The board of directors of Houston Baptist University have taken the action to study the possibility of changing the name of the university. In the Houston Chronicle article on this study the following was reported:
At the town hall meeting, one of two held last week, HBU board member Ray Cox Jr. argued that “the name Houston and the name Baptist are somewhat limiting to a national Christian university. … That’s why we are considering changing the name.”
In recent history the name “Baptist” has come under a great deal of scrutiny and judgment. Many new Baptist churches are not willing to bear the name of the denomination that funds their efforts. Some churches keep the legal name, yet hide it in their publication and advertising.
So what is in a name? How do you make a good name? How quickly one can destroy a good name?
I have served as the pastor of Baptist churches now for over thirty years and most of those years I served the “First Baptist Church” in local Texas communities. When you are the pastor of the “First Baptist Church” it is very difficult to hide your identity, nor have I ever tried. A long time ago I learned that your name reflects the reality of who you are and who you seek to be. If you hide your name to reach others and then they discover you are “really Baptist”–does this not create a moral dilemma for the new member who must now question why you were so ashamed of your roots and heritage? I think so.
I believe the better and healthiest approach is to strengthen the scope and influence of your name by the scope and influence of your actions.
Houston Baptist University has a good reputation in Houston and within the greater Baptist family. It was founded by men and women of deep personal faith and conviction. The founders established the school to be a distinctively Christian University shaped and directed by Baptist theology and values.
In fairness to HBU–many of their sister schools do not bear the name Baptist in the name. Schools like Howard Payne (where I serve on the board), Hardin Simmons, Mary Hardin-Baylor and the flagship Baylor University are distinctly Baptist school from their earliest days but Baptist is not in their name. So in fairness it is very possible to be a Baptist school without bear the name Baptist in the name. However, in the process of dropping Baptist from the name the board of trustees must be very careful to make sure they are trustworthy leaders of the heritage placed in their hands.
The HBU board has cut new ground in recent years by adding non-Baptist trustees to its board. I have gone on record as supportive of this Kingdom move, because I am very much aware the Kingdom of God’s scope and reach are much broader than the Baptist family alone. In trailblazing new ground, I would encourage the board to remember that in their efforts to position the school for the future they must also stay true to the historic roots and values entrusted to them. This tension is one every board must wrestle with as they live between yesterday and tomorrow.
Knowing many of the board members I am prayerful that they will make a wise decision about the future of Houston Baptist University. I would strongly encouragement them to continue to make a good name rather than simply trying to find a good name.