Friday, September 23, 2011

Southern Baptists Consider Name Change

According to an article in Christianity Today the Southern Baptist Convention will consider changing its name to something "less regionally exclusive."  They already changed the name of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board to "Lifeway Christian Resources," which sounds like something from George Orwell's novel 1984.  It is just going to seem really wrong if Southern Baptists become "The World Christian Federation" or something.

What's wrong with "Southern Baptists."  I think that it is very descriptive of the theology of the organization. Centenary College Religion Professor Peter A. Huff has perfectly captured my own feelings about my Southern Baptist heritage:
"The church in which I grew up was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.  Because of its status in the Sun Belt,  Martin Marty once called it the Catholic church of the South. . . . I memorized scores of Bible verses, learned the parts to hundreds of hymns, tithed my allowance, and never attended a school dance.  In early adolescence, I also "got saved." . . .  I can look back at the religious milieu of my childhood and call it a warm pietism shaped by the revivalist tradition and the peculiar experiences of white southerners in the generations after the Civil War.  Ours was an experiential and mildly ascetic "heart religion" emphasizing personal conversion.  It was permeated with the cadences of the King James Bible, steeped in the four-part harmonies of the Baptist Hymnal, and filtered through the ethos of a sectional consciousness. As a child in the Bible Belt, Flannery O'Connor's "Christ-haunted" South, I suppose I was never very far from fundamentalism.  But no one I knew ever spoke of it."
Is "Roman Catholic" too regionally exclusive?  Of course, the moniker "Roman" was given to us by the Protestants to distinguish the Church from them.  The Catholic Church is just the Catholic Church.  Although I no longer have a dog in this fight, I hope they keep the name "Southern Baptists."  "Lifeway Christian Convention" just ain't gonna do.

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