Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Nick?

A Baptist Press article dated Feb. 24 announces an upcoming vote at the June 2012 convention on whether Southern Baptists will change their name...sort of. The actual task force recommendation which the Executive Committee approved would not change the legal name, but instead would permit using a non-legal descriptor. A nickname, if you will. Furthermore, its use would be entirely voluntary (sometimes it is amazing how many rules we SBC folk have amassed when you consider how much of it is "voluntary"). Therefore if your church wants to stick with the descriptor "Southern Baptist" (or "Southren Babdist" as they say in some parts), you can go for it.

Why the prospective name change? Well, it seems it's a little more challenging to do church plants in, say, New York or Greenland, with a geographical reference like Southern in your name. The thought is people may tend to regard your denomination as being limited to a certain area of the country. Not sure why that is. After all, in a country where the Dallas Cowboys can be in the NFC East division and Texas A&M, a former Southwest Conference team (back when the Southwest Conference still existed) can join another former Southwest Conference team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, in the Southeast Conference, it would appear that at least in the football world directional cues are not such a big deal. Maybe it's different in the Protestant denominational world.

Whatever the reason, it looks like the SBC may soon be called something else. The task force which recommended the change had asked for suggestions and received 1151 suggested new names according to the Baptist Press. Many of these, such as the top suggestion (Global Baptist Convention), appear sensitive to avoiding limiting the denomination name to a particular geographical area. The International Baptist Convention, at number two on the list, World Baptist Convention at number nine, Worldwide Baptist Convention at number ten, and Global Baptist Convention at number fourteen all seem geared toward recognizing that the SBC does church all over the world. I did not see that the suggestion Heavens and the Earth Baptist Convention made the list, perhaps that would be thought a little grandiloquent. However, Universal Baptist Convention did come in number twenty, according to the Baptist Press.

Some suggestions did maintain a little geography, with North American Baptist Convention coming in at number six and American Baptist Convention and Baptist Convention of America coming in at numbers eight and twelve, respectively. Perhaps those voters figured the Anglicans put churches all over the world but held on to a national reference in their name, so why not?

And you gotta appreciate the simplicity of numbers seven and eleven: The Baptist Convention and Baptist Convention. Amazing that a simple definite article can account for a four-place jump in the rankings.

Looks like most are agreed we want to keep the name Baptist in our name, and that's probably good, because, well, we are Baptists. John the Baptist was one, you know. Well, okay, he was a baptist, not a Baptist, but it sure impressed me when I was a little kid, before I was a Baptist.

Oh, and the name that was picked by the task force? Great Commission Baptists. Yeah, it's a couple more syllables, but I think we might get used to it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Decisions decisions

This post by Bobby Jamieson presents some interesting propositions about the issue of voluntary resignation from a church. While I agree with a lot of things the 9Marks organization promotes, and even see a few valid points in this particular article, I also have to take issue with some of Mr. Jamieson's conclusions.

Yes, it is good for the pastor and the leadership of a church to perform some due diligence when a member resigns. It is good to see if the resigning member is actually asking for help or for a listening ear, or if something in the church needs correction or modification. Every case is different, but certainly there can be those times when the leadership might urge the resigning member to reconsider.

But ultimately, if a member decides to leave that church, they can do so. Jamieson writes,

A member cannot unilaterally resign.
It would be a scary statement if it were true. This is not 16th-century Europe after all. Heck, it's not even 17th-century Massachusetts. A member can, in fact, unilaterally resign. He can even resign without giving the church a reason for doing so. Continuing to serve with a particular local church body is a voluntary decision on the part of the individual member.

Jamieson also quotes from the constitution of his own church:

"The church shall have authority to refuse a member's voluntary resignation or transfer of membership...for any...reason the church deems necessary or prudent."
Well, that is a very bold claim, but you can't just name it and claim it. The focus of Jamieson's article, that of drawing the attention of church leaders and pastors to the issue of losing members through the proverbial back door, is something to be concerned about. But the solution is not authoritarian overreach or unrealistic assertions of power. It is a humble servant-attitude, sound teaching and a loving, edifying environment. Even then, some members will choose to resign.

They can.