NASHVILLE, Tenn. (The Blaze/AP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention is considering changing its name -- a move that is seen by some as a necessary step to attracting more members in diverse geographic localities.
SBC President Bryant Wright said Monday that he's appointing a task force to study the idea. Wright says the denomination's name is too location-specific and creates challenges as the SBC tries to grow. In an interview with Fox News Radio, he said:
"The convention’s name is so regional. We are going to think through potential names that would better describe us without such a regional geographic limitation."
According to the Baptist Press, discussions about the potential name change sparked "lively debate" during the SBC Executive Committee meeting on September 19.
Southern Baptists are the largest Protestant group in the United States. But they've seen a decline in baptisms, church attendance and membership in recent years. The USA Today provides more information on these declining numbers:
Southern Baptists baptized 332,321 people last year, the lowest number since the 1950s. Membership dropped for the fourth year in a row, and the convention has cut the number of overseas missionaries it sends out.
Dr. Albert Mohler describes some of the considerations surrounding a name change, offering insight on both sides of the debate. Below, he shares a few reasons why a name-change may be warranted:
...there are powerful reasons to consider changing the name. The SBC is not driven by a southern agenda nor a southern vision, but by a passionate commitment to the Great Commission. In the context of the United States, “southern” refers to a region. That region gave birth to the Southern Baptist Convention, but it no longer contains it. To many in regions like New England and the Pacific Northwest, the “Southern Baptist Convention” sounds strange, if not foreign. On the other hand, how much does this really mean anymore?
Any name change would need approval from a majority of participants in two consecutive annual Southern Baptist meetings. Several attempts to change the name over the years have failed. Since 1965, in fact, there have been eight separate attempts to change the SBC's name.
The denomination was formed in 1845 amid disputes with other American Baptists over slaveholding. Southern Baptists apologized to African-Americans in a 1995 resolution for the role that slavery played in the convention's founding.