Is anyone tired of the discussion of the name change for the SBC?
I am often amused by comments in which people express weariness of the discussions of certain topics. But I watch the statistics on this blog. In spite of what people say, there is a nearly unquenchable thirst for discussion of certain topics – Calvinism, alchohol, the GCR, whatever. What we sometimes run out of is fresh insights and we end up rehashing the same arguments over and over.
Statistics would demonstrate that Southern Baptists care a lot about the issue of the name change. But I think we’ve been rehashing a lot of the same ideas and insights.
I was pleased when Trevin Wax published an article on October 31 about the name change, titled “Should the SBC Change Its Name?” He gave some fresh insights and perspectives. He is one of the luminaries of blogging for a reason. I’m not going to repost his article, but you can read it at his site.
He makes four key points in the article, which I will interact with briefly.
1) We are not as big or important as we think we are.
He uses this argument to cut both ways. We are not as universally disdained as some would advocate – in fact, many people have no idea who we are.
Around my neck of the woods, the main experience of the SBC has been our involvement in the national press – the Disney boycott, resolutions against homosexuality and such. That is how people have formed their views of us. That has cut both ways. We are respected by other conservative Christian groups for our stands, but some in the world think of us as snake-handlers and holy-rollers.
But neither, Trevin says, are we so important in the Christian world that we are beyond at least considering a name change. Do we tend to become a little over-impressed with our place in the Kingdom? Perhaps.
Trevin closes the point with an admonition that we…
“…remember that changing the name of the SBC will barely register as a blip in the overarching scheme of church history. We’re not so big and important in the perception of others that we have to change it. Neither are we so big and important to reject any notion of change.”
2) We shouldn’t caricature people who approach this issue differently.
Amen and amen. Oh, and amen.
I have watched with amazement at the force of the rhetoric on this issue. Bryant Wright was accused of tyranny by one blogger and abuse of office by several. Evidently, the appointment of a task force to study this issue was the end of the SBC as we have known it! Some have raised the specter of racism as a motive for keeping the name. The only people who want to keep the name Southern Baptist are recalcitrant rednecks who want to fly the Confederate flag at SBC meetings and use the Rebel Yell as our greeting.
This discussion has been a primer in overreaction and inflated rhetoric – on all sides.
I’m a big supporter of this study, but I think anyone should realize that there are points on all sides. I think there are some good reasons to consider the change and some good reasons to go slowly. We need to discuss this calmly, prayerfully and carefully.
Trevin says, “There may indeed be sound, missiological reasons for considering a name more representative of the Convention’s direction. There may also be good reasons to refrain from going to the expense of changing the name at this time. We need not resort to caricature and insinuation of the worst possible sort when it comes to this issue.”
3) Our mission should be at the forefront of this discussion.
The basis of my argument (since my first foray into this discussion at sbcIMPACT a couple of years ago) has been that we are (or are attempting to be) a national convention but we have a regional name. We should have a name that accurately reflects our mission.
We should neither resist change because we look back at our traditions nor should we seek change just because we want to change. We should examine our mission and ask ourselves whether our mission would be aided or hindered by a name change. We may not agree on the answer to that question, but we should agree that this is in fact the only question that really matters.
“Will a name change aid or hinder our mission as a convention?”
4) We can learn from other organizations who have changed their names.
He discusses “Cru” (Campus Crusade for Christ) and “Converge Worldwide” (Baptist General Conference) and the dangers of vague and trendy names. We’ve seen the introduction of creative names Lifeway and Guidestone and I hope we don’t go in that direction in the SBC.
Trevin speculates about a solution to some of the legal and financial issues – a “dba” arrangement. We could keep our legal, chartered name but use a “doing business as” name. Trevin suggests the name “Great Commission Baptist Fellowship” – one of my favorite suggestions.
I know there is a small denomination that uses the name “Great Commission” so I don’t know if there are any legal issues there. But if we want to give our name to express our mission, the Great Commission is a no-brainer.
There has been so much anger and invective on this subject. Trevin’s balanced and thoughtful approach to the subject is a refreshing entry into the discussion. Worth your time.
Now, back to our arguments about limited atonement and moderate alcohol use.