivia", and "nonsense". Proves my point about your "objectivity".

I am not a fan at all of Madison Avenue tricks either....but you gotta have name, and your name communicates the image you want to portray. Even you chose a "name" for your blog.

Ken Rucker said...

David,
If you saw my church, you would swallow your own words about falling in love with marketing ploys. I laughed when I saw that. Furthest thing from the truth.

As far as calling the concerns of fellow brothers in the Lord "rhetoric"...well, you may be right, but I'll let you look them in the eyes and tell them directly.

And your point about wasting thousands of CP dollars? Yep, there's quite enough wasting of CP funds going on already.which is why I must now bow out of this discussion.

It's been lively, and interesting. Blessings to all of you. I'm gone....till the convention. :)

Bart Barber said...

Ken,

Is it that ideas, once they are held by Christians, cannot possibly be nonsense? Or is it that nonsensical ideas, once they are held by Christians, must not be recognized as such—that Christians, unlike the remainder of the population—are somehow better off if their nonsensical ideas remain unchallenged?

Ken Rucker said...

Bart,

This will be my final post, as I mentioned to David...I've wasted enough time on this already.

Ofcourse I don't think that the ideas of Christians should go unchallenged. Amazing that you got that from my comment. What utter nonsense! (sorry, I couldn't help myself) :)

I think it is our nature to diminish the validity of someone else's concern if we do not hold that same concern. I just don't think it's "kind" to do so.

I'm out...thanks for the banter.

Bart Barber said...

I understand. It's hard to know when to exit. Sometimes you just have to quit.

By the way, I got that from your comment because you said that you were shocked that I would label in that manner the ideas (concerns) of other brothers. I think it is a fair reading of your comment to have understood you to be suggesting that there was impropriety in having done so.

volfan007 said...

Ken,

I was not saying that you, personally, use Madison Ave. techniques. I was saying that using Madison Ave. techniques, like changing the name of the SBC to make us more "marketable," is people depending on Madison Ave. techniques.

Also, your view of "its okay to waste thousands and thousands of CP dollars, because we're already wasting CP dollar" is mystifying to me, Bro. I dont want any CP dollars to be wasted. That's God's money, to be used for God's work. I just dont think spending that amount of money for something so frivilous and needless as a name change of the SBC is worth it.

God bless you, Brother. I hope you dont read anger into anything I've been saying, because if you do, then you'd be wrong. I'm not angry. I just dont agree with the ones, who are promoting this. There is a difference.

David

Mark said...

Read the book," The Bible, The Baptists and The Board System" and you will see where this sort of stuff comes from.As far as the name change is concerned, change it. I used to be against doing this. Now I think it ought to be changed to protect the good names of those pioneer members of long ago. Boyce, Graves, Dayton and many others deserve better than to be thought to be part of the beast the SBC is today.