‘Baptist churches are making a difference’
There is much to be thankful for across Baptists Together amid significant challenges, General Secretary Lynn Green told the Baptist Assembly during the Baptist Union of Great Britain annual meeting
The session also featured a farewell to outgoing President Geoff Colmer and a welcome and induction of his successor Hayley Young; two resolutions; and a financial report from treasurer John Levick
Speaking on Saturday morning, Lynn noted that it had been a tough few years with suffering and loss. Yet in the midst of it all 'we have seen and experienced the Lord at work in our churches and in our communities,' she said.
'Despite a demanding season of continual change, I have been so incredibly encouraged to see right across Baptists Together lots of prayer, adaptability, innovation and creativity.
'And that is the beauty of our Baptist family. We are a grassroots movement, following Jesus, engaged with our communities and willing to embrace the new opportunities that each challenge brings.'
Using a range of examples from Baptist churches and their people, she thanked God for:
People finding faith and hope in Jesus
for a renewed commitment to prayer across our movement
all the ways in which His love has been demonstrated in practical ways - from the appointment of the 'incredible' Sharon Shek for the Hong Kong project, to small scale projects aimed at empowering individuals and changing lives and prospects, like the Wren Bakery and prayer spaces in schools.
'Baptist churches are making a difference,' continued Lynn, 'and I want to celebrate and say a massive thank you to everyone for all the ways you are worshipping and following Jesus and joining in the mission of God in your own communities.'
Turning to the future, Lynn said we face a number of challenges, such as the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic and global instability; and the challenge of mission. She said the changing context of our worship and mission has accelerated during the pandemic: in the face of this challenge we need to continue to prayerfully ask ourselves the question, 'What is God’s call to us now?'
Finally, there is the relational challenge of 'how we hold those areas where we profoundly differ as we seek to be faithful to Christ.'
'What I believe is key for moving forward here is that we need to give close attention to the way in which we listen to each other in our discernment and hold the reality, and sometimes the pain, of our differences.
'God is love and so love must remain at the centre.'
As part of her address, Lynn highlighted three key initiatives. The first relates to the amazing response across Baptist Together to the crisis in Ukraine. She highlighted Steve Tinning, our Public Issues Enabler, who is helping us as a movement respond to the needs of Ukrainian refugees, particularly in helping match those with rooms to those in need.
The second key initiative is around our priority of investing in young adults, and Lynn introduced Isabella Senior, our new Young Leaders Development Co-ordinator.
Isabella explained she is currently connecting across Baptists Together with interns, and those who run or wish to run internship programmes 'to see young adults growing in character and competence as disciples of Jesus!'
The third was the commitment to investing in Godly leaders, with the recent launch of a new pilot scheme for enabling people aspiring to Baptist ministry to fund their training. This includes a new Baptist training loan option in partnership with Kingdom Bank and a new model for raising support via Stewardship. This leaflet has all the details.
Access Lynn's address here.
Farewell to Geoff Colmer; induction of Hayley Young as President
Prior to the induction of new President Hayley Young, Lynn thanked her predecessor, the Geoff Colmer, whose presidential theme has been "attentive to rhythms of grace."
Geoff said he had been 'so grateful to God for the privilege and pleasure of being Baptist Union President.’
There had been limitations, both because of the pandemic and his own health. Someone posted online ‘a recovering president for a recovering year and that's had a resonance for me throughout this year,’ he said.
Nevertheless, he'd had many speaking opportunities, many on Zoom, but had also several onsite, ranging from Stocksfield, Northumbria in the north to Pembury in Kent.
Geoff spoke of how theme had arisen from his longstanding desire to be attentive to rhythms of grace in life and ministry. While relevant at all times, it seemed to have struck a chord, particularly at this time of unpredictability. One phrase that many have picked up on is ‘moving together at the speed of love.’
Geoff said he had spoken a lot about vulnerability and weakness during his year as President. Referring to his treatment for myeloma blood cancer, he said ‘it became important to consider what being attentive to rhythms of grace meant for me in this condition, but also what it meant for us as Baptists Together, in the vulnerability and weakness that was being experienced through the pandemic.’
He added that being attentive 'still speaks to me in my vulnerability… as it does to many within our movement.’
Geoff told Assembly that he was delighted Hayley is to be our new President with her theme of Building a Bigger Table.’
'There is that sense that what she is bringing arises out of her own attentiveness to rhythms of grace.'
Thanking all those who had prayed for him and supported him, including his colleagues at the Central Baptist Association and his wife Cazz, he told Assembly: ‘Keep on watching for the kingfisher.’
Before praying a blessing over Geoff, Lynn said his words encapsulated something of his year, and the wonderful authenticity he has modeled.
'You have demonstrated what it means to lead out of that vulnerability, and that's been really important, so we just thank you for all the ways that you've graciously contributed.'
The section involving Geoff can be accessed here.
Read more: Building a bigger table - Hayley Young is inducted as President and introduces here theme
Lynn was joined by Christina Carter from the BUGB Trustee Board, who presented two resolutions.
To affirm the appointment of John Levick serving as treasurer of BUGB for the year to 2023.
To affirm the appointment of the Revd Andrew Cowley as Acting Moderator of the BUGB Trustee Board until the meeting of the BUGB Council on 12 October 2022 or the appointment of a new moderator, whichever is the soonest.
Only the vote from those onsite counted, but those following the livestream were invited to express their support in the chat box if they wished. Both resolutions passed unanimously.
Christina told delegates that we continue to search for a new treasurer to succeed John next year, and chair of the trustee board. More information can be found at baptist.org.uk/jobs.
Finance presentation from treasurer John Levick
A high number of legacies enabled the Baptist Union of Great Britain to break even during 2021, treasurer John Levick told Assembly.
Like 2020, it had been a tough year, though it had seen a gradual return to more normal conditions. The overall total of the Home Mission Appeal continues to fall with a reduction of 1.73 per cent for the year. This was also 95 per cent of the amount requested. He said that legacies are unpredictable, and are currently lower than the same point in 2020. John reminded delegates that we offer a free will writing service.
John noted that progress continues to be made with the Pension Fund, which has been a major concern over the past decade. To applause, he said that we are approaching the point whereby we can buy out the DB Scheme, ‘cease deficit contributions and remove all risk from churches whilst ensuring that all our pensions are preserved and continue in payment commitments are honoured.’
Currently Baptist organisations are paying around £4.5m per annum in deficit contributions, so bringing the Pension Fund into balance will provide ‘an opportunity’, John said.
‘This will be welcome relief at a time when members the finances of all our member organisations are under pressure and churches are seeing increased energy bills.
‘However I request that churches look to allocate a substantial portion of the savings on deficit contributions when they occur to increase giving to Home Mission.
‘We continue to see a small but steady decline in giving year on year which puts pressure on our finances.’
He noted that until 2019 while giving to the Home Mission Appeal was declining, there was a small increase in giving per member reflecting the fall in membership across Baptists Together. This turned into a fall in amounts per member in 2020 and 2021, ‘no doubt reflecting the challenges of Covid, the lockdowns and churches not holding services in person.’
‘Home Mission is key to our ability to finance all we do in Associations and the Specialist Teams and in giving grants to churches and for mission projects,’ John continued.
Despite the mixed picture, John said he didn’t want to finish on a negative note. ‘The Lord provided for us unexpectedly in 2021 by the large legacies. We can give thanks to the Lord for his continued provision.’
John closed with 1 Peter 4: 10-11, asking delegates to read it in the context of the gifts being given as monetary gifts.
Other items featured in John’s 14 minute presentation were our expenditure, including our Covid response, the finance review, and Baptist Union Corporation loans and deposits. Watch John’s presentation here.
The 2022 AGM of the Baptist Union of Great Britain can be accessed here: