Baptist Union Market Place sessions
The vision and culture of our Baptist Union was highlighted during two sessions in the afternoon’s Market Place activities, which also included the Annual General Meeting
Vision, culture and priorities
At the start of both sessions General Secretary the Revd Lynn Green outlined our vision, culture and priorities as a Union. Our vision as a whole movement is “Growing healthy churches in relationship for God’s mission” she explained, which means we want to see all our churches “healthy, spiritually vibrant and growing in discipleship.”
The best way we can do this is “together, in relationship…. praying for each other, supporting and challenging each other, and pooling our resources and expertise for the sake of the Kingdom.”
Our vision also means that we want to see every church being the best it can be at being and sharing the Good News of Jesus, she continued. We also want to see new churches and missional communities planted – “not because we don’t care about existing congregations, but because we care passionately about the 94 per cent of the population who don’t yet follow Jesus!”
In order to enable this vision, Lynn added, we believe that we need to intentionally develop a renewed culture among us. She outlined the following areas:
We want to be a movement of Spirit-led communities with Christ at the centre – attentive to the Lord and obedient to His call
We want to feel like one team – as our forebears said, “To walk together and watch over each other”.
Our emphasis on the local church is both our strength and also our weakness. We need to harness the power of true interdependence if we are to be faithful to Christ.
We want to embrace adventure. We recognise we have a tendency to be cautious and sometimes play it safe. But we want to learn more about taking risks and having the humility to fail well. We want to pioneer and move beyond our comfort zones in order to engage with people who are spiritually hungry.
We want to inspire others – speaking well of each other, blessing one another and encouraging each other. That whenever anyone comes across a Baptist or a Baptist church they leave that encounter inspired to be what God created them to be.
We want to have a deep desire to share a hunger for God’s coming Kingdom in the way that we are and in the things that we do – challenging evil and injustice and the structures of wealth and power both within and beyond Baptists Together.
Lynn added that since we last met at Assembly, our Union’s Council has been prayerfully considering our priorities as Baptists Together. Two key priorities have emerged: strengthening our focus on mission, and on how we are going to equip and support the sort of leaders that can enable mission to happen.
The Revd Dr Rob Ellis introduced the Ignite Project, which he said will be looking carefully at the work of the Ministries Team based in Didcot. How can these resources be most effectively engaged to support ministry and mission among Baptists?
He said in asking that, further questions arise:
What kind of ministries and leadership will we need to meet the challenges of the next decade or two?
What kind of balance will we need between pioneering and inherited patterns of ministry and mission?
How can we help those in ministry to develop their gifts in a world that might be very different from how it was when they were first called into ministry?
How will colleges and associations best play their roles in enabling and resourcing ministries in the 21st century?
How does the essential and effective ministry of those who are not BUGB accredited fit in, and how can these people be equipped and enabled?
How will we pay for it all?
The Ignite Project will be headed up by the Revd Phil Jump, Regional Minister Regional Minister Team Leader of the North Western Baptist Association. It will be consulting “widely but speedily with a huge range of people within the Baptist family” over the next few months on the questions of ‘what ministries’ we need, and how we can together as the Baptist Union of Great Britain best support, develop and release all these ministries.
Click here for a review of the Ignite Session at the Assembly Marketplace
Fit for Mission
The Revd Stuart Davison, Regional Minister Team Leader of the South Eastern Baptist Association and a member of the Baptist Steering Group, spoke on the mission element of the priorities, introducing a major piece of research about mission in and through the local church.
Called Fit for Mission, churches are invited to fill in an online survey.
‘If our task is making Jesus known, we need to know if we are fit for mission? And if we need to get fit, then how?’ he asked.
The research is not a one-off piece of work; through it our Union aims to gain on-going knowledge to advance the mission of our churches.
The survey will be sent to churches via their Associations, and Stuart expressed his hope that every church will embrace it “enthusiastically”.
‘If we do not know where we are working, or where we are struggling, how can we move forward?’ said. The survey will take around 20 minutes.
The AGM was part of the first session. Malcolm Broad was re-elected as treasurer of our Union.
The Revd Rupert Lazar was elected as Baptist Union Vice-President, having been nominated earlier this year by Baptist Union Council. Both were passed unanimously, with no abstentions.
Malcolm also explained our Union’s 2014 consolidated accounts through a short presentation, which showed that our overall income was £9.2m, and expenditure £7.4m. This income includes exceptional income items such as legacies in the form of houses donated to the Retired Baptist Ministers Housing Society. When these are excluded it was encouraging to note that in 2014 all of the financial entities of our Union had operationally “balanced the books” in line with budget.
The Home Mission Appeal reached £3.9m, and more than 92p in every pound is now spent on charitable activities.
Churches were asked to prayerfully consider giving five per cent of their income to Home Mission.
Thanks was given to God as this represents a major financial turnaround over the last two years compared with the deficit position our Union had been in. Malcolm paid tribute to the staff team behind the scenes for their hard work in overseeing and managing a major restructuring to deliver this breakthrough.
Thanks were also expressed for Malcolm’s work, as well as Jenny Royal (outgoing moderator of Baptist Union trustees), David Locke (outgoing Finance Director and Team Leader Support Services), the Revd Dr Chris Ellis (President of our Union 2014-15) and Robert Ashurst (outgoing moderator for the Baptist Pension Scheme trustees).
The second session gave an update on our ongoing conversation as Baptists to Same Sex Marriage (SSM), which came into law in the last Parliament.
Lynn reminded delegates that an “expression of the reality that we are seeing and hearing from across Baptists Together” was offered at the 2014 Assembly.
The vast majority of Baptist churches affirm the traditional understanding of Christian marriage as being between a man and a woman, she continued (adding, “this is a view I wholeheartedly support”).
She then invited the Revd Richard Lewis, Regional Minister in the Eastern Baptist Association, to explain why the Baptist Steering Group doesn’t just “issue an edict banning Same Sex Marriages in our churches.”
‘It’s because we see the local church as primary,’ he explained. ‘Our Declaration of Principle says that Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures, is our sole and absolute authority in matters of faith and practice and that the local church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to interpret and administer His laws.’
‘It’s not that churches can do what they like,’ he noted. ‘But they do have the freedom to seek the mind of Christ as Spirit-led communities.’
Lynn then invited the Revd Geoff Andrews, Regional Minister Team Leader at the London Baptist Association (LBA), and the Revd Dianne Tidball, Regional Minister Team Leader at the East Midlands Baptist Association, to share key concerns they have heard as they have consulted among their churches.
Geoff spoke of the concern that “we are simply following culture and not being true to Scripture”. There was also a concern that some churches feel they must leave our Union if another registers to conduct Same Sex Marriages. ‘Clearly, our desire is to nurture our unity as Baptists Together as we seek to be faithful in His mission,’ he said, ‘and there would be sadness if any church felt that it needed to leave our Union over this issue.’
He added that as he has listened to churches in the London Baptist Association, everyone who holds passionate views does so “as a result of reading the Bible”.
‘It sounds contradictory, but different people draw on Scripture in different ways. For us as Baptists, this is not a matter of reading the Bible or binning the Bible, it is about how we read and interpret the Bible,’ he said.
Dianne spoke of the complexity of the area. Some have a fear of being marginalised for their interpretation of the Bible, she said. Additionally, we are not just having to think about this biblically, “as churches we also want to be engaging with people pastorally and missionally in our own context.”
She warmly commended the Evangelical Alliance resource Biblical and Pastoral Responses to Homosexuality, which offer help in working out practical responses to real people.
The Revd Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader, then spoke of the next phase of the conversation, which included the need to ask deeper questions about how we faithfully seek the mind of Christ together, and also to prayerfully consider “what we do when churches in different contexts embrace different responses to the majority”.
He added he was aware there is still a need for conversation and consultation, and opportunities for this will continue.
‘I hope churches will engage in church meetings, in ministers gatherings, in associations and colleges,’ said Stephen, ‘in many and varied networks of Baptists Together.’
The email address firstname.lastname@example.org is still in use. Every email is read and informs the ongoing reflection in the Baptist Steering Group and later Council.
‘All these conversations will inform the discussion,’ continued Stephen, ‘think – pray – talk together and listen to God.’
Loaves and Fishes
David Locke gave an update on the Loaves and Fishes project, an initiative to explore whether there are ways to release more financial resources for mission and led by the Revd Rich Webb, minister of Scunthorpe Baptist Church and new moderator of Trustees, and Anne Bishop, a charity consultant married to a Baptist minister.
‘We have been consulting with the Baptist family and have been absolutely thrilled with the feedback,’ said David. ‘We are excited by how God is going to work in the year ahead.’
For more on Loaves and Fishes visit http://www.baptist.org.uk/Publisher/Article.aspx?ID=434841
Investing in the future
The Revd Dave Ellis, who became a Regional Minister in the Heart of England Baptist Association took up the theme by speaking on investing for the future.
‘As Lynn shared, our vision is growing healthy churches in relationship for God’s mission. To enable that to happen we want to invest in equipping local churches for mission, to see 400 new pioneers being trained and released; we want to invest in developing our virtual connectedness and communications and we want to invest in equipping and inspiring missional leaders throughout Baptists Together.
‘This demands our prayer, our energy and our finances. All that you give through Home Mission helps us invest in God’s future.’