NASHVILLE, Tenn.?A name change for the Southern Baptist Convention has been proposed before, but the time is right to do it or put it to bed forever, SBC President Jack Graham said in his Feb. 16 address to the convention’s Executive Committee.
The Plano pastor, in his last address before that body as president, said he would appoint a committee “in the coming weeks representative of the convention both geographically and generationally. And it’s my prayer that this committee will be able to report back to the Southern Baptist Convention by the year 2005.”
A proposed name change has been discussed for several decades, Graham told the committee, noting that the late W.A. Criswell recommended it to the SBC Annual Meeting in 1974; it was last revisited in 1999 and voted down.
“I am so thrilled that we are committed to expanding the mission of Southern Baptists,” Graham said. “We are no longer a regional denomination. Across America, north to south and east to west and around the world, Southern Baptists are making a global impact. We are a network of churches which circle the planet. We are now kingdom focused. Empowering Kingdom Growth indicates the heart of this convention to move beyond ourselves and to advance the kingdom of God.
“It certainly is my view that now is the time to consider?seriously and prayerfully reconsider?a prayerful study of a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention, a name which will reflect who we are and what we are doing nationally and internationally.”
Graham said the Southern Baptist name has served the convention well. “But the fact is, this name that I love and you love is a name which speaks of our region and doesn’t move us beyond to the great cities of the Northeast, to the West, to the Midwest, and I believe once again it is time for us to look at the possibility of choosing ? a name which reflects our future.
“Why would we do this? Only one reason, and that is to strengthen and lengthen our witness here in America and around the world. Why would we do this? Because people are wounded, people don’t know Jesus and we are determined to do whatever it takes to connect with our culture and our country and the continents of the earth.”
“This is a season of time, a time set apart. And I believe it is time for us to take some bold steps as Southern Baptists. And I know that a name change ? will not change the hearts of people. But I believe a name change speaks to others in our cities?New York, in Los Angeles, Pacific Northwest, in Canada and around the world?of our intent to be a global, international network, convention, of churches which are determined to fulfill the mission, the passion of Jesus Christ in our day.”
Southern Baptists have always been willing to embrace change to further God’s work, Graham said.
He said a visit with missionaries in New York?one of Southern Baptists’ Strategic Focus Cities?impressed on him the importance of removing barriers to influencing people for the gospel’s sake. His home church, Prestonwood Baptist in Plano, has a missions partnership with a Baptist church in Boston.
In 1999 the convention rejected a proposed name change, instead adopting an Executive Committee report that noted the convention name had become a brand of sorts that transcended its Southern roots.
A WAR ON MANY FRONTS
Before announcing the possible name change, Graham told the committee America is in a war on many fronts.
Graham opened his address by telling of meeting former Marine Col. Oliver North and hearing of a battlefield conversation North witnessed between a reporter and a U.S. Army soldier who had carried several wounded men, including one Iraqi, to a helicopter while dodging crossfire.
The reporter asked the soldier, “Hey, didn’t you notice that that man was an Iraqi?”
The soldier reportedly replied, “Hey, didn’t you notice that man was wounded?”
Graham said Christians are in a war on many fronts and there are scores of wounded people who need to be rescued with the gospel.
“I want us always to remember that the wounded, the people who have been broken by sin, those who are the enemy of the cross, are greatly loved by the Lord Jesus Christ,” Graham said.
“It is a unique time in history, isn’t it? And God has called us to the kingdom for such a time as this. And there is a war. It is a war of worldviews. It is a war that we didn’t quite understand until perhaps we saw the face of the force of evil on 9-1-1, 2001. We recognize that we are in a spiritual war. The question is, ‘Who is God?'”