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Baptists: different name, same purposecomment (0)

February 5, 2009

By Martine G. Bates

Cooperation between Southern Baptists in Canada and the United States continues to flourish, despite the fact that the Canadian counterpart of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) no longer contains the word “Southern.” Last summer, the convention finalized the changing of its name from the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists (CCSB) to the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC).

In a process that began four years earlier, the CCSB voted overwhelmingly last year in favor of the proposal. The change was intended, according to CNBC National Ministry Leader Gerry Taillon, “to clear up confusion with the uninitiated.” Those who are familiar with Southern Baptists, he pointed out, understand that the denomination is not about geography. Most Canadians, however, are unfamiliar with Southern Baptists.

“Hearing the name ‘Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists,’” they are confused,” Taillon said. “They wonder if this is southern Canada.”

Taillon pointed out that each of the words in the new name is significant; “Canadian” is the identity of the convention, “National” is the scope, “Baptist” describes the heritage and belief system, and “Convention” is how the organization works together.

There has been Baptist work in Canada since the early 1800s, but the first formal affiliation with the SBC was in British Columbia in 1953. According to an article by Richard Blackaby, former CCSB president, Regular Baptists in the Pacific Northwest were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their denomination when R.E. Milam, a leader in the Baptist General Convention of Oregon-Washington, was invited to speak at a meeting of Regular Baptists in April of 1951.

A Regular Baptist news report published after the meeting and quoted in Blackaby’s history, noted that Milam “captivated his audience with his tremendous vision and energy to see the lost won and New Testament churches established in the Pacific Northwest.”

Soon other Southern Baptist leaders were invited to speak at meetings of the Regular Baptists, and churches began to adopt Southern Baptist evangelistic methods and Sunday School materials. The Northwest Baptist Bible College in British Columbia began using textbooks produced by the SBC.

In 1953, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Vancouver changed its name to Kingcrest Southern Baptist Church and became affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Oregon-Washington.

Known today as the WestCoast Baptist Association, the Capilano Southern Baptist Association was formed in 1955 in Vancouver, becoming the first Southern Baptist association in Canada. In 1957, the Midwest Baptist Association was formed in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the Southern Baptist churches in British Columbia joined as the Plateau Association in 1960.

These associations joined in 1963 to form the Canadian Southern Baptist Conference, which was intended to be the forerunner to a convention that would later seek affiliation with the SBC.

Because Article II of the constitution of the SBC limits membership to “Baptists in the United States and its territories,” the conference remained in limbo for several years as the question of admitting Canadian churches to the SBC was debated. 

Finally, on the recommendation of a committee appointed to study the issue, the Canadians formed their own convention in 1985, adopting the name Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists (CCSB) until the recent name change. Two years later, the CCSB and the IMB (then known as the Foreign Mission Board) partnered to open the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, near Calgary.

The CNBC retains close ties with the SBC, receiving support from both the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the IMB, with the majority of its SBC funding coming from NAMB.

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