Re: Baptists have paid tribute to the Revd Dr Joel Edwards
There were not many black Scottish Baptist College-trained NAMs serving within the Scottish Baptist Union at the turn of the Millennium, when Revd Joel Edwards came over the border to speak at our Annual Ministers' conference held at St Andrews inside the red Sand stone Halls of Residence, overlooking the world-renown R and A Club House and manicured greens.
In fact, whilst memory still serves me, I was for that memorable week, the only Baptist 'minister of colour' (what a terrible tag to wear!) in attendance at the conference; even though my esteemed Scottish colleagues, after years at Aytoun Rd Common Room had stitched other labels on me which I still display with holy pride! On the opening day, I happily convinced myself that it was all for my sake, and for the right balance, that Joel had been invited to be our main speaker that year - "to make 'the Big man' feel at home after 4 years, in his own larger crowd of two for these next three days when we are together here".
However, it was immediately clear. Having studied with and was at that moment ministering among the deeply theological, and altogether impressive Scottish colleagues this was a culmination of hopeful expectation that Rev J. Edwards would someday find time in his hectic schedule to come over, north of the border. I was simply one of the very few (I shouldn't use the awful reference, 'lucky'); yes, 'immensely blessed', to have been present when JE finally came.
It is a fact widely acknowledged, that recent graduates of any Theological College/Seminary, do only consider well-argued, scholarly lectures worth listening to for a period slightly longer than a day. Among the SB ministers, I am happy to attest that this indisputable dictum is very often taken far more seriously. It was therefore very clear within the opening session, and from the record numbers registered to attend, that Edwards had been well-researched on his Baptist audience.
By the end of conference, the ministers, hesitant to return to our own disparate Seaside, Central-belt and City centre communities; and most irregular indeed, no longer spoke of the excellent quality of the meals the University staff provided us with during our stay. Instead, all were more prepared to live off the lasting nourishment of the far richer banquet that had been hosted by Joel, whose own renown is now firmly and eternally established. The following year's conference would live up to its usual billing - it was good to come again, even if just for the university's regular holiday menu and the immortalised sands that still enthral!
George Ayoma, minister, Trinity Baptist Church, Fleetwood, Lancashire
I had the privilege of working with Joel Edwards, well before he was a household name. He was prominent in EA's evangelical support for South Africa from 87- 97. We formed ESSA following Caesar Molebatsi's presentation of the 86 Concerned Evangelicals document from South Africa at Spring Harvest.
I had been mandated by Frontier Youth Trust to find a way of creating an involvement in the Anti Apartheid dilemma. This seemed the opportunity. I approached Clive Calver and we drew together a group of activists including fellow Baptists at the time, Raj Patel, Evangelical Christians for Racial Just, Steve Rand from Tearfund, and myself. Joel was the obvious Black Pentecostal, still a part time probation officer and General Secretary of Afro Caribbean Evangelical Alliance. He travelled to to South Africa with Raj and Chris Sugden - a true multi racial trio.
Later he introduced me to Carver Anderson, a social worker and part time pastor, now founding director of Bringing Hope. Joel introduced us to young people who then became part of the Through Different Eyes group who visited Soweto, South Africa over Christmas 90/1.
No matter how long it had been Joel would greet me with that massive smile and big hug. Go well bro.
Arkle Bell, Albany Road Baptist Church, Cardiff
In 2001 Tearfund asked me to attend the General Assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance in Kuala Lumpur. I was fresh from being part of the leadership of Jubilee 2000, with so many rejoicing that Christians had played such a significant role in a movement that had seen billions released to the world's poorest nations through debt cancellation.
Joel Edwards, then General Director of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK, was keen to see evangelical Christians around the world back this biblically-based expression of social justice, and he insisted I write a motion that could be voted on by all the delegates present. This was unprecedented, and Joel worked tirelessly to ensure that it was indeed put to the Assembly, despite the reservations of some 'rich world' delegates. It was passed unanimously, and I still recall the tears of joy on one African delegates face - he had never thought that a moment of solidarity between rich and poor like this would ever come.
But this significant step was not enough for Joel. How could it be built on? How could Christians own the Biblical call for justice? That was the kickstart for the Micah Challenge, which brought hundreds of thousands of Christians together in commitment to take up the Micah 6:8 call to 'do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.'
It was a privilege and an inspiration to see Joel's enthusiasm and principled hard work to see this through. And always with a twinkle in his eye, a chuckle in his voice and a sense of fellowship whenever we met. He has left a rich heritage for us to build on.
Re: A journey towards inclusion and affirmation
Thank you Mike Parker for sharing your moving experience as a local minister wrestling with the sexuality debate that sadly seems to go on and on in many parts of the church. It is so good to hear of how you explored what the Bible says about same sex relationships and with much study and prayer how you came to your new conviction that God does not condemn those who are from the LGBT+ community.
Following the Methodist churches' recent bold similar decision I hope and pray that the Baptist Union is influenced by stories like yours. The damage that has been and continues to be done to those faithful followers of God who are LGBT+ is a constant source of sadness and will perpetuate a closed, judgmental perception that so many people have. Thank you Mike for your honesty and openness, may God bless you and Worthing Baptist Church in your valuable witness.
I really appreciated this honest and thoughtful article. Clearly Mike has prayed and reflected long and hard about this challenging issue and is prepared to stand by the strength of his convictions which is by no means easy and therefore is to be commended all the more. I pray that his church grows from strength to strength.
I read Mike Parker's article about inclusion at Worthing Baptist with interest. Particularly because I think it illustrates why homosexuality is such a divisive issue within Baptist churches. I agree with Mike in that I'm sure those who want to change their stance know their Bibles.
Nevertheless this is so divisive because, while the presenting issue is to do with sexuality, the real issue is our doctrine of scripture. We have disagreed over many other matters before (e.g. supernatural spiritual gifts and the role of women in leadership) but this time it is different. In the past both sides of a debate marshalled their Biblical passages. This time there are no references in the scriptures that mention homosexual behaviour in a positive light. None. Therefore it is not that only one side uses the Bible, but rather that both sides view the Bible differently. Surely Steve Chalke is right in this?
The key part of the Declaration of Principle here is - "as revealed in the Holy Scriptures..." In the past UK Baptists have been happy to leave the interpretation of the scriptures to the local gathered congregation. Therefore factors such as reason, experience and the illumination of the Spirit are all included in that discernment process. However, it seems that the DofP is becoming meaningless. What does it mean that we accept the Lordship of Christ as 'sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures' if we can call something good that the Scriptures consistently call bad? Interpreting the Scriptures is often a hard and complex task. I am not claiming that what God's Word says about homosexuality is easy to understand or straightforward to apply. I'm just not convinced that the DofP is fit for purpose if it doesn't mean anything any more.