The ??? Baptist Convention: Considering Bryant Wright’s Task Force Recommendation

I thought that Bryant Wright did a great job leading the SBC last year in Phoenix.  Now, he is at the top of my buddy list again for appointing a task force to study the issue of changing the name of the SBC.  I’ve been through this debate before and I have made my views clear – that our regional name is an unnecessary hindrance to SBC growth outside of the deep south.  I would love to see the name change happen, but I doubt that it will anytime soon.

Bart Barber has written a very different look at this, one that I understand but believe misses several points.  You can read Bart’s opinion here.  His analysis is always worth reading, but I question a few of this assertions.  Bart points to the fact that the convention has dealt with this issue several times in the past and has always decided to keep the name – a fact that cannot be denied.

He points out that in 2004, the convention voted against appointing a task force to study the issue, after president Jack Graham said, “We need to either put it to bed forever or get on with it.”  Bart implies that this should have been perhaps the last time this issue ever came up.  However, I would note two things.  First, this was a statement by Jack Graham and not an official part of the motion, as I understand it.  Second, no action by any convention ever prevents a future convention from acting on that same issue and even changing its positions.  What was voted in the 2004 convention is not binding on the messengers of the 2012 convention.

What seems to have chafed Bart most is the fact that in distinction to the previously used process and that which Dr. Graham used in 2004, Wright simply appointed a task force that will report to the Executive Committee.  He sees this as an “action of disrespect” toward the messengers of the convention and he said that there is a growing trend (by implication, evidenced here by Bryant Wright) of “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.”  Wright is bypassing and disrespecting the convention messengers to accomplish “at all costs” what the “empowered few” want.

I think these are unfair criticisms.  Many oppose the idea that the name of the SBC should not be changed.  It is fair to say that you think that the appointment of a task force should only be done by the convention.  These are legitimate opinions.  However, they are not authoritative mandates and Bryant Wright is not doing anything wrong or unseemly. I would make these points:

  • No convention president is required to do things the same way that previous convention presidents did them.  Dr. Graham did things his way, but it is not incumbent on Bryant Wright to do it the same way.  The procedure that is being followed is a constitutional and acceptable method of handling this.   Wright is doing nothing wrong.
  • Again, as I understand it, Wright is following proper procedure here.  In other words, under the polices and procedures of the SBC, he has the right to do what he is doing.  Bart is essentially criticizing him for following the rules, just not the same way it was done in the past.
  • There is nothing wrong with bringing up an issue that has previously been acted on by a previous convention.  The regenerate membership resolution, which Bart supported, was defeated more than once before it finally passed.  The fact that it was defeated at one convention just made people try harder the next.
  • Wright was clear that this matter would be brought before the convention’s messengers after the study (where any recommendation to change the name will almost certainly be defeated).  They are not being bypassed, or disrespected.
  • The idea that Wright is doing something disrespectful and elitist is unfair, I believe.  Wright is operating in compliance with convention bylaws and procedures (as far as I know).  To disagree with him is fair. To level the kind of charges that Bart has leveled against him is unfair.  I believe his criticism has gone well beyond what is warranted.

I think that Bart goes way beyond what is appropriate in his last statement.  He suggests that if this motion comes before the messengers, we should remove the name Baptist from the convention.

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.

That strains credulity.   There is nothing anti-Baptist about a president appointing a task force to study an issue and bring a recommendation to the EC.  There is nothing anti-Baptist about the Executive Committee bringing a motion to the messengers of the SBC in 2012 with a recommendation.  There is nothing anti-Baptist about the 2012 convention dealing with an issue that has been dealt with before.  Just because I might not like an action, does not make that action anti-Baptist.

I think it makes sense to consider changing the name of the SBC, though I do not think it is likely to happen.  And I do not think there is anything shameful or unseemly about the process.

Just the Facts

The Baptist Press article presents a much less ominous picture of the process.  It is very easy to get facts wrong in discussions such as this.

1)  Bryant Wright gave the reasons for his concern about the SBC’s name.

“First, the convention’s name is so regional. With our focus on church planting, it is challenging in many parts of the country to lead churches to want to be part of a convention with such a regional name. Second, a name change could position us to maximize our effectiveness in reaching North America for Jesus Christ in the 21st century.”

He claims:

  • Our convention name is regional.  That seldom seems to matter to Southerners, but it is an obstacle outside the Deep South.
  • He believes a name change will help us be more effective in church planting and denominational work in the future.

I agree with him even if we are a minority.  Our denomination’s name is not sacred it and changing it will not compromise who we are.  I think it would help.

2)  He wants to study the issue.

Seems wise to me.  So, he appointed the task force, which will study the ramifications of such a change and report back to the EC with its information.  Here is what Wright said.

“I am going to ask this task force to consider four questions: 1) Is it a good idea, that is, is there value in considering a name change? 2) If so, what would be a good name to suggest? 3) What would be the potential legal ramifications of a name change? 4) What would be the potential financial implications?”

He is going to ask:

  • Is it a good idea?  There are pros and cons that need to be discussed.  I’m not sure that a convention floor discussion is the best place to study this.
  • What would be a good name?  That has always been a sticking point to me.  I think the name should be changed, but I have never been able to come up with a good one.  If we had done this years ago, Cooperative Baptist Convention would have made sense.  Not so much now.  I’ve had several discussions with people about this and never have been able to figure out a solution.  Maybe they can come up with something good.  That would change the discussion.
  • What legal issues are there?  I’ve been told by people who oppose the name change that there are serious ramifications that attach to a name change.  I’m not a lawyer, but these issues should be studied.
  • What will it cost?  Right now, if it is expensive to do it will be a huge problem.  So, the potential financial considerations must be studied.

3)  Wright addressed the issue of “bypassing the messengers.”

The issues Bart raised were also raised by some members of the EC.  Bryant said this in response.

“Obviously, this is not an official committee empowered by a vote of messengers to an SBC annual meeting. 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.”

It is not the process previously followed, but it is a constitutional and acceptable procedure.

4)  An interim report is expected February 20-21.

The task force will bring a report to the EC then (if all goes well.)

5) Two consecutive conventions must approved any recommendation.

If a recommendation is brought forward and passed by the EC, it will have to come to the 2012 and 2013 conventions. A majority at each convention would have to approve the name change.

It is very hard to change the constitution and I doubt it will happen.  But it can hardly be said that the messengers will be bypassed.  They will get two cracks at this before the name is changed.

6)  The members will pay their own expenses. 

Since this is not a convention-approved task force, the members will pay their own expenses.  Again, this does not seem like the elitist action of someone attempting to have a few rule the many.  It is being done openly and with honor and any action will come before the convention – twice.

7)  The task force members are:

  • Michael Allen, senior pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago.
  • Marshall Blaylock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.
  • David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
  • Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board.
  • Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board.
  • Ken Fentress, senior pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockwell, Md.
  • Micah Fries, senior pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo.
  • Aaron Harvie, lead pastor of Riverside Community Church in Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Susie Hawkins, speaker, Bible study teacher and missions volunteer from Dallas.
  • Fred Hewitt, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Cathy Horner, Bible teacher and pastor’s wife from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.
  • Benjamin Jo, pastor of Hana Korean Baptist Church in Las Vegas.
  • R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
  • Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Bob Sena, retired director of Hispanic resource development and equipping in the North American Mission Board’s church planting group.
  • Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee.
  • John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.
  • Jay Wolf, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

This is hardly a committee of angry young Baptists.  I wish there were a few more representatives from outside the Deep South states, but this is a committee that will bring back a well-thought out recommendation.  It seems like a great task force.  (Go Micah Fries!)

8.)  The Task Force is going to listen to US!

At the convention we were told they would be listening to us.  Bryant Wright seems to be taking that seriously.

Here’s Wright’s quote.

“I want the task force to have the benefit of the best thoughts and ideas individual Southern Baptists have about a potential new name for the convention. In that regard, I am having my web team create a place where Southern Baptists can give their input about what a possible new name might be.”

Wright’s website is Pray4SBC.com.  It is supposed to go live today, Sept. 20.

Conclusion

I wrote this for two reasons.

1)  I felt Bart’s criticisms were unfair.  His opinions are valid, of course, but I think his criticisms went beyond what was warranted.  That is not meant to be derogatory toward Bart, whom I respect.  I just wished to express my disagreement.

2)  I am excited about the process and think it was handled well.  I wanted the SBC Voices readers to hear the facts.

I know that there will be one or two of our contributors who will likely not agree with what I have said.  At SBC Voices, you are more than welcome to write and I will publish articles that take the counterpoint to my points.

Comments

  1. Bill Mac says

    I for one would welcome a name change. (clarification: changing the word “Southern”, not “Baptist”.) I see nothing unseemly about this. We choose leaders, let them lead. Nothing will be forced on us, and I doubt the southern constituency will allow this to go very far anyway.

    It may be a Calvinist plot, but if so, I haven’t been let in on the details. Or have I? ;)

  2. Bill Mac says

    I just did a quick round of the blogs. Holy overreaction Batman!

    Ironically, I did see a suggestion (worded differently) that this might be a Calvinist plot. I must have ESPN.

    • says

      Yeah, there’s a bit of overwrought hysteria, isn’t there? What concerns me is the misrepresentation of what is going on. I disagreed with Bart’s interpretation, but at least he stayed in the ballpark of the facts.

      Some of the reactions have been not only hysterical but also way outside the realm of the facts. Wright has been accused of abusing presidential powers. It is an unfair accusation contrary to the facts.

      I am amazed at the emotional investment some people have in the name Southern. Wow.

      But the hysterical accusations being made against an honorable man like Bryant Wright are disgusting.

  3. says

    Dave, have you ever been told that you are far too sensible and reasonable to be a blogger?

    Wright wanted a blue-ribbon group to look at the thing. We aren’t spending any money on it. Nothing is proposed.

    The convention in session can quickly, summarily, and loudly nix any recommendation on a name change if they wish.

    • Tom Parker says

      Dave Miller:

      You have written an excellent article here!! It is time IMHO to make a name change. I have no problem with Baptist being in the name, but it is time for the part called (Southern) to be removed.

      I just do not see the world coming to an end over a simple name change.

      Just my thoughts.

      BTW, I 100% agree with you that it is unfair how Bryant Wright is being portrayed.

  4. says

    Did you know that any Southern Baptist can appoint and authorize a Task Force to study ANY issue in the Convention and as long as the members don’t receive Convention funding it requires no vote of any body, whether EC or annual meeting?

    If the Committee was reporting directly to the Convention or was funded by the Convention, then there would be procedural issues here. but it’s not that kind of Task Force/Committee, and they may in the end simply advise Wright to not introduce a motion for considering name change at the next Convention. By our own polity, Wright didn’t have to even inform the EC he was doing this and could have simply showed up at the next Annual Meeting with a motion (though I believe under parliamentary procedure it would be appropriate for someone who was not the chair to make such a motion).

    What’s more Baptistic than starting committees anyways?

    • Andy Miller says

      I agree. If it’s not wrong for us to start a self-funded task force, why is it wrong for the SBC president? The issue seems to be deep skepticism with any action, whatsoever, done by those in leadership positions. I think the tea party skepticism in the political world has affected our view of leadership in the convention. Can’t we give a little more grace to our brothers in Nashville than our officials in Washington? I know every pastor would appreciate getting the benefit of the doubt when he suggests a new idea to his church. Not every proposal is the result of power-hungry despotism. Not every task force is a conspiracy to undermine local church autonomy.

    • Lydia says

      So Al and Kevin, who are SBC employees, will be paying their own way? Will they take vacation time for this when they are away from their duties? Anyone here who thinks pastors are going to pay their own expenses out of their own pocket and their church is not paying for it, is being a bit naive. So, in the end, the SBC is paying for it but it won’t go to missionaries.

      • Aaron says

        Local churches are autonomous and can choose to support their pastors in any way they desire, including travel expenses for various reasons.

  5. Greg Harvey says

    As a transplanted Texan living in Iowa who once lived in the Southern Hemisphere (on the other side of the Equator for all you “Southern” Baptists), I’ve seen both sides of the fallacy of the name “Southern”.

    But the main reason I believe the convention should consider a change in name is a final repudiation of its slaveholding heritage that came from the split from mission societies that would not appoint slaveowners as missionaries. The rest of the reasons are good reasons. This one is an excellent one.

    I believe the term Baptist should be retained as well, but it should only be retained on the condition that we commit to baptisms as part of the discipleship process and not the end of the evangelistic effort. Using them as a (sometimes lone) measurement of righteousness probably was always a bad idea.

  6. Dave Miller says

    For clarity, I’m not sure that a name change is a good idea. It makes sense to me, but I do not have all the facts. Wright is in the same place. He thinks it makes sense, but he wants to get the facts.

    He’s not trying to put one over on us, bypass us, or lord it over us.

    He’s trying to get information to make a reasoned recommendation.

  7. says

    I oppose the SBC name change for several reasons. Everyone who wants to know, knows who the Southern Baptist Convention is and what we stand for. Changing the name brings in a lot of confusion.

    The American Baptist Churches, USA is still known as being the old Northern Baptist Convention. And they are confused with the American Baptist Association, etc. By the way, a name change didn’t seem to bring the ABC much prosperity in the South or much of anywhere else.

    The SBC can even be defined with pride in the sense of previously being a regional convention, but now with churches in all state of the Union.

    Other regional names have survived and prospered. Kentucky Fried Chicken does well in Texas. I can personally testify to this, as recently as two weeks ago.

    The SBC name change issue goes back at least to W. A. Criswell in the previous century. As we have chosen to do in the past, I hope we stay with a name that has served us well.
    David R. Brumbelow

    PS – I am, however, thinking of starting one or two Task Forces myself :-).

  8. says

    I’m in agreement that Wright should not be vilified over this issue. We all have our “pet” issues and the convention name is certainly that for some folks. it’s unfortunate that we are so ready to strike out at one of our own over these things. We need to find a way to reduce friendly fire accidents and proceed with reasonable interaction.

    Having said that, I believe we just need to leave the name alone. If we really think that changing the name of our convention is going to result in church growth, more salvations and greater discipleship then we are fooling ourselves. Maybe I’m more on the heritage and tradition side of things, but I’m not opposed to change. I just think we should closely examine what changes and reasons for them. I have to believe that is exactly what Wright is doing.

    It’s funny how we invest so much passion in things like this. Back in the 1st Century when Paul and his crew were “turning the world upside down” with the Gospel, what name were they concerned about? The name of Christ. They devoted themselves to prayer and to the power and direction of the Holy Spirit. If we really want to see growth in our convention, I think we could learn alot from that model. We are too consumed with “marketing” ideas it seems at times. I believe we could call ourselves the Bubbleheaded Baptists and see massive salvations, church growth and discipleship if we are exalting Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit and on our knees in deep, sincere, heart wrenching prayer.

    Randy

  9. says

    Dave, this is an excellent article. The results of the task force should give us a “pro’s” and “con’s” list to where we can properly weigh the issue. I’m interested in their results.

  10. Benji Ramsaur says

    Does anyone know if any of the past SBC presidents have appointed a task force without the use of the convention’s money?

  11. John Wylie says

    In our town we have a church named “First Southern Baptist Church” it’s called that because it’s not the First Baptist Church. John Bisagno once pastored the First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, OK. Many churches in the SBC incorporate the term Southern in their name. Anyhow my point is that should also be considering in this discussion the possible impact on churches and seminaries if the SBC changes its name. For the record, I’m against the name change, as in the long run I don’t think it will be beneficial at all. David’s statements about the ABCUSA above serve as a prime example.

    • Dave Miller says

      There are a lot of unintended consequences to the name change, John. That is why I think a task force is a good idea here. Look through these issues. And it is kind of a blue ribbon task force, especially since that added a BLOGGER (Micah Fries).

      I believe and hope they will be thorough.

      Here’s my stand: I think a name change would be VERY helpful if we want to truly become a national force, not just a regional denomination. But when I put that forward in my article a while back, several issues were raised. Legal issues. Unintended consequences.

      A task force seems like a reasonable way to answer these questions.

      • NateDogg1 says

        Dave, we already are truly a national force. We’re already an international force. This has nothing to do with us being “just a regional denomination.” It is a slam at our heritage, plain and simple. The fact that it has come up before does not negate this. I’m not about villifying Bryant Wright. But the issue has been dealt with many times over, and some of us are tired of having to apologize for what some of our ancestors did. A task force (even a self-funded one) is a waste of time and effort that could be put to better use elsewhere.

      • Dave Miller says

        Nate,

        1) Most Baptists I’ve talked to who live outside the Deep South agree that the name is not helpful. From your comment, I surmise you are a southerner. To you, Southern culture and heritage is a source of pride. But when we lead with that in our name, we turn off a lot of people.

        2) Racism is not just something our ancestors did. When I pastored in Virginia, I saw racism firsthand among “good Christians” and even deacons and leaders in my church. I’m not saying that holding on to the name Southern is racist, but I do think it is, for some, an act of cultural preservation – and therefore unwise.

        • NateDogg1 says

          Dave, I am a Southerner, and proud to be one. I’ve also lived, worshipped, and ministered vocationally in areas outside the Deep South. Never was our name an issue. So please don’t patronize me with the assumption that I’ve never been outside the Bible belt.

          You are correct in your comments on racism. I’m not talking about racism. Racism exists everywhere, among every people group. The name Southern is not being threatened with excisement because of racism; but because of slavery. I’ve never owned any slaves, Dave. Neither have you, or anyone you’ve ever known personally in this country, North, South, East, or West.

          All labels hold negative connotations to some people. Plenty of folks don’t like Baptists in general–and I’ve met more of those than people concerned with Southern.

          The Southern Baptist Convention was founded by good and godly men who desired to see the lost come to know Christ, and to be personally involved in missions. I can’t see any reason not to take some measure of pride in our heritage. This act is no different than SWBTS painting over its mural of B. H. Carrol because his cigar offended contemporary cultural sensitivities.

          Changing our name by removing Southern from it is not going to open the floodgates north of the Mason-Dixon. We are not going to see some sudden influx because we try to hide our identity. We’re going to cost ourselves millions that could be spent in better pursuits, and we’re going to confuse people.

  12. says

    Anyone can start a task force, committee, or whatever—

    However, if the President of the SBC starts one, it’s guaranteed to be placed in the Order of Business. Try being a non-famous member of the SBC and have that guarantee with your own task force. You won’t get it.

    So there is a difference: anyone else’s task force would face an uphill battle for 5 minutes of floor time. This one will get its recommendation endorsed from the platform of the SBC and receive all the publicity Baptist Press can give it.

    This is a use of power. Whether or not it’s an abuse of power will be seen if Dave’s right on point #8: that this committee will actually listen.

    • says

      Note: you don’t elect a man to a presidential office and expect him to not use his power. So, this is Bryant Wright using the office to accomplish something he thinks is necessary.

      That is not inherently bad. It comes back to how this plays out the rest of the way.

    • says

      Can this Task Force actually present as a committee on the floor? I was assuming they would publish their findings pre-convention and have an individual messenger present a motion they agreed upon.

      • says

        Depends on how this is handled. The more likely scenario, since this is starting with the EC and the goal is to bring a report back to the EC in February is that the motion will be presented from the EC.

        Here will be the difference: if you make a motion in New Orleans, it will be automatically referred out to the Order of Business Committee. If you make a motion for a name change (which is a constitutional change) it then gets referred to the EC for study and report the next year. So, motion in 2012, report from the EC in 2013, it takes until 2014 to make it official.

        The upside of presidential support for the name change motion will be that it receives a definite time slot. Same thing happened in 2009 with the GCR motion: it was, technically, made on the floor by a single individual, but the order of business had already planned the time to discuss/debate it.

        Not saying that’s bad, it depends on how it is handled from September to June. But it’s not the same for someone who controls the flow of business at the Convention itself to set a committee as it is for someone who is a simple messenger.

  13. says

    The biggest obstacle to a name change is still this one:

    There is no compelling alternative.

    I’m a Midwesterner preparing to church plant in the Northeast who does see the “Southern” part of the name as an obstacle (albeit a small compared to the offense of the Gospel itself). I’ve heard probably 50 name change suggestions and most if not all carry baggage of another form (or are already in use). That’s why I’m not getting my hopes up too much.

        • John Wylie says

          Just as long as it’s not the Cool Hip Relevent Progressive Network. The Baptist General Conference changed their name to Converge Worldwide.

          • Dave Miller says

            There is a “Church of the Open Bible” and a “Church of the Open Door.”

            After Phoenix, I’m thinking of something on the order of “The Church of the Open Collar.”

        • Dave Miller says

          There is a denomination called “Great Commission” – not Baptist, but evangelical.

          I hope we don’t have a “Guidestone”, “Lifeway” or “Converge” type suggestion, but if a name change is in the offing, it may well be something like that.

          The Conservative Baptists did a dba as CBAmerica. Some have suggested we do a dba to get around our legal issues.

          • says

            And a dba would be something that would only take 51% of one convention instead of making a constitution change, so we could be something other than the SBC by next June.

  14. bapticus hereticus says

    Change the name; keep the name; either way, given the question has been raised … again, precious energy will be expended on an issue in which the result will be more erosion of the influence of the entity. The naming of the SBC is not its problem, nor will changing the name of the SBC do much, if anything, to make it a more effective, desirable institution. The problem with the SBC and other religious entities is that it and they are squandering energy and voice by focusing on issues irrelevant to people looking for or seeking deeper meaning in their lifes, not to mention providing grounds for asking the question, “especially given the current issues facing our community and this and other nations, does the church have anything of significance to contribute?”

  15. Bill Mac says

    This isn’t really about whether a name change is a good idea, it’s about the propriety of investigating whether a name change is a good idea.

    It is also about whether SBC individuals or entities have the right to decide issues in perpetuity (eg: we voted to never consider this again).

    And lastly, it is about jumping to the worst possible conclusion and assuming the worst possible motives of a fellow Christian and Southern Baptist, who happens to be the elected leader of the convention.

    • Dave Miller says

      Hear! Hear!

      Bill Mac swings, it’s a high fly ball, deep to left field. It’s high. It’s far. It’s deep. See ya!

      (That is the Yankees’ radio announcer’s home run call.)

      Excellent analysis, my man.

  16. says

    How about have Keanu Reeve’s do an advertising spot for the name change as Bill from Bill and Ted’s Excellent adventure and call the convention “Wyld Stalyons!!!!”

      • says

        Well, it was a toss up between Bill and Ted’s and Return of the Jedi but I thought references to the Dark Side would be just a little bit too much of a softball for some people, so….

  17. Blake says

    As others have said, I’m all for a name change but the good ones have all been taken. I’m a Northerner and proud of it and don’t care to identify in name with a denomination that doesn’t represent me. The vast majority of people I’ve met that are knowledgeable enough about denominations to know the differences between them express negative opinions of the SBC often even if they are otherwise solid conservative evangelical Christians. I wish a name change were possible but I don’t think the convention would ever approve it unless the annual meeting were in the Twin Cities in January. Also, the very small (~120 students) seminary I’m attending is looking at a name change and their estimated cost is around $200,000. This suggests to me the SBC couldn’t do this without spending tens of millions on it. I bet most Northerners won’t even want to spend that kind of money on a name change.

  18. Jon says

    Is there an e-mail going around? I’m hearing a lot of name-change among independent Baptists (mostly dropping “Baptist”); I’m beginning to wonder if there is a common thread.

    This seems like a symptom of our current state/national confusion. We’re supposedly anxious that no one wants to be part of a Southern convention. But the answer to that is State Conventions, isn’t it? You may not like the SBC, but doesn’t the California Baptist Convention, or the Baptist Convention of New York get the geography issue right?

    The answer must be “no” for Bryan Wright, and the current leadership. Why not?

    Which brings us back to the two questions that are preoccupying Convention life these days: What does a Convention do? And what does a State Convention do that a National Convention doesn’t? I am afraid that most of our leaders, if pressed, would say “we don’t know, but there’s only enough vision here for the one of us.”

  19. Steve Young says

    I am not excited about a name change either way. I am okay with SBC and I would be okay with a sensible name change. Here is the deal – a name change will not change our reality. We will not plant 100’s of churches in the Northwest (i am in Montana) because we change our name. We will not lose churches in the South if we change the name. Sometimes a “brand” is accepted and is strong because of the product, not the name. Two examples: First, the L.A. Lakers have done pretty well as a brand that has its roots in Minnesota. Second, Mountain Dew was able to remake its image of a hip, young, soft drink without change to the name. (until the recent throwback Mt Dew, those my sons’ ages did not know of the hillbilly popping the cork out of the jug – “yahoo Mt. Dew.”)

    Now, this does not mean a change is wrong, just as long as we realize changing the name will not change our work for the better. And if we have to be constantly referred to as “formerly known as” then what’s the point.

    Steve in Montana

  20. says

    Let me add my 2 cents…I am a little disappointed there are not more reps from outside the south…but after being in the Northwest for 35 years you kind of get used to being overlooked and left out of the loop. Secondly, I applaud Pres. Wright for taking a thoughtful and careful look at the issue. After 35 years of serving various churches in the Northwest as both an associate and senior(i.e. fancy way of saying one and only) pastor I honestly don’t know if a name change will really matter all that much.
    Looking forward to what the task force proposes…

  21. Bill Mac says

    I wonder, if this is truly the egregious abuse of power that is being suggested, if there will be calls for impeachment. Is there a mechanism for removing a sitting SBC President?

  22. Justin Owens says

    Dave,

    After reading other blogs today about this issue, thanks for actually sticking to what Bryant Wright said! I think way too many people wrote pieces about this without actually reading what Wright said.

    • Justin Owens says

      And I don’t want to rehash the GCR… but it seems a lot of the criticism for Wright’s actions comes from those who were heavily opposed to the GCR. Just an observation.

      • says

        It’s a possibility. I think that there are some raw nerves related to the GCR and the whole process that are easily inflamed. Some folks felt (and apparently, still feel) that things with the GCR were top-down and secretive, and now here comes another “Task Force” but this time it’s not even approved at the SBC. I haven’t taken the time to compare lists, but there’s definitely some overlap in the two committees.

        Thinking through those lenses, the knee-jerk frustrations are less surprising to me.

        After all, most of the respondents I’ve seen are no less honorable or Great Commission-minded men than Bryant Wright is. Do they not get the benefit of the doubt that their motives are also as clean as possible?

        • Justin Owens says

          Doug,

          Thanks for pointing that out. I don’t mean to question anyone’s motives. Just the fact that many blogs (& comments on those blogs) aren’t addressing what actually took place and are crying foul against Wright without actually considering what he said.

  23. Blake says

    Anyone have objections to “Evangelical Baptist Convention”? It’s not taken and I don’t think we’d be confused with the Evangelical Baptist Convention of India or Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Convention of Canada. We could add “American” to the front or “of America” to the end if need be.

      • Blake says

        Thanks Tom! How about Assembly or Assemblies of Evangelical Baptists? Convention sounds very business like. Assembly/ies feels less formal and more representative of how our free church ecclesiology works at a national level.

        • John Wylie says

          Even though I would prefer to leave the name alone, I actually would be alright with your suggestion. It is descriptive as to our identity and purpose.

  24. BDW says

    Dave,

    Can you really say that what Wright is doing in this instance is constitutional? He’s not working within the system – so does the SBC constitution even apply? Wright’s task force of advisors is outside the denominational structure.

    This task force does remind me of the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative sprearheaded by Jonathan Merritt. Merritt pulled together a group (similar to the makeup of this task force) including elite, well-known Southern Baptists to stake out a position (pro-environmental action/regulation) that the SBC had previously rejected.

    While not completely the same thing, I do recall a good bit of outcry from some Southern Baptists – especially the ERLC – who were upset that this group was side-stepping the SBC.

    • Dave Miller says

      To turn your point around, why would there be an outcry about Merritt’s task force – because people so strongly disagreed with the environmental beliefs he promoted. Procedural disagreements often mask philosophical divergence.

      I think that is at work here. Had Wright formed a task force to study how to promote expository preaching, there would not have been such an outcry.

      My suspicion is that much of the outcry about procedure is because of opposition to the idea.

    • Dave Miller says

      And I have not seen anyone yet make an argument that what he is doing is outside the boundaries of his constitutional authority as a president. Bart’s argument was that he diverged from past procedures and that since the convention voted down a task force previously it should be the convention that approves the task force now.

      I’m not saying there is no merit in that, but I think that Wright is acting in accord with the powers and authority granted him as SBC pres.

      If someone can show he is acting outside of his authority, I’d like to see that argument.

      I know, from previous terms as moderator and president of Baptist entities that the chair usually has the power to appoint ad hoc committees to study an issue. That is what was done here.

      • BDW says

        I suspect you are right that the outcry would not be significant if the task force was to study something widely embraced like expository preaching.

        Maybe this comes down to not a question of whether what Wright did was permissible (it seems it was), but whether it was wise.

        I think one could support the Task Force (acknowledging Wright was within his power) while also agreeing that Wright’s actions in this instance are unprecedented (any evidence of a past President selecting an unofficial committee?). Of course, while his move doesn’t seem to violate any part of the constitution, the question does still beg whether its a wise move.

        Many people certainly perceive the SBC as a denomination that is regularly involved in controversies. Seems like Wright hasn’t exactly gone out of his way to avoid creating a controversy.

        • BDW says

          Just to add: Aside from the all the costs of a name-change (which I think would be quite expensive), I think that the SBC – like any large organization that changes its name – would have to follow the name-change up with a multi-million dollar re-branding initiative. Otherwise, you’d probably have some serious confusion woes.

          Even if the name-change does happen, won’t churches in other regions still recognize that this new Baptist body is the group formerly known as the SBC, headquartered in Nashville, with the majority of its churches located in the South?

          My guess is that if a name-change happened, the media and the academy would be reluctant to immediately make the change. I know alot of older folks who still refer to the Foreign Mission and Home Mission Boards. That transition to a new name would possibly take a generation or longer to really take hold.

          • Dave Miller says

            I think the idea of a name change is a good one. I also realize that there are some very good points – such as the ones you made – that would indicate caution in the process.

        • Dave Miller says

          “I think one could support the Task Force (acknowledging Wright was within his power) while also agreeing that Wright’s actions in this instance are unprecedented.”

          That’s pretty much where I come down.

          As to whether it is wise, I think that is why this is such a good idea. We need to find out all the ramifications of the name-change – is it a good idea? If they seriously and carefully study this, then we will have good information we did not previously have.

  25. Bill Mac says

    I don’t tell people I’m Southern Baptist anyway, just Baptist. Too many negative connotations in people’s minds up here, and too few good ones. Explain Southern Baptist, and too often we end up talking about slavery.

  26. Bart Barber says

    Dave,

    Here’s what is missing from your analysis:

    1. The convention messengers have explicitly voted not to have this task force. How can it be right for the convention to vote one way, and then for the president of the convention to do contrary to their vote? Brother, if you’ll empty this of the content (name change) and just look at what happened (convention voted not to do x; president did x anyway), I think you’ll see it differently.

    2. I’m not opposed to the convention’s right to change its mind. The convention has not been afforded that right. If President Wright had come to New Orleans with this proposal and the convention had voted with him, then fair enough. But that’s not what happened here. I wonder why not? I think we all can guess pretty accurately.

    3. This is not just a “private task force.” It has been authorized by the Executive Committee. That fact alone means that it is not a private task force. The EC has just authorized something that the SBC has explicitly and expressly refused to authorize. We all learned about it from Baptist Press. It will be promoted through the President’s official capacity.

  27. Bart Barber says

    Dave,

    In reply to your “Overraction” post, I would simply quote to you the timeless words of Barry Goldwater:

    “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue.”

    • Dave Miller says

      This just seems to me to be a perfect example of the “reasonable minds can disagree” variety of dispute.

      I’m guessing and hoping that your quote above was somewhat sardonic. But some of the responses on blogs have been way over the top, accusing Wright of “abuse of presidential powers” and other such serious offenses.

      I’m for the name change, but I’ve heard a lot of arguments that make me think caution is warranted in this matter.

      I can see why you would say Wright should have followed prior precedent, but on the other hand, precedent is not authoritative over the SBC president – our governing documents are.

      So, one can disagree with the action without going quite as far as some have gone in criticizing Wright for it.

      • Bart Barber says

        When the official votes of the convention do not limit the official actions of the convention officers, that is tyranny. I’m entirely serious.

        It need not be malicious to be tyranny. It need only add up to the loss of the rights of the people in favor of the rights of the empowered.

        What if I tried to get the convention to appoint a task force to study how to exclude everyone who claimed to have a private prayer language? What if the convention voted me down? What if, as an officer of the convention a few years down the line, I appointed such a committee without gaining the consent of the convention. Would you be defending my right to do so?

        • says

          If the convention elected you, and you didn’t try to enact your views without convention approval, I might be torqued, but I don’t think I would have reason to call you a tyrant.

        • says

          definition of tyranny from Webster’s:

          “oppressive power” – especially by a government.
          “a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler.”
          “an oppressive, harsh and unjust act.”

          Whatever was done here, it was not tyranny.

  28. Dave Miller says

    1) In 2004, the convention voted not to form a task force. I do not think that the motion said, “Now and forever.” The SBC has changed a lot in the last 7-8 years and maybe the time has come to rethink this action.

    As to divorcing the task force from the topic, that seems hard to do. As I’ve seen the blogs, the only people who object to the task force are those who object to a name change. I’ve not seen anyone who is open to the idea of a name change complain about the formation of the task force.

    2) The convention will be given every opportunity to speak to this issue in the future (or perhaps not if the TF determines that the name change is a bad idea).

    3) I don’t know if I or someone else used the term “private” to describe the task force. The key point (and using Wright’s term) is that this is not an official convention task force (like the GCR task force). They will not report to the convention but to the president who appointed them and then whatever recommendation is brought will go through proper channels.

    Questions/Comments for you:

    1) If Bryant Wright had simply assigned staff persons to do the research and interview people, would you object to that? Isn’t this just sort of an expansion of that idea? Instead of paid staff researching it, volunteers (and a blue ribbon panel at that) are doing the research. They have no authority or executive power. They are just gathering information and examining options. Is it really that much different than staffing it out?

    2) On the basis of the authoritative documents governing the SBC, what did Bryant Wright do wrong? What bylaw or policy did he violate? The president is supposed to act within the boundaries of the governing documents. Did he do that?

    • Dave Miller says

      One more thing, isn’t it true that you are just mad that they asked Micah to serve instead of you?

    • Dave Miller says

      One more serious question:

      Do you really believe that the process Bryant Wright has engaged in so so egregious that we “no longer deserve to own the name” – Baptist? Was that hyperbole, or do you really believe that this is that extreme of a violation of Baptist polity?

      • says

        I thought the Baptist part of our name had to with practicing believers-only baptism by immersion. I guess Wright is being faulted for dipping his toes into the name-change waters.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Isn’t a Task Force with no authority really a Task FARCE?

            If I get an “unofficial” mistress, will Karen still be mad?

    • says

      Dave,

      Technically, Bryant Wright has not violated any bylaw or policy because he has appointed a “non-official” Task Force. However, he cannot be said to have acted “within the boundaries of the governing documents” because neither the SBC Constitution or ByLaws give the President the authority to appoint ad-hoc committees. I have read both documents this afternoon and, unless I missed it (which is entirely possible), there simply is no language in our governing documents for a unilateral Presidential appointment of committees outside of messenger authorization. If you or anyone else can point to language in the Constitution or Bylaws that allows for such a Presidential appointment, I would be happy to revise my assessment.

      On issues relating to a positive future for the SBC, you have consistently exhibited a positive, idealistic outlook whereas I have been less than positive. However, to think that the President of the SBC unilaterally appointing a “non-official” blue ribbon Task Force is not really that much different than staffing it out is the height of idealism :-) Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

      • says

        Sure he can, Howell. I believe that Ed Young did so. He could appoint a committee to rein in foaming-at-the-mouth bloggers if he wanted. ;)

  29. says

    After reading a lot of blogs and comments about this, SBC remains the most logical moniker for the Convention. I can think of LOTS of neat acronyms for that…..

  30. says

    I will say this about the name change. I was an Amway distributor back in the 90s when they decided it would be a good idea to “rebrand” the company because of a bad public image around the Amway name. They came up with Quixstar and an online business platform as a way to radically rework their image. Guess what? People eventually found out that Quixstar was just another name for Amway and their previous “bad feelings” about Amway surfaced from there. I think the SBC name is the least of the problems we face. The rampant hysteria that Dave mentioned in the blogosphere over this issue on the other hand, is a much bigger symptom of our real problems.

  31. says

    Dave,

    I grew up in Illinois and Germany, worked as a summer missionary in Nebraska and lived in California as an adult – all as a Southern Baptist. So I have lived outside of the South with the name. I like the name and what it has stood for, especially through the CR. I would prefer to keep it, but if the Convention voted to change it, I could find myself supporting the name change if: valid reasons are presented; the cost is not prohibitive; all legal rights of the Convention are kept; and that the name change reflected that we are unequivocally Baptist.

    Though the word “forever” was not in the vote, the Convention directed the President (not Jack Graham) to not appoint a task force to look at changing the name of the SBC. I do believe this to be binding on the President and EC until the Convention votes differently. If the Convention voted to have an autonomous institution like a Seminary or a church do something (like ban NY Yankee fans), though wise, :) it would not binding upon them as autonomous institutions. But the President is not autonomous from the SBC, he works directly for the SBC and thus is bound by votes of the Convention. We do not wipe the books clean of past votes of the Convention just because it is a new meeting of the SBC each year. It may not have been a bylaw or constitutional vote that was taken, but it was a vote of the Convention directed to the President and EC.

    Even if President Wright has the “right” to do what he has done, and I don’t think he does, he was at the very least unwise to sidestep the Convention for such an historic and significant issue to study. What possible reason(s) exists to avoid asking the messengers to appoint a task force? It is his circumvention of the people that has this Baptist upset. Not the topic of study.

    Blessings,

    Ron P.

  32. says

    I posted the following paragraph on Peter’s blog and want to answer some comments I just read here:

    I find it interesting that we always have people make the argument for the name change based on our forefathers slave-holding past. This is misguided at best and disingenuous at worst as it is an absurd argument. Changing our name does not change our Convention’s past. No matter what our name, our forefathers owned slaves. It was wrong and sinful. The only way to divorce the SBC from our founding father’s sin of slavery, is to dissolve the SBC and start a new Convention. Would it make sense for Georgia or Virginia or Alabama to change their names to something new in order to hide their past history of slavery? Absolutely not, that would be absurd.

    Though it might make a few people feel better, changing our name changes nothing about our Convention’s past.

    Blessings,

    Ron P.

    • Smuschany says

      In my opinion the argument “for” name change based on historic racism in the SBC is just as farcical as arguing “against” a name change because it is a “Calvinist ploy”. The latter position is one that is regularly and prominently put forth on “Peter’s” little blog (if not by Peter himself then defiantly by many of his frequent participants on his blog). I ask you, are you equally willing to come out and condemn the stupidity of the “Calvinist” argument as you are the “racist” one?

    • says

      Our denomination’s racist past has never been part of my reason for believing a name change could be a good idea. My chief reason is simple, if we want to be a regional convention, we should have a regional name. If our goal is to be nationwide, we should have a nationwide name.

        • Dave Miller says

          For me, it’s more about the impression the name leaves on people today. For southerners, they view the name with pride and satisfaction. But people outside the south have very disdainful views of Southerners and southern culture.

          So, in the South, the name carries very positive brand identity. In the north, it is the opposite. Both attitudes are potentially sinful – pride and disdain. But the fact is that they are present.

          Southern is not a helpful designation when you are trying to work in Iowa.

          • Bart Barber says

            Dave,

            I disagree. Southern Baptist churches in the South don’t emphasize their Southernness, nor do they seek to embody Southernness in their local church culture. A growing number of Southerners “have very disdainful views of Southerners and Southern culture.”

            Non-southerner Southern Baptists have neither the numbers nor the political clout to move forward an initiative like this one. The explanation for it, like the explanation for all things that happen in our convention, must necessarily arise out of something that is taking place in SBC churches in the South.

          • Dave Miller says

            I pastored a Southern church that (in my opinion) cared way too much about its culture.

            Obviously, generalizations as I made are not universal. Its been 20 years since I served in the South, so most of my contact with southern attitudes is through blogging and such.

          • Dave Miller says

            You are right, non-Southerners are a minority in the SBC. What I do know with some level of expertise is that views about the name “Southern” range from disdain to tolerance. There is little enthusiasm for the name.

            I will admit to being shaped by my experience on this. As an Iowa pastor, I’d lots rather serve a denomination that does not have the name “Southern” in it.

          • Bart Barber says

            And the takeaway on this is that, in holding that belief, you have a lot in common with a large number of Southern Baptist pastors in the South.

          • jon says

            Is the same true of “Southern Seminary” ? Do Northerners refuse to hire Southern grads? Are we ashamed of Southern Seminary’s limited, regional influence?

          • John Wylie says

            For the life of me Bart I’ll never understand why Southerners would “have very disdainful views of Southerners and Southern culture.” The South has a great heritage of conservative values. And before people bring up the slavery thing I want to remind you of two very important historical truths: 1.) The North only abolished slavery because it was not feasible for them and 2.) The North did not engage in the civil war in order to abolish slavery but to bring the rebelling states back into the union by force. I’m not endorsing slavery, but the North isn’t any less guilty than the South was in the matter, they simply abolished slavery earlier.

            I’m not ashamed of being a Southerner, and the thing that offends me is not that we are discussing a name change for the convention, but that the tone of these comments implies that there is something wrong with “Southerners and Southern culture.”

  33. says

    I would say that I am surprised by President Wright’s unilateral appointment of a Name Change Task Force, but I am not. This is the logical next step in the complete “re-imagining” of the SBC. While Dr. Wright may have had the technical authority to appoint a Task Force without being authorized to do so by messengers at an annual meeting of the Convention, his doing so is another example of just how out of touch the ruling elites are with grassroots Southern Baptists. If anyone seriously believes that this Task Force will return a “recommendation” of anything other than a name change, then I have some prime desert property in NM I would love to sell you!

    • John Wylie says

      It doesn’t bother me in the least the Dr. Wright appointed this task force because ultimately its recommendations must be voted on by the messengers of the convention. It’s not like they’re changing the name themselves without the consent of those messengers.

      • says

        We are a strictly USA convention. Other nations have their own Baptist conventions which cooperate with us, but are not under our structure. things like “International Baptist” or “Worldwide Baptist” or “All Nations Baptist” just don’t reflect our polity.

  34. Doug Hibbard says

    I’ve got $20 on The Southern Baptist Convention to be known as the Great Commission Baptist Network.

  35. RJM says

    I pray to our Lord and Savior that the SBC does not get renamed to the “Great Commission Baptist Network.”

    I propose a simple “The Baptist Convention” or TBC.

  36. RJM says

    The problem is is that you’ve got a bunch of Pastors in their 50’s and early 60’s going through a mid-life crisis thinking that wearing a black T-Shirt under a sports coat is still cool and they will try to come up with some hip/cool name that only betrays how out of touch they really arse.

  37. Tom Bryant says

    2 thoughts occurred to me:
    How much will this cost us? We will have the task force expense. Then if the name change happens, there will be expenses concerning branding and document changes. I know this is way out there, but in a day when we are complaining that not enough money gets to start churches and fund missionaries, we will not spend unknown amounts to first determine if the change is desired then to change the name.

    My second thought is that the name change is going to happen. We’ll hear about it in the Pastor’s conference in New Orleans. We’ll hear that unless we vote to change the name, we really aren’t serious about reaching those people outside of the south. Then the vote to change will happen and we’ll leave the Big Easy congratulating ourselves on taking the next step in the Great Commission. This conclusion comes from watching us the last few years.

    • says

      Tom, the task force is paying its own expenses. And I think if you look at the makeup of the group, it is hardly a rubber stamp, predetermined outcome group. Those were some pretty independent thinking folks on that task force.

      If they find out its going to be expensive, legally undesirable, or whatever, then we will have the information we need to make an informed decision.

      • Tom Bryant says

        Dave,
        I agree that it is hardly a rubber stamp group, but it will happen. The powers that be are not going to take this much heat to simply back down and say “Nevermind”.

        • says

          Especially now that this is in national news media. Starting to hear from church folks that are asking what the new name is going to be—seems that the coverage that the President of the SBC has announced a Task Force to recommend about a new name has folks in these parts believing it’s a done deal.

  38. sal says

    Well, the church’s regional roots remain. But I see nothing wrong with changing the name to something broader in tone.

  39. sal says

    Dave, I don’t know what you’re referring to. The book of Acts has only 28 chapters. What is this a reference to?

    • Dave Miller says

      Sal, there is a network of churches called “Acts 29″ – the idea of continuing the expansion of the church as it was seen in the days of the Apostles. The Acts 29 Network has been somewhat controversial.

      So, Acts 30 was a joke based on the Acts 29 network.

  40. says

    Dave,

    Good post. I have been for this for years. I don’t think that it will make a huge difference in the vast scheme of things and it will do nothing to revive our churches, but overall, it is long overdue. I am sure that those proposing this do not think that it is a magic bullet or anything – no one would be that shallow.

    I would think that dropping the “Southern” off the name of the SBC would be something akin to a graduation and would be an affirmation of the missions emphasis that the founders of the SBC had in mind (ignore the slavery issue for a moment). Admitting that we are no longer only in the South and that we are a national and even global convention of churches should be a good thing, I would think.

    Again, it is not a magic bullet, but it can’t hurt. Are opponents afraid that it will damage our identity? If so, we didn’t have much identity to begin with.

    “A rose by any other name . . .”

  41. sal says

    Dave, do you suggest we assume the name Acts 30, to represent continuity with the early church? Funny! I mean, not funny! Good idea…hmnn..

  42. volfan007 says

    I propose to the task force to rename the SBC to the Irenic Tolerant Cool Convention….yep, the ITTCC….

    That sounds really cool….

    David

    :)

      • volfan007 says

        oooops! yep, you are right….it should be the ITCC….

        then, after everybody knows that we stand on the Gospel and on God’s Word…then, the ITCC will have bad connotations, too….kind of like how the worldly crowd hated the prophets and Jesus….hummmm?

  43. says

    Is any one aware of the fact that the old Northern Baptist Convention went through a period of being known as the American Baptist Convention? The last time I had account of it the name of American Baptist Churches, Inc.

  44. volfan007 says

    This has left a lot of people wondering if this is not just a further attempt to move us away from having a Baptist identity to being more of an Evangelical identity.

    So, the new name that will be proposed…so that we can “fit in” more with the bigger Evangelical world at large…will either be the Evangelical Convention, or the Great Commission Convention…

    David

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      David: What I don’t get is why being Evanglical is so bad. Isn’t that what we as Christians are to be known as? Isn’t that what Christ had in mind by giving such emphasis on spreading the Gospel? Why is being Baptist more important than being evangelical? Evangelical in my mind means more people being introduced to Christ and his saving work.

      • Tom Parker says

        Debbie:

        Amen, I just do not get the issue with being Evangelical, maybe it is the BI thing.

        Tom Parker

  45. sal says

    Yes, I think a broader label better signifies what it’s become. The current name strikes one as provincial.

  46. Louis says

    As far as real procedure is concerned, this is a tempest in a teapot.

    Has anyone taken the time to read the constitution and the bylaws? Can anyone point out a real procedural problem with this?

    Dave, your points are on the mark about the inability of one deliberative meeting of an organization to bind all future meetings of the same organization.

    That cannot be done legally. It is illogical to claim that it can, really.

    Otherwise, the U.S. Congress can pass a law today that says no congress in the future can do such and such. Obama could have put that in the healthcare law – once it’s adopted, it can never be revisited.

    Or the Baylor Regents can pass a resolution, change the charter or bylaws and say that from now on all faculty will be selected by the President, and they could say that no future Board could ever change that.

    But the real offense here is not truly procedural. I suspect that no one can really point to a bylaw or provision that Wright has violated.

    What Wright has done, however, is acted without any warning ahead of time. While it’s legal, it may not be smart. It would have been better to go to a Convention and announce that in his Presidential speech. Then the messengers could react etc.

    The people that oppose what Wright has done, should say so, but not on the basis that he has done something improper. He hasn’t.

    I would reserve the right to change my mind if someone comes up with a real basis, a bylaw, constitutional provision etc.

    It simply does not matter what the Convention voted in 2004. In 2012, a new Convention will be assembled and those messengers will make decisions. They are not bound by the votes of previous annual meetings.

    My feelings about this subject are well known.

    I believe the SBC should change its name to reflect its present and future, not its past.

    I do not buy the cost issue.

    I do not buy the so-called legal advantages. Even if that is the case, the SBC could use an assumed name under which it did business, and retain the official name just for formality sake, but it would not be used.

    I do not buy the “it’s a waste of time issue.” This is exactly the kind of issue the SBC should work on. The churches should not spend a lot of time on this. Our church wouldn’t.

    Name changes do make a difference. Just think of these:

    Old Name New Name

    Blue Ribbon Sports Nike
    Brad’s Drink Pepsi
    Back Rub Google
    Kentucky Fried Chicken KFC

    There are bunches more.

    The SBC is likely to change its name, in my opinion. It’s just a matter of time. The trend from new church starts and such shows that they are not using traditional names.

    Of course, the SBC can resist change, but that would still result in change, probably marked by change in numbers, as younger people continue to look for something that they SBC may no longer have at that point.

    Debbie, you asked about “Evangelical”. That’s a Yankee word. Just ask Foy Valentine!

    • says

      Louis,

      I read both the SBC Constitution and Bylaws earlier today. While I may have missed it, I did not find any language that would give the President the authority to officially appoint an ad hoc committee. Of course, there is no language that specifically prevents the President from doing this, but I would find it quite ironic for strict constructionists (as most conservative Southern Baptists would be) to argue that silence in the governing documents means that it’s okay to do whatever you want to do. Of course, since this is an “unofficial” task force, the point is moot. In any event, Bart Barber has pointed out that this is a break with past precedent. While precedent is not binding on Wright, it does speak to his appreciation or lack thereof of how this has typically been handled. Some might rightly see it as a usurpation of power that is normally vested in the messengers which comprise the Convention in annual session. In the case of a name change of the entire Convention, most Presidents would have asked for the messengers to give authority to appoint such a committee. Of course, if you can do it this way, why not?

      I am afraid that you are right in that the name change is only a matter of time. I find it fascinating that many within the power structure of the SBC are using some of the same principles that Obama and company use in the political arena in Washington. However, these same leaders may find the same type of opposition that Obama and the Democrats have found since the radical takeover of the health care system in this country. New Orleans should be a hoot!

      • Zack says

        Counselor:

        1) Are you, personally, arguing for a strict constructionist interpretation of the SBC Constitution and By-Laws? Stated more directly, do you believe that the president should be prohibited from performing any action which is not expressly authorized therein?

        2) If so, do you believe that the prohibition should extend to unofficial actions?

        3) If not, (i.e., if you do not believe that the president should be restricted solely to those acts expressly authorized), how would you discern between allowable unauthorized acts and non-allowable unauthorized actions?

        • Bart Barber says

          Zack,

          I’ll say this much: What is legal ought not to be the highest standard that guides us. It is legal to abort your baby. It is legal for same-sex couples to marry.

          I’m personally arguing for the idea that, once the messengers of the SBC vote not to do something, our convention leaders ought not to do it until we vote TO do it.

          That sums up the positions perfectly: I’m in favor of rank-and-file Southern Baptists getting to vote on whether to have a task force (especially since we’re already on-record on this question); the opposition position is against Southern Baptists getting to vote on whether to have a task force.

        • says

          Zack,

          Thanks for the questions. Let me answer them in the order you asked:

          1. Yes, although I’m not sure I would say prohibited from performing “any action.” As to ad hoc committees and task forces, see #2 below.

          2. I’m not sure how a prohibition could extend to “unofficial actions.” If President Wright believed he had the authority to appoint an official Task Force without messenger approval, then the question would be why didn’t he. That he acknowledged that the Task Force is unofficial and just advisory in nature may indicate that he did not believe he had the authority to officially appoint such an ad hoc committee.

          3. See answer to #1.

          Hope that helps. If you have any follow-up questions, I’ll try my best to answer. Thanks and God bless,

          Howell

      • Bart Barber says

        Howell,

        My main point is not that this is a break with past precedent. That is Dave Miller’s mis-characterization of my main point.

        My point is that this is a contradiction of a past VOTE of the Southern Baptist Convention. Again, contrary to Dave’s mis-characterization of my position, I have never argued that Southern Baptists cannot re-visit a past decision. To the contrary, I’m the one arguing that they should be afforded the opportunity to do so! Dave’s position is that it is perfectly acceptable for the messengers to be DENIED the opportunity to re-visit their decision not to appoint a task force—that the president could simply determine that Southern Baptists were wrong and can just do anyway what Southern Baptists have voted not to do, and that without giving the opportunity EITHER to say “Go ahead and have a task force” OR “We’re still not in favor of having that task force.”

        • says

          Bart,

          Given my former profession, I tend to gravitate toward past precedents :-) Sorry if I focused on a minor point, but my understanding is that what Bryant Wright did was not only contrary to past precedent (which of course is not binding), but was also, as you aptly pointed out, a clear contradiction of a past vote of the Convention. Your point is well taken that this approach, in effect, denies the messengers the opportunity to re-visit their decision.

          While what President Wright did may not be a technical violation of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Convention since this is an “unofficial” Task Force, I think many (including me) see this move as not only setting a bad precedent for future Presidents, but also doing an end-run around the will of the Convention, which has been clearly and repeatedly expressed on this issue in the Annual Meetings. That’s not to say that we can never take up an issue in the future and come to a different conclusion than a previous Convention, but how often do we continue to press for a new outcome, particularly on a divisive issue such as a name change? It will take a 2/3rds majority at two consecutive Annual Meetings to approve a name change. Does anyone seriously believe that there is that kind of sentiment for a name change? If not, then why bring up the issue now and in the way that it was done? If, as I fully expect, the Task Force recommends a name change, New Orleans should be one of the most contentious meetings that we’ve seen in a long time. So much for hope and change.

    • Bart Barber says

      Louis,

      NOBODY is arguing that the decisions of messengers past can prevent future groups of messengers from taking any sort of action. That’s a misunderstanding on your part, facilitated greatly by the prevenient misunderstanding of others.

      Instead, the argument is that the decisions of the messengers can prevent the OFFICERS of the convention from taking action to contradict past messenger decisions. I’m the one arguing FOR the convention messengers to decide whether we have a task force. Bryant Wright has denied them that opportunity, and has created on his own the task force that the messengers said they didn’t want to be created.

      Can the messengers say differently in the future? OF COURSE THEY CAN. But they didn’t get the opportunity, now did they? And now, the president’s actions contradict the last known instruction of the convention messengers.

      • Louis says

        Thanks, Bart. I understand your position. That makes more sense.

        You are not even saying that what Bryant did was wrong per se. The Executive Committee was (is) in session. It is the Convention “ad interim” (is that the term?). So, the Convention can speak now and move to stop the committee from forming, meeting etc.

        The Convention of messengers will reassemble in June, and unless the committee has concluded its work, the Convention can speak then.

        Of course, if the committee is finished, then you are right. The assembled messengers (not the Convention, because the EC could have stopped it) will have had no input into whether to have a committee.

        And I see your preference for the messengers voting to do this.

        I do not disagree, from the standpoint of wisdom. Seems to me that anything coming out of the committee may be tainted in the minds of some.

        I think that you know my position on this.

        I am in favor of a change. But I do not think that a change would be wise until a large majority agrees with it. 51% voting to change the name would not be a good thing in my opinion.

  47. volfan007 says

    It’s not a terrible thing to be a part of the greater Evangelical world. But, there are doctrines…which we Baptists believe the Bible clearly teaches…which are worth separating over. There are doctrines….clearly taught in the Bible….which other evangelical churches do not believe….tragically do not believe. Doctrines like: once saved, always saved; believers baptism by immersion; congregational church polity….to just name a few.

    That’s why its important for us to be the Baptist kind of Christians.

    I’ll bet the new name proposed will be Great Commission Convention…I mean, who could be against the Great Commission? lol

    Or, maybe it’ll be the Evangelical Convention? Let’s certainly throw Baptist aside, too. And yes, lets change the Southern Baptist Seminary name…after all, young pastors wont go to such a regionally named seminary, which emphasizes being Baptist…will they?

    David

  48. Bill Mac says

    I would be sorry if the new name (which will never happen) did not contain the word Baptist. I’m ready, eager, and willing to ditch the word “Southern” but we really need to keep the word Baptist. It is the word Southern that contains the negative connotations (real or imagined) that I think we need to move away from.

    But let’s face it folks. This is still a convention dominated by Southerners, at every level. The majority will see a name change as an insult to Southern heritage and culture and will turn it down cold.

    • says

      Bill,
      There are some who say that the word Baptist contains negative connotations for some as well. But your second paragraph makes a great point. Even if we change the name, it will not change the fact that this is a “Southern” convention at its core. Besides, I can already envision all of the conversations where someone actually does ask “what denomination is your church a part of?” (or some variation of it, which is a rare question to be sure); and all of them will at some point end with “we used to be known as the Southern Baptist Convention.”

      I am not against a name change per se, but in my estimation, it won’t achieve most of the things that the people who want it think it will change. It might make it easier for them to say “who they are” outside of the south, but it will only last until the conversation gets a little deeper.

  49. Jonathan S. Jenkins says

    I could agree that SBCsounds restrictive. Im from GA and while i love the south some dont and we should strive to be all things to all men so that we might see some saved. That being saved I wonder about the lack of a presence of small traditional church (not anticalvinist) leaders on this task force. Do our elelcted leaders not know any small church pastors whose churches make up the majority of the convention they lead. Would feel better about task force if it were more representative of the convention we have and not of the convention some have accused our leaders of wanting for the future.

  50. sal says

    Yes, Jonathan, that’s what I’ve argued. A more catholic name is in order. Something that transcends geographic regions.

  51. Debbie Kaufman says

    Jonathan: How many small churches could afford the money required for this assignment. Each person must pay his own expenses, this is not Convention funded. I am asking the question as I do not know.

    • Jonathan Jenkins says

      I know mine would (and if not my family would) and I think most would find a way if their input was directly sought by the President of the Convention cause it’s most of the small churches providing the highest percentages of giving to the cp and while I know we don’t spend percentages, one of the few times Jesus spoke specifically about money he spoke of the widow giving 100% of what she had!

    • says

      Most couldn’t. I know that as a small church guy, I can’t. Now, if they did it through email, Skype and other digital meeting methods, I could. Those are free to cheap, after all.

      Of course, this becomes the answer: only the big-church guys and the denominational employees can afford to participate, so the rest of us get to just accept what they decide. We can’t complain because we aren’t invited, after all, it’s just reality that we can’t handle the expenses to participate in the process.

      • Debbie Kaufman says

        Doug: I agree. Which is another reason to begin to do things electronically. So all can participate. But a reminder: This seems to be only a fact finding committee. As far as I know this all has to come before the messengers, which face the same problem, only those who can afford to go to the Convention attend.

  52. bill says

    Well, I was just informed that this committee is going to do exactly what the GCRTF did:

    They have promised to be completely open and transparent with any and all members of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    After they stated this, they all promptly walked back inside and have decided to seal away any and all records for the next fifteen years.

  53. Ron Hale says

    Should we not also appoint a task force to study the name change of … The “Southern” Baptist Theological Seminary?

    • says

      Well, since the convention is called the Southern Baptist Convention, changing the name of that seminary wouldn’t make much sense at this point, would it?

      Oh, wait, your comment had nothing to do with the name change, really, but was just a dig on Calvinists. Nevermind.

      • Ron Hale says

        Joe,
        I truly ask an honest question; it seems the same logic would apply to our oldest seminary if we are focusing on the word “Southern”.

  54. Bill Mac says

    I think one important thing to keep in mind here is that Baptist polity refers to church polity. The SBC is not a church and the president is not the pastor.

    • says

      Bill, are you sure that your church does not have a president, vice-president, first vice-president, executive committee, etc.? :)

      I suppose one only goes so far in arguing to apply church polity to convention polity.

  55. volfan007 says

    Hey, I got this one off of Scott Gordon…Campus Crusade is now CRU so can we change SBC to BaCon?

    Yep, looks good to me….

    David

  56. Rick says

    Seriously, can a five point Calvinist help me understand something here about the strategic benefit of a group of human beings changing the name of their organization for the sake of evangelism?

    From the perspective of a Calvinist, does a name change authorized by MAN do anything at all to alter the population of the ELECT of God? Won’t the ELECT be saved anyway, although perhaps among a Christian group with a supposedly less egregious name?

    I’m just not following the logic that a decision made by men can impact the supposedly irresistible grace of God in a person’s life. We could be called the Ridiculously Obsessed With Fried Chicken Convention and if we shared our faith with someone predestined to accept Christ, then “BAM!” The grace of God will overtake them, right?

  57. says

    Why don’t we rename the convention The Baptist Center For Kids Who Can’t Read the KJV Bible Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too? Hire Ben Stiller to be the spokesperson for the marketing campaign?

  58. Jeff Jones says

    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 says

      I find it utterly amazing that Southern Baptist Churches, with a name like Southern Baptist Convention, could do so much for all of these years? I mean, we started Churches all over the West, and up in the Northeast, and in many, many, many foreign countries with a name like SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. How did we do that with a regional, racist, too narrow of a name like Southern and Baptist?

      It’s just mystifying to me. How did we do it all these years, if it’s that much of a hinderance? I mean, we are the largest mission sending group in the world, or at least one of the biggest…and have been for generations…..

      How did we do it with that ole name?

      David

      • says

        David,

        Perhaps this whole argument is not so much about the SBC name being a hindrance to outsiders as it is with insiders being ashamed of the name. And, I’m not sure that it’s the “Southern” part of the name that they’re ashamed of as much as it is the “Baptist.” Not too many SBC churches (mine included) have “Southern” in their name. Many have “Baptist.” At least until it is removed (if it were ever a part of the name to begin with). Too many examples of this trend to list, but a megachurch in Arkansas certainly comes to mind. Thanks and God bless,

        Howell

  59. says

    I’m guessing there are plenty of (younger) people who don’t even know they are Southern Baptist at present.

    Not many go to, “First Baptist Church” anymore. Not many go to “Liferoad Baptist” anymore (made up example!) They go to “LifeRoad”, and “MissionPoint”, and “CedarPoint” or “Community Curch” instead of “Community Baptist Church.” I can’t think of a single church that openly advertises that they are a Southern Baptist congregation on their signage or marquee. They may mention it on their website, but that’s about it.

    Like I said, so many of the Christmas-Easter crowd have no idea they are ‘members’ of a Southern Baptist congregation anyway.

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