2013 saw some big changes amongst British Baptists.
1. New General Secretary. 2013 saw the appointment of the first female General Secretary in Lynn Green. This was seen as a historic appointment and confirmation that the direction of the Baptist Union is one which affirms women in leadership in all parts of Union life. Currently women occupy the three (arguably) most powerful Union positions of General Secretary, the Moderator of Trustees and the Moderator of Council. Dissension from women as leaders both spiritual and practical (the 'and' really shouldn't be there) is now surely in a minority or at least being very silent. The impact of Lynn as General Secretary on the Union will become clear as 2014 unfolds.
2. New Council. Over the summer of the 2013 the Baptist Union Council went from about 180 people to 80 people, meeting in its new form for the first time in November. Alongside the new Council also is the new Steering Group (made up all the constituent parts of the Union: associations, colleges, Council, trustees and specialist teams), which will take on a larger chunk of Union decision-making, with the Council being more light, a place to listen and to seek vision. A smaller group should potentially be able to do more, however the news that the 2014 Baptist Assembly will be two days and then for the following three years only one day (due to finances and the space to think differently) has implications for balance of power now being concentrated in a much smaller number. One hope had been for a more beefed up Assembly with an emphasis upon deliberation.
3. New Name (and website). In the autumn, the Union relaunched itself as 'Baptists Together' with new website and magazine. This attempt to emphasize our relationality is to be welcomed, the hard stuff of making it a reality is yet unclear. The decision to reduce future Baptist Assemblies to one-day, at least for an interim, will surely make it harder to for local churches feel like participants.
4. BMS. 2013 saw BMS take new steps to engage in mission within the UK, with the appointment in March of a new UK Field Officer and in November the Catalyst Live events. Over two days in two different locations - Manchester and Reading - BMS hosted a TED-like event, where speakers and contributors were given 20 or 30 minutes to present something. Its success will see it surely repeated in 2014. We are at the beginning of more intentional season of BMS working in different ways within the UK, to resource and support mission, outside of its overseas work.
5. Baptist Pioneers. Towards the end of the year saw the launch of the Pioneer Collective by a group of "pioneer" Baptist ministers (representing Urban Expression, the Incarnate Network, the Light Project and BMS). The five year vision is to see "400 new Baptist pioneers: GOING to where the church isn’t; DOING what Jesus does; and SEEING what happens."
6. Politics. Through the work of the Joint Public Issues Team (Baptist, URC, Methodist), in which we are the junior partner, the free churches have had some substantial political profile especially in the area of the welfare and poverty, following their report in April on truth and lies about poverty.