Will Southern Baptists drop the 'Southern'?
Published: February 17, 2012 12:50PM
Updated: February 17, 2012 12:50PM
What's so “southern” about the Southern Baptist Convention, and is the name a hindrance more than a help?

That's what the Christian denomination with 16 million U.S. members has been considering for the past couple of years and what Southern Baptist President Bryant Wright will speak to Monday, according to a Religion News Service story by Roy Hoffman.

The denomination was created in 1845 when Northern and Southern branches “split over slavery and other issues,” Hoffman writes. “The Southern branch kept its name, while Northern Baptists eventually became the American Baptist Churches USA.”

In recent years, Southern Baptists have apologized for the role slavery played in their church's history and they are, in fact, poised to elect the denomination's first African-American president.

So why change the name?

"Being Southern Baptist isn't a problem in Fairhope, Ala.," the Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairhope told Hoffman, "It's a proud thing."

Elsewhere, though, Henry said, “it might turn people away.”

In a poll conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources, the Baptist-affiliated publisher and retailer, 44 percent of the 4,000 people surveyed outside of the South “had negative views of Southern Baptists,” the article said.

The church doesn't have a “name problem,” the Rev. Stuart Davidson, pastor of Eastern Shore Baptist Church in Daphne, Ala., said in the article, it has “a Jesus problem” because “Christians are not acting like Christ.”

Davidson told Hoffman that 85 percent of Southern Baptist churches are “stagnant in their membership, or declining.”

The issue will be debated further at the denomination's annual June meeting in New Orleans.

Peggy Fletcher Stack