Southern Baptist Convention considering alternative to ‘Southern’ name

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, is expected to vote this summer over whether to add something to their name.

The convention's executive committee endorsed the idea of adopting an optional alternative name of "Great Commission Baptists." While the denomination still has 16 million people, it is facing declining membership and baptisms.

"Being called the Southern Baptist Convention seems to pigeonhole us and make us effectively viewed by some as a regional sect," said Rev. Michael Owens at Gate City Baptist Church in Greensboro.

But some church members said they are wary of changing something that's been identified with the denomination since the 1800s.

"I would really be sad if they took the Southern Gospel name out of it," said Janet Sanders, who has been a member of Gate City for 22 years.

"I think it's an identification clarification for our churches, so I believe for the most part it's just tradition, and change is always hard for us," said Faye Carmichael, Gate City member.

The task force hired by the commission said changing the legal name of "Southern Baptist Convention" would require enormous legal fees.

Great Commission was one of three names that made the final cut of the task force. The others were "Continental Baptist" and "Evangelical Baptist."

The first name change proposal was made in 1903, and name changes have been brought up more than a dozen times since.

The more than 40,000 churches in the convention are run independently.

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