Baptist Steering Group - April 2019
“Without warning, a furious storm came up…”
The Baptist Steering Group, together with All Team Leaders, met this time against a backdrop of uncertainty and concern. We are experiencing national uncertainty as we watch and pray through the ongoing debates and votes around Brexit. We are also praying earnestly for our friend and colleague, Stephen Keyworth, who continues to be in a critical condition at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. In the light of this our prayer and worship were focused around a number of Bible passages, particularly Matthew 8:23-27 (Jesus calms the storm) and I Corinthians 12:12-31 (The Body of Christ). On Thursday morning Richard Wilson (Team Leader, Support Services) led us in prayer and worship using the themes of our Declaration of Principle.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it…”
We were delighted to hear that bookings for our Assembly
in May were going well. Everyone is excited about the new format and venue for this year and we are sure that it will be an event that will inspire and equip us for mission locally and globally. There was a reminder that bookings close on 30 April
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…”
Our evening with Dan Pratt of Together Free
gave us a deeper insight into the issues of Modern-Day Slavery and the potential of Churches to play a crucial part in combatting this evil of our day. Together Free is ‘A Baptist based network working with local communities and churches to bring an end to modern slavery and trafficking
’. It was born out of the experiences Dan has been part of at his pioneering ministry 57 West
in Southend on Sea.
57 West works with many vulnerable people, particularly the homeless and it was there that he met people that had experienced modern slavery. From those stories he learnt of the exploitation that was happening. Dan said, ‘I didn’t recognise it as slavery to begin with’, in part due to the subtle ways in which people become enslaved, it’s difficult to spot the signs. He also discovered that the exploited didn’t want to report their situation. This led to the question what could they do?
They started negotiations with the Police, offering a space to meet with victims at 57 West. They also initiated anonymous reporting. Dan’s involvement continued to grow and during the past year his focus has been exclusively Together Free, providing a key Baptist voice in the public square on this issue.
There are an estimated 136,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. That’s 2.2 people per 1000 which means we are all in regular contact with people that are or have been enslaved. Last year there were 130 different nationalities in the UK that were victims of modern slavery. UK nationals were at the top followed by Albanian and Vietnamese.
The Government passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and it is understood in these ways:
Forced or compulsory labour
Within the UK, Forced Labour is the most prevalent form of Modern Slavery and can be found at Car washes, nail bars, takeaways amongst others. There are degrees of exploitation and abuse.
Sexual exploitation is the second most prevalent form of Modern Slavery in the UK. Together Free has close links with Ella’s home
who provide independent long-term aftercare for women who have experienced abuse through trafficking and sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation is not limited to women, men and children are victims as well.
Domestic exploitation is where people are forced into domestic servitude. This involves often working in residential houses cooking and cleaning for little or no pay, with limited or no freedom of movement.
Forced criminality is where people are forced to commit criminal acts. This can be sexual, drug related, cultivating cannabis, forced theft and begging. Children are increasingly being recruited by gangs to transport drugs through ‘county lines’. Children now make up 48% of all victims of modern slavery.
Dan then asked the question ‘how does this relate to our churches on the ground’? Research was undertaken within the Eastern Baptist Association. 19% of churches knew people who had been caught in slavery. This then asked the question, what about those people the churches didn’t know about? 15% of churches were working in partnership with antislavery initiatives.
There was consequently a need for churches to be equipped, to spot the signs, safeguard and respond. This led to the Together Free objectives:
These objectives have been progressing over the past year, with much more planned. Last year there were three summits which involved the Clewer Initiative
, law enforcement and statutory services.
In Southend, the SAMS partnership
was formed with 30 organisations involved, including Baptists, community groups and charities. It has shown that Churches have something substantial to contribute. They ensure the police and statutory services are held accountable.
They have been working with the safeguarding board to help faith organisations be better equipped for safeguarding. They also equipped frontline professionals at the University of Essex.
From these local examples, the next stage is to upscale and share the lessons learned. The planned national response includes working with our Specialist Teams, Associations, local justice hubs, European Baptist Federation and other organisations.
Individuals can find our more at this year’s Baptist Assembly where Dan will be leading a workshop
which will practically highlight how to help communities become Slavery-Free. Click here to book
In June the Modern Slavery National Summit will take place in Manchester and Oxford. Details can be found here
Many other resources are planned, and this includes a safeguarding booklet. Local church awareness and safeguarding can apply to existing ministries that work with vulnerable people. It is not just for those working directly with victims of modern slavery.
How can local churches and associations act? To follow the Together Free approach.
Dan closed his presentation with words from Isaiah 61.1
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners
We then prayed for Dan and the work of Together Free.
“But God has combined the members of the body……”
In one way and another we spent some time thinking about the breadth of our shared work as Baptists Together and what each part needs to do to enable us to fulfil our vision of Growing healthy churches in relationship for God’s mission. We reflected again on our value of being intentional about “Feeling like one team” and recognised the frustration that sometimes our governance seems to hinder this.
With All Team Leaders we reflected on Council’s recent discussions about the future composition of the Baptist Steering Group and provided further feedback to BUGB Trustees.
“…its parts should have equal concern for each other.…”
BSG discussed the level of increase for the Home Mission Stipend for 2020. In their feedback to BUGB Trustees they sought to balance doing the best we can to honour our ministers with the local church’s ability to pay.
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.
Please share these messages with your church