NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- As Southern Baptists prepare to vote on the adoption of the descriptor "Great Commission Baptists," African American pastors are adding insight on how well the reference will improve the convention's cross-cultural attraction.
|'I think it will be helpful, very helpful in expanding our capacity as Kingdom citizens to fulfill our biblical mandate issued by the Master.' |
-- K. Marshall Williams
K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the Southern Baptist African American Advisory Council, said the adoption of the descriptor would be a step in the right direction and could improve the SBC's effectiveness in Kingdom building.
"I think it will be helpful, very helpful in expanding our capacity as Kingdom citizens to fulfill our biblical mandate issued by the Master," said Williams, senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa. "It's a clear declaration of who we are and what we're about, namely the exaltation of the Almighty and the edification and evangelization of all nations."
Williams said he would use the name on his church stationery and website and "would be proud to wave that banner as an identifier of who we are, whose we are and what we're about." His church's membership is about 98 percent black.
In February, the SBC Executive Committee approved the recommendation of a special task force that the Southern Baptist Convention keep its name but adopt an informal, non-legal "Great Commission Baptists" descriptor, to be used by any church that wishes to use it. Usage would be voluntary.
Task force member Ken Fentress, who leads multiethnic Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., has said the inclusion of "Southern" in the SBC's name is a barrier to many in the African American community, who find the term reminiscent of the Confederacy.
"Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. recently summarized the history of the founding of our convention in 1845. In his eloquent recitation of the issues that led to the establishment of the SBC, we learned that the founders intended for the name to identify with the Confederacy in the years leading up to the Civil War," Fentress said in his February address before the Executive Committee. "This signifies that the name has not only been a source of difficulty for church planters serving in areas outside the American South but also that the name has been a source of some difficulty among African Americans precisely because of its identity with the Confederacy."
Robert Anderson, a Maryland pastor who is finishing eight years on the Executive Committee, used a baseball analogy in explaining the anticipated effectiveness of the proposed descriptor.
"In any game everybody likes to see a home run. If I could talk about this game of life and ministry that we have, I think this is a home run. This is not a home run that wins the game, or anything, but it is a home run in the game," Anderson said. "Everybody wins, those who affectionately love the name Southern Baptist and would not want that to change. But also it helps those who would like to see a change for various purposes, better relating into ethnic communities, better relating to regions of the country that are not down South."
While the SBC is predominantly white, Anderson pointed out the 3,500 African American churches in the SBC comprise some eight percent of the 45,700 membership congregations.
"I think with that in mind and the passion or interest that our denomination has to reach urban areas, this is going to help," Anderson said.
Anderson said the SBC last year hit a significant home run when messengers passed an ethnic diversity report that encourages the SBC president, when he makes his various appointments, to "give special attention to appointing individuals who represent the diversity within the Convention, and particularly ethnic diversity." The report cites the "need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life." Anderson served on the Executive Committee communications workgroup which drafted the report. Read More