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Wright: Great Commission Baptists is 'opportunity to describe who we are'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- In a new video posted to, Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright explains his perspective on the Great Commission Baptists name option to be presented at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.

"I hope this video today will be just another way of helping you have a greater understanding of how God led in this process," Wright said in the video recorded at the SBC Building in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 21, the day after the task force he appointed to study a name change delivered its report to the Executive Committee.

Wright said the task force had seen God move in a unifying way in their midst as well as when they reported to the Executive Committee.

"All along it has been our hope that God would guide us in coming to a decision that would give a greater ability and opportunity for Southern Baptist Christians to reach that community where God has planted them," Wright said.

"And if that regional name has been a hindrance, we were just studying how could that barrier be removed so that more people could come into the Kingdom of Christ, come to faith in Christ by a ministry that really focuses on the Great Commission," he said.

Wright said he could think of no greater descriptor than Great Commission Baptists to tell who the convention is and what their mission is while maintaining the legal name of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The task force started out exploring a legal name change, he said, but they began to have a "great unity" that altering the legal name was not the best approach.


"Think about a couple of scenarios. First of all, our founding in 1845 was actually approved and the charter was given by the state legislature of the state of Georgia," Wright said. "Because of that, we have been grandfathered in when it comes to nonprofit regulations and what is asked for in nonprofit entities or organizations."

All sorts of legal challenges could stem from a legal name change, he said. Also, what has joined Southern Baptists together has been voluntary cooperation through the years.

"Say the Southern Baptist Convention in June in New Orleans and then a second year -- as it would be required to change the legal name, a second year -- say it was overwhelmingly approved by the Southern Baptist Convention," Wright said in the 12-minute video.

"Because of the autonomy of our entities, of our state conventions, of our local churches, you could have 10 states that decide to adopt that new legal name of the Southern Baptist Convention, whatever it may be. You could have 20-something states that decide they're going to stay Southern Baptist," he said.

"The potential for division, the potential for legal issues, the potential for problems with wills and gifts that have been designated to the Southern Baptist Convention, it just goes on and on and on. We just felt like that would not be healthy for the convention, nor would it be wise."


A motion to change the name of the convention has come up 13 times since 1903, Wright said, and the task force hopes that by studying the issue and communicating the findings to Southern Baptists the idea will be settled in a lot of people's minds for years to come.

At the same time, the Great Commission Baptists descriptor could give freedom to church plants and entities to describe who they are at any rate of speed they choose. It may be a 10- to 20-year process of incorporating a new name by which Southern Baptists are known, he said.

"When you think about the legal name change of GuideStone from the old Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the legal name change of LifeWay from the old Sunday School Board, it's been a 10- to 20-year process for those of us who grew up understanding the old names to begin to adopt and adapt in our everyday conversation the new names," Wright said in the video.

"So I really believe that with God's Spirit leading, as more and more feel that this is an opportunity to describe who we are, it can become second nature in thinking of Southern Baptists."

No one would be forced to use the new descriptor, Wright said. It would simply be an option for voluntary cooperation as the Holy Spirit guides, he said.

"Wouldn't it be an exciting day within our convention if what people think of most of all is that those folks in their mission, in their actions, in what they are focused on, are all about being Great Commission Baptists?"


Wright encouraged Southern Baptists to become more acquainted with the conclusions reached by the task force by reading coverage in Baptist Press and their state convention newspapers before gathering to vote on the issue at the SBC annual meeting in June. Task force members paid their own way to meetings, with no Cooperative Program funds for the process.

Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. To watch Bryant Wright's video on the name option, visit Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( and in your email (

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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