'Pray for Council'
Prayers are being sought for Baptist Union Council, which is looking at potential new ways of working for the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) during a specially convened meeting this week
The gathering on Wednesday and Thursday at the High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesden is the latest stage in the Futures process, which was initiated at last November’s Council.
The Revd Ernie Whalley, currently vice president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, will be the chaplain throughout Council. He called on the prayerful support of the denomination to help Council discern God’s voice.
He said, ‘Throughout the BU Council we want to keep open to the leading of the Spirit, to hear God’s voice amongst the many voices, to discern the next steps on the road as we seek to follow more closely the living Christ and share his compelling love with the world.
‘We ask the wider Baptist community to hold our gathering in their prayers too.’
At the last Council meeting in March delegates were asked to first agree on the values and principles which underpin the process, before considering a number of future ways of working for BUGB.
Two models were selected, and since then the Futures group has been working to provide more suggestions regarding what these might look like along with other important papers on key areas such as networking. During the next two days Council will be reflecting on and discussing these.
Through its deliberations, it will determine what happens next and develop appropriate resolutions in the light of this.
At present the plan is that more detailed changes are brought before November’s Council.
A number of alterations have been advocated, guided by a central vision that the Union exists ‘to grow healthy churches in relationship for mission’.
They include the closure of departments at the National Resource and the creation of three core teams that would resource the entire Baptist community:
Ministry, Church and Society (to provide a national voice for Baptists), and Shared Services (financial and legal expertise).
There are also discussions around the nature of a national leadership team, which will be a representative body, potentially made up from Association team leaders, specialist team leaders and other recognised leaders and representatives from the wider Baptist community.
The underlying intention is that this can be a body which draws together the resources of that greater whole, enabling a co-ordinated, missional vision to emerge and flourish.
BUGB general secretary the Revd Jonathan Edwards said that while this has been a difficult process, brought on not least by the wider difficult economic climate of recent years, it has given the Union an opportunity to look afresh at how it goes about its work.
‘Throughout the conversations of recent months we have consistently sought to ensure that we are driven by our mission vision,’ Mr Edwards said.
‘Our vision is to grow healthy churches that work together in mission. I believe that mission is part of the DNA of Baptists and every week I have the delight of seeing local churches that are living that out.
‘As we pray for this Council and for the very important work that will need to be done in preparation for November, we need to pray that we will continue to fired up by the call of God to be a mission movement.
‘Tough decisions will need to be made and I have no doubt that we will ensure that they are shaped by our commitment to be missionary disciples.’
‘In developing these Futures proposals we have heard and listened to many voices,’ said the Revd Phil Jump, North Western Baptist Association regional minister team leader and member of the Futures Group.
‘We can never satisfy everyone's expectations: our overarching concern must be to discern what God is saying to us amongst and beyond those conversations.
‘For some, they will not go far enough. We have not tried to address every issue and concern, but rather provide a basis for the Union to go forward - operating and allocating its resources very differently, and in doing so moving towards on-going change that keeps pace with the leading of God's Spirit and the realities of our age.
For others, this may seem too much change; questions have certainly been asked as to why Baptists across the UK cannot simply be asked to give more generously to allow things to continue. But we have also to be good stewards of what God has given us, and continually ask whether our ways of working are fit for purpose.
'I believe that these proposals set a foundation for an effective missional movement of churches in the 21st century. I would be advocating them irrespective of any financial concerns or constraints.'
Click here for more details about the values underpinning the Futures process
and what has so far been proposed.