The President of Louisville’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. approves of a recent attempt to improve the church’s identity by changing its name giving congregations the option to drop the word “southern” and call themselves Great Commission Baptists.
The church and its name came about before the Civil War, and the title is connected with the church’s past support of slavery and segregation. The new name, Great Commission Baptists, now refers to Jesus’ followers spreading his message worldwide.
Several Southern Baptists have criticized the change, which is optional, saying it strays too far from the church’s core. Mohler served on the Southern Baptist executive committee, which unanimously approved of the change last week.
“There were certainly some on the task force who said I’m trying to plan a church up in the northeast, I’m involved in mission work in the northwest and southern there doesn’t necessarily communicate anything. Why would you have a Southern Baptist church in the north?” he said.
Mohler called the committee’s approval a healthy sign for the church and said it shouldn’t be looked at as denominational desperation.
“It could be that an organization is looking at a very bleak future and saying can we change our name in order to create something new? Thankfully that’s not where Southern Baptists are,” he said.
The Southern Baptist Convention will make a final vote on the change at its annual meeting in June.