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The Southern Baptists are considering changing their name.

“The announcement from Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright of a presidential task force to study the prospect of changing the convention’s name sparked a lively debate during the SBC Executive Committee meeting Sept. 19 in Nashville, Tenn.,” writes Mark Kelly with the Baptist Press news service.

Executive Committee member Darrell P. Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla., offered a motion that convention attorneys study the issue for one year “before we take any action” on possibly changing the name. The motion later failed on a 39-20 vote, reports Kelly.

“In New York and Boston and Minneapolis and out West, it’s just a big barrier that they are continually dealing with,” Wright said. “… Part of the study is to consider a name change as a possibility of removing a barrier to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are so many people that are unreached, that it’s a barrier to even have communication with them, or for them to even consider coming to a new church plant that is a Southern Baptist church. Hearing that feedback in [my] travels around the nation was definitely influential in me praying about this possibility.”

Motions to study a name change were presented to the convention in 1965, 1974, 1983, 1989, 1990 and 1998, notes Kelly:

More recently, the convention was asked in its 1999 annual session in Atlanta to conduct a “straw poll” to consider a name change. The “straw poll” was defeated on a floor vote. A motion at the 2004 annual meeting in Indianapolis to authorize the SBC president to appoint a committee to study a name change was defeated on a ballot vote (44.6 percent yes; 55.4 percent no).

Wright said he hopes the task force will be able to provide an interim report he can share with the SBC Executive Committee during its Feb. 20-21 meeting, with the possibility of a final report in time for the SBC annual meeting June 19-20, 2012, in New Orleans. Any proposed name change, as well as other legal implications involved in a name change, would have to be approved by a majority of messengers at two consecutive SBC annual meetings, according to the convention’s constitution.

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