‘We want to embrace adventure’
The Baptist Union of Great Britain AGM took place on Sunday morning at the Baptist Assembly (19 May)
The session began with some people news. Lynn shared an update from Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader who collapsed with a bleed on his brain at the end of March. He had texted a message to share with delegates, thanking all those who had prayed for him.
‘I recognise I’m lucky to be alive,’ Stephen wrote. ‘The medics are amazed.’
Lynn then introduced Alastair Mitchell-Baker, the new chair of Baptist Union trustees. Alastair is a member of The Gate, a Baptist church in Reading. Explaining his call, Alastair spoke of his sense that God was moving in our ‘wonderful Baptist family’ - and had prompted him to take on the role.
Reflections from outgoing President
One of the key aspects of our President’s role is to encourage us and inspire us as we seek to fulfil our vision of Growing healthy churches in relationship for God’s mission. She reminded delegates we deliver this vision through four key areas: Pioneering and planting, equipping the local church for mission, investing in Godly leadership and Enabling Baptist voices and action in the public square. The latest Together magazine explored these four key areas in more detail.
Lynn invited outgoing President Dave Gregory, who shared some of his reflections from the last 12 months.
He said in each place people had connected with his theme ‘Divine Windows’ which shared a positive view of science, an expression of our God-given creativity and capacity to wonder and explore God’s creation.
These included children and young people interested in science, parents who fear their children are being drawn away from church by the perception that science and faith are in conflict, professionals for whom faith and science are relevant to their whole life discipleship. ‘It has been thrilling to see many begin to discover these gifts might be valuable to God’s mission in the local church.
Dave spoke of the variety of Baptist life he had witnessed on his travels, Baptist Christians and churches in many towns and villages that might not catch our eye, but who are nevertheless ‘shining like stars in the universe.’
Dave spoke of the darkness of climate change, and how it had been good to see Baptists responding to the environmental crisis in positive ways, such as the Living Lent initiative from the Joint Public Issues Team, Sheddingdean and Dronfield Baptist churches joining local conservations projects, or BU Council’s decision to not invest in coal and tar sands industries.
He concluded, ‘Thank you for the trust in giving me the privilege to serve as Baptist Union President. I have been inspired by the diversity of life that I have seen God has given Baptists Together…. may we continue to trust God’s purpose is working through us.’
Lynn shared several stories that are ‘a really great example of the sort of movement we aspire to be.’
The first was Castle Donnington Community Church, a new church that launched last September. The church came about through a group of ministers and churches seeking to listen to God about planting a new church in their area.
Lynn highlighted the Well in Sheffield, a great example of how our whole Baptist family can work together to see a new church birthed in a student area of Sheffield. The Well is a story that combines leaders’ heart and vision and training, Regional team encouragement and resourcing, and building and financial help from the Specialist Team. It has resulted in people finding faith.
Read about the story of the launch of The Well.
Lynn’s third example was Renew Wellbeing, a new and growing charity that is working with churches to help them respond to the issue of mental health by creating spaces where it is ok not to be ok. Renew cafes are inspiring people to be who God created them to be.
Finally Lynn spoke about Together Free, a Baptist based network working with local communities and churches to bring an end to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. Together Free is led by Baptist minister Dan Pratt. ‘This a great example of connecting and inspiring local churches to make a difference in the face of modern-day slavery, and a real demonstration of how grassroots initiatives can bubble up in one place and be embraced by many others,’ Lynn said.
These four stories are ‘some of the reasons I am so encouraged by what I see and why I continue to believe that God is doing a new thing at this time,’ she added.
Resolutions - and financial update
One resolution was presented to the AGM: the reappointment of John Levick as treasurer of our Baptist Union. It was passed unanimously.
Alastair Mitchell-Baker gave an update on the Baptist Union of Great Britain's journey to becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). Our application to register to be a CIO had been approved by the Charity Commission in January. Now we have to transfer our assets into the new structure: this needs to be done by December 2019.
He gave delegates of notice of a resolution that would be brought to the 2020 Assembly relating to the Constitution for the unincorporated BUGB charity after incorporation is completed.
Following his reappointment as treasurer, John gave a financial update. There was a small reduction in income in 2018 compared with the previous year, due to a reduction in legacies. Our biggest source of income is the Home Mission Appeal, and John shared a graph to show that there has been a 20 per cent decline over the last 10 years when taking into account the effects of inflation. For every five ministers, or equivalent staff, we were able to support in 2008, we can now only support four. It is a major challenge, said John, putting a real squeeze on resources.
‘The trend can only be reversed through increased Home Mission giving, but we continue to explore whether there are other ways to increase our income.’
John also said how 2018 had been a significant year because of the Family Solution, our response to the pension deficit. With the implementation of the Family Solution, the expected time to clear the pension deficit has reduced by 6 ½ years, and church deficit contributions remain the same. John thanked Support Services Team Leader Richard Wilson and his finance team who have done a ‘huge amount of work’ to get us in this position.
Concluding the session, Lynn highlighted several new priorities. With the implementation of the Family Solution to the Pension Scheme, there was a feeling we had dealt with some barriers, and were approaching a new season.
We had been seeking God about what is important for the next season, and several key areas had been discerned.
One was developing Godly leadership. ‘Godly leadership is God’s gift to His church,’ Lynn said. ‘We want wholehearted leaders who are fired up for the Lord, new leaders to help us make this journey through this period of generational change.’
Other areas including Children, Young People and families; Emerging Adults; and the digital revolution.
‘This is what we want to do; this is what God is calling us to know,’ Lynn said. ‘We want to embrace adventure, and get out of our comfort zone.
‘Will you be part of making this possible? Will you dedicate yourself, your prayers and your resources for the sake of this Kingdom vision?’
Alastair closed the session in prayer.