Last night(9/19/11) in an Executive Committee meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville, TN, Bryan Wright (the current president of the SBC) announced the creation of a Task Force to study whether or not a change of the denomination’s name should be pursued (Baptist Press story). Albert Mohler, one of the individuals named to the twenty member task force, has weighed in with some perspective on both the perceived need for a potential name change and how painful it could be for those raised in the SBC (including himself).
My friend Bart Barber has also weighed in with concerns about how the presidential task force might circumvent Baptist polity and the will of the convention. While Bart’s post provides some good historical data regarding how this issue has been addressed in the past, I believe that his concerns are ungrounded. Bart is a good thinker and an articulate spokesman. Many Southern Baptists will resonate with his post, but I fear that his fears are an overreaction at this point. I commented on his post and I’ve posted my comment in its entirety below.
Dear Bart and brothers,
I share your concern for Baptist polity and the rights of the messengers of the convention. However, I fear there is a bit of an overreaction here in Bart’s post and in some of the comments in this thread.
Here’s what I mean: It is impossible to unilaterally change the name of the SBC. It will have to be voted on in two consecutive years at the annual meeting according to her constitution. This is not what Bryant Wright and others are trying to do and if they tried they couldn’t.
In Bryant Wright’s own words: “Obviously, this is not an official committee empowered by a vote of messengers to an SBC annual meeting,” Wright said. “It is a task force I am asking to advise me as president on whether this is a matter we should bring forward for convention action.” (http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=36156)
Thus, all the discussion of circumventing Baptist polity misses the intention of the task force.
Of course, you will no doubt counter that the convention has already spoken loudly on this matter. You have demonstrated this well in your post already. I don’t, however, believe this fact precludes the issue from being addressed again with the best possible information.
I think (though I don’t know for sure) that this is the spirit of this action. I believe that it exhibits the qualities of good leadership that I’m sure that you (Bart, and other pastors) utilize in your local churches. A church may have decided something in the past without the best information. As a pastor, you have a responsibility to lead the flock and help them make the best possible decision with the most pertinent information. The ultimate decision’s is the congregation, but the issues need to be presented clearly. This is what I see President Wright doing in this situation.
Please tell me how I’m wrong. :)
BTW, I’m ambivalent about a name change. I love the history and tradition of the Southern Baptist Convention, but I realize that it may be challenging to use the name in certain contexts. I don’t think it will harm anything to hear the task force’s report, so that the messengers of the SBC can make the best possible decision.