Chris Ellis was welcomed as our new President at the Baptist Assembly in May 2014. His focus for the year is ‘Higher, Deeper, Wider’ – based on the second half of Ephesians 3.  A new resource to accompany Chris during his Presidential year is based on a conversation about worship between Chris and Baptist minister Ruth Rice.  This series of eight studies is called 'Let's Talk about Worship', and is available to download free of charge for your small group to join in the conversation.

Each month Chris will be sharing his thoughts from his travels through this blog site.  He would love to engage in conversation with you and your church, and there will be opportunity for you to leave your comments at the end of each blog post. Please share your feedback in this way.

Click here to access the blog posts from Ernie Whalley during his Presidential year 2013-14.

Religious Liberty

There has been a deep sense of shock in response to the news stories of Christians and others being beheaded by IS.  Perhaps the method of execution is particularly chilling, but the targeting of someone because of their religion is often entangled with issues of race as well.  So we grimly watched our news feeds as we learned of Jews being targeted in a French supermarket and heard, as a kind of commentary, of the growing number of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe.

But these events are not all the responsibility of one religion or a single kind of political group.  Last Spring, thanks to BMS World Mission, I visited the Palestinian West Bank and heard the stories of how both Christian and Muslim Palestinian families were separated, and the simple task of going to work or to church were disrupted by the security fence.  With countless others, I crossed through checkpoints, a process made easier for me by my UK passport, but still an uneasy experience.  I visited the Hebron mosque where, a few years earlier, a lone Israeli gunman had massacred people at prayer.

This is the broken world in which we live and which has been redeemed by our Saviour who was publically and painfully executed.  Terrible suffering and gruesome atrocities should not lead us to an ‘us and them’ stance but should bring us to our knees in prayer.  This prayer is to a God who put himself at the mercy of a sinful and violent world and who hears our prayers as one who knows pain and the suffering of the victim from the inside.  Of course, this prayer to which we are led is not only prayer for Christians, but for all who suffer, whether for their faith, in Syria, India, Northern Nigeria, or wherever.

Yet while our prayers must encompass all who suffer, for whatever reason, we also have a particular responsibility to hold in prayer those who suffer for their following of Jesus.

A few weeks ago I was in the Palace of Westminster at the launch of the Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission, a partnership between the Alliance and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Release International and Open Doors.  At the launch, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, argued, "We must speak out in solidarity.  Silence is not an option.  Treasuring the dignity of each and every human must mean that we treasure their right to religious belief – even when we profoundly disagree with them."  This is a sentiment that Thomas Helwys espoused four centuries ago when, on the basis of scripture, he argued for the liberty of conscience for all: ‘Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.’ 

Awareness, fellowship, campaigning and prayer go hand in hand and the commission’s website offers news, stories and themes which can inform and provoke our prayer together.

Chris Ellis

If you want to think more about worship with Chris, then visit Let's Talk about Worship where you will find a series of interviews with Chris and some great linked resources for small group study in your church.



It really feels like winter at the moment.  As I write, at the end of January, the snow outside our front door is more than a foot deep.  My travels around the country have obviously been fewer during the Christmas and New Year period, though that is about to change.

I have been looking back at my schedule, both for last year and for the events and visits coming up in the next few months.  The range has been fascinating.  The largest share has been my visits to local churches and projects – and rightly so – as I have shared fellowship, led worship, preached or just listened and prayed with people engaging in local mission.

But my year has also included ministers’ conferences, association celebrations, college teaching, quiet days and retreats, discernment days, council meetings, and representation at national events, such as the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.

Each of these events has provided a snapshot of our Union, a picture of Christians in fellowship and of the Holy Spirit at work.  I pray that my presence as your representative in each of these places has been a sign that wherever we are, that wherever we worship, witness or struggle to seek and do God’s will, we are not alone.  Our Union takes various forms – as local churches cluster for mutual support and witness, as associations plan and pray strategically in support of local mission, and nationally as we support one another in prayer and in the sharing of resources.  This is union, this is fellowship – the communion of the Holy Spirit – God active amongst us gathering us and sending us, calling and equipping.

This union/fellowship/communion language is very important because it reminds us that our life together, however dispersed we might be, is the outpouring of God’s love.  We plan and serve and share, yet all this is made possible by the Holy Spirit who guides and empowers.  The Union is ‘us’, in each dimension of our relating and each aspect of our witnessing.  But above and under and through all this, the union is our life in God, the Holy One in our midst.  The apostle Paul writes,

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4.1-3)

Chris Ellis

If you want to think more about worship with Chris, then visit Let's Talk about Worship where you will find a series of interviews with Chris and some great linked resources for small group study in your church.


New Year

We had the annual conversation: "Weren't the fireworks great, but what a lot of money to go up in  smoke!"  Then the annual frustration of trying to phone loved ones with New Year greetings only to be told, "Network busy!"  Happy New Year to you!
It's a good time to reflect on past, present and future, to remember absent friends and to hope and pray that the year to come has more promise than the one past.  A time to take stock and perhaps even to consider a resolution for the coming days.
This reflective mode set me thinking about our Union, about our relationships between churches, associations and colleges, about times past and times future, as well as time present.  We have been living through a time of transition, attempting new ways of decision-making and shifts in ways of relating, especially between the regional associations and the national structures.  We are still learning that 'national' doesn't mean 'them' but means 'us' - all of us. We are still learning how to relate without the level of institutional life we have known in the past.
Above all, I believe we still have a journey to travel on what it means to be a fellowship which is locally supportive and trusting, regionally creative and strategic, and nationally rich in its spiritual and practical resourcing.  As a Union, we are a fellowship with national dimensions.  The New Testament word koinonia, which is usually translated 'fellowship', means far more than a rosy-tinted warmth of friendly feeling.  A better translation is 'fellowship-sharing' - as Paul makes clear in 2 Corinthians 8, that fellowship between congregations is not just about good intentions but practical and costly mutual support.  So as a Near Year unfolds, let us look forward with a clear and an intentional commitment to support one another through prayer and practical sharing.
But my musings take me further.  Paul ends his second letter to the Corinthians with the familiar words which we repeat most times that most of us meet: 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion (koinonia / fellowship-sharing) of the Holy Spirit be with you all.'  This communion, which is our Union, is a work of the Holy Spirit which binds us together and inspires us to mutual encouragement and common action.  I believe there is a mystical dimension to God's call to us for life together as a Union.  Let us resolve to explore this common life in the Spirit in the coming year, allowing ourselves to be stretched and excited by the God of grace without whom we can do nothing.

Chris Ellis

If you want to think more about worship with Chris, then visit Let's Talk about Worship where you will find a series of interviews with Chris and some great linked resources for small group study in your church.


Previous Blog Posts

December 2014: The Big Picture in the Detail
October 2014: Pray and Fast for the Climate
August 2014: Pioneers of Faith
July 2014: Where you go, I will go
June 2014: Let's talk about worship
 What's happening?