Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Name Change for Southern Baptists Is Not Near as Big of a Deal As Some Would Make It

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.


Anonymous said...

And pray tell, who really even cares if they change the name. I know plenty who don't.

Anonymous said...

There’s one thing wrong with the history you quoted; there was not involved---A STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK.

Changing names is a way fundamentalists show they have the ‘power’.
Their egos were not satisfied in changing almost every name. They couldn’t change WMU… (maybe women were tired of being pushed around.)

I wish the ‘fundamentalist takeover’ had gotten their name to start instead of stealing ours.

I believe ‘Doctrinal Baptists’ or ‘Our Way or the Highway Baptists’ should be their name.

Few of the 45,000 churches will be represented in the vote.
If our church and others won’t change our name, would that mean we left them or they left us?

I believe a name change will only hasten the decline of what used to be Southern Baptists.

For proof; look at the number of churches that have already left.
Rex Ray

wadeburleson.org said...


I think you may find that the Fundamentalists are the ones who are RESISTING the name change.



Debbie Kaufman said...

I think you may find that the Fundamentalists are the ones who are RESISTING the name change.

That is what I was thinking as I read Rex's comment.

I also read a lot of spin articles from those against the name change.

Dr. McKissic has some good thoughts on this subject, as usual.

It's a study so far as I can tell. No one has done this behind closed doors, as the committee which isn't costing the Convention a dime, was formed.

I have liked the direction we are going as a Convention since Frank Page's Presidency.

wadeburleson.org said...

Thanks for the hat tip to Dwight, Debbie. I went to read what he had to say, and again, he nails it.

Anonymous said...

I understand the purpose of the name change as Bro. Bryant has stated, but I cannot for the life of me think of when Southern Baptists have ever proven that we are "regional". Anyone can clearly see that we are not regional. Southern Baptists are GLOBAL. Our name may suggest that we are regional, but that does not in any way lend evidence that we are.
I see no reason for a name change b/c of what others may, or may not, think the SBC name "suggests".
Our main focus right now should be how to send more missionaries to the field and how to further fund the IMB and NAMB.

Grace and Peace,
Ray Earley

Anonymous said...

Wade and Debbie,

Opinions are one thing, but facts are another.

Who changed the name of Foreign Mission Board to International Mission Board and many other name changes?

Who told us not to go to Disney World?

Who left the Baptists World Alliance?

Who replaced the Bible as our doctrinal guideline with the BF&M 2000?

Who fired missionaries?

It sure wasn’t us ‘moderates’ (true conservatives) otherwise known as ‘liberals’ and other names such as skunks (Criswell) and parasites and barnacles scraped from the ship of Zion said by former president of the SBC and present president of the IMB.

As a TV program said, “Just the facts, mama, just the facts.”


Byroniac said...

Even though I'm no longer involved with the SBC, I still find myself curious as to what will happen concerning the name change, if it occurs. I believe that the SBC is irreversibly declining, and that a name change won't fix it.

Anonymous said...

Ray Earley,
You’re right about what our main focus should be. I’d like to add we should have more ‘long term’ missionaries.

But after so many ‘long term’ missionaries were forced to leave their calling because they would not bow to a creed, the IMB no longer reveals how many ‘long term’ and ‘short term’ we have but count them all together. (I guess it’s not embarrassing that way.)

Can anyone tell us what the numbers are?

I was unable to find out at the SBC or by telephone, but I hear there is a different number on their paychecks.


Bob Cleveland said...

In 1970, we went on a witnessing crusade to Haiti. The trip was organized by Men for Missions International, which was the laymen's organization of Oriental Missionary Society, of Greenwood, IN. On that first trip, they mentioned they were studying renaming the Society, as "Oriental" was causing them some problems in some parts of the world.

After about a year, they renamed it "OMS International". That caused no concern by anyone, as we called it "OMS", anyway. Then, several decades later, they changed again to more accurately reflect who they were: the new name is One Mission Society. So it's still OMS to us.

I suggested some time ago .. about 2 years .. that they consider "SBC International". Nobody seems to agree with that, but I've seen such work, before, and I believe it would be good for the SBC.

See? We already call it that.

Only really disturbing part of what I've seen? Messengers don't even want to STUDY the matter. "I don't care if the name hinders our work anywhere .. we like our name more than that....."

Bob Cleveland said...

Byron: to say "irreversibly" is a reflection of what you believe God is and is not capable of.

Anonymous said...


Will the name change necessitate a color change in the choir robes and carpet?


Anonymous said...

In reference to Byron and what God is and is not capable of, I believe God is capable of stopping a snowball from melting in hell, but will He?

Steve said...

Don't change nothin' 'til I get in the church sign bidness!

Byroniac said...

Bob, I no longer believe in God, so the irreversible decline of the SBC is simply a layman's guess on my part.

Rex Ray said...

Hey Bob,
according to http://www.baptiststandard.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13007&Itemid=53

rank-and-file Southern Baptists could give input about a possible new name at the website

SBC president Bryant Wright is compiling name suggestions and giving them to an exploring name change committee.

I suggested “Doctrinal Baptists” but I doubt it will make the cut. Smile


Byroniac said...

"Byron: to say 'irreversibly' is a reflection of what you believe God is and is not capable of."

Bob Cleveland, I am not sure what you mean here, since I do not even believe in God. Even if I did, I am not sure how believing in the irreversible decline of the SBC would necessarily say anything about God's capabilities. As a former Calvinist, I fully believed in God's sovereignty, but that it was His will for the SBC to decline (for reasons known only to Him, ultimately). I have no problem whatsoever with someone saying that if God exists He certainly has the power to arrest whatever my perceived decline of the SBC is, and turn it around, or grow the SBC to incredible glory if He wants to do that. After all, in terms of God's sovereignty, once God has decreed something, it is irreversible by default.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Rex and Bryan: It is a different direction we are now going and a different administration than the one Rex referenced.

Debbie Kaufman said...

And my last comment should have read Byron and not Bryan. Typing too fast. :)

Byron: I am not trying to sound patronizing here, but I think we have spoken enough that I can be as honest with you as with other friends of mine.

You seem to mention your non-belief in God a lot. I have to wonder why that is. Maybe you are just being honest, but I have to think there is another reason. I could be wrong of course. But the fact is that I do believe in God, I do believe in Christ, the Trinity and I do believe that God can do anything. I also see the different direction leadership is going in and I like what I see. A lot. We haven't hit everything that is wrong but we have begun to right alot of wrongs and to put our focus on Christ more than what is going on in Washington. That's the way I believe it should be.

Rex Ray said...

I don’t like to be in a position of debating someone I admire, but like I said before: “Just the facts, mama, just the facts.”

How do you say, “a different administration” when Tom Elliff is the new president of the IMB?

You remember him…the past president of the SBC that told the new president, Paige Patterson, “All parasites and barnacles have been removed from the ship of Zion.”

And where is Patterson now? Why he’s president of SWBTS…teaching his doctrine of women being second class Christians.

It was ‘HIS’ BFM that limited pastors to MEN only.

It was ‘HIS” creed that fired missionaries.

He gave a false report of the Baptist World Alliance to the SB Executive Committee.

I heard him accuse the BWA of being gay friendly just before the vote was taken to withdraw from the BWA.

Debbie, I’ll believe we’ll have a “different administration” when Sheri Klouda is president of SWBTS and Wade is president of the SBC.

Byroniac said...

"You seem to mention your non-belief in God a lot. I have to wonder why that is. Maybe you are just being honest, but I have to think there is another reason. I could be wrong of course."

Debbie, I am not sure what you mean here. I suppose I will just have to plead guilty, and say yes, I express my opinions a lot. I have no idea what you are basing your reference of "a lot" on, since this is the first place I have posted in several months where I could reasonably assume you are reading (if memory serves me correctly). I do consider you a friend, so I will not speculate on what you perceive my motives to be, since you have not spelled them out. I will say that I consider myself an outspoken, "evangelical" atheist, with all that implies, if that helps. And I also know the Scriptures fairly well, and what its position is on atheism. We can talk about it in email if you want.

"But the fact is that I do believe in God, I do believe in Christ, the Trinity and I do believe that God can do anything. I also see the different direction leadership is going in and I like what I see. A lot. We haven't hit everything that is wrong but we have begun to right alot of wrongs and to put our focus on Christ more than what is going on in Washington. That's the way I believe it should be."

I'm just curious since I'm not a part of the SBC any more, in what lies in its future. Will the SBC split between fundamentalist old-school Baptists (and their Calvinists) and conservative, less fundamentalist Baptists (and their Calvinists, like I was)? It will be interesting to see. I confess to not liking the "F"undamentalism belief system very much at all. And I do not have a stake in the outcome one way or the other, I suppose, but I still remain curious.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Rex: :) Thanks. I wouldn't use the word debate, more the word discuss?

Byron: I read Facebook too. :) I consider you a friend too which is why I mentioned it although maybe I should have done it in private.

As for the split. I hope not. That is certainly not the goal of the current President as far as I can see. Including both really seems to be on his agenda. I think we have we need to begin to change the color scheme in the SBC administration as Dwight McKissic has pointed out.

There will always be those who wish to exclude. Calvinists is the flavor for this year, but I believe the group to be small in number albeit loud in voice. Some louder than others. And I also don't see where their objections are based on any truth. More spin than truth. But that's just my opinion.

But I don't think there will be a split from what I currently hearing.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Rex: Time will tell, but I don't see this administration cowtowing to any dictatorship like those before. I think they are including people such as Jerry Vines and Paige who I would consider Fundamentalist, but I have no problem with that. They should be included. We need to work together and that would include with Fundamentalists who are SBC. We may not agree with all their doctrine, but they do have a part in the process too. Just not the only part as they might have had before.

Larry Lunceford said...

Let's be honest enough to admit there are parts of our past that come to mind when outsiders hear the name "Southern Baptist" - like the heartache of racism in our churches. As I recall growing up in a large Baptist church in New Orleans, we defended our prejudices as "biblical", but our conduct was at times shameful.

Maybe it is time for a name change, but I pray that it runs much, much deeper than that. If it continues to walk like a duck, quack like a duck, and have feathers like a duck, do we really think that throwing a saddle on it will make outsiders want to get on and ride?

Rex Ray said...

Oh, come on Debbie,

“Time will tell"? Time has been screaming for years!
Wades post of June 10, 2011


said: “Membership in SBC churches has decreased for five years in a row, dropping 500,000 members since 2005. Attendance at this year's Southern Baptist Convention will be the lowest in nearly five decades, struggling to reach 5,000 in attendance. What has happened to the SBC? …it will require immediate and effective leadership, something not yet demonstrated at any level of the SBC.”

Debbie, have you replaced your guns with a boy-scout badge?

You said, “Jerry Vines and Paige who I would consider Fundamentalist, but I have no problem with that. They should be included. We need to work together and that would include with Fundamentalists who are SBC.”

In my opinion, “who are SBC” is like saying ‘bank-robbers’ should be included as part of the bank.

My father taught me if a guy will lie about something small, he will lie about anything.

You’ve probably heard me tell more than once how Paige (I’m not afraid to say his last name is Patterson) yelled to a church group, “WE GOT ALL OF THEM!” and then tell me in a low voice, “We got all we could.”

He was replying to my question if the Criswell Bible ‘answered’ ALL the supposed ‘errors’ in the Bible or only SOME of them.

His twisted view of women is so bad when it was told how great a sermon was preached by a woman at SWBTS, he put the podium in a closet because it had been contaminated.

I believe ‘facts’ speak louder than opinions.

I’m glad we are not ‘debating’ but only ‘discussing’. :)


Byroniac said...

Debbie, thank you for your response. I think a split would produce two weaker entities, and I am not sure each would ever recover. I got to thinking earlier, though, about the split (?) between the SBC and BMA back in the 1950's. I went to BMA Seminary in Jacksonville, TX, for a short time, and I learned about it then, and if I remember correctly, the two main differences were over how the Lord's Supper is observed, and how missionaries are financed, but there are probably other differences. I guess what I would like to know is, does anyone know about the history of that split and was it a big deal at the time?

John Wylie said...


Actually the BMA was formed as a split from the Baptist General Convention of Texas around 1900. The 1950 split you refer to was between the BMA and the American Baptist Association. The split in 1900 was over Landmarkism with the BMA being proponents of it. The split although bigger than the one that eventually formed the CBF was just as insinificant although I'm sure some regarded it as a big deal at the time.

I personally think that there will not be a split in the SBC whether they change their name or not. As far as the decline that a lot of the detractors of the convention seem to revel in has more to do with the post Christian culture we're living in rather than any major problem within the convention, in my opinion.

Rex Ray said...

Glad to see more information on the subject at hand.
I wish you’d expand on “post Christian culture we’re living in” as being the source of conflict.

I first heard of this ‘idea’ as the ‘problem’ in a four page article written in 2003:

Southern Baptist Struggling with Post-Modernism
Reflections on Response to Missionaries Affirming the BF&M
by Jerry Rankin

Rankin reminded me of Pilot washing his hands when he wrote:

“The issue is not about individuals being terminated, but it is about the credibility of the IMB being doctrinally accountable to our denomination.”

That sounds like it was ‘us’ that fired missionaries.

He goes on: “Reflection upon the high profile and critical communication from individuals and the media over the past year has revealed an alarming tendency of many Southern Baptist succumbing to the subtle influence of post-modern thinking.”

It seems Rankin brushes away any criticism as “post modern thinking”.

He further states: “While rejecting the BF&M as a creed, critics likewise demean it for supposedly attempting to change our beliefs. In reality the 2000 BF&M has not changed any beliefs at all, because the Bible is unchanging.”

John, you see, Rankin’s thinking implies the BF&M is the Bible.

Instead of the Bible being our guideline, our Sunday school material has: “The 2000 statement of the BF&M is our doctrinal guideline.”

John, I’d say if there are problems caused by “post Christian culture” it is in our leadership and NOT in our 45,000 churches.

Rex Ray
Bonham, TX

John Wylie said...


Thanks for the response. I want to say first of all, you and I have squabbled over these types of issues before and I do not intend to get as heated as I did the last time. You and I will probably disagree on a lot of things but here goes. Yes like any denomination there are going to be internal problems and political wrangling, that's in all denominational structures. But Rex, pretty much every denomination is in decline in America today. The fact is that the more liberal to moderate denominations are in much steeper decline than conservative ones. So how could the BFM or rigid conservativism or complimentarianism be the only reasons for decline? Relatively speaking the SBC is the strongest Baptist denomination in the U.S. and will probabaly, quite frankly, be the last to fall.

Anyhow I could go into greater detail but it would like reading war and peace. Thanks Rex for the question. I would love to talk more with you this on this subject. But this time I will do so with more respect because I do respect you.

John Wylie
Springer, OK

Rex Ray said...


Thanks. Everyone likes to be respected.

You know, when a lawyer doesn’t have any facts to refute what a witness says, he attacks the witness anyway he can.

Unlike the lawyer, you seem to change the subject to be about me instead of giving ‘your war and peace’ in replying to my points.

Without evidence, you said, “The fact is that the more liberal to moderate denominations are in much steeper decline than conservative ones.”

I believe you’re implying the SBC is conservative.

Is that because the SBC says they’re conservative? Sorry, but their actions speak much louder than their words as I’ve pointed out in a previous comment.

One definition of Webster about ‘conservative’: “Resistance to change.”

Since the fundamentalists take-over or their high-jacking the SBC, there’s been such a constant change that one wonders what will be next. (At present, it’s name change.)

Again; would you explain what you mean by: “post Christian culture we’re living in.”

John Wylie said...


The reason I made the comments about you in the post is that the last time you and I butted heads over this issue we got pretty heated and I didn't like the way that I acted in that whole exchange.

Anyhow, Rex, if you read the stats all denominations are in a state of decline. Church attendance has fallen off considerably pretty much across the board. We are living in a society that is moving away from the church. I don't believe for a minute that the SBC's positions on certain issues are the only reasons for their decline. I mean if that's the case the CBF has been in decline from it's very inception, is it because of their liberalism or is it that fewer people than ever go to church in America?

Wade's article demonstrated that name change is nothing new, and for the record the vast majority of the fundamentalists are against the name change.

By post Christian I mean that our nation is moving away from the church and christianity unfortunately. I don't believe that is the fault of the SBC. And I don't believe the "true" conservatives are the ones that left the SBC. The nature of the CBF demonstrates that the majority of those who left are either liberal or moderate. You and I Rex will never agree on this. But what I will not do is let anger get the best of me and cause me to be less than charitable.

Rex Ray said...

I like your ‘new’ attitude, and your response was pretty good, even if you conclude the CBF was liberal.

Keith Parks, president of the Foreign Mission Board (now named IMB) argued the glue that held Baptists together was ‘MISSIONS”, but the fundamentalists that took his place argued the glue was ‘DOCTRINE’.

Doctrine is OK if it doesn’t get too big for its britches. I mean if doesn’t become more important than winning the world for Christ.

Jim Richards was the second vice president of the SBC not long ago. He said when he was executive director of the new Southern Baptist of Texas Convention:

“Theological agreement will be the FIRST foundation of the new Convention. Those who depart theologically will be identified and called to repent. To the foes of Southern Baptist of Texas, we say, we’re not in competition with you, but we’ve been called to contrast you.” (Baptist Standard 11-18-98)

If his attitude did not represent the attitude of the C/R, how did he win his position over the missionary son of Adrian Rogers?

Maybe some of the blame for less people going to church is because of the friction among Baptists.

Rex Ray said...

One more shot.

Have your read “Columns---Glimpses of a Seminary Under Assault” by Russell Dilday?

Pages 298-299:

“Even after they [fundamentalists] achieved a majority representation on the board, their plan [firing Dilday] at Southwestern was delayed because they could find no theological liberalism there to justify their actions…If the Patterson/Pressler goal truly was to keep the denomination biblically conservative, it seems logical they would have complemented Southwestern for its conservative reputation…But obviously, there were other motives behind their political grasp for power. This helps explain why the chairman of our board would say, “Russell, you have recommended professors who are theologically conservative, but they are not ‘politically’ conservative---meaning they are not in lock-step with the Patterson/Pressler political party. Or as Paige Patterson put it, “Russell, you’re a conservative all right, but you’re not a ‘courageous’ conservative---meaning you haven’t supported our campaign.”

Why Dilday was fired was answered page 282: “We don’t have to have a reason. We have the votes, and we can do it.”

Page 283: “Trustee Ollin Collin’s letter to SBC Leaders, May 9, 1224…to fundamentalists Bailey Smith, Adrian Rogers, Ed Young, James Merritt, Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines, and Homer Lindsey.
I have to ask, why has there been such a strange silence from you men…concerning the action taken by our board in terminating Dr. Dilday…we finally did what you men had been leading us to do…once it was done it was as though we had leprosy…we feel like we have been hung out and left by our self…received over 450 letters, are bombarded from every news media…calling us ecclesiastical bigots and told there are special places in hell reserved just for us.”

Rex Ray said...

Opps, May 9, 1994

buddy said...

My problem is wanting to change the name so someone can make a name for themself. It is called ego.