AFTER 158 years of Christian social ministry in the Middle East,
BibleLands has become the latest Christian charity to rebrand
itself in the name of modernity.
In a statement issued on Monday of last week, the charity said
that its new name, "Embrace the Middle East", was chosen "because
it described where we worked and we felt it reflected our Christian
calling to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry and help the
homeless". The cross at the centre of its new logo "emphasises our
confidence as a Christian charity", it said.
It said that research among potential supporters had shown that
many Christians were deterred by the old name, regarding it as
"quaint and old-fashioned". Others had assumed that the charity
distributed Bibles, or was "explicitly evangelistic". The new name
was selected after focus groups of "key stakeholders" met.
The rebranding cost £150,000, funded by the surplus made during
the move from the charity's previous offices in 2010. The aim of
the relaunch is to raise £20 million in the next five years.
In a sign that it has noted the experience of USPG, which
recently rebutted accusations that it had jettisoned its earlier
name because it was "embarrassed by the gospel", (News,
20 July), Embrace the Middle East said: "We are definitely not
secularising the charity," but "all charities, including Christian
ones, have to move with the times, while keeping to their core
Lea Doherty, a brand consultant at Radley Yeldar, whose clients
include the NSPCC, said that there were "lots of examples" of name
changes in the corporate sector which had led to public outcry,
including the change from Anderson Consulting to Accenture, which
was described as "one of the world's worst name-changes in
history". She also gave the example of the Spastics Society, which
was renamed Scope in 1994. The benefits of losing a word that had
become an abusive term "far outweighed" the risk, even though it
was an established household name.
Other charities that have removed an explicit Christian
reference from their names include the Children's Society (formerly
the Church of England Children's Society), Platform 51 (formerly
the Young Women's Christian Association), and Keychange Charity
(formerly Christian Alliance). Crosslinks was formerly the Bible
Churchmen's Missionary Society, and Urban Saints was once
Crusaders. Others, such as the Society for the Assistance of Ladies
in Reduced Circumstances, have kept their historic names.