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Baptist Steering Group - April 2016

General Secretary Lynn Green shares key messages from the April gathering of the Baptist Steering Group

All Team Leaders and the Baptist Steering Group met at the Woodbrooke Centre in Birmingham on Tuesday 12 with BSG continuing onto Wednesday 13 April 2016.  The key things to communicate from our meeting are:

Feedback following our Council’s statement about Churches registering for same sex marriage
Following Council, the statement was emailed/posted directly to every minister (including NAM and Retired), Church, Association and College. This is a total distribution in excess of 4,500. 96 responses had been received prior to BSG’s meeting. (In comparison, 77 emails were received by the Talking Together website from 2013-16).

Of those 96 responses, 22 welcomed the statement, two wished it to go further and 72 are disturbed / disappointed by the statement. Some clear themes emerged around the Declaration of Principle and the independence / interdependence of churches, about mutuality, about the perceived threat of discipline for ministers and/or church sanction, about pastoral concerns and about mission, (particularly in pioneering contexts).

In our reflection together, we reaffirmed our pastoral and missional commitment to all people irrespective of their sexuality and we wanted to continue to encourage a deeper understanding of the differing convictions that lie at the heart of this matter. We agreed that we would share our responses to the key issues that had been raised by those who had been in touch. An update will be shared with Assembly in May, together with an opportunity for personal conversation with those who serve on the Baptist Steering Group. 

Feedback with regard to the Council statement will be shared with members of Council when they meet again in October 2016.

With regard to Ministerial Recognition (MR) in particular, our MR Committee is meeting in April and October and will be considering further the guidelines that sit alongside the Ministerial Rules. If any changes to the guidelines are proposed, then these would need to come back to the October Council for approval.

We spent some time thinking about Movements and Institutions (from Tim Keller’s, Centre Church) and we found his “both/and” rather than “either /or” approach helpful. We recognised that we continually need to emphasise our vision and values and free ourselves from any unnecessary constraints of institutional life.

Having clarified our vision, culture and priorities we are now investing time in considering how we can best share our resources in order to be faithful to God’s call. Inspired by our culture we are thinking more in terms of how we “break the bread” together in order to release resources for mission in every part of our movement. By the grace of God and the generosity of those committed to our vision who have given through their legacies, we ended 2015 with a modest surplus from the Baptist Together Home Mission appeal. We agreed to re-invest this back into mission through each of our teams (Regional, College and Specialist). 

Baptist Together Home Mission will continue to face challenges through 2016, but we remain committed to releasing as much of our giving as possible for mission across our movement. Jenni Entrican’s prayers chimed in with this as she led us in reflection and prayer from the encounter between Elijah and the widow of Zarephath – they broke bread together and learnt to trust in the Lord’s provision.

Rather than meet with local church ministers on this occasion, BSG was able to combine with the Association Treasurers and also the Baptist Together Mission Forum for part of our time! Through this we were able to strengthen relationships, share vision, culture and priorities and also listen to each other. 

All Team Leaders and BSG were encouraged to hear about the developing Baptists Together Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Round Table and the networking and inspiration that this is enabling. Ministry and mission with CYF is vital if we are serious about “Growing healthy churches in relationship for God’s mission”.

Work on implementing the priority aspects of the Ignite project is beginning in earnest and we looked at the plans for using the Marks of Ministry in our processes of discerning a calling to ministry through both regional Ministerial Recognition Committees and also Residential Selection Conference. We are aiming to have this new approach in place for 2017.

The latest edition of the Baptists Together Magazine, with a focus on evangelism, has recently been published. Costing only 30p per copy to produce; this is an excellent publication which is well received. It is available for free download via our website and printed copies are also available by subscription; from £6.60 for 3 editions each year to cover the cost of postage.

On Tuesday it was shared with All Team Leaders that tickets for the Assembly were going fast and the following day BSG received the news that our forthcoming Assembly was fully booked. Sadly, total numbers are fixed by fire regulations at the venue and we cannot exceed them. On a more positive note, our venue for 2017, The Harrogate International Centre, can hold 1,600!

Whilst we were praying together, Dianne Tidball brought a word from Proverbs 14:4, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.”! When nothing is going on everything is neat and tidy, but where God is at work and there is lots of Kingdom stuff going on it can get messy! We need to live with the messiness if we want to be part of the abundant harvest! Dianne Tidball has been elected as the Vice President of our Union and we look forward to her continued ministry amongst us.

The Revd Lynn Green is General Secretary of our Baptist Union


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