This week the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention approved a recommendation from President Bryant Wright and an illustrious task force of his appointment that the Southern Baptist Convention begin to employ the informal tagline "Great Commission Baptists." The recommendation is for neither a legal change of the convention's name nor a legal dba, but simply for Southern Baptists to have the option to begin to refer to ourselves as Great Commission Baptists as we may wish to do so. Presumably, the Executive Committee or interested Southern Baptists would also take legal steps to register this trademark and protect it from encroachment by available legal means.
I'm clearly on the record in opposition to the way that President Wright went about this (see here), and I stand by those objections. Subsequent events have made me only more concerned that the value of a floor vote of the Southern Baptist Convention is waning. I, for one, do not celebrate that.
And yet, those objections have more to do with the process than with the substance. I have previously expressed my skepticism that name changes will accomplish anything substantive for us. Even name-change proponents are already hedging their bets, insisting that name changes alone will not be fruitful unless accompanied by other more substantive changes. Count me among those who've been saying that all along. Furthermore, count me as someone saying that substantive improvements are effective with or without superficial actions like name changes.
All of that having been said and clarified, I think that the recommendation is pretty good. The name is doctrinally substantive. That this is nothing like "Cru" and "Converge" is a gift from God and a breath of fresh air. Furthermore, the idea of an informal name that churches and entities may use or eschew at their own preference is pretty close to the situation that we have now. Churches and entities decide whether to employ the name of the convention or not. Many churches labor hard to find the most meaningless name possible, and we have entities whose common names evoke little idea of a connection with the SBC. It was my recommendation earlier on that churches in pioneer areas, if they are concerned about the effect of the words "Southern Baptist Convention," come up with something else to call themselves as a regional moniker. The effect of this proposal is little more than that, perhaps. I believe that the task force has done a commendable job. I wouldn't campaign against this recommendation. I'm thankful that it makes an accommodation for people who will bring this up every few years until Jesus comes back if we don't do something (not that I'm confident that this accommodation will change that phenomenon). Maybe this is a good peacemaking measure and should be evaluated on those terms rather than on whether it will accomplish anything at all in winning people to Christ. The task force did a good job.
They may fail anyway. It has happened before.
In the late 1960's, the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention was concerned that "Training Union" might not be the best name for a curriculum, what with the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and all. After careful study, our best and brightest came up with a good name change for Church Training: They would market the materials under the name "Quest." That's a pretty good name. It is short. It describes a journey toward a goal (which is one way to characterize discipleship). It sounds exotic. Slam dunk, right?
Well, there was a problem. You see, in 1969 (when this proposal came to the floor), "Quest" was also the brand name of a feminine hygiene product. The convention's comfort with the old name, coupled with the potential embarrassment associated with the new name, led the messengers to reject the proposal.
People are already using the initials "GCB" to stand for "Great Commission Baptists." Unfortunately, between now and convention time, the ABC network will release one of the most despicable shows in recent memory, ""Good Christian B-----es," under the initialism "GCB." I say that it is one of the most despicable shows in recent memory, because I can hardly imagine ABC releasing "Good Jewish B----es" or "Good Muslim B----es" or "Good Hindu B----es," can you? Christianity: the one faith it's OK to hate. The central theme of the show is that Dallas-area church-going women are a collection of hypocritical, backstabbing, raging misanthropes. Not only is "GCB" not exactly the image that we want to cultivate; it is the very image that we're fleeing, isn't it?
Tweets went out the very first night of the announcement pointing out this unfortunate coincidence. I've been working on my sermon planning retreat and have been unable to respond until now. But I think that this poses a problem for the convention if we adopt this name. Most shows like this one die quick deaths. Maybe this just isn't the right time. In five years, this show will probably be long-forgotten. I do think that "Great Commission Baptists" is too good a name to abandon it (if we have to have any change at all). But I certainly don't want our church associated with this television program any more than is absolutely unavoidable.In my opinion, it would be far better to be associated with feminine hygiene than to be associated with feminine hypocrisy.
P.S.: The convention meeting that rejected "Quest"? It was in New Orleans. Read all about it here.