The country's largest Protestant denomination may be changing its name.
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Bryant Wright announced September 19 that a presidential task force would study the prospect and potential ramifications of changing the 166-year-old denomination's name. Wright said the decision came after hearing numerous reports about the difficulties associated with having a regional name.
"Starting a church in New York, or Boston, or Minneapolis, or Cheyenne, Wyoming, it's really a barrier to a lot of folks in even considering that church or that ministry," Wright said. "When they hear Southern Baptist, it's a regional perception there. The reason this task force has been set up to study a possible name change is [firstly] to consider a name that is not so geographically limiting, and secondly to help us be better prepared for reaching North America for Christ in the 21st century."
A 2006 poll by the Center for Missional Research found that while Southern Baptists were favored overall by the majority of adults polled, 1 in 4 said that knowing a church was affiliated with the SBC would have a negative impact on their decision to visit or join a church. That number was significantly higher for younger adults; nearly 40 percent of the adults 1824 said the affiliation would have a negative impact on their decision. Some SBC churches (as well as other congregations in other church families) have changed their names in recent years to downplay their denominational identity. The number of SBC members has been declining over the past few years, and the number of new baptisms into the church dropped to 332,321 in 2010, the lowest since the 1950s.
This isn't the first time a name change has been considered. In ...