Magazine article The Christian Century

SBC Leaves Alliance, May Drop 'Southern'

Magazine article The Christian Century

SBC Leaves Alliance, May Drop 'Southern'

Article excerpt

AS "A NETWORK of churches that circle the planet," the Southern Baptist Convention must consider changing its name to "reflect who we are and what we are doing nationally, and internationally," SBC President Jack Graham told theExecutive Committee of the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

At the same Nashville meeting in which the SBC leaders voted overwhelmingly to sever the denomination's longtime membership in the Baptist World Alliance, Graham suggested on February 16 that it is time to take a name reflecting the SBC's preeminence among conservative Christians.

"I have loved the Southern Baptist Convention and its name," said Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church. "But this name that I love and you love speaks of our region and doesn't move us beyond to the great cities of the Northeast, to the West and the Midwest. It's time to consider a new name that reflects our future."

Despite pleas from Baptist leaders worldwide and some Southern Baptists not to leave the BWA, the Executive Committee voted 62-10 to approve the recommendation from a study committee. Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in June will vote on final approval. The action would take effect October 1, deleting the final $300,000 of annual SBC support for the Baptist World Alliance, which has 211 member bodies and an annual budget of $1.7 million.

The SBC, with 16 million members, is the largest member body and biggest contributor to the Baptist World Alliance. But the conservative leaders of the SBC say the organization has become too liberal, a charge Baptist leaders worldwide deny. Southern Baptist leaders say they will form a new international network of like-minded conservative Christians.

The break with the BWA has seemed almost certain after the world body admitted as a new member the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, an association of moderate congregations critical of the SBC. Southern Baptists had objected to the CBF's admittance to the BWA.

Reviving the question of a name change, however, was somewhat surprising since resolutions to that effect have always failed in the past. Graham said he will appoint a name-change study committee that is "geographically and generationally" representative. "It is my prayer that the committee can bring a recommendation to the SBC in 2005," he said. "Timing is everything," said Graham, noting that "seven or eight" previous studies of a possible name change resulted in no change, including one initiated by Dallas Pastor W. …

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