April 20, 2012

11RNS: Houston Baptist Might Drop 'Baptist' From Name

Houston Baptist Might Drop
‘Baptist’ From Name

BY BONNIE PRITCHETT                                                                                            ©2012 Baptist Press

For seminary student Samantha Williams, the "B" in HBU means more than "Baptist." It represents a time and a place where she came to know Christ and His will for her life.

Because Houston Baptist University's Christian identity is so central to Williams' transformation during her time as a student, she opposes recently announced plans to take the denominational identifier out of the school's name. Like other alumni opposed to the change, Williams sees no need for her alma mater to take on a new identity.

But school officials say the term "Baptist" limits the school's potential student pool to people who grew up in the denomination's Southern network of churches. Students who did not grow up going to a Baptist church might not feel welcome at the school, officials say. And as HBU prepares to return to NCAA Division I athletic competition and reintroduce a core liberal arts program, trustees hope to expand its appeal outside the south and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Former Houston Baptist University Provost Paul Bonicelli supports the proposal. He believes denominational monikers can hinder a school's growth and, consequently, the reach of the Gospel. "It's about time," Bonicelli said in response to news that HBU trustees are exploring the possibility of a name change for the 51-year-old university. "I was always an advocate of that."

If Houston Baptist changes its name, it would not be the only one without that descriptor among Baptist-affiliated colleges and universities. Among the 54 Baptist-affiliated schools listed on the Southern Baptist Convention's website, only 15 have the word "Baptist" in their name. Among them that don't: Union University, the University of Mobile and Louisiana College.

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