In February of 2017 at the winter board meeting of the FBFI, the board voted unanimously to change the name of the FBFI from Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International to Foundations Baptist Fellowship International. The movement for the name change was led by John Vaughn and at the urging of the most senior members of the fellowship. The discussion regarding a name change has continued, off and on, for more than 40 years. Wayne Van Gelderen Sr., Frank Bumpus, Dr. Bob Jones III, Rod Bell, and James Singleton were the ones that began the discussion.
The concern is not with the idea of being fundamentalists. That identity is the core of who we are. We are not even shy about using the name or term. We wear it proudly. But in an age when the term is so misconstrued, we want to give ourselves the opportunity to define it.
Within the ranks of professing Christianity, the term fundamentalist is widely viewed with disdain. That does not bother us. For the most part, evangelicals understand that a fundamentalist is a person who believes what the Bible says and seeks to apply it consistently to every aspect of life and practice. If we are disdained for that belief and practice, so be it.
It’s the use of the term outside the ranks of Christendom that is problematic. The recent name-change discussion started with the request of some of our chaplains. When your mission is to fight against extremist or radical terrorists, who call themselves fundamentalists, it can be confusing to use that same term to identify yourself. We know there is a difference, but we do not often have opportunity to explain it. It also helps in our interactions with the secular world elsewhere.
I had to smile during our fellowship with the NTA in Watertown in June of 2017. We were called the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship throughout the entire week. I have a hunch that the new name is going to be hard to get used to. The name change helps us, but make no mistake, we will always answer affirmatively to “Fundamental Baptist Fellowship” when it is used. We are, and will always be fundamentalists in the same way that our forebears were when they first met as the Fundamentalist Fellowship within the Northern Baptist Convention. But we are also fundamentalists in the way that the FBF leaders were in the 1950’s and 1960’s when they chose to denounce and separate from the cooperative evangelism of Billy Graham and all its ensuing compromises.
We have new issues to face, and we will face them with the same biblical principles and fervor that we have in the past.
Dr. Kevin Schaal serves as the pastor of Northwest Valley Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona and as the President of the FBFI.