Our Baptist Bulletin editors are part of a tradition reaching back to our first issue in 1932. Over the years, retiring editors have left notes to the next generation, reminding us about the words and phrases we should not use when writing about the GARBC. Our readers might be interested in our running list of pet peeves, helping us better understand the nature of Baptist church associations.
Do not refer to an individual person as a “member” of the GARBC. We are an association of churches, not individuals. A person can be a member of a GARBC church, but not a member of the GARBC.
Do not refer to an individual church as a “member” of the GARBC. Instead, describe the church as being “in fellowship” with the GARBC. We believe that our churches are sovereign and cannot be a member of anything outside itself.
Do not use the acronym “GARB.” As a fellowship of churches, that last “C” is important. Use it all the time!
Do not refer to the GARBC as a denomination. The GARBC does not own a local church’s property, does not control ministerial pension funds, does not operate service agencies, and does not dictate the affairs of local churches. No action of the GARBC is binding on any of its fellowshipping churches.
Do not refer to the GARBC as a convention of churches. The Southern Baptist Convention (and previously the Northern Baptist Convention) is a convention that convenes each year to transact business related to the cooperative service organizations they operate. The GARBC does not function as a fund-raising clearing house to fund such organizations. (Also, do not refer to the GARBC conference as an annual convention).
Do not use “delegates” to describe guests at the GARBC conference. An independent, autonomous local church cannot delegate its authority to any other person or body. Each GARBC church sends “messengers” to the national meeting.
Do not refer to the GARBC’s national representative as the “head” of the GARBC. While he represents the association’s interests to a broad constituency, the national representative has no authority over the individual churches in fellowship with the GARBC.
Do not refer to “GARBC mission agencies,” “GARBC schools,” or similar descriptions of service organizations that were formerly approved by the GARBC. Having said this, it is always appropriate to emphasize the close relationship between GARBC churches and the agencies they support. Many agencies that were formerly approved by the GARBC have boards and staffs with a strong majority of members of GARBC churches, a point we still like to emphasize.
(This article originally appeared as a sidebar to the Baptist Bulletin article “Herding Baptist Cats” by Kevin Bauder.)