It's interesting to read the amount of dogmatism prevalent in the words of those pontificating against a potential name change for the Southern Baptist Convention. The natural remedy for such dogmatism is research. Are there organizations that have successfully gone through a name change? Are there historical precedents that would warrant the adoption of a change in name for the Southern Baptist Convention?
In 1813 Baptist missionary Luther Rice returned to the United States from India for the purpose of coordinating a unified effort among Baptist associations and churches to support "foreign missions." The Baptists whom Rice visited in his tour of the major cities of the United States were overwhelmingly in favor of a Baptist organization to fund missions. As a result of Rice's personal labors and extensive correspondence, a meeting of Baptist delegates from eleven States and the District of Columbia was held in Philadelphia on May 18, 1814. The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States was duly organized. Soon, however, the name of this missionary convention changed to The Triennial Convention for practical reasons, including the fact that Baptists convened every three years and that the simple two word name was much easier to speak and write. Note there was not even the word "Baptist" in the new name Triennial Convention.
It was not long before the Triennial Convention's southern Baptist churches formed the Southern Baptist Convention (est. 1845), splitting with northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. Within 30 years (1815 to 1845) the Southern Baptist Convention evolved through three name changes. You would be hardpressed to find anyone who could logically claim that one name change for the Southern Baptist Convention within the past 170 years (1845 to 2012) might be excessive based upon an understanding of Southern Baptist history.
One of the first missionaries the Triennial Convention supported was Isaac McCoy. Isaac was a missionary to Native American Indians on the American frontier, sometimes called "the wilderness." McCoy is the man who originally surveyed what we now call Oklahoma as he looked for a beautiful and permanent land to resettle the Indians who were being overrun by white settlers. McCoy regularly corresponded with both Luther Rice and William Staughton, the Triennial Convention's secretary/treasurer. McCoy kept these men updated on his mission work as well as his government surveying work.
Unfortunately, in early 1820 McCoy encountered difficulties in the support Luther Rice and William Staughton had given him for the previous six years. It seems the two men had turned their focus and attention on the Triennial Convention starting a new college in Washington, D.C. The men moved the headquarters of the Triennial Convention to the nation's capital and in 1821 opened Columbian College for the purpose of educating people of all sects, not just Baptist. The non-sectarian policy was written into the founding documents by Luther Rice, William Staughton and other leaders of the Triennial Convention.
The college Luther Rice and William Staughton helped found would change her name to Columbian University in 1873. The university's name would then be changed to George Washington University in 1910. Baptist William Staughton was the first President of Columbian College. The first seven Presidents were all ordained Baptist ministers. Baptist missionary Luther Rice became the treasurer of the university in 1826 and served in that capacity until his death in 1836. It could rightly be said that George Washington University, the most expensive university in America, has more of a Baptist history than Baylor, Samford, Wake Forest or any other Baptist college or university.
George Washington University has educated thousands of well-known Americans. Colin Powell received his MBA at George Washington while serving as a White House fellow. J. Edgar Hoover studied law at George Washington while working at the Library of Congress. Jacqueline Bouvier (later Mrs. John F. Kennedy) finished her bachelor’s in French literature at George Washington while working as a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald. GWU is considered one of the premier universities in the United States.
Whether or not the Southern Baptist Convention should change her name is a question that will be answered by voters of the Southern Baptist Convention. The two arguments that have no place within the current debate are (1). A potential name change for the SBC has never happened before, and/or (2). A name change will have disasterous consquences for the Convention.
History proves those arguments false.