UPDATE: Texas pastor, Dwight McKissic, Sr. offered an interesting response to this piece entitled "The SBC Identity Crisis: a Response to Peter Lumpkins." Many times my brother Dwight and I have differing opinions on denominational politics. However, we agree fully on this particular point concerning the name change issue though we begin with contrary premises. It's worthy of your time, I assure...
UPDATE: please pay careful attention to the two footnotes
In Part I, I showed how Bryant Wright's task force recommendations concerning name change for the Southern Baptist Convention had both good and bad aspects to it. While "Great Commission Baptists" captures well the church's own missional terminology about herself to herself (and other gospel-initiated believers), the proposed name change (i.e. "tag-line") possesses no more explanatory power to the culture at large about who Southern Baptists are and what we're about than our present name, "Southern Baptists."1 Why missional strategists like Ed Stetzer, who normally takes the initiative to correct Southern Baptists for their hesitancy to relate well to the larger culture, failed to criticize the name "Great Commission Baptists" for its navel-gazing aura2 can hardly be explained since he climbed aboard early in riding the task force's name change bus >>>
Following in Part II, I also attempted to show how name change advocates appear to experience monomania; that is, a curious shortsightedness concerning the gravity of this issue. One name change advocate blogger routinely exhorts others to keep the temperature low during exchanges about this issue, states unequivocally that changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention is a "relatively minor issue":
If we can’t discuss a relatively minor issue like this [i.e. name change] in a calm and reasoned spirit, we have issues greater than nomenclature to deal with. How we debate the issue and how we relate to one another is at least as important as the issue itself
While I agree with Miller we should discuss this issue in a calm, sober spirit (and for the record, I haven't experienced the "angry" exchanges Miller seems to have had), what Miller (and the name change task force at large) fails to realize is, when the name change issue is framed in the categories they regularly employ, it may be expecting far too much for the temperature to remain below the boiling point. In other words, for name change advocates, they may claim it to be a "relatively minor issue" all they wish, but indicative of the actual arguments they employ as persuasive tools to engage others on the name change issue creates the very climate they routinely protest.
For example, Miller self-confesses he is a strong advocate of name change, proposing that our name, though not an "intentional lie" is both "deceptive" and "detrimental to our national ministry"; hence, we ought to change it (//link). Similarly, Bryant Wright and Jimmy Draper thrown down the race card, tying the need for name change to our racist past since we advocated slavery at the beginning of our denomination in 1845. What these and other name change advocates fail to see is that framing the name change debate in moral categories (deception and racism) as well as making name change into a gospel-issue ("southern" hinders the gospel and is therefore "detrimental" to our success in ministry) electrifies the conversation about this issue. It is no longer a debate over a functional decision about how best to successfully promote Kingdom work through via Baptist heritage. Instead name change advocates make the debate about moral imperatives.
And, Bryant Wright's task force not only framed the name change debate partly as a moral debate since they injected racism into the reasoning for name change, but also curiously indicated that even though we are morally obligated to change our name because of our racist past, the hardships for doing so are so incredibly monumental--legal, fiscal, and infrastructural--that we should just add a "tag-line" to our name rather than officially change our name. Not only so, but what was assumed to be morally obligatory, they go on to reduce to voluntary and optional. Stated another way, Southern Baptists are hopelessly connected to their racist past, so much so that we are obligated to change our name. However, changing our name is too costly. Therefore, to avoid the high costs for doing what we are morally obligated to do, we will add a "tag-line" which does not technically change our name but will officially change our name since we will vote on it at the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention.
No church, association, convention, or convention entity will be morally obligated to either change their name or even add the "tag-line" to their name. Everything is optional for everybody. It's a "win/win" as Dr. Draper puts it.
For some reason, this simply makes no moral sense. All I see from this is freshly painted rotten wood.
Consider: do we counsel single pregnant women facing insurmountable obstacles ahead as they edge toward their final trimester that since the financial, social, and emotional hardships are so hopelessly burdensome for them, and even though they are morally obligated to preserve the life of their child, they may forfeit their moral obligation to preserve life and opt for an abortion? No? Then why may Southern Baptists opt for a "tag-line" when name change advocates definitely wed our racist past with our actual "Southern Baptist" name? Why would our fiscal, legal, and infrastructural difficulties save us from doing what name change advocates indicate as the right thing to do while the financial, social, and emotional hardships of a single pregnant woman offer no hesitance to us in rightfully counseling her to keep her child and not have an abortion? Is the right thing to do ever optional and voluntary? From my standpoint, this is precisely the dilemma name change advocates have placed us in given the hopelessly confusing recommendation they offer..
Indeed making name change a moral debate whether we're "deceptive" if we don't change our name or we're coddling racism if we remain "Southern Baptists" or even deducing the name change into a gospel-issue by suggesting Southern Baptists who want to retain the name are complicit in hindering gospel effectiveness remain the reason(s) this debate is as heated as some suppose it is. Here's a comment I posted two full years ago:
"I mentioned on my site I haven’t a plug nickel’s sacredness for the “southern” in SBC. I don’t. I don’t care. Period." I went on to say, "What I do care about is sober reasoning and careful decision-making (//link).
And, I have not changed my mind.
With that, I am...
Part IV up next
1since publishing this piece, The Florida Baptist Witness posted an article entitled "Disappointed young pastor says SBC name change task force 'waste of time and purpose'". In the article, Managing Editor, Joni Hannigan, recorded the disappointing response of Winter Garden pastor, Jason Dukes, as he speaks of the task force recommendation: "“I was frustrated that we put a team together to investigate or at least propose a name change and give reasons why—and so the announcement for me was kind of anticlimactic... To me it was kind of a waste of time and purpose. The nickname we got back is no different than what we’ve already known.” Dukes further indicated how "frustrating" it was because the proposed tag-line was "not thought through from a public relations and marketing point of view."
2in the same article referenced above, Hannigan quoted another young Florida pastor-- James Ross: "I wish that we could identify ourselves in a way that communicated that we are centered around the Great Commission, but in a language that someone with little or no Bible knowledge would clearly understand” (for the record, Hannigan also quoted young Florida pastors who, unlike the two mentioned here, were more positive toward the name change task force recommendation)