The end draweth nigh. Well, I don’t know about that end, but the end of the discussion on whether we should accept the recommendation of the task force to adopt the unofficial moniker “Great Commission Baptists” to be used by Southern Baptists. We’ve hashed and rehashed it and then rehashed it again. We’ve had no shortage of articles published here (mostly against the proposal) and we’ve discussed it from just about every angle.
But now we are about 6 weeks out from the convention and the time is coming to stop talking and start voting. Bart Barber had an article last week that spelled out the four options (the motion passes by a large margin, passes closely, is defeated narrowly or is defeated by a large margin) for the vote. He stated his opinion that the motion would not have an overwhelming majority either way, and that in the absence of such a majority, the vote would tend to be somewhat inconsequential.
Count me as one who hopes the motion passes, and that it passes by a substantial majority. That term “substantial” is not really defined anywhere, but I have a simple definition. When the ballots are raised on the floor, everyone can see which way the vote went – perhaps 60-40 or better might be the breaking point. So, I will be very disappointed if the motion does not pass by at least a 60% majority.
I would like to discuss what I believe are the merits of the unofficial name-change, adding “Great Commission Baptists” as an unofficial name change. I am on vacation and won’t be able to monitor the discussion much, but I am hoping we can focus the discussion on the value of the name-change proposal itself, not all the procedural objections that have been raised and focused on so much.
The question today,
“Would the moniker “Great Commission Baptists” be a good thing for Southern Baptists in the days ahead.
I say yes, and here is why:
1) “Great Commission Baptists” is a superior name.
Flat out it is a superior name to the name Southern Baptists. It speaks to who we are supposed to be, and what we are supposed to be doing. We do not exist to promote the South or to protect Southern culture and heritage. We exist to obey the Great Commission Christ gave us by making disciples. If we were starting a denomination today, we’d choose Great Commission Baptist over Southern Baptist 99%-1%.
So, a better name, even an unofficial one, is now available. Why not use it?
2) “Great Commission Baptists” broadens our focus.
When the SBC formed, it was a regional convention – focused on the Confederacy. That has not been the case for decades. We’ve been trying to reach out in the Northeast and the Midwest and the West. And in those regions, the attachment to the name Southern is anything but helpful. If we want to be a North American convention, why do we want to lead with the name “Southern?” Maybe we are still primarily Southern, but we have an intent to be national. This name reflects that.
Do we want to be “Southern?” Does anyone have that as a goal? I think not. I hope not. Then why not have a name that people from all parts of the country can join in supporting?
3) “Great Commission Baptists” removes a racially-charged impediment.
I’m trying to tread lightly here. I know that all Southerners are not racist, and that the South has labored in many ways to put its past in the past. I’m not saying that the South bears an eternal stain. But I do that the word “Southern” is an impediment to some. In fact, Dwight McKissic published a post (here and at his site) expressing his disappointment that the task force didn’t go all the way and get rid of the name Southern. But in the absence of the perfect (and I agree with Dwight – I wish we could completely rid ourselves of our regional name), this is a great solution.
In some people’s minds, there will always be a link between our racist past as a convention and the future. Why not have the ability to use a name that leaves that impediment behind?
4) “Great Commission Baptists” is a uniting name.
I know, the kerfuffle surrounding it hardly gives evidence of this. But look at the task force. There were representatives of just about every corner of the convention. Traditionalists. More contemporary folks. Calvinists. Non-Calvinists. This group represented a wide range of the SBC.
And they joined together around this name. Unanimously.
When the task force was originally announced, there was a lot of division about it on the Executive Committee. When the proposal came, there was very limited dissension.
There is something in this for everyone. The name SBC is kept. There is another name to be used by those who don’t want to use the name Southern.
5) “Great Commission Baptists” represents, perhaps, the best solution to a continuing problem.
The name-change has been discussed for decades. Why is that? Because a lot of people see that the regional focus in our name is an impediment to ministry in some other parts of the country and with some other people.
I’ve been writing on the need to get rid of our regionally-restrictive name for years.
But the task force looked it over and realized that the legal and financial obstacles to this were not going to be overcome. We just can’t change the name of the SBC. Our charter makes that difficult. The legal costs would be staggering. But the fact remains that focusing on one part of the country is not helpful in proclaiming Christ and his gospel in other parts of the nation.
If the complete name-change is not available, and even a dba arrangement is cost-prohibitive, then the task force seems to have settled on a great, workable solution to a thorny issue.
6) “Great Commission Baptists” shows that we are ready to move forward, not stuck in the past.
The SBC has been a traditionalist denomination. As the world around us has changed, we have often held onto traditions that were not rooted in the Word. We should never compromise on inerrancy no matter how unpopular it is. We should hold to theological and moral distinctives that are rooted in the Word – without compromise. But sometimes our focus has been on things that don’t matter biblically.
Adopting this moniker can be a signal that the SBC is ready to adapt and grow to face the future – not abandoning those things that really matter, but lightening our load of all the cultural, regional and unnecessary baggage that we’ve often carried with us.
Boiled to the bone, I’d much rather be a Great Commission Baptist than a Southern Baptist.
Now, it’s your turn.
I won’t be around much to defend or argue these points. I’m going to be hanging out at Cedarville helping my daughter pack up after her freshman year. So, now its your turn.
If my desires matter to you, I’d rather not focus on those procedural issues that have been hammered on over and over again.
Here’s my question:
Would using the name “Great Commission Baptists” as an unofficial add-on to our name Southern Baptist Convention be a help to us in accomplishing our task of making disciples in North America?
Talk amongst yourselves.