3Qs: Dr. Marc Howard, director of missions, Lee and Itawamba Baptist Associations

By NEMS Daily Journal

The executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has discussed changing the name of the convention, which has been used since the 19th century. Last week, a task force made a recommendation. The Rev. Dr. Marc Howard, director of missions for the Lee and Itawamba Baptist Associations, answered questions from the Daily Journal’s Joe Rutherford about the proposed change.

Q. When and how did this discussion begin?
A. The Southern Baptist Convention first considered changing its name in 1903. It has come up for consideration at least 13 times. SBC President Bryant Wright appointed a task force to consider the possibilities of a name change in September 2011. He stated two reasons for considering a name change. “First, the convention’s name is so regional. With our focus on church planting, it is challenging in many parts of the country to lead churches to want to be part of a convention with such a regional name. Second, a name change could possibly position us to maximize our effectiveness in reaching North America for Jesus Christ in the 21st century.”

Q. What has been decided so far about a name change, and what would it be?
A. The recommendation of the task force is not to change the name but to instead add the phrase “Great Commission Baptists.” Convention officials say the two names could be used together or the new one could be used on its own if the proposal is approved at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting this June at New Orleans.

Q. Do you agree with the change, and do you think most Southern Baptists in Northeast Mississippi agree with it?  
A. The name change is a very divisive issue. I think the recommendation to leave the name as Southern Baptists but to allow the use of “Great Commission Baptists” is a good compromise. We will be able to retain our regional identity yet still give some options to rebrand our name in areas outside the South. I think most Baptists would agree that if it helps us reach people with the gospel then we are for it.