‘Southern’ Baptist no more?

One of the most iconic cultural brands in America may be on the verge of shedding half its name. Perhaps because of the regional stigma, and perhaps because of an identity with partisan politics. From the Associated Press:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The nation’s largest Protestant denomination will definitely remain “Baptist,” but leaders are thinking about whether it will be “Southern” for much longer.

Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright was expected to present the recommendation of a task force assigned to study a name change to the denomination’s executive committee at a meeting Monday night. Any name change would have to be approved at the SBC’s annual conventions the next two years.

Wright has said he is concerned the name is too regional and hinders efforts to plant new churches outside of the South. Others outside of church leadership say the name has become a liability because it is too often associated with divisive, partisan politics.

Either way, a recent survey conducted by the SBC’s own Lifeway Research firm gives weight to the idea that the name does drive away some potential members.

Of the 2,000 Americans surveyed, 40 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the denomination and 44 percent of respondents said that knowing a church was Southern Baptist would negatively impact their decision to visit or join the church.

Although 53 percent of respondents overall had a favorable view of the Southern Baptists, the high negatives are a concern for a denomination in which spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a fundamental to their faith.

While the 16 million member denomination continues to plant new churches in the U.S. and around the world, it has seen a decline in baptisms, church attendance and membership in recent years.

Wright has not revealed whether the task force voted in favor of a new name, but task force members have spoken positively about the idea.

“If we don’t aggressively plant churches and lead people to Christ, we become increasingly irrelevant to the world around us,” Jimmy Draper, the task force chairman, said recently. Draper also is a former SBC president and the former head of the SBC’s Lifeway Christian Resources.

Wright, the senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., will address the SBC executive committee on Monday evening at SBC headquarters in Nashville. If that group approves a new name, it would still have to pass a majority vote of delegates to the convention’s annual meeting for two straight years.

Note that many Southern Baptist churches have begun omitting any reference to the denomination in their names. Among them: First Redeemer Church, where GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum spoke Sunday night.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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187 comments Add your comment

MD

February 20th, 2012
5:16 pm

The liberals must be scared of the Southern Baptist.obama needs to repent for his sins against America.

Debdoes

February 20th, 2012
5:21 pm

He will repent when you do MD! As a southern Baptist, I dont the name change will fly.

NYTN

February 20th, 2012
5:22 pm

Changing the name of a group means nothing if the values, attitudes, and behaviors of the people within it do not change.

It’s not the name that drives people away. Rather, it’s the HISTORY as to how the name “Southern Baptist” came about in the first place, and the seemingly strong desire to remain aligned with it.

Gregory Tucker

February 20th, 2012
5:28 pm

The daffodils are blooming in Feburary. 100 years from now, it may be 160 Farenehight in the shade. Hell on earth. And the Southern Baptist are known for their anti-environmental politics. Brain, I grew up with you on Chateaugay. Are you the devils minion?

Browncoat

February 20th, 2012
5:28 pm

It’s not the name that’s driving people away, lol.

bucket

February 20th, 2012
5:37 pm

One fact that always gets left out of these types of articles is that the decline of the more liberal denominations is happening at a much more rapid rate than in the more conservative denominations. Currently I am a Southern Baptist, but I am ok if the Southern is dropped from the name.

Cliff

February 20th, 2012
5:39 pm

The name change brings a line from a hymn to mind: “They will know that we are Christians by our love.”

Matt the Brave

February 20th, 2012
5:43 pm

Here’s the main question for the SBC. If you change the name, are you going to actually change the way that you ‘do’ church? I mean, for MANY SBC churches, they are stuck well into the past in the way that they evangelize, the way that they conduct their services, and the way that they think of, for lack of a better term, outsiders. If you change the name, then there needs to be a drastic change in the way that the entire convention runs itself.

Browncoat

February 20th, 2012
5:52 pm

If Jesus showed up at most Baptist churches, they would throw him out for being a leftist hippie who hangs out with prostitutes and wants to redistibute wealth to the poor.

No Longer Republican

February 20th, 2012
5:55 pm

The problem is not the name. The problem is that these people have taken the church and made it a political institution and have forgotten the mission of the church is to love people and lead them to Christ. Not just the Baptists, but they are an integral part of the right wing morons that push hate-filled messages on social issues. That is the image millions of Americans have of “Christians” and nobody wants to be a part of a group that is angry and self-righteous. Churches – like Rehobeth- that hosts politically divisive figures like Rick Santorum (last night) perpetuate the image that its not really anything different than the image they have seen in the media. Nobody with a brain wants to join that mess.

david

February 20th, 2012
6:04 pm

Wright is a smart and cool guy. I think it is a good idea to study this change.

don abernethy

February 20th, 2012
6:09 pm

I am tired of people picking on the South. If Southern is deleted look for a church split. I will be going with the SOUTHERN Baptist. All of the luke warm liberals who don’t even have invitations or altar calls can go with whatever they want to name their church. Give me the old time religion it is good enough for me.

BobV

February 20th, 2012
6:12 pm

Whatever clever new market-tested name they come up with, they’ll poison that one as well unless they convert their attitudes. They might try loving rather than hating their neighbors.

Michael

February 20th, 2012
6:13 pm

Can we get back to debating whether hunters should be able to use silencers?

jumping jack flash

February 20th, 2012
6:13 pm

Mythology is mythology – Buddism, Catholicism, Muslim, Southen Baptist, Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny…

Elvira

February 20th, 2012
6:17 pm

Next Sunday, whatever the first person speaking in tongues blurts out-should be the new name. Can I get a Amen!

blacksheep

February 20th, 2012
6:26 pm

How about “Republican Baptist Church?”

Me

February 20th, 2012
6:28 pm

I gave up on the whole “Southern Baptist” deal a long time ago. Oh, I still hold the same beliefs as it relates to the Bible – just no longer caring for the drama and politics.

jumping jack flash

February 20th, 2012
6:32 pm

Religion is nature’s way of controlling the human population. It achieves it in multiple ways – perpetual wars, as in the middle east, and the denial of scientific facts (the antitheisis of all religions), which will lead to the end of the earth’s ability to sustain our species. Ignorance is bliss…

SBinF

February 20th, 2012
6:35 pm

How does the saying go?

You can put lipstick on a pig….

Gary

February 20th, 2012
6:37 pm

I’m not Baptist but I must say I admire their tenacious faith. No other group seems to have strong enough leadership not to cave to secular pressure.

rally

February 20th, 2012
6:40 pm

My dad was in a fraternity with Bryant at South Carolina. This should get pretty interesting. I can’t wait to ask him about it when he gets home. ROFL. It should make for a good dinner conversation. ROFL….

lol

February 20th, 2012
6:50 pm

First of all a name change will not make them any less judgemental – and it’s really funny to call them the largest – they are only the largest because once you get on a southern baptist registry you never come off – even if you die.

jconservative

February 20th, 2012
6:53 pm

From the Nat”l Council of Churches (2009 numbers). Later may be available.

Denomination……………………………………..Membership……………Trend
Southern Baptist Convention………….. 16,228,438…………. down 0.24percent
The United Methodist Church…………. 7,853,987………….. down 0.98 percent
The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS……. 5,974,041………….. up 1.71 percent
The Church of God in Christ……………. 5,499,875………….. N/A
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A…….. 5,000,000………….. N/A
Evangelical Lutheran Church…………….. 4,633,887………….. down1.62 percent
National Baptist Convention of America… 3,500,000………….. N/A
Assemblies of God …………………………. 2,899,702………….. up 1.27 percent. 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)…………… 2,844,952 …………….down 3.28 percent Roman Catholic……………………………. 68,115,001…………… up 1.49 percent

If the SBC feels the name is hindering expansion of the church they may be wise to consider a name change. The name goes back to 1845 in Augusta, Ga and the church was formed to meet a specific perceived threat.

SBC website is – sbc.net – if you are interested.

OneWhoKnows

February 20th, 2012
6:58 pm

ABSOLUTE cult. Do not be fooled regardless of the name. Spent much of my early life with these people. I “pray” membership continues to decline!

Shine

February 20th, 2012
7:13 pm

Changing the name of horse piss dont make it taste different. Maybe they should keep the name and just get out of politics as they are exposing all to the hypocricy of a few loudmouths and phonies.

T-Bone

February 20th, 2012
7:15 pm

I am a member of a Southern Baptist church that broke away from a traditional Southern Baptist church because they wanted to worship in a more contemporary way. I have nothing against the “old-time” way of doing things. However, I must be honest. We have been to a number of churches and I am very disturbed by the behavior of many of the people who call themselves Christians. Many are very good, Christian people. Many are not. It has taken years to find a church that, for the most part, does not indulge in that kind of behavior. We just try to focus on Jesus and not pay attention to the “bad Christians that happen to good people.” The name change doesn’t really matter unless Christians as a whole start behaving differently.

Phonies

February 20th, 2012
7:33 pm

It took a loooooong time, but finally a church has overtaken Catholics as the most corrupt in the world. These southern baptists are a scary group. Stay away. Please worship somewhere that focuses on love of god and not fear of god. Their fire and brimstone stuff is nuts.

Greg S.

February 20th, 2012
7:34 pm

Personally I am sick-and-tired of a “regional stigma” being forced on the South by those from the North. To change the name only adds credence to the Northern elitists argument that the South is somehow inferior. My advise is to leave the name as it is and be proud!

Daniel Altman

February 20th, 2012
7:38 pm

Anyone who is offended by the Southern Baptist name is just looking for a reason to be offended.Southern Baptists have been spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and ministering to the lost,feeding the hungry,clothing the naked,defending the down and out and rescuing the perishing for over 250 years.The SBC sends missionaries all over the world.
I am very proud of my Southern Baptist heritage and I urge our leadership to leave our name as it is.

Northern elitist

February 20th, 2012
7:40 pm

That should be “advice”, redneck.

BitterEXdemocrackkk

February 20th, 2012
7:43 pm

There ’s STILL many baptist democrackkks out there…lots of them…too stupid to know better…

SoGAVet

February 20th, 2012
7:50 pm

But if they change the name, what would I then call myself? I’m “Baptist” for a reason and by choice do not affiliate myself with the “Southern Baptist” moniker. Changing the name won’t fix the perception of the problem to those who have a problem with the name.

“A rose by any other name…” you can decide if it’s sweet or not.

Bo

February 20th, 2012
8:00 pm

I cannot believe that the SBC executive committee would consider such an idea. No one should apologize for the word “Southern” added to one of the world’s largest Christian denomination. The Catholic Church would never consider changing its denominational name because of the Counter Reformation or persecuting thousands of Christians over heresy during the Middle Ages. Also the same notion could apply to the Presbyterian Church that promotes the doctrine of predestination which has no Biblical basis.
If the word “Southern” offends some people both inside and outside the denomination the idea of freewill should be exercised to associate with another denomination. A great mistake will be made in Christianity if such a name change occurs. Why should a successful denomination compromise its principles in order to suit a few elites indoctrinated by political correctness.

John

February 20th, 2012
8:05 pm

Changing the name or keeping it the same will not keep even one of the elect from salvation

Ross P. Alander

February 20th, 2012
8:06 pm

Here is a novel approach, how about calling themselves Christians and then practice/live as St. Francis of Assisi said “teach the Gospel daily and if necessary use words”. Love it!
Peace brothers and sisters,
Ross

Walter LIttle

February 20th, 2012
8:12 pm

“Others outside of church leadership say the name has become a liability because it is too often associated with divisive, partisan politics.”

I knew the mixing politics with religion from the pulpit would come back to haunt the SBC.

Proud Native Georgian

February 20th, 2012
8:12 pm

Most Southern Baptists are good people, of that there is little doubt. That said, so much of the church’s leadership and its policies have created turmoil and rancor. Too many people have come to associate the church with intolerance. I overheard a somewhat heated conversation at a local coffee shop just after Christmas where one individual leveled the following statement to another: “nowhere in Southern Baptist doctrine does it say you have to hate and judge everybody….y’all just do that on your own.” I’ve thought about that statement ever since. Ouch.

Tom

February 20th, 2012
8:15 pm

Does a name change mean they can say ‘hey’ to each other in the liquor store now?

The Goobernator

February 20th, 2012
8:19 pm

If the SBC wants to rebrand itself to continue it’s campaign of hate and intolerance, so be it!
They’ll never have a monopoly on the word ‘Baptist’ and other ‘B’ word churches that think differently and act with more compassion.

Mary

February 20th, 2012
8:23 pm

Southerners have had their beliefs, songs and symbols attacked in recent years. Governor Perdue forced a flag change on its citizens without any input from the citizens. Colleges are erasing southern symbols. We are no longer allowed to sing Dixie in public. The southern accent is ridiculed by outsiders as being backward and ignorant. Attention SBC, go ahead and change your name if you want to lose your current members.

Ben The Independent

February 20th, 2012
8:23 pm

Oh Boy: After reading some of the negative comments, I come to the conclusion that Southern Baptist are doing something right. The Bible gives examples of how Christ was treated as he was on earth. An example of extreme prejudice is to see how over 16,000,000 million people are treated as if all have the same opinions, attitudes and methods of worship on Sunday. I still believe the vast majority of Americans don’t have a desire to bash Southern Baptists when ever the opportunity arises. I guess Ignorance is still bliss for the little ‘basher group’.

jdl2

February 20th, 2012
8:34 pm

Isn’t this supposed to be about politics? The AJC is pitiful. Reckon the Right Rev Bryant needed a little press…

Ok I'll play along

February 20th, 2012
8:36 pm

…let’s see Stewart Ave changed to Metropolitan Ave. Bankhead changed to Veterans Memorial Hwy. So why not?

Ol' Timer

February 20th, 2012
8:59 pm

These good folk can change their name if they want to but I would argue that their declining metrics are not the result of the name.

They are the problem, not the name. These folks pride themselves in their conservatism and, as George Will opined, “Conservatives define themselves in terms of what they oppose.” And, these folks are agin’ dang near everything. They were born negative and had a relapse.

So why should I want to spend my time with these religious nabobs of negativism who have become nothing more that the religious arm of the Republican Party?

Travis McGee

February 20th, 2012
9:04 pm

Religions are all alike — founded on fables and mythologies. ~Thomas Jefferson

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. ~Thomas Jefferson

Wayne A.

February 20th, 2012
9:15 pm

Change the name, toss out the Bible, embrace secularism, hmmmm, what do we do next to become irrelevant?

A B Normal

February 20th, 2012
9:19 pm

Dang it! As a member of the United Methodist Church I am appalled that them thar Baptists stole our thunder. OUR church is about to unleash the “gay marriage and gay pastors in the UMC” debate and we really had hoped to grab headlines over that. Guess we’ll have to drag politics into the mix in order to get equal time. Hmmmphhh!
Remember, It’s easier to make a point than it is to make a difference.

Hypocritecatcher

February 20th, 2012
9:23 pm

How can anyone associate with a religion that actively preaches that women are not equals and not worthy of being heads of church. All you female members should be ashamed.

And thats just the start of this gay bashing religion. They aren’t allowed to drink (they all do), not allowed to dance (seem it a million times). Most hypocritical religion out there.

Look before I leap...

February 20th, 2012
9:24 pm

They can call it the Church of the Red JuJubes for all I care.
Just as long as my wife is still required to remain submissive to me.