(Photo: SBC / Bill Bangham)
A Southern Baptist Convention task force appointed to investigate the possibility of a name change for the denomination has recommended that the SBC keep its name, but introduce an "informal" optional title, "Great Commission Baptists."
The task force, which was appointed by SBC President Bryant Wright, released their report and its recommendation on Monday. Rather than a legal name change, the panel recommended "a descriptor name be adopted to go with the SBC official name."
"I'm in complete agreement with the position they have taken," said Wright in an interview with The Christian Post.
"They could be used together, or a church or entity could decide to use 'Great Commission Baptists' by itself or together with 'Southern Baptist Convention' or use 'Southern Baptist Convention' by itself."
Wright has been supportive of the consideration to change the name of SBC, which was founded in 1845 and has had members seriously considering changing its name since 1903.
Some have expressed concerns that the SBC name was a hindrance for some and that it was too regional.
"But the regional aspect of the name 'Southern' Baptists doesn't describe our mission given by Jesus Christ to His church to go and make disciples of all people. That is our mission. That is what we do," said Wright.
Wright appointed the 16-member task force back in 2011, with its chairman being Dr. Jimmy Draper, a Baptist minister with more than five decades of experience in ministry.
Dr. Eric Herrstrom, senior pastor at Lake Arlington Baptist Church, where Draper served as an interim pastor, told CP that he also liked the task force's decision.
"I believe it addresses the regional issue that 'Southern' creates as well as better describes who we are as a commissioned people," said Herrstrom.
"I think, informally and from a public perspective, 'Great Commission Baptists' reframes for the world a more descriptive picture of who we are as Southern Baptists. Formally, I don't know that there is a need to immediately leave our 'Southern Baptist' name from a legal perspective."
The last time the SBC leadership considered changing the name of the denomination was in 2004, which was at the request of then SBC President Jack Graham.
While many have felt the regional name of the denomination should be altered as the SBC grows outside of the American South, others have felt the change unnecessary.
In November 2011, the Tennessee Baptist Convention passed a resolution against changing the name of the SBC. Dr. Randy C. Davis, executive director-treasurer for the TBC, told CP in an earlier interview that the name "Southern Baptist" has a greater meaning.
"Bottom line, the majority see the name not as a statement of regional reference, but as a brand that stands for biblical fidelity, caring ministry and effective missions," said Davis.
Draper also stressed at the meeting that the Southern Baptist Convention "describes who we are, not what we do. SBC is a name respected worldwide."
The Southern Baptist Convention will hold its nationwide meeting in June in New Orleans. It is likely the issue of name change and the task force's recommendations will be on the agenda. Draper hopes the recommendation they presented will ultimately bring an end to the name change debate.