Yesterday my wonderful associate pastor stepped into my office and asked, “Do you have any opinion about the idea of changing the name of our denomination?” She had just read the recent piece in Christianity Today and wondered what I thought about it. I looked at her and smiled, “Of course I have opinions!” Our tribe is Southern Baptist. Most of the uproar is not about the “Baptist” but the “Southern.” True to form, the idea has been sent to committee for discussion. Nothing quite like a Baptist committee, huh?
Well, I do have some opinions and ideas. At least seven of them which are fit to share.
1. It is such a great idea to change the name, that it will never happen. I have discovered that when something clearly makes sense, it almost never is what actually happens in church life.
2. People who really know Southern Baptists usually like us. It is people who have never met us that are the problem. That is why the moniker is difficult in regions outside the American south, where we are less known. Most of the people who will make the decision, though, live in the south. (See #1).
3. Many churches are dropping the word “Baptist” from their name even though they are Baptist (most are SBC). This phenomena is not just in Baptist circles but in other denominations as well. Maybe we should think about a complete makeover of the name and drop “Baptist” too.
4. Okay, if we go that far, then “Convention” has got to go too. In fact, the more I think about name, the word “Convention” is the word that irks me the most. When I think of Convention I think of Comicon and that is way out of our league. [Funny thought: Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, and Charles Stanley at a Comicon.] No, wait, worse than that, when I think of “Convention” I think of the annual meeting of deep fat frier salesmen or of the political conventions held every four years. Yuck. So the more I think about it, “Convention” should go too.
5. What I am afraid of, though, is not what words might get dropped but what words might get added. You see, I am, in many ways, a minority in Baptist life. I am moderate on many issues, definitely not a Calvinist, believe in autonomy of local churches, affirm congregational polity, I am not dispensational, and I am not a fundamentalist. I worry we might end up with a new name of something like “The Fundamentally Elect Dispensationalists” or simply abbreviated, “The FED.” [Cue DarthVader Music]
6. Which reminds me, some attempt would probably be made to make the new name spell something, in the same way so many really bad sermons try to spell out the different points. Some bad ideas might be “The John 3:16 Convention,” “FAITH Network (Forsaking All I Trust Him?) or maybe “G-O-D (Go, Obey, Disciple).” If I set here long enough, I’m sure I can come up with some more bad ideas.
7. If we follow the money, we should just change the whole thing to “Lifeway Christian Stores.”
Well, regardless of what happens, it will likely be interesting. Again, I suspect nothing will happen. Too many emotional appeals will be made to heritage, history, culture, and I am sure someone, in tears, will evoke Adrian Rogers. Meanwhile, people like me will have to keep explaining how we can be a “Southern Baptist Church” in Western Washington.
UPDATE (USA Today): APPARENTLY The powers that be are moving forward with the idea, at least in some way. Looks like we’ve decided to not change our name but instead to adopt a nickname. It’s a pretty long nickname, though. Maybe we can just shorten it to GCC or The GC.