Branding a “College of Baptist Ministers”

Organisations – religious and secular – seem to be increasingly in the business of rebranding. Just in the last month the Baptist Union of Great Britain has created a new website with the heading ‘Baptists Together’. The Christian Counselling agency ‘WHCM Counselling’ (an offshoot of the West Ham Central Mission)has changed its name to ‘Renew Counselling’, with the strap line ‘rebuilding lives – restoring relationships’. And now the College of Baptist Ministers, of which I am the chairman, is considering re-branding itself even before it has launched!

Frankly I am not convinced that the College of Baptist Ministers should change its name. But some argue that the name creates confusion – they say that it gives the impression that we are setting up another Baptist theological college. But a ‘college’ doesn’t have to be a ‘training institution’. To quote the Oxford English Dictionary, a college can be ‘an organised group of professional people with particular aims, duties and privileges’. In that sense there is a College of Occupational Therapists, a College of Optometrists, a College of Paramedics, and a College of Teachers – let alone more prestigious colleges such as the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Anaesthetists, and the Royal College of Nursing.

Strangely we did not set out to call ourselves a ‘College’ – the name was actually chosen for us! Initially we wanted to call ourselves the ‘Baptist Institute for Ministry’, but then discovered that neither the Charity Commission nor Companies House were happy with such a name, because apparently the term ‘institute’ implies a body with an established academic track record. We were told that the proper term for a professional association is ‘College’.

But if the term ‘College’ causes confusion for some, then why not call ourselves a ‘professional association’. We could become PABM – the ‘Professional Association of Baptist Ministers’. But sadly such a term would not commend itself to the many Baptist ministers who do not like the term ‘professional’ – for reasons which I never fully understand, they believe that to be ‘professional’ is to be ‘unspiritual’. Although this is a mistaken view, we would not want the very title of our ‘College’ immediately to put off such ministers!

At a meeting of the College’s steering group last week we wondered whether there might be another way round our problem. One thought was to abbreviate our title to an acronym: CBM. But there is nothing attractive about such an acronym. We then thought of coming up with a snappy one word name – under which we could then write in smaller letters – ‘The College of Baptist Ministers’! The difficulty however would be that whatever snappy English word we came up with, would probably have already been copyrighted somewhere. So we then thought of a possible Greek word.

One of our number suggested ZEONTES, which means ‘fervent’ – literally ‘on the boil’. ZEONTES is found in Rom 12:11: “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord” (NRSV); “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame”.(Message). The term is also used of Apollos in Acts 18:25, who spoke “with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus”. Surely a good word for a group of Baptist ministers who want to give their best to God!

My own preference is STEPHANOS, which means ‘crown’. It is found in 2 Tim 4.7-8, where Paul declares:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness….”.

This seems to me to be a good name for ministers who want to ‘stay the course’!

And that is as far as we have got. Any other suggestions would be most welcome!

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