Is there a basic difference, or should there be, between what would be called a denomination and what we call a convention? Webster's defines 'denomination' as "A religious organization uniting local congregations into a single body." Webster's defines 'convention' as "An assembly of delegates or messengers convened for some purpose." In light of these definitions, are Southern Baptists part of a denomination or are we part of a convention? Is there a unique and important difference? Does this, or should this, play into any discussion about what the SBC holds to theologically? If, in fact, we have evolved from a convention into a denomination, is this good or bad?
This is a great question that is worthy of discussion. I would propose that those Southern Baptist conservatives who emphasize 'doctrinal accountablity,' 'theological conformity,' and 'hierarchial authority' are denominationally oriented and believe the SBC to be 'a single body.'
Whereas those conservatives who emphasize 'church autonomy,' 'soul liberty,' and 'kingdom unity' are convention oriented and believe the SBC to be conglomeration of independent, autonomous churches who must be given as much freedom as possible in order to maintain the spirit of cooperation for the purpose of missions and evangelism.
Could it be that some of the issues we face in the SBC are difficult to resolve because Southern Baptists have fundamentally different concepts of who we are?