A good friend sent me an email yesterday with a rather humorous question, “How do you like your new title—Executive Director-Treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma of the Southern Baptist Convention of Great Commission Baptists?” Wow! Sounds important, but I think that title would require a 3”x5” business card, and then it wouldn’t fit in a billfold.
My friend was referring to the report by the special committee of the Southern Baptist Convention assigned to study a name change. Their recommendation is to leave the legal name of the convention as the Southern Baptist Convention, but begin to use a new descriptor, “Great Commission Baptists.” Sounds like something Congress would do! Yet, I am grateful it was not my task, and I affirm the decision of the committee not to change the name.
I suspect that most of us in Oklahoma are pleased with the committee’s decision. We are proud to be called Southern Baptists, and any negative connotation pales in comparison to the positives associated with our name. The majority of Oklahomans do not find this name offensive. We associate it with evangelistic and mission-minded people who do great humanitarian work through disaster relief. The few who do not like Southern Baptists mainly because of our stand on moral and ethical issues would be no more positive if we were called Great Commission Baptists.
Our brothers and sisters in the northeast, north and west do have some legitimate concerns regarding the word “Southern” in our name. Many in the populace at large in those areas cannot get past the word. It conjures up images of the Confederate flag, slavery, Forrest Gump and Gomer Pyle. We may find these images offensive, but those are the impressions of the culture in which these brothers and sisters serve. I believe the descriptor, Great Commission Baptists, may help them. Whether a committee was needed to decide that, I am not sure.
Frankly, if a person is a Southern Baptist and he is not attuned and committed to the Great Commission, I do not think him worthy of the name. Southern Baptists were birthed in a Great Commission environment and even in the most difficult days have not stepped away from that passion. I am a Southern Baptist because of the doctrine, but I am a Southern Baptist even more so because of the Cooperative Program and our Great Commission heart.
So I don’t think I will change my title to the long one my friend suggested, nor do I think I will stop calling myself a Southern Baptist. But if you or others want to drop the word Southern and call yourself a Great Commission Baptist, go for it. It is our DNA.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.