Concerned that their group’s name may sound too “regional” for effective outreach throughout the U.S., officials of the 166-year-old Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have announced a task force assigned to study the possibility of changing the name of the 16.16-million member evangelical Christian denomination, the nation’s largest. “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,” SBC President Bryan Wright told Christianity Today. “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.”
It is not the first time the SBC has looked into changing its distinctive label. “Motions to study a name change have been presented to the convention on numerous occasions,” reported the SBC’s own Baptist Press News, “for example, 1965, 1974, 1983, 1989, 1990, and 1998.” Additionally, a proposed “straw poll” to consider a name change was defeated at the SBC’s annual meeting in 1999, and an effort in 2004 to put a study in motion was also shot down.
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