Clearly, changing the name of the SBC will not be easy. There is tremendous value in the established name and reputation of the Southern Baptist Convention, especially when the denomination has put itself on the line again and again in defense of biblical truth and theological orthodoxy. The name emerged from a historical context that is central to the denomination’s history and identity. Of course, the Convention’s population distribution is still mightily weighted by concentrations in the South and Southwest.
There may be significant legal and economic factors to consider, especially when the SBC’s founding was almost 170 years ago. The legal name of the Southern Baptist Convention is woven throughout SBC life — not to mention its 40,000 member churches. This would be no simple re-branding effort. Much is at stake.
What international implications might a name change hold? Those must be considered. In a global context, “southern” does not imply the American meaning. So, what does it imply? That question must be asked. How much international recognition might be lost by changing the name?
On the other hand, there are powerful reasons to consider changing the name. The SBC is not driven by a southern agenda nor a southern vision, but by a passionate commitment to the Great Commission. In the context of the United States, “southern” refers to a region. That region gave birth to the Southern Baptist Convention, but it no longer contains it. To many in regions like New England and the Pacific Northwest, the “Southern Baptist Convention” sounds strange, if not foreign. On the other hand, how much does this really mean anymore?
Furthermore, there is a legacy with which we must continue to deal. We were established as an association of churches that would appoint slaveholders as missionaries. There is so much to celebrate in the heritage of our beloved denomination, but there is also a deep stain that is associated with slavery, the nation’s sectional division prior to and during the Civil War, and the legacy of racism. If these issues can be resolved, even to any significant degree, by a name change, a Gospel-minded people would never hesitate to consider such a proposal.