Baptist Union Council: November 2014
The latest Baptist Union Council has taken place in Swanwick, Derbyshire when almost 80 people, drawn from local Baptist Churches, Associations, Colleges and Specialist Teams gathered for two days (November 11-12) to discuss and reflect on a range of issues facing our Union.
Prayer and reflection
It was the third time Council has met since the reforms of the Futures process, which encouraged a move from the parliamentary-style debating culture towards one that intentionally makes space to listen deeply to God. To this end substantial time was spent in worship, prayer, silence and openness to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
A record was created to capture what Council members felt God was saying, including God’s passion for the world, and the need for sacrifice.
It was also observed how difficult it was to bring the prayer session to a conclusion because so many people were continuing to pray and share. ‘I love it when God turns up!’, commented Council Moderator, Sheila Martin.
On this theme Rupert Lazar, the minister of East Barnet Baptist Church who had served as a Council member prior to the Futures process, asked, ‘Have you seen the King at this conference?’
He testified that he had experienced good things during the time together, but noted that although we have come a long way, we still have some way to go to become the kind of Council we have a vision for. ‘But let’s keep up the good work,’ he continued, ‘we need to go out and tell the story that Jesus is alive and we have seen him at Council!’
Elsewhere special comment was made about the increased diversity of Council, which now features many not previously seen within our structures. Comments were also fed into proceedings via the BUGB Council Facebook Group.
The agenda covered a wide spectrum of items, including retired ministers housing and the future of ministry to our understanding of covenant and freedom of conscience.
A discussion and process was started that looks at the future of ministry among us: what we put our energies into will equip local churches for authentic and relevant mission in the world today and tomorrow. This builds on work already carried out in the Ministries Review. Many feel that we face a challenge for the future of needing to deeply reimagine the way we train, recognise, support and enable ministry for the next generation. Next year will therefore see a major piece of work that will shape ministry, including examining the best places for the work of support and accountabilities to take place.
One session involved Council members dividing into workshops to look at a broad range of matters, including ministers’ covenant, freedom of conscience, how Council was facilitated and what it means to be a member church of our Union.
Another session was devoted to the telling of inspiring stories. Council heard from Jez Brown, Regional Minister Team Leader on “What is God doing in the South West”; chaplain Ingrid Shelley on “What is God doing in Prisons”, Baptist Union of Scotland General Director Alan Donaldson on “What is God doing in Scotland” and Seidel Abel Boanerges, Associate Minister of Rosebery Park Baptist Church in Bournemouth, on “What is God doing in the local Church?”
It was evident that God is doing amazing things through the local churches and chaplaincy, with each story packed with testimony of new beginnings, embracing Godly adventure and transformed lives and communities.
A review of the role of the President was shared and agreed: the new role has an emphasis on communicating our Union’s vision, leading the Baptist Steering Group Accompanying Group, which provides prayer support and shares in spiritual and missional reflection with BSG, and acts as ‘critical friends’ bringing perspectives from beyond the BSG.The President will also help to nurture our shared life as Baptists Together.
A new streamlined process of nomination and electing the President was also agreed. Nominations will be sought - mainly online - for the President 2016-2017 (vice president 2015-2016). More details here.
Rounding up, General Secretary Lynn Green reflected that as we have prayed together and taken account of our context, two key priorities have emerged for us as a whole movement: mission, especially pioneering and equipping churches and leaders through the Ministries Project.
Lynn also urged Council members to focus on two aspects of the renewed culture in all they do before the next gathering.
This renewed culture comes from the Futures work and is summarised in five points.
We believe that we must intentionally develop a culture where we:
Seek to be a movement of spirit-led communities;
feel like one team;
and share a hunger for God’s coming Kingdom.
Council members left the gathering with the metaphor of traffic lights, and what God is saying at each colour. This final prayer session was led by moderator Sheila Martin, who asked:
Red light: What is God saying stop to? Is God encouraging you to stop and take a rest.
Amber light: In what ways is God saying prepare to stop, or prepare to go? Where are we sensing the call to caution?
Green light: Go. As we have listened to one another and God in this Council, where is God giving a green light for our churches or group? These may be places we are enthusiastic to go to, or maybe places we would rather not go to, but as we do Go, the God who calls equips and goes before.