So Tony Campolo says the division between BUGB and BMS is 'ridiculous' and so the call for BUGB and BMS to join together sounds again (as it has done a number of times recently) - I've heard this most often as BMS taking over BUGB. The view being that BMS are the cooler partner and more missional and BUGB is the outdated institution. Several points to this need to be made:
1. Tony Campolo is largely ignorant of British Baptist life and mission and he said as much in his address on the Saturday night.
2. There is a commitment from March BU Council to seriously explore possibilities, but will not be reporting anytime soon.
3. Let's not forget that BUGB is only England and a bit of Wales. BMS relate to both BUS and BUW.
4. My impression is I don't think BMS want to go there, or not quickly.
5. BMS are better at presenting themselves. The BUGB communications team are good, but the BMS are better. BMS video are always better. It was BMS that allowed people to give via mobile. The BMS presentation of accounts is just excellent. Unfortunately, overall BUGB just does not inspire in the ways BMS do.
6. The partnership between BUGB and BMS is growing, and I think a lot of this is down to the BMS General Director (who, dare I say, inspires more warmth and more depth than a previous incumbant). I believe we will see more working together in the future. I think there is a shared commitment to that. But if there is to be any kind of marriage it will be a result of greater co-habitation.
7. BUGB is an ecclesial body, it may not always do this well, but it is a Union of churches, associations and colleges. BMS is a Baptist mission agency/organisation, and while it relates to churches, it does not have an ecclesiology. Their histories are very different. So a marriage is not immediately an easy thing to do, especially if theology and history matters.
8. A BUGB /BMS marriage does not solve issues of inclusivity - especially gender, race and age. In fact, despite what others are saying, this is something I believe BUGB has begun to make real progress on and must continue. My own fear is if power shifts to Associations, this will become less of a priority - note that the two most recent Association positions of Regional Minister Team Leader have been white males (why is this?)
9. As yet I have seen none of our best theological voices give it any real credence. I recognise that to a lot of people this doesn't mean anything and is probably just another reason why its a good idea. I would want to see any kind of marriage having a theological rationale and not just a percieved pragmatic one. This needs to go beyond 'we live in one world with one mission' ... on this basis we should become Roman Catholic.
10. It is great to see BMS get more involved in mission within the UK. More of this is needed. I suggest we let the relationship grow without forcing an end-goal, in which married life may not be happy (I watch the film Blue Valentine tonight!)
11. I remain unconvinced this is prophetic answer many seem to think it is. In fact I would suggest that at this time this may well be a side-issue to more pressing questions.