by Jack Minor –
The second largest denomination in America has appointed a task force to discuss changing its name.
The Southern Baptist Convention has over 16.1 million members, however, the denomination has seen a decline in membership over the past several years. USA Today reported that the denomination baptized 332,321 people last year, the lowest number since the 1950’s, and church membership has declined for the fourth year in a row.
In an attempt to turn the decline around, Convention President, Bryant Wright, called for a committee to discuss the possibility of changing the denomination’s name during the SBC’s annual executive meeting this year.
Jimmy Draper, Chairman of the taskforce, issued a statement regarding the implications of a name change.
“We are driven by only one great question — how can Southern Baptists be most faithful in reaching people for Jesus. Our concern is not public relations, politics, positioning or personal agendas,” Draper said. “We must ask ourselves constantly if there is anything that would help us to reach more people, plant more churches, and penetrate lostness here in the United States and around the world as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission.”
While some churches such as Grace Church in Greeley have been known to drop the word “Baptist” from their name, Drapper said that was not an option the task force was considering.
“We want Southern Baptists to know that we, as a task force, are unified in affirming that we are and will ever remain Baptist — and that name is more than a label, it is a testimony. We cannot envision a name change that would not include ‘Baptist’ in the name.”
Wright said one of the key reasons he organized the task force was that he felt people were getting hung up on the word “Southern.”
“There are not a lot of folks in New York City interested in going to a Southern Baptist church,” Bryant said. “Or in Cheyenne, Wyoming, or Boise, Idaho.”
The denomination began in 1845 when Baptists in the south organized the Southern Baptist Convention to separate themselves from Northern Baptists over the issue of slavery.