Baptist Union Council: March 2015
In March the latest Baptist Union Council took place with 70 Baptists, drawn from Baptist Churches, Associations, colleges and specialist teams, gathering together at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, for two days (16-17 March).
Christ and Scripture at the heart
As always there was business to process and many conversations to have. Business items included issues as diverse as finances, housing for retired ministers, the future formation of Ministries and resourcing Mission.
Nothing happens in council without firstly focusing on prayer and scripture. The worship for Council was led by Revd Beth Allison-Glenny, one of the ministers at John Bunyon Baptist Church in Oxford.
During the opening worship, Stephen Keyworth reflected on the opening of Mark’s gospel urging us to focus on scripture as we seek the authority of Christ. “Long before Baptists gathered round the worship band to worship it,” Stephen said, tongue-in-cheek, “we used to gather round the Word to seek the mind of Christ... Everything else will flow from an attention to Christ-like authority. Recognising the person and authority of Jesus in all things can only mean healthy churches equipped for participation in God’s mission… The authority – ‘that’ authority which should continue to inspire and amaze us – is still and forever will be – found in the person of Jesus Christ…”
He went on to encourage all Baptists, particularly those attending Council, that “early Baptist meeting houses always had a pulpit as a central focus. Now, I have no desire to reinstate the pulpit as an architectural feature – but I do hold on to the vision of a healthy church gathered round a Bible asking: ‘What does God want us to do next?’”
Prayer punctuated Council’s deliberations throughout the gathering. On the second day we used the ‘40 days of Home Mission’ resource to pray for the churches, Associations, and specialist teams of our Union. Following council postcards of greetings were shared back to the churches and teams that people had prayed for during these prayer times. It was good to focus our praying on local churches and mission initiatives. More details of 40 days can be found at www.baptist.org.uk/40days
We have started a new process that will help us find people who will serve the Union in different ways. This included the advertising of roles and a discernment process that enabled Council to consider nominations of people to fill current vacancies. These roles were open to anyone in a Baptist church.
Council affirmed the nominations of:
Richard Webb – Moderator of Trustee Board
David Mayne – Moderator of Council
Phil Jump – Ministries review project leader
Council was also informed that David Locke, the Shared Services Team Leader had accepted a new role with the Oxford Diocese as Chief Operating Officer and CEO designate to oversee their multi academy school trust for C of E schools in Oxfordshire and surrounding areas.
A major part of the Council’s discussion focused on the Ministries review. Roy Searle, in presenting what stage the review is at, and looking to the future, issued a call to imagine a different world and, in fellowship with Christ, to live towards achieving it.
The Ministries review is not new; it is building on the work of the review of ministerial formation and other work done over the past few years. These pieces of work and continuing conversations will be used to enable the fuller review of ministry which will be presented to October Council. During Council, Phil Jump facilitated a session enabling Associations to consider ways of how they might encourage participation in the Ministries Project.
Roy Searle called on the Union to hold on to its values:
Seek to be a movement of spirit-led communities
Feel like one team
Share a hunger for God’s coming kingdom
Project Loaves and Fishes
Recently, changes have been made to how we spend our money as a Union. These changes have been significant and can be summarised as follows:
The national resource has faced budget cuts and restructuring
Home Mission grants are now administered by the Association Partnerships
An agreed formula has been introduced to allocate financial resources to Associations
The next task is to consider our income. The Project Loaves and Fishes is seeking to find ways to increase our income so that our Union might be even more effective in mission through heathy local churches.
We have a responsibility to be as wise as possible in raising funds. However, we must recognise that our role is simply to bring the little we have to Jesus and believe he can multiply it beyond our wildest dreams.
The goals of Project Loaves and Fishes are:
To keep the focus on supporting local churches in local mission
To encourage, excite and inspire all stakeholders with regard to the future
To stay strategic
To maintain and build unity and a sense of ownership
To work in a way that embodies our vision and renewed culture as Baptists together
Stuart Davidson, regional Minister Team Leader of the South Eastern Baptist Association and member of the mission forum, shared about ‘Fit for Mission’:
Every morning I reach down and touch my slippers 10 times – and then, if I feel up to it, I get out of bed and put them on. So goes a very old joke. But maybe there is a kernel of truth there in the way we approach our fitness for mission. We say we are a missional movement, but how much time, money and thought do we give to this; how should we invest in the future?
Baptists Together are doing a major piece of research on mission in and through the local church. This is being done through the Associations. How are we doing? Are we fit for mission? This research is not just a one-off piece of work. We are seeking to gain on-going knowledge to advance the mission of our churches. Where are we declining, and why? Where are we seeing growth?
We hope that churches will be co-operative in responding to the survey (which should take about 10 minutes to fill in). We can then answer some of the questions that will lead us to understanding where we are as a Union and how we should go forward.
The fields are white unto harvest… but are we putting on slippers or limbering up to put on our work boots?
Priorities and projects
The Revd Lynn Green, the General Secretary, presented to Council what is seen as the priorities and associated projects for the Union for the next five years.
By 2020 it is hoped that:
Our vision for Baptists Together is clearly embraced and understood and our renewed culture has become the norm.
We have a clear grasp of the health of our churches and a clear understanding of what needs to be done and where to enable mission across Baptists Together
We have established structures for relating that reflect our governance report and enable relationships of trust to flourish and mission to be enabled as easily as possible
To have implemented the Ministries Project recommendations
To navigate well the issues of human sexuality and find a settled place
To implement the Loaves and Fishes project to identify new income streams
To ensure that a strategy is developed and implemented to stabilise the Pension scheme
To complete and implement the review of our safeguarding
To develop the database to incorporate the needs of Associations and our Union as a whole
To develop a communications strategy
The Revd Rupert Lazar, minister of East Barnet Baptist Church, was nominated as the next Vice-President of the Baptist Union. The nomination was made at this Council meeting, and will be voted on at Assembly on 16 May in Peterborough.If elected Rupert will serve as Vice-President during 2015-16 and become President of our Union in 2016-17.
Nominations for Vice-President were invited during November and December 2014, with completed nomination forms to be received by 31 December.
As no nominations were received, the Vice-President was nominated by Council, in line with the Baptist Union constitution. This was the first time a new streamlined process was used for nominations, which were sought mainly online.
For more details about Rupert, please see the fuller report here.
Stephen Keyworth shared the vision and excitement ahead of the Baptist Assembly on 16 May at Kingsgate Centre in Peterborough. More details can be found at www.baptistassembly.org.uk
As mentioned above one of our key values is ‘embracing adventure’. At Council we heard from four people who are part of churches doing just that. Stories varied from barista training and opening coffee shops to difficult discussions on topics that are normally avoided by churches. The four stories were told by Andy Goldsmith, Karen Golder, Danielle Leigh and David Steell.
At the end of Council, members were asked to share precious moments from the meeting. These included:
Hearing how "One Church" in Brighton has set up Barista apprenticeship training.....great job guys.
Hearing great stories of adventure in mission from Karen, Danielle, David and Andrew.
Getting to share communion with a really special guy; being blessed by him and being able to bless him.
First time as a member of BU Council and blessed by the conversations and stories. Precious and prophetic words spoken by Roy Searle yesterday.
Stephen Keyworth's reflections on the beginning of Mark's Gospel –wise and challenging words. And many moments around meal tables with people I know well and others I’ve just met.
Giving thanks for the service of Sheila Martin as Council Moderator.
So many precious moments this time. Much to reflect on.
Thoughtfully and carefully worded worship. The Franciscan Blessing of Discomfort offered to us at the end of closing worship was wonderful. Thank you
The worship was particularly good this time. I really appreciated it.
Sharing the bread at communion with George Ayoma and simply being prayed for and affirmed by a minister I am privileged to serve as his RM.
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.