Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright said Monday that he’s appointing a task force to study the idea. Wright says the name is too regional and creates challenges as the denomination tries to grow.
Southern Baptists are the largest Protestant group in the United States. But they’ve seen a decline in baptisms, church attendance and membership in recent years. The denomination was formed in 1845 amid disputes with other American Baptists over slaveholding. Southern Baptists apologized to African-Americans in a 1995 resolution for the role that slavery played in the convention’s founding.
The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, is giving serious thought to changing its name in order to better reach people for Jesus Christ.
But changing a 166-year-old name that 16 million members reportedly identify with is expected to spark some heated debate. Emotions were already high when SBC President Bryant Wright placed the proposal on the table on Monday.
“Vigorous and emotional discussion over potential SBC name change now on floor of SBC Executive Committee,” R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted Monday.
“There is much emotion & memory invested in the SBC name question, as well as hope among others. Hard family talks are the hardest,” he added.
A presidential task force has been set up to study a possible name change. The prominent Southern Baptist, who has been appointed to the task force, listed some reasons why the denomination should consider changing its name, with past racism being one of them.