Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Baptist Assembly 2012

A Report on the Assembly given at the July Church Meeting by Rev Ron Rivers

The subject of the Assembly was Beyond 400 which was to highlight the 400th anniversary of Baptist Churches in Britain and to look beyond into the future.  Our delegate to the Assembly was the Rev Ron Rivers.  It was held on 4th-6th May 2012 in London.

Ron stayed with hosts Rev. Robert Allaway and his wife Sylvia in Wood Green, N. London and travelled to Westminster by Tube.

Friday 3pm was welcome to the Assembly, but a lot of people had not arrived in time for this.

The evening opening celebration was led by Jonathan Edwards (BU) and David Kerrigan (BMS). The address was given by Chris Duffett on “The Big Hearted God” on whole-hearted commitment to the Lord’s service.

Saturday am - there were 13 day conferences to choose from and Ron attended “Dissenting Descendants”. The afternoon session was the Whitley Lecture by Ian Randall (religious liberty in continental Europe) Ron has a book available if anyone wishes to see it.

Saturday evening commenced with ministerial recognition (six were from the Eastern region) - 12 women and 55 men in all. Then Tony Campolo spoke about wholehearted commitment in his own inimitable way. There was also a youth event taking place elsewhere.

Sunday morning the annual business meeting of BMS World Mission and the Baptist Union of Great Britain took place followed by morning worship where they were joined by the Methodist Central Hall congregation. Jane Day gave the sermon entitled “Living in the Beyond”.

Sunday afternoon was the special part of the Assembly when they had an opportunity to talk together about the future of our life together within the Baptist Union.

Ron left after this and went to evening service with his hosts. He felt it was a good assembly and a great experience to be part of such a large number (more than 2000 Baptists).

Summary of Futures conversation so far:

The Futures Process was initiated by the Baptist Union Council at its meeting in November 2011 in response to an increasingly likely and significant budget deficit. While it was something that could not be ignored, this was seen as an opportunity to reflect seriously on what our key priorities should be in the decades ahead. Baptist Christians in the UK have been responsible and generous in their giving to the work of God’s kingdom beyond their local church, and it is vital to be equally responsible in the way that those resources are used. It is important to re-state what has been true from the outset; while this process was initiated by a financial reality, it has never been financially driven.

The Council at which this process began identified 12 key priorities which are summarised:

Effective formation and support of accredited ministers.
Equipping and supporting non-ministerial church leaders and officers.
Fostering effective and supportive relationships between churches and a sense of identity beyond the local.
Providing accessible support to churches in situations of crisis and difficulty.
Inspiring local churches for their engagement in mission.
Enabling pioneer and strategic mission initiatives.
Provision of legal and technical expertise in key areas of church life.
Development of mission resources for the local church.
The provision of a wider voice, for instance a “national or regional Baptist perspective”.
Encouraging ecumenical relationships and mission engagement
Pastoral and professional support in times of difficulty or crisis.
Arrangement of grants to local churches for mission and ministry.

Before thinking about structures and strategies, it was felt important to define and encapsulate the 8 key values and organisational principles that had emerged. These were considered by the Baptist Union Council in March 2012 and agreed in principle. These are offered to the wider Baptist community as the basis against which to measure and evaluate the emerging plans and proposals, as in the leaflet “Working Together, Seeking the Future”.

Capacity for on-going reform
Flexibility and responsive to change
Financially sustainable
A changed organisational culture
Identifiable, accountable leadership
Clearly defined centre of strategy
Local decision making wherever possible
Recognising and giving due regard to what already exists.