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Baptist Steering Group - November 2018

In our last meeting of the year, Baptist Steering Group (BSG) and All Team Leaders (ATLs) returned to the hospitality of Windmill Farm Conference Centre in Oxfordshire.


Profound moment

I had a profound moment during our time together! I am sure you know what it is like, a moment when you see and know and experience truth in a much deeper way.  Our guest this month was Bill Crooks from Mosaic Creative who came to talk to us about community empowerment.

Mosaic provide training consultancy, working mainly in the field of community development, both in the UK and overseas, specialising in the use of drama, cartoons and illustrations to enhance learning and development. Their approach is about provoking a reaction, communicating ideas, exploring meaning and unlocking the creative potential in others. When working with churches, Bill particularly focuses on how they can create a strong community relationship using what they have rather than lamenting what they don’t, particularly financially.

This was illustrated very clearly with a group exercise. We were split into two groups and then challenged to make as long a line as possible. Shoelaces, shoes, scarves, lying down and other ways we could stretch ourselves then ensued to much hilarity and good-natured competitiveness as you can imagine!


What was striking is how far we managed to get with what we had. That was encouraging, yet what didn’t cross our minds was to join forces. Our long lines would have been twice as long.That was a God-moment for me.  No one had said that we needed to create two lines, we just instinctively went into competitive mode!  We lament the fact that we don’t have sufficient resources and yet it rarely seems instinctive for us to pool what we have for the good of the Kingdom.  And this is true not only between us as Baptist churches, but across the church in the UK, in our communities and indeed, globally.  I believe that the Holy Spirit is challenging us to keep thinking bigger as we seek to offer our unique contributions as we participate in God’s mission to His world. 

Bill has seen how this can work in reality in places like DR Congo and Kenya. He was particularly struck when he went to Honduras following a hurricane to offer emergency assistance. One community had been made an island due to the flooding and Bill was surprised when they arrived how well they were doing. The pastor said they worked as a tight community and got on with it ‘Remember, we were here before, we are here now, and we will be here after’.

That experience challenged his assumptions about church and how they could create community. With Tearfund he then reflected on how this could work in the U.K. and started to pilot projects. Since then, stories of community growth enabled by churches have emerged.  All of these stories share the principle illustrated during the group exercise – churches used what they had, no matter how small to effect a big change. Our churches are well suited to do this, particularly small churches where they can move quickly with innovative, community building ideas. These ideas and principles are captured in Mosaic’s latest resource for UK churches, ‘Stories on the Street’. This is a cartoon illustrated, accessible resource, with a range of creative Bible studies, learning games and practical tools for helping churches engage with their local community.

A lesson to be learned here is create a strong community relationship and the money side is taken care of.

More can be found on the Mosaic Creative website.

Celebrating, surviving, thriving…with work to do

Mary Taylor (Regional Minister from Yorkshire Baptist Association, Chair of Gender Justice Group), Beth Allison-Glenny (Public Issues Enabler for Baptists Together), Siaa Liane Mathurin (Minister of New Park Road Baptist Church, Streatham, London) and Gale Richards (Ministerof Zion Baptist Church, Cambridge, BME Women Ministers’ Network co-ordinator) spoke on behalf of the Baptist Women in Ministry Conference.


From left to right: Siaa Liane Mathurin, Mary Taylor, Gale Richards, Beth Allison-Glenny

Gale explained that a diverse group of women gathered in the summer at the Baptist Women in Ministry Conference. It was rich in terms of story, celebration, worship and discernment. It led to this statement.
In celebration of the centenary of the recognition of women to be Baptist ministers, we commit ourselves into our shared life and take courage to step forward in living out our call.  This conference calls on our Baptist family to support women, of all ages and ethnic and social backgrounds, in the following ways:
By joining with us to celebrate and support the ministry of women, sharing and teaching with vigour the biblical and theological foundations for their affirmation by successive Baptist Union Councils, and reporting the many ways in which women in ministry at all levels are growing our churches and advancing the mission of God. 
By making it a priority to identify and utilise women who will mentor, accompany and be role models to women at all stages of exploring a call and of ministry, recognising that all women are different and their experiences vary widely. 
By providing frequent opportunities for experience such as apprenticeships, placements, shadowing, preaching opportunities, and by intentionally equipping and calling emerging women ministers and leaders. 
By challenging ourselves to be more aware of questions of justice, to reflect on our assumptions and biases, to ensure fairness within our structures, processes and behaviour, such as exploring a call and National Settlement, and commit together to equity of opportunity and expectation. 

We have been ordaining women for 100 years and there are two important questions to ask - where are we? and what is the message going forward? Key to unlocking the answers is sharing stories.

Siaa Liane Mathurin shared some of her story to illustrate this. When she felt a call to ministry her church were very supportive. She visited Spurgeon’s college and they encouraged her as well. That positive environment began to change when she formally applied for ministry.

Siaa went into that process with an excitement about God and where that was heading. She was then shocked at the level of questioning about her personal circumstances as a mother and particularly that of her children. She wasn’t accepted and Siaa objected with an attempted appeal against the decision. In that letter it was noted there were no women on the panel who interviewed her, and the decision appeared based on her ability to cope as a mother in ministry. Spurgeon’s supported the letter, but God had other plans and Siaa had to wait another year. That time she was accepted but was then taken aback with the process of becoming a Minister in Training (MIT). This again showed bias based on gender.

When Siaa came to the end of her training God called her to stay and the church accepted with support via college and her association. She reflected that regional ministers have a lot of power to affect situations. Women on the settlement list need that support.

Beth Allison-Glenny then reflected on statistics, beginning with the 2017 numbers across Baptists Together. There is encouragement for those coming into ministry:

34% Newly Accredited Ministers (NAMS) are women
40% MIT are women

For those applying, 20 out of 47 applicants are women, meaning we’re improving. However, when viewed as a whole only 16% are women.

When compared to other denominations we are a long way behind:

Church of England – 29% are women overall. 50% intake
Methodists – 42% overall
United Reformed Church – 31% overall, 61% NAM, 56% MIT

What our statistics don’t show is the intersectionality (age, ethnicity, marital status). This means we don’t know the barriers. We also don’t know drop-out rates at any stage in the ministerial journey. We need to map how women go through whole system, picking up on whether they are part or full time and level of stipend. A recent small study showed that 23% of women don’t have housing or provision for accommodation, whereas only 10% of men are in that position. 17.5% of male respondents receive a stipend of over £30,000 compared to 3% of female respondents.

We need better statistics and want them to be public and transparent.

Gale Richards offered some thoughts that had come from the BME Women Ministers' Network as to the need for the statement to be taken forward with particular reference to the diversity of women and churches our Union serves. There is also a need to address the potential impact of wider issues in society such as domestic abuse and the gender pay gap, on the women in our churches.

This led onto group work responding to the statement as a whole, where creative ideas and intentionality were encouraged. How are we as a family going to sort this out?

Responses included: 
  • Agreeing to audit – where are we now? 
  • Actively encourage nominations. Be intentional about investing in women to senior roles. Breakdown barriers locally and regionally.
  • Question the support given to churches that do not consider women. The opaqueness of settlement.
  • Positive placements, mentoring, training, coaching.

Mary Taylor asked the question ‘on our watch – what is our trajectory?’. One place we can start is to address our unconscious bias. Just aware is a new guided resource that churches can use. Please email Mary for more information.

Mary concluded with these requests:
  • We need annual statistics that are comprehensive and public
  • A commitment to the release of resources in our centenary year  
  • Continue to search for creative solutions

Paul’s Prayers for the churches

Adrian Argile (Team Leader, Heart of England Baptist Association) led our time of prayer and reflection using Paul’s prayers for the churches from Ephesians 1:3-23, Colossians 1:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4&11-12, Philippians 1:3-11 and Ephesians 3:14-21.  We were particularly struck by love being at the heart of these prayers; God’s love for us and our love for others.

Attending to the prophetic

I brought along the prophetic, mixed media picture that one of our church members offered and that I had already shared at Council.  The picture remained in our midst throughout our gathering and I reminded people of the words that were shared with it and the prayerful sense that was offered subsequently.



Emerging Adults and Baptist Identity

We continued to reflect on the input we received from Phil Knox about Millennials and Emerging Adults at our last gathering. Skilfully led by Rob Ellis (Principal, Regent’s Park College, Oxford), we were invited to identify 3 things that were key for us about Baptist identity and three things that were key in Emerging Adult culture.  We went onto consider how these connected, and where there were gaps between aspiration and reality!  One of the key connecting points that stood out for us was our mutual valuing of organic, authentic relating.  This is strongly part of our Baptist heritage and understanding of what it means to be church, yet we recognised the challenge to experience and express this in new and deeper ways today not only in the ways we relate within our church communities but also in the ways that we connect together as churches, Associations of churches, Colleges and Specialist Teams.

Priorities 2019-2022

We took the opportunity together to affirm the vision and culture values that we share across Baptist Together as a whole. We deliver this vision by working together in 4 key areas and we created this visual to share with each other.

At our recent Council gathering, we discerned together what priority areas we needed to focus on over the next 3 years as a response to God’s call to us and in BSG we began to consider what needed to be done to enable us to take action in these areas. This involved needing to wrestle with what it means to have shared priorities in the midst of a complex web of independent bodies. 

Assembly 2019
There is growing excitement about the possibilities that our Assembly gathering in Telford will bring in 2019 and we explored ways in which we, together with BMS, can equip and inspire our churches in their mission. I believe that we need to find more and more ways to release the potential of the Baptist family and Assembly 2019 is part of that.


We were blessed to have the whole Accompanying Group with us on this occasion.  Each person brings such insight and prayerful wisdom and the Accompaniers are able to offer comment, critique and reflection to the BSG in their work.  Sadly, we said farewell to Eric Aidoo and Daniel Hatfield who have served us so well over the years and we expressed our huge appreciation for all they had shared with us.  If you have any suggestions for others to join the Accompanying Group, please contact us. Suggestions that reflect our diversity are particularly welcome.

Lynn Green
November 2018

The Revd Lynn Green is General Secretary of our Baptist Union

Baptist Steering Group offers collaborative leadership through co-ordinating the effective development and implementation of the broad strategy discerned by Council.

The purpose and role of All Team Leaders (Regional, College and Specialist) is to work together to develop and shape policies and plans to enable us to achieve our overall vision and strategy. 

The Accompanying Group to the Baptist Steering Group provides prayer support and shares in spiritual and missional reflection with them.

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