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Baptist Union Council: March 2016

A report from Baptist Union Council, which took place at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire (15-16 March)

Large parts of this Council were devoted to discerning our Union’s response to The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, and specifically about churches wishing to register their buildings for the solemnisation of same sex marriage. The following statement was released and sent to churches on Friday; the process by which it was arrived at is detailed here.
The report below gives details of the other matters discussed at this Council.



Worship was led by Geoff Colmer (Regional Minister Team Leader of the Central Baptist Association), who also gave the opening message. Taking Philippians 3:4-11 as his text, he highlighted one of his favourite authors Michael Mayne, whose final book was written in the knowledge of incurable cancer. Reflecting on his life, Mayne was able to trace the 'enduring melody' which has sung through him. In musical terms this is referred to as the ‘cantus firmus’, Geoff said, a ground base, the fixed melody around which others were sung.

He asked Council members: ‘Will the enduring melody of our unity in Jesus Christ still be heard? Or will other noises drown out the melody? Will Jesus Christ be at the heart?’

Nominations committee

Rupert Lazar, minister of East Barnet Baptist Church and our Union’s Vice-President, gave news of the Nominations Committee, appointed by Council to seek and discern candidates for a variety of roles in Union life. 

John LevickHe brought the nomination of John Levick (pictured) as next treasurer of our Baptist Union. John spent 33 years in banking and is currently treasurer of the Heart of England Baptist Association and a Baptist Union trustee. ‘We had an excellent day with John Levick – exploring with him, praying with him – we were unanimous in our heart, that this was the man from God for this time.’ John’s appointment to treasurer needs to be confirmed by delegates at the Baptist Assembly in May.

Elsewhere the nominations committee also felt able to bring ‘two excellent people’ as new trustees: Andrew Caplen a solicitor and the President of the Law Society of England and Wales 2014-15, and Andrew Cowley, minister of Tring Baptist Church. They, and Marion Fiddes (continuing on the Trustee Board for a second term) were unanimously approved by Council.

Rupert also mentioned there has not yet been ‘a huge amount of names’ put forward for this discerning process into the various roles in our Union’s life. ‘We believe it’s the right way, we believe it’s of the spirit, but it’s not quite embedded,’ he said. Nevertheless, the Committee ‘strongly believes this will change.’ 

New churches

The four newest churches in our Union were welcomed and affirmed by Council. They are Church 1v23, Harold Hill, London (Eastern Baptist Association; Emmaus Church, Birmingham (Heart of England Baptist Association); Wymondley Baptist Church, Little Wymondley (Central Baptist Association) and St Philip’s Church, a Baptist/Anglican Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) in Sheffield. Each church had been accepted into membership by their respective Associations.

The churches represented ‘something of a snapshot of our Union,’ noted Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader, as they included a pioneering/fresh expressions church (Church 1v23), a Romanian church (Emmaus), a small Baptist church that has been independent (Wymondley) and an LEP (St Philip’s).


There was an introduction to Collaborate, the name of the project and team working towards one Baptists Together database to be shared by our Union’s three specialist teams and Associations. Collaborate consists of Association representatives and a member from each of the specialist teams. Tim Presswood, transitional minister in the North Western Baptist Association, said Collaborate is not about a database, but ‘a new way of working together to support mission and ministry in our churches.’

The new database will free up time because information is currently held in different parts of Baptists Together and data entry is duplicated. It will also bring enhanced reporting capabilities that will help churches. The improvements are not just about technology – ‘psychologically a shared database will enable us to feel more like one team,’ said Hayley Beckett, administrator at the Eastern Baptist Association. There is a phased launch planned from November.

Malcolm Broad

Council Malcolm Broad The final part of the Tuesday evening session was given to saying goodbye to outgoing treasurer Malcolm Broad, whose term will end at Assembly. Lynn Green thanked him not only for his financial expertise over the past eight years, but also the way he has ‘always looked at finance through the missional lens.’ She added that Malcolm had ‘done all this as a volunteer.’

Malcolm recalled that when he became treasurer in 2008 the Bank of England declared a recession, and interest rates soon dropped to the historical low from which they have not yet returned. ‘Perhaps my predecessor knew something I didn’t!’ He said that following the restructuring in 2012-13, our Union’s finances are now in good shape - but it’s not without its challenges. The Home Mission appeals have been disappointing, and he said there needs to be ‘a fresh appeal to churches to get behind Baptists Together.’ He also cited amounts held by some of our churches, Associations and colleges, adding that our Union needs to hear and observe the story of the widow who gave everything she had to Jesus. ‘God has given us an abundance of resources, so we can afford to give more.’

In all he has travelled 65,000 miles, attended more than 400 meetings, worked with three moderators of trustee board, three finance directors and two general secretaries. The ‘best part of the role’ has been getting out to local churches through treasurer or trustee training and the more recent pension roadshows. It had been ‘a huge privilege to serve you as treasurer’, he said, his words being met with sustained applause. 

40 Days of Good News

Stuart Davison, Regional Minister Team Leader of the South Eastern Baptist Association (SEBA), spoke about the 40 Days of Good News initiative, ‘a time of deliberately engaging in mission’ in the 40 days leading up to Pentecost (10 April - 15 May). It had emerged from Association Team Leaders wanting to be more intentional about mission, as fire-fighting church problems can divert attention away from the core task of mission.
Associations have taken this on board in separate ways – SEBA has produced 40 ideas for churches to consider, as well as a short film featuring people’s ideas.

Stuart hopes this is not a one off, but something that will happen on a regular basis. ‘We’ve got to spend less time on our structures – and more on our mission,’ he said. ‘Let’s be intentional in mission – expectant and daring.’ Churches are encouraged to pray for the initiative on the two preceding Sundays (3 and 10 April). 

Loaves and Fishes

LoavesFishes300Lynn Green gave an update on the ways our Union is responding to the Loaves and Fishes report, which looked at ways of releasing money for mission, and was discussed in some depth at the previous Council meeting.

She highlighted how Home Mission provides almost two-thirds of our Union’s income, but has been falling. She reminded Council of outgoing treasurer Malcolm Broad’s challenge that Baptists Together must develop a sustainable income, in order to release more money for mission.

Suggestions from the Loaves and Fishes report had included: improve legacies, rename/rebrand Home Mission, develop personal donors, introduce direct debits, and increase investment income. Some steps had already been taken, such as the updating of legacy information.

Three project teams will be set up to explore Home Mission, personal donations, and Association funding formula. 

Marks of Ministry

Council members were given the opportunity to discuss the Marks of Ministry report, before deciding whether to adopt it. Marks of Ministry was part of the Ignite Report, which looked into the future of ministry and was published earlier this year.

It offers a shift towards detecting the Christ-like qualities of someone wishing to be accredited, (‘who they are as women and men who follow Jesus’), rather than measuring them against a range of core competencies. It’s had broadly ‘very positive’ feedback, said Andy Hughes, Ministries Team Leader, and is pivotal to many aspects of the Ignite Report, which is why it’s the first part of Ignite to be implemented.   

There was general approval of Marks of Ministry following discussion in small groups, and council members voted unanimously to adopt it with suggested tweaks.  


A prayer of thanksgiving for the life of Roger Hayden was given by Nigel Coles at the start of Council. A report was given about the Retired Baptist Ministers' Housing Society, which is receiving 10-15 requests each year, though this is coming down. The Society has never failed to provide a property for someone who meets its eligibility needs in 41 years.

Former Baptist Union President Chris Ellis spoke at the end of Council, his last after first being elected as a young minister in the 1970s.
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