Photo by Morris Abernathy
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- The announcement from Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright of a presidential task force to study the prospect of changing the convention's name sparked a lively debate during the SBC Executive Committee meeting Sept. 19 in Nashville, Tenn.
Executive Committee member Darrell P. Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla., offered a motion that convention attorneys study the issue for one year "before we take any action" on possibly changing the name. The motion later failed on a 39-20 vote.
"Every man here wants to do something significant in his life for Christ and His Kingdom," Orman said. "A name change could be a future necessity for our convention but it should start from the bottom up, not the top down."
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force's 2010 proposals for dramatically reorganizing the Southern Baptist Convention and reallocating missions dollars had caused a "tug of war" and left "a lot of conflicted feelings ... across our nation," Orman said. "We don't need another wedge issue at this time."
An Executive Committee member from Ohio echoed Orman's concerns.
"If you get outside of Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, GCR is still very, very divisive among Southern Baptists," said Charles Chambers, a layman from Toledo, Ohio. "Don't divide us again."
Another Executive Committee member suggested a better approach would be to let messengers to the SBC annual meeting bring up the subject themselves.
"I would counsel us to be very thoughtful and prayerful before we open a can of worms that the convention has not said on the front end they want to open. [Messengers] have said in years past that this is not something we want to do," said Ron Madison, senior pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala. "It may be time to consider it again, but if it is time to consider it again, isn't there wisdom in letting the messengers generate that request, rather than putting something out here ... that is almost guaranteed to become a focus of, at very best, a spirited discussion?"
Wright noted the convention's name is geographically regional, which he said could be a barrier to starting new churches outside the South. He added he has received "continual feedback" from church planters outside of the South and Southwest regarding the "regional nature of our name."
"In New York and Boston and Minneapolis and out West, it's just a big barrier that they are continually dealing with," Wright said. "... Part of the study is to consider a name change as a possibility of removing a barrier to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are so many people that are unreached, that it's a barrier to even have communication with them, or for them to even consider coming to a new church plant that is a Southern Baptist church. Hearing that feedback in [my] travels around the nation was definitely influential in me praying about this possibility." Read More