Too Close to Call (them Great Commission Baptists)

[This is the second of five posts reflecting on my experience at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, LA in 2012. For more information, or to see the other posts in this series, click here.]

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One of the more interesting discussions at this year’s convention surrounded the adoption of an official alternative moniker for churches desiring to refrain from the use of Southern Baptist Convention. Many objected to the manner in which the task force was formed that studied the name-change in depth. They referenced the fact that each time a name-change was brought to the floor, the motion was voted down by the messengers, and that the formation of this task force was in direct opposition to the will of the convention.

On this day, however, the motion was not voted down. In fact, a showing of hands was far too close to call. After a ballot vote, the convention would wait until the next morning to discover that the motion had passed by a 53% majority. With about 7900 messengers in attendance, the difference was less than 400 votes.

In light of such a close vote, it is my opinion that Southern Baptists and Great Commission Baptists alike should move forward with great caution. However one feels about the decision of the convention – whether excited or saddened – it simply cannot be stated that we are unified on this. It is notable (to this author at least) that every voice that spoke in support of this motion was from a task force member. (I am aware of the practice within the convention of securing the floor microphones in effort to pre-determine what will be said on behalf of a given motion, but it is my opinion – and that of several others – that this practice in this particular instance almost cost the task force their motion.) Alas, the vote passed and the convention has now provided an official alternative name for the use of churches who perceive that their ministries are hindered by the designation, “Southern Baptist.”

In a church setting, it would be unwise to proceed with a motion passed by such a small margin unless it were a core theological issue. Perhaps it would be best to table the discussion until the congregation came to a greater unity on the issue. However, at a convention level, such a decision would create more confusion and frustration.

At this point, we must pray for both Southern Baptists and Great Commission Baptists – that their ministry may be fruitful, that the Great Commission would be fulfilled, and that others may come to know Christ as Lord.

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