120-Yr-Old Church Drops 'Baptist' From Name Due to 'Negative Stereotypes'

(Photo, Screengrab, Chapelstreet.Church)First Baptist Church of Geneva in Kane County, Illinois changes its name to Chapelstreet Church.

The First Baptist Church of Geneva in Kane County in Illinois is now called Chapelstreet Church, after they removed the mention of the denomination from its 120-year-old name with the aim to be more welcoming to people.

"We believe a church's name should reflect who they are, align with their vision, and should not present any unnecessary barriers to people hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ," the church says on its website, announcing the name change.

The church's denomination, the Baptist General Conference, also dropped "Baptist," changing its name to "Converge Worldwide" in 2008 and "Converge" in 2015. 

"For us, changing our name is advantageous for multiple reasons and the launch of a third site is an opportune time to make this change. While we're proud of our Baptist heritage (and firmly committed to our theological distinctives), the name presents a barrier to many," the church adds.

"We are remaining a Baptist church," Pastor Jeff Frazier told Kane County Chronicle.

"We know and love what it is to be Baptists – and it's a wonderful thing. But the culture at large – for many, not all – it's a bit of a deterrent," he explained. "There are all kinds of associations. The perceptions in the culture are negative. Baptists are known by what they are against in our culture. … We wanted a name that removed unnecessary barriers and sounded inviting and lined up in some way with our mission as a church."

The website also explains that the term "First" in the church's name was a "historic reference to the first white church established in a city." And that "Baptist" is "a misunderstood term that in our culture brings with it negative stereotypes."

"Finally, 'Geneva' as a location is no longer accurate as we attract people from all over the Kane County (not to mention possible expansion of new sites). It's critical that a new name align with our mission, and supports our values."

The word "chapel," on the other hand, refers to "a smaller house of worship connected to a larger body, he said, which was perfect for how the Geneva church sees itself," Frazier said, adding that no one has left the church over the name change that he knows of. "They might have quietly left, but most are pretty excited about the change."

 It further explains, "We are a place to experience grace, grow in faith and make an impact–for where you are. For many, they didn't see us that way, so after much prayer and help from others, we have found a name that speaks to who we've always been, but will represent where God is leading us. We are so excited to now be Chapelstreet Church."

In defense of the name change, the church website recommends a Dec. 2014 blog post by Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, titled, "Six Reasons Churches Change Their Names." 

The church is also urging prayers for any possible consequences of the name change. "This is a significant transition for our church and we need wisdom to navigate the implications of a new name," it says.