The president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the second-largest church in America, announced today that come next year, they might not be the Southern Baptist Convention anymore.
President Bryant Wright said the “Southern” part of their name might need to go since it implies a regional focus, and he’s launched a task force to consider new options for the 166-year-old body, Baptist News reported.
Their findings will be shared with SBC leaders in February, and any change would have to be approved by delegates at its annual meetings.
Across the Baptist blogosphere, Southern Baptists seem to be thinking that Wright may be right, supporting his claim that without the regional modifier, Southern Baptists may have further reach across the continent.
Interesting, but it does seem to me that outside of the Catholic Church all forms of Christianity are geographical in nature.
For example the Protestant fathers all created competing forms of Christianity and adherence pretty much formed regionally or in areas where their regions projected spheres of influence. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, King Henry VIII all established churches which largely became national churches. After the Protestant revolt you did not see countries with roughly equal amounts of Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Anglicans, etc; you see pretty much geographical dominance. Colonization plays a role in projecting regional Christianity, but eventually as is always the case with Protestantism geographical fracture occurs. For example no one would compare Anglicanism as practiced in England with Anglicanism as practiced in Africa. For now African Anglicanism is more like historic Anglicanism in belief. Really geographical fracture becomes so extreme that the local non-denominational denominations are tied to neighborhoods and not regions.
This is also certainly so in the Orthodox Churches in that they are pretty much tied to national versions of Orthodoxy and their spread to other countries is pretty much confounded to expatriates. Being that the Orthodox have valid Holy Orders and have retained the sacraments their geographic fracturing is largely kept in check as compared to Protestant churches.
The latter half of the first century use of the word Catholic to describe a particular and universal Church is an escape from being tied to the geographical. This is one of the reasons I dislike and don’t use the term “Roman Catholic” a term which rose from Anglican quarters. Being a Catholic of the Roman or Latin Rite is more accurate terminology and I dislike prefixes that would limit the word Catholic. Besides in the 1300s we didn’t suddenly become “Avignon Catholics.” Certainly there is much to appreciate in the historic association of the Catholic Church and the city of Rome. The reality though is that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ and geography does not limit its universality.
That is part of the beauty of the Catholic Church is that we can be a universal Church and at the same time have some geographical and cultural distinctions. These distinctions mainly occur with the different rites where you have different emphasis on theology and liturgical expression. These distinctions don’t resolve into totally different theology as we find in the myriad Protestant churches.
Though to be more accurate there is geographical fracturing that does occur within the members of the Church. These fractures occur whenever there is departure from the Magisterium of the Church. The Dutch Bishops and their infamous Dutch Catechism did not bring about a more universal church, but regional dissent from the Church. In the United States the heresy of Americanism was and is a departure from the universality of the Church. The Church is universal because the truth she teaches is universal and the Church’s teaching authority maintains that universality. That authority from Christ and protected from the gates of hell will keep the Church universal despite the ebb and flow of the adherence of her members. Dissent from that authority results in individualism and geographical fracturing.
Getting back to the renaming of the Southern Baptist Convention they will have a difficult time coming up with a name devoid of both geographical associations and having a form of Baptist specificity. Maybe they can do what Prince did and change their name to a symbol. The ecclesial community formerly known as the Souther Baptist Convention. Joking aside I really should be joining Jesus in his high priestly prayer to the Father.
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-26