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Jan 05, 2012


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The quote from Paul Proctor is gold, Bro.



I'm not really sure that the only reason behind the name change is the denomination's appeal to the "world." As one who grew up in the west, in a small town with two Baptist churches, the "First" Baptist church being a member of the Conservative Baptist Convention, and ours. A lot of people from the south would join the First Baptist Church, not knowing its denominational affiliation because that's where they belonged at home. There was a very large migrant population in the area from Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, who didn't have an understanding of exactly what "Southern" meant, other than where people came from, along with a lot of the locals. And really, other than the source of Sunday School literature, and the presence, at my home church, of a Sunday evening "Training Union," there was almost nothing else that distinguished the First Southern Baptist church from the First Baptist Church. The regional-sounding name "Southern" led a lot of people to believe that they wouldn't fit.

There has been a shift in the past couple of decades, to the point where most of the new church plants, baptisms, and numerical growth taking place in the SBC is occurring in areas outside the deep South itself. Much of this is happening among ethnic congregations and in churches where English is not the primary language. The convention isn't nearly as predominantly oriented toward Dixieland as it once was. Southern is a misnomer, since the SBC is very diverse and in many places has an international flavor. There was a time when 85% of my home church in Arizona would have been made up of people from the South, now, there's not one, including the pastor.

I would agree that pressure to conform based on a pollster's results wouldn't be a good idea. But with more than six million of the 16 million membership total living outside of the "South," geography might be a good reason to consider a name change.


Another truth gleaned from Paul Proctor's article speaks desperately to the real need of this hour in Southern Baptist life:

" ... polling and surveying one another ... for “expert” opinions and public perceptions of who we are in the religious marketplace, rather than looking to the word of God to find out who we ought to be in Christ."

Southern Baptists need to focus more on repenting rather than rebranding, lest our candlestick be removed completely.

peter lumpkins


Thanks. I appreciate your perspective, and you make some goods points to consider. I would like to clear up perhaps any vagary I may have caused with this particular piece: I did not mean to imply the “ugly baggage” Southern Baptists allegedly possess stands as the exclusive reason name-change advocates propose for rebranding. I’ve written more about name-change and reasons advocates support it on this page. Even so, perhaps the most oft repeated reason for name-change is the purported baggage. The posts linked on the page fairly well show this I think.

And, you’re right, Southern Baptists are “no longer” just associated with Dixie. Arguably, however, our mission, our thrust, our goals, our evangelistic efforts as the SBC have never been just about Dixie. The first order of business when we constituted in 1845 included setting up a board to “take the gospel to the heathen.” In addition, when name-change came up in the early 1920s—quite honestly a perfect time for various reasons to have changed our name—it remains telling that name-change advocates argued that Southern Baptists are no longer a denomination of the south indicating that for upwards toward a century, the belief has been settled among us that we are not a denomination of the south but rather a denomination whose headquarters is in the south.

How it may be successfully argued that either a denomination or any other organization for that matter, the headquarters of which are and remain southern, should consider changing its identifying moniker because being southern is a hindrance to being successful I cannot tell. If this is true, someone needs to tell The Southern Company, an Atlanta based company, it cannot adequately succeed when, in fact, Fortune 500 The Southern Company the number one most admired company in the world for 2011.

With that, I am…


peter lumpkins


You write:

"Southern Baptists need to focus more on repenting rather than rebranding"

Excellent summary!

With that, I am...

Ron Hale

Great writing and way of thinking by Paul Proctor in the Tennessean! Peter thanks for keeping us in the know.

Jeff Moore

"When" we successfully rebrand ourselves, and the world finds out that they still don['t like us, will we go back for another round of branding?
James wasn't beheaded and Peter wasn't imprisoned because Christians were so popular. If we ever get to the point that the world is not offended by us then God will be.

Bob Hadley

A couple weeks ago I had a writer call and ask me several questions concerning the proposed name change. He mentioned some statistic saying that 40% of the people surveyed had a negative view of SB and asked me what I thought about that. I told him, that meant 60% was favorable and in this day and time, that would seem pretty good to me! I can think of a number of politicians who would love those kind of numbers. Some of them would love the 40%!

Also... as he asked about churches changing their names to take Baptist out of them, I said they have every right to do so, but that seemed to me to be enough if a church felt the SBC name plate would not be suitable for their particular situation, then leave it out and go on. For that reason alone, the whole issue of changing the SBC name would seem to me to be a moot point.

Even if we did as a denomination change our name, I would guess not ONE community church that is today SBC would adopt the new moniker, whatever it might be.

Grateful to be in His Grip!


darren casper

I have had more than one African American leader friends tell me that for himself and others he knew, the name Southern Baptist was linked back in their minds to racism and or slavery. If this to be true, then it boggles my mind that anyone, anyone would not want to distance themselves from this ugly blight on the American record. Some might argue that changing our name doesn't change our past. True, but doesn't it characterize a sign or showing of good will and faith toward our African American brothers and sisters by making such a move?

As to the poll stating that 40% of people had a negative view of SB's. Did the poll actually state the reverse, that 60% had a positive view? Or could it be that the remaining 60% are comprised of those may have a positive view OR, are just indifferent and have no view at all.

This is a healthy discussion for us to have as Southern Baptists. Thanks for making me wrestle with it Peter.


Darren writes that a name change would be "a sign or showing of good will and faith toward our African American brothers and sisters."

Most long-time Southern Baptists know that the convention has already addressed our forefathers' racist sins. Over the years, the convention has passed 11 resolutions pertaining to race relations, including a 1995 resolution apologizing to all African-Americans and repenting of past attitudes and acts of racism. Today, there are 3,000+ predominantly black congregations affiliated with the SBC. An African American leader will most likely be the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention. There are African American students at "Southern" Seminary and numerous African Americans serve in State conventions and regional associations.

We’ve put our behind in our past on this issue. "Southern" Baptist doesn't carry that connotation these days. That card doesn’t belong on the table any longer. I understand that "global" describes our mission field, but Southern Baptists have had an international outreach for well over a century; our very name has been associated with a global commitment to the Great Commission.

Bob Hadley


Great point on a reason for a name change... of course the 60% comment was a simple perspective response..

As for the comment on the 40/60% I posed the following question: I wonder what their response to church in general might have been. Did not see the sampling, it was just an "off the cuff response to an off the cuff comment" which was as much a response to the way the writer asked the question as it was an attempt to be "politically correct".


peter lumpkins


A couple of things about the polls taken which Lifeway did. You bring up some very good questions. While it's true the poll suggested 40% may have negative views toward the SBC, the polls do not state why those in the 40% viewed the SBC negatively (and vice versa for that matter). We don't know. Hence, for my part, why would we change anything until we could grasp the content of the negative? For all we know the majority of the 40%'s negative views have nothing to do with something we could actually change about ourselves like our name.(e.g. we insist on immersion, we don't allow women pastors, etc).

Therefore, it seems anyone who boldly claims the survey shows we need to change our name because a survey said 40% of the public view us negatively is simply put, nonsense. We've got to have the content of the 40% for us to make a sober decision.

Also, I find it interesting that the question (in proper "scientific" form of course) was not asked, "What comes to mind when you hear the term "southern"? After all, this is what we're repeatedly told is the most "offensive" concerning our name. However, the poll, as far as I saw, never asked about the term "southern" apart from "Southern Baptist." I continue to wonder why that is.

With that, I am...


SBC spokesmen have been in America's face for decades regarding the moral decline of our country. When the media wants to know what the "church" thinks about a moral issue, someone from SBC's national leadership or Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is usually on the platform. America knows what we think about homosexuality, abortion, alcohol/drug addiction, single sex marriage, escalating divorce rate and a host of other moral ails. I'm surprised that only 40% of Americans view SBC negatively when their lifestyles are challenged. "Southern" Baptist means something as the world watches ... we are standing firm against moral decay so help us God!


Are some SBC leaders focus on rebranding the SBC distracting from Kingdom work? I guess so if it forces you to write about it rather than other things... Sorry, I felt a bit tongue in cheek there.

I have mixed feelings about rebranding the SBC. I think the best solution would be that true repentance does a better job of rebranding than a simple name change. But, I can see some ways in which renaming coupled with repentance could do good.

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