Name Change Study
Report of the
Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
Changing the Name of the Southern Baptist Convention
During the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist
Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 9-11, 1998, two motions
were referred to the Executive Committee dealing with the feasibility
of changing the name of the Convention. Similar motions have been
referred to the Executive Committee for consideration with some
frequency in recent years (e.g. in 1965, 1974, 1983, 1989, and 1990.)
The Executive Committee reviewed the actions it
took in years past. It also studied two detailed formal survey reports
on the issue conducted by the Sunday School Board, analyses of SBC
messengers' profile to evaluate attendance by region, and informal
surveys done by the North American Mission Board, state conventions,
and area associations. The Executive Committee also reviewed the
1975 "Committee of Seven" report on the name change issue
and reexamined the 25 criteria it established in February of 1967
(attached as Exhibit 1) for use in analyzing whether any new name
Additionally, the Executive Committee has obtained
a legal opinion covering the practical ramifications of changing
the Convention's name. Recent letters from leaders within the Convention
concerning the subject have been received, and historical files
and clippings on the issue from state papers dating from the present
back approximately 40 years have been reviewed. Responses have been
received from research consultants regarding costs and methods of
updating previous name change surveys.
Questions were asked about "brand" identification,
established market presence and influence, the impact
of recent technology, and any negative effects of regionalism and
limited scope of Convention work that use of the word "Southern"
The Executive Committee's review of these materials
and consideration of the attendant factors involved produced the
1) The name selection criteria adopted in 1967 by
the Executive Committee are all still appropriate (see Exhibit 1).
2) No name satisfies as many of the 1967 name selection
criteria as does the present name.
3) There is no consensus on an acceptable alternate
name for the Convention.
4) Most popular suggested alternate names involve
objectionable side effects similar to those attending the present
name. For example, "Continental" implies inclusion of
two nations now not a part of our Convention. So does "North
American." "Cooperative" now implies alliance with
groups who seek to distinguish themselves from the SBC. Any name
with the word "States" or "American" in it might
create difficulty for missionaries in areas of anti-American sentiment,
while the word "Southern" is fairly innocuous when used
5) Those within our Convention who are disaffected
by the present name are at least equally opposed by others within
the Convention who would be disaffected by discarding it.
6) Changing the name of the Convention, or even
leaving the issue open for debate over an extended period, would
at the very least be unsettling to its ongoing evangelistic work.
More probably, the issue would create division where unity now holds
sway, and where theology, purpose and function are now known quantities.
7) Although in some areas the Convention name is
perceived as creating barriers, these difficulties have been ameliorated
by not including the word "Southern" in church names.
8) During the time period over which name changes
have been considered, churches choosing to use' the term "Southern
Baptist" in their name or materials have prospered, even in
9) The name "Southern Baptist Convention"
and term "SBC" have become brand names meaning more than
just the sum of their parts. The Southern Baptist Convention no
longer denotes a region as much as it does a position. It has come
to mean missionary zeal, staunch Bible defense, moral rectitude,
adherence to faith, and dependence upon the Lord. Indicative of
its recognition were the full-page newspaper ads paid for by non-Southern
Baptists after the 1998 Salt Lake convention running under the headline
Southern Baptists -You Are Right! Examples of other names that have
transcended their original regional meaning include Western Union,
Northwest Airlines, and New York Life.
10) While hindsight might indicate that a different
name would have had certain advantages, the window of opportunity
to make such a change may have closed at the same rate at which
the Convention has obtained name recognition and stature.
11) Legal counsel has advised that changing the
name of the Convention would most probably have the effect of discarding
the Convention's current preferred status as a legislatively created
entity, subjecting the Convention to a wide array of statutory mandates
that would alter the Convention structure in undesirable ways.
12) The magnitude of the total cost of changing
the name of the Convention, including such things as corporate document
amendment and harmonization, attempting to obtain a new Internet
URL, rewording church signs, and reeducating the general public,
is unjustifiable in the absence of a compelling reason and overwhelming
consensus to change the name.
In summary, the Executive Committee finds no compelling
rationale for changing the name of the Convention, nor for underwriting
a study concerning same, believing that while a change of name might
seem to some to afford a modicum of relief in some areas, it is
not justified when all factors are taken into account.
Criteria to be used by the Executive Committee in
Assessing a New Convention Name
1. Is it legally available?
2. Is it distinctive?
3. Would it be confused with other Baptist organizations?
4. Is it easily recognizable?
5. Is it short?
6. Does it lend itself to short form use, such as
"United Presbyterians," "American Baptists,"
7. Would the initials be appropriate?
8. Wou1d it be capable of world-wide use?
9. Would there be any unfortunate meanings, visual
or auditory, in any Foreign language?
10. Does it have a pleasant sound?
11. Does it look good?
12. Is it easy to pronounce?
13. Is it easy to spell?
14. Is its meaning clear?
15. Is it geographically accurate?
16. Can it be easily remembered?
17. Does it have favorable connotations?
18. Does it seem appropriate?
19. Is it capable of easy association with all the
related organizations in the denomination?
20. Is the name consistent with Baptist history?
21. Would it be appealing to a majority of the church
members in the denomination?
22. Would it be acceptable to other Baptist bodies?
23. Would it be received favorably by non-Baptist
24. Would it indicate any change in relationships?
25. Would it indicate any change in polity?