Timing of SBC name change questioned

JEFFERSON CITY—The three Missouri members of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee are in general agreement that a name change for the denomination ought to be studied even as they question the timing of such a move.

SBC President Bryant Wright on Sept. 19 revealed the names on a task force he has appointed to look into the matter. Executive Committee Members Randy Johnson, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Republic, and Lovina Rush, laity, First Baptist Church, Kearney, expressed concerns with timing that they deemed “bad” and “unfortunate” due to sweeping Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) reforms that are in their infancy.

Jeff Paul, pastor, Country Meadows Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit, was more upbeat while characterizing the timing as less than perfect.
Johnson noted that Wright was not prevented by anything in SBC polity from doing what he did. There was nothing illegal or unethical in how the president acted, but “it’s just not traditionally the way we do things as a convention.” Johnson speaks for others who prefer the bottom-up ways of Southern Baptist governance that have been easily identifiable since 1845.

“It’s beyond traditional accepted convention polity,” he said.

A motion to postpone any action while undertaking a year-long study of financial implications was defeated 39-20. Johnson was on the losing end while Paul and Rush voted with the majority.

Paul downplayed the significance of the creation of the task force. He called it a type of “kitchen cabinet” that is being set up to examine a very important issue.

“Somebody needs to do the research on it,” he said.

Wright is not asking Southern Baptists to fund it and will find a way to cover the expenses, Paul said. Another positive thing about the name change research group, Paul said, is that it will not be in a hurry. He estimated that it will take at least three years, and that Southern Baptists will get to weigh in with their views.

“Is the timing perfect? No, probably not,” he said. “But all we’re doing
at this point in time is looking at it.”

Rush said the feeling in the board meeting at Nashville, Tenn., when Executive Committee members were listening to Wright, was a sense of inevitability.

“I wish the timing had been better,” she said. “Two or three years from now probably would have been a better idea.”

Both she and Johnson would prefer there be more time for the 2010 GCR Task Force reforms to settle. Those changes, which will require noticeable personnel adjustments out in the field, involve a reallocation of missions dollars.

“The wounds are still raw for a lot of people,” Johnson said. “The timing’s probably not right.”

A name change for the SBC has been considered several times in the last few decades, all to no avail. The last time it happened was in 2004; it was defeated in 2005.

This time the 19-member task force will be chaired by Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources.

ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor