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February 23, 2012

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Simon Jones

This is good stuff, Andy, with which I find myself in almost total agreement as far as it goes. I'm just not sure it goes very far.

The point I was making in my response to Jon's post was that if everyone engaged in discussions about the future was already an insider who thinks that that association and union life is as good as we can expect it to be, all things being considered, then we shouldn't be surprised if the conclusions various working parties come to is 'let's have more of the same'.

I think there are lots of creative voices shouting for attention but who do not get a seat at the table in the groups that make policy or even 'discern the mind of Christ'. They are sufficiently outside existing structures that they won't be elected onto association boards or BU Council, their opinions won't be sought out by those probing what shape the future might be for our institutions.

I passionately agree that we need to be more ruthlessly and wholeheartedly theological than we have been as baptists for a generation. We need to embrace a robust biblical theology of life and church and we need to re-imagine what our founding theological principles, forged on the separatist fringe of the European Reformation, are still saying to us in our pluralist, secular, post-Christendom world.

Let the debate continue...

Jenny Few

Bravo, Andy, agree with this wholeheartedly. I am beginning to feel about this debate as I occasionally did during my last pastorate when i had to put an end to e-mail correspondence between members and plead for face to face encounters instead. However articulate people are 'on paper', and there's some eloquent words around, it is not the same as lookiong the person you're talking to in the eyes. That's why those of us on Council and those who are not should perhaps start doing less clever words and more ardent praying

Simon Woodman

One of the things which has been said to me a few times recently, and which seems implicit in some of the comments that are being aired at the moment, is that the BUGB is run on some kind of ‘Old Boys’ Network’. An Old Boys’ Network is a patriarchal system whereby people are given preferential access to power not based on willingness to participate combined with ability, but based on some other connection, such as having gone to the same school (College), or through some nepotistic family connection. This is a serious accusation, and an insidious one, which I think needs ‘outing’ and dealing with. So, some reflections on the Old Boys’ Network:

a) Sometimes it happens. In any institution, and this includes BUGB, there will be those who get their voices heard for the wrong reasons. Whether it is their social status, their ethnicity, their gender, or some combination of all three, there will be those who are inappropriately excluded or included. This is what Paul is seeking to address in Galatians 3.28, and we need to take a kingdom stand against all such systems which exclude or prefer on such grounds. In the comments that follow, I fully recognise that I am writing from the perspective of an educated white male. Maybe this means I should not have a voice? Well, maybe… but it is still my voice, and I have no other, so here goes…

b) I do believe that it is possible to engage BUGB processes and structures without needing to be an ‘old boy’. It simply isn’t all about whether your ‘face fits’. As one who has been on BUGB Council for a number of years now, I can attest that there are plenty there who break the stereotype, and whose voices are valued, prophetically heard, and which provide a lead on important issues. That said, we could do more, and we need to be alert to always seeking to hear from and include the marginal voices, because sometimes the prophetic voice is heard crying from the wilderness. One of the potential weaknesses of a group such as the Future’s Group is that its demographic inherently reflects the demographic of the centre (that’s how it was put together), so it is weighted towards the white, educated male.

c) Younger/emerging leaders are in tension with those who have ‘emerged’. This is a dangerous dichotomy. Those who have been around a while can run the risk of capitulating to the status quo: they look at how far it has come, how different it all is from ‘when we were young’, and pat themselves on the back for the good work done in dragging the organisation kicking and screaming into the twenty first century, forgetting that some of those now in ministry were still at primary school in the year 2000. By the same token, those who are ‘emerging’ don’t have the history and background to contextualise the present, and run the risk of repeating the mistakes of the past. We need both perspectives, and neither should be taking pot-shots at the other! From a personal point of view, I have never known where I sit on this one. I’m not yet 40 for crying out loud! Am I ‘emerging’ or an old-hand? Which brings me to…

d) When you do get into the processes, you automatically end up being suspected by those who are not. This is intensely frustrating. I’m not in this to ‘further my career’ and neither are most of those who I know. We give ourselves to this task because we love Jesus, are committed to his church, and believe that the Baptist expression of that church is of value and worth persevering with. I think you have to be in it to change it, so I’m in, with an agenda for change.

e) Ministry does seem to run in some families, but this does not mean that those whose parents / grandparents / siblings / uncles / aunts are already well known should automatically have their voices suspected. That’s not fair and should not happen.

We are in the middle of an important discussion here, and there are some profound issues that we need to pay attention to, but attacking or cynically undermining the integrity and credibility of those engaging the process on our behalf doesn’t help. By the same token, those who are driving this process need to continue to pay attention to those voices from the margins, and to do everything possible to ensure that as wide a constituency of Baptists as possible are included. I think a good start has been made, particularly through the use of web-based discussions and via Association networks, but as we move through the listening and consultative phase towards decision making, we will need to ensure that openness and accountability remain high on the agenda. My personal opinion is that Council should be as open a forum as possible, bearing in mind that sometimes it has to deal with personal and sensitive issues, in order to draw those beyond the walls of Swanwick into the debate. There is scope for widening consultation here , and making a more explicit link between the small group of Council and the wider Assembly.

John James

This is a fascinating conversation and one that I will add my thoughts to. As one that has been on Council for over 25 years and will be for life, by virtue(?) of being a former President of BUGB I am choosing not to attend Council or be part of this process because I do believe that the process should not be dominated by the "Old Boys". I am however passionately concerned about the Future of the Union and am committed to praying earnestly about the process.

There have been amazing changes during the past 25 years when the prophetic voice has been heard and the missionary momentum maintained.

I agree with the analogy, used by Andy, about shouting from the touchline, when what is needed is for beople to be engaged in the on-field play. You do not have to be at the meetings for your voice to be heard. More things are wrought by prayer than has ever been imagined.

I am committed to making my life and Ministry Count by being actively engaged in Mission and Evangelism through the local church. What the Union needs are churches that are reaching their communities with the Good News of the Grace of God. Let's work on ensuring we have healthy Churches that are fulfilling their calling to make disciples.

The members and the churches are the Union so let us unite around our core values and pray for fruit to be forthcoming.

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