Hey editors, are there any Baptists in your area code?

Last time I checked, the Southern Baptist Convention was still the second-largest Christian body in North America, after the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, I would assume that this 16-something-million flock considering a massive change in its name and identity just MIGHT deserve a story in a few major newspapers.

Take Dallas, for example, where there are almost as many Baptists as there are people.

But, so far, a search with Google suggests that the Nashville Tennessean — home of the Baptist Vatican (and that cool building that looks like a giant cell phone) — has the story all to itself.

I realize the action is not definitive. But virtually no coverage at all?

The fascinating details are in the reports from the competing Southern Baptist wire services — the conservative Baptist Press and the progressive Associated Baptist Press. The latter sees the change in terms of global Baptist tensions and U.S. politics. Baptist Press quotes SBC President Jack Graham of the giant Prestonwood congregation near Dallas as he stresses the practical details and missions.

“Why am I suggesting and recommending this? … Why would we do this? Only one reason, and that is to strengthen and lengthen our witness here in America and around the world. Why would we do this? Because people are wounded, people don’t know Jesus, and we are determined to do whatever it takes to connect with our culture and our country and the continents of the earth.”

Changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention is not a new idea. It has been studied several times — the latest being in the late 1990s. In 1998 at the annual meeting in Salt Lake City, two messengers made motions — one proposing the possibility of a name change and another proposing the name be changed to the “Baptist Convention of North America.” Another motion was made in 1999 to consider the name “International Baptist Convention.”

This issue should surface in the convention’s 2005 meeting.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • noname

    I believe back in ’98 or ’99 the same body got huge coverage when they decided to clarify the marital relationship and used the word “submit” as in a wife should “submit” to her husband’s authority. i believe i remember that patricia ireland said such language could lead to spousal abuse.


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