Southern Baptist Convention

Dr. Richard Land testifying in 2010. Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty

Dr. Richard Land testifying in 2010. Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images


Southern Baptist leaders will investigate whether their top ethicist and public policy director plagiarized racially charged remarks about the Trayvon Martin case that many say set back the denomination's efforts on racial reconciliation.

Richard Land, who leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, was accused of lifting remarks for his radio show that accused Democrats and civil rights leaders of exploiting the case of the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a volunteer neighborhood watchman.

Even though Land has apologized for both the remarks and not attributing their source, the commission's executive committee said it was obligated “to ensure no stone is left unturned.”  An investigatory committee will "recommend appropriate action" to church leaders.

Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images

Dr. Richard Land testifying in 2010. Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images

The Southern Baptist Convention's top public policy official has apologized for controversial comments he made about the Trayvon Martin case, and the New Orleans pastor who's widely expected to be named the Southern Baptists' first black president has accepted his apology.

Richard Land, who leads the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote to SBC president Bryant Wright to express his “deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding"  his comments may have caused.

(Church sign image by Mark Lehigh/Shutterstock)

(Church sign image by Mark Lehigh/Shutterstock)

NEW YORK — Did leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention hurt their missionary cause by opting not to change the denomination's name to something a bit more, well, marketable?

Maybe, but as the advertising executives of Madison Avenue here could attest, as tempting as it is to try to solve a missionary slump with a marketing campaign, religious groups — like commercial businesses — should think twice before undergoing a brand overhaul.

After months of deliberations, an SBC task force on Feb. 20 recommended against trying to re-brand the denomination, an idea that has been bandied about for more than a century.

Proponents of a change made a good case: for a denomination that was born in 1845 out of a defense of slavery, the name has since saddled Southern Baptists with a problematic name and historical baggage.

When Southern Baptists gather for their annual meeting this June, they will not be asked to create a new official name after top leaders decided it was not worth pursuing.

Instead they will be asked to approve a recommendation that Baptists end the name change discussion but have the option of using the unofficial moniker "Great Commission Baptists."

The recommendation was adopted Feb. 21 by the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee after a task force deemed a name change impractical.

Choices image via Shutterstock

Choices image via Shutterstock

As the Southern Baptist Convention recently weighed changing its name, denominational leaders were bombarded with suggestions. Hundreds of them.

Most suggestions avoided the word "Southern" but one hinted at the denomination's regional flavor: Baptist Ultimate Bible Believing Alliance, or BUBBA.

In the end, leaders recommended the unofficial moniker "Great Commission Baptists."

Here's a sampling of some of the more intriguing rejected names...

Roy Hoffman 02-17-2012
The Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church Fairhope, Ala. RNS photo by

The Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church Fairhope, Ala. RNS photo by Bill Starling/The Press-Register.

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — For the Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairhope, being Southern Baptist is a defining aspect of life.

He embraces the denomination's conservative social values, extols its evangelism — "We reach out to people instead of waiting for them to come to us" — and identifies with its name.

The Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church Fairhope, Ala., has struggled with whether the Southern Baptist Convention should change its name to reflect greater geographic diversity.

Bruce Nolan 02-04-2012
The Rev. Fred Luter via Franklin Ave Church website,

The Rev. Fred Luter via Franklin Ave Church website,

After months of urging from other Baptists around the country, the Rev. Fred Luter told his African-American congregation that he will seek to become the first black man to lead the predominantly white Southern Baptist Convention.
Several Baptist leaders said Luter becomes the prohibitive favorite for the post, to be filled in a potentially historic election at the Southern Baptists' annual meeting in New Orleans in June.
SBC Today, a Baptist-focused news website, carried the announcement on earlier this week. Youth pastor Fred "Chip" Luter III separately confirmed Luter's announcement to his church last Sunday.
Luter appears to be the first candidate to declare for the post, which will become vacant this summer when the Rev. Bryant Wright of Marietta, Ga., finishes his second one-year term.
Many began openly promoting Luter for the top job last summer, moments after he was elected the convention's first African-American first vice president.

Chris Service 02-02-2012

Christian leaders are teaming with animal rights advocates to fight against cockfighting, calling the practice of watching and betting on roosters who fight to the death antithetical to biblical values.

"Christians should stand up and speak out against this barbaric practice, which horrendously abuses God's creatures," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Concern about cockfighting is focused on the state of South Carolina, where critics of the practice are trying to strengthen state laws against it. Though cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, it remains a misdemeanor in 11 of them, including South Carolina.


Timothy King 11-04-2011

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Less than one percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. Our spending on development and foreign assistance is not -- by any stretch of the facts or imagination -- our national debt.

Cutting foreign aid programs will do little to get us out of debt, but would be a devastating setback in the fight against global, extreme poverty.

Jim Wallis 11-03-2011

People of faith -- including evangelical Christians -- will be voting both ways in the upcoming election. It is simply not true that they will be voting only on one or two issues.

And, if evangelicals focus on many of the issues central to their faith, rather than becoming partisan cheerleaders, they might be able to raise some critical issues in this election and to hold both sides more accountable, even in a campaign that both Richard and I suspect will be one of the ugliest in U.S. history.

At the end of the evening, Amy remarked that if the upcoming election debates were as civil and substantive as this evening was, we would all be very grateful.

Brian McLaren 06-29-2011
Although I've never been a Southern Baptist, I have a special place in my heart for them.
Matthew Soerens 01-19-2011
In some ways, 2010 was a great year for evangelicals who have longed for the church to stand for just and compassionate immigration reform.
Onleilove Alston 04-23-2010

[Read more of this blog conversation in response to the Sojourners magazine article "

Matthew Soerens 11-11-2009
A few weeks ago, I sat and listened attentively as a series of American religious leaders explained to several members of a

An autographed photo of Jimmy Carter sits on our piano. A friend of ours wrote to Carter and told him that he was one of our sons' favorite presidents, and would he please send them a signed photograph. When Keith gave our sons the Carter picture last Christmas, my 8-year-old actually teared up.

Richard Land 11-06-2008
Dear President-elect Obama,
Administrator 06-05-2008

[continued from part one]

What's at issue in the SBC, and in the larger evangelical community (and, we could add, in the mainline and Roman Catholic communities as well), isn't whether faith is political. Nobody (or almost nobody) is arguing for dropping the second half of the great commandment -- so that "loving God" is about faith and is central, but "loving neighbor" is about politics [...]