'Southern' being mothballed – a sign of the times?

Friday, September 18, 2020
 | 
Steve Jordahl (OneNewsNow.com)

church congregation (rear view)Southern Baptist churches around the U.S. are dropping the word "Southern" from their name – and in many cases are branding themselves "Great Commission Baptists" instead.

Dr. JD Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. announced this week that the theme of the 2021 Annual Meeting will be "We Are Great Commission Baptists." He said his Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina-area will begin identifying itself as a Great Commission Baptist Church, a move he says churches around the country are exploring to replace the Southern Baptist label.

Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist-Dallas, understands the trend. "Nobody has ever accused me of being 'woke,' but I do think there may be some wisdom in this," he responds.

According to Jeffress, his church never really identified as "Southern Baptist" – a label he says "tended to regionalize the appeal of a great denomination – and, of course, Southern Baptist churches are all around the world."

Jeffress

But the proverbial "elephant" in the Southern Baptist room is the history of the denomination.

"Long before some of the current controversy, there was thought about changing the name [of the denomination]," Jeffress explains. "But I do think we have to be honest about the history of Southern Baptists and find that slavery and the right to own slaves, supposedly, was a large reason for the founding of the Southern Baptists.

"I don't think it helps in today's culture to be linked to that."

In any case, according to the pastor, affiliation with a denomination is a thing of the past.

"It really doesn't make a whole lot of difference [because] we are living in a post-denominational age," Jeffress tells OneNewsNow, "and many, many Southern Baptist churches like mine don't find their identity in belonging to a denomination."

Long identified as the largest Protestant denomination, Southern Baptist churches in the U.S. number around 50,000. Earlier this year, the Annual Church Profile produced by LifeWay Christian Resources reported the largest single-year drop in members in more than a century.

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