Who is God calling to be the President of our Union?
With a Presidential election upon us, Richard Wilson explores how we might go about discerning which candidate to vote for
Under the constitution of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, we have the opportunity each year to appoint a President. Once nominations are received, churches, minsters and members of Baptist Union Council are asked to register a vote to elect the President. We vote in the opening months each year for the person who will become President at the Baptist Assembly in May of the following year.
The President is an important figurehead in the life of our Union. Their remit is to inspire and challenge us to consider our collective vision and mission. In their year in office, the President travels around our Union, engaging with local churches, regional Associations and Colleges. They are also asked to offer prayerful support and wise reflection to the Baptist Steering Group who coordinate strategic change across our Union. It is important to have the right person in the role.
The practicalities of the election process are similar to voting in other sorts of elections but how should an election work in our specific Baptist context? In a secular election there can be all sorts of motivations for casting a vote, which can include who I like or trust the most as a person, whose views I most agree with or even who I think would produce the most benefit for me personally.
Is this how God wants us to use our vote in the election of our President? Our key question must be “Who is God calling to be the President of our Union in the coming season?” This is an easy question to articulate, but a hard one to answer! Here are some steps that may assist us in this act of discernment.
Being informed issue is a great help to discernment. You may be fortunate to know all the candidates personally, and we do notice higher levels of participation in the elections from the areas where a candidate is based.
However, not personally knowing one or other a candidate should not be a barrier to participating in the discernment. To support our discernment, the candidates supply profiles and videos which are available on our website. As an innovation for this 2020, we are working to arrange live interviews with the candidates so that they can answer questions from our Baptist family.
To answer the question posed, we need to discern what our Union needs at this time. This requires reflection on the challenges ahead of us as a Baptist family and considering which candidate would be best able as President to speak into this situation.
Baptist discernment, most commonly in the context of the church is a collective process. Talk to others and hear their views. God often reveals his will to us through the counsel of others (see Proverbs 15:22). This is especially important where you are submitting a vote on behalf of a church. Whilst ministers and members of Baptist Union Council vote in a personal capacity, Church secretaries are sent the details of how to vote, but they are asked to submit a vote for the church. Different churches have different ways of deciding who to vote for, which may be a meeting of leaders or a church meeting. The important point is that this is a vote on behalf of the church and so there should be some measure of consultation.
This is probably the most obvious (and important!) thing to say to any Christian considering a decision. When we need wisdom, James 1:5 commands us to pray. Pray about this decision in whatever way you find helpful, listening to the prompting of the Spirit. And pray for our whole Baptist family as we discern together.
Finally, the above steps achieve nothing if we don’t vote! As Baptists we believe in all of us discerning together and it is important that all voices are heard, and this voting process is the way we listen to everyone across our Union. We acknowledge that individuals and churches may discern different answers to the question of who God is calling to be President. As Baptists, we certainly have to be comfortable that we will not fully agree! If you really don’t feel that you are able to cast a vote for any candidate, then you can choose not to vote. Nevertheless, we hope you feel encouraged that after reflection, consultation and prayer, you can contribute to this, collective act of discernment.
Let us lift up in prayer the candidates who have put themselves forward for this important role and let us seek wisdom together as we discern whom God is calling to be our President.
Richard Wilson is Support Services Team Leader