Really pleased to announce that Gathering Disciples: Essays in Honor of Christopher J. Ellis is now published. It's actually been out for the last month, but have had to keep quiet about it, until today, for this evening we have presented Chris with a copy of the book. This is my first proper book, edited with Myra Blyth (Chaplain and Tutor in Worship at Regent's Park College, Oxford). It offers a set of essays that celebrate the contribution Chris has made to Baptist life. On its own, I think, it also offers a fantastic set of essays on Baptist theology and practice. The book is set around a selection of Chris' hymns, each chapter begins with a hymn, which sets the topic and engagement of the essay that follows. Hopefully it will see Chris' hymns find their way into worship services.
The contributors are a mix of colleagues, peers and familyl, as well as, some new younger theologians.
Please feel free to purchase a copy!
Foreword by Neville Callam
1 “Help Us to Search for Truth”: Baptists and Doing Theology —Robert Ellis
2 “The Lord Is Here”: How Worship Confronts the Powers —Craig Gardiner
3 “God of Love We Praise You”: Baptist Worship and Congregational Song —Shona Shaw
4 “In Obedient Living Find Your Home”: Reflections on Baptists and Discipleship —Paul Goodliff
5 “Your Will Be Always Done”: Congregational Discernment as Contextual Discipleship —Stuart Blythe
6 “Seeing Ourselves We Could Be”: Baptist Interpretations of Scripture on the Complementarity of Male and Female —Beth Allison-Glenny
7 “The Water Buries Like a Tomb”: Baptists and Baptism —Sally Nelson
8 “A Sign of Unity”: The Changing Theology and Practice of Lord’s Supper amongst British Baptists —Myra Blyth
9 “To Become the Future Now”: Baptists Being Shaped by the Table —Ashley Lovett
10 “We are Gathered with the Millions”: Celebrating the Communion of Saints —Ruth Gouldbourne
11 “We Need Each Other”: The Ecumenical Engagement of European Baptists —Tony Peck
12 “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”: The Triune Creator in Hymn and Theology —Paul S. Fiddes
13 “The Ground on Which we Dare to Build”: Putting Calvinism to Work —Nigel G. Wright
14 “Missionary God”: The Place of Mission amongst British Baptists —Andy Goodliff
"Gathering Disciples is not only a well-deserved celebration of the contributions of Baptists' most significant liturgical theologian--it serves as a splendid showcase of the impressive theological work now being done by Baptist theologians in, with, and for their own tradition but also in, with, and for the whole church. An indispensable resource for the renewal of ecclesial life in Baptist and Free Church communities and for the ecumenical reception of the theological gifts these communities offer to the global church."
--Steven R. Harmon, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity
"Christopher Ellis's theology provides the beautiful through-line for a collection of essays on worship, ecumenism, doctrine, and life that sings in a distinctive Baptist key. Gathering Disciples is a celebration of scholarship and a testament of love: one that deserves to be read by thoughtful Christians from every tradition."
--Melanie Ross, Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School
"In celebrating the work of Christopher Ellis, this collection offers a fascinating kaleidoscope of themes and thinkers in contemporary Baptist theology. More to that, however, it is a significant contribution to the wider conversations in Christian theology. Organized around the notion of 'sung theology,' this volume is a convincing illustration of the role of worship in both shaping and reflecting our faith."
--Lina Toth (Andronoviene), Scottish Baptist College
Shaped for Service: Ministerial Formation and Virtue Ethics is a new book from Paul Goodliff (full disclosure he's my dad). It seeks to explore what is going on when we are preparing ministers for Christian ministry in the church. Where Anglicans churns half a dozen books on ministry out a year, Baptists have been reluctant or indifferent to a proper exploration of what we think ministry is and what we are doing in the period of formation/training. Building on his doctoral research published as Ministry, Sacrament and Representation, Goodliff argues that character formation is at the heart of all ministerial formation and the practices of ministry are linked to the person, spirituality and wisdom of the practitioner.
Part 1 Formation and Virtue Ethics
Part 2 Models of Ministerial Formation
Part 3 Forming the Person
Part 4 Forming the Practices of Ministry
The news has come that Barrie White, the Baptist historian and former Principal of Regent's Park College, Oxford died on Saturday 12th November 2016.
I'm sadly too young to have any memories of Barrie White in his prime. Hopefully others will fill that gap.
White was Principal of Regent's Park College, 1972-1989 and in the 1970s and 1980s the leading Baptist historian of his generation, especially of Baptist 17th century beginnings. His doctoral work completed in 1961 was published as The English Separatist Tradition: From the Marian Martyrs to the Pilgrim Fathers (Oxford, 1971). His other major work was The English Baptists of the Seventeeth Century (1983, 1994), but alongside that was as editor of three volumes of Association Records of the Particular Baptists. There would have surely been other book-length pieces if dementia had not taken its toll on his mind from the early 1990s onwards. White remains one of the most important non-conformist and Baptist historians and will be remembered alongside the likes of W. T. Whitley, E. A. Payne and G. F. Nuttall. He was honoured in 1999 with a festschrift, Pilgrim Pathways, edited by William Brackney, Paul Fiddes and John H. Y. Briggs.
Here are some extracts from early short articles written on the task of Baptist history.
The first is 'Writing and Preserving Baptist History', The Fraternal (April, 1965)
Why does more and better Baptist history need to be written? So that the wisdom and experience of our past may be harnessed to the making of decisions about our present and our future.
Tradition has a place: what the Holy Spirit taught yesterday may have, must have, a bearing upon what He would teach us today. Nevertheless we must beware of a crude fundamentalism, which in place of "Holy Church says" or "the Bible says" inserts "the Puritans say" and so commit our mind and conscience to the keeping of another age. That way lies blind dogmatism and a theological strait-jacket. Some of our brethren might like to appeal to John Smyth, others to the Confession of 1677, others yet again to the assembly of 1689, and still others to the wide canvas of the 17th century Baptists. They are all wrong: we may not confide ourselves to the keeping of a man, or of a confession, or of an assembly, or of an era. But we should listen respectfully to what they have to say when, in the light of Scripture and of the Spirit, we are on our knees on behalf of our tomorrow.
When we make up our minds about our denominational policy and future (and these may not be quite as much bound up together as some people think), when we strive to evaluate just what it is that God has entrusted to us, which we have to contribute to the wider family of the people of God- then let us take into account our yesterdays. To neglect this is to deny, implicitly at least, that the Holy Spirit ever had anything worth saying to another generation which has not yet been said (or heard!) by ours.
... the brutal fact of the matter is that the state of Baptist historical writing at the moment, in both quality and quantity of work done, is such that it is virtually impossible to claim that any era of our history has been treated in depth.
I believe it is high time that we got down to producing big books on Baptist history ... What we need is detailed studies covering the ground at six inches to the mile, and they are just not available. And not only are the monographs chiefly notable for their absence but, as a denomination we are, generally speaking, almost criminally careless with our primary records.
... it is really remarkable that there is no detailed study of what English Baptists have said about Baptism over the years. Neither have there been full-length studies across the centuries of our attitudes to ordination, to the Lord's Supper, to authority in Church and State.
Fifty years on we have made some progress. Some big books have been written - the four volume series on English Baptists, to which White contributed the 17th volume, and more recently David Bebbington's one volume Baptist Through the Centuries. Likewise we now have more detailed studies of Grantham, Kiffin, Taylor, Keach, Rippon, Fuller, Spurgeon, Faringham, Steele, Shakespeare, as well as a reader on 17th Baptist Women Preachers.
Sadly I think it might be said that we can still be not as careful with our recent primary records as perhaps we should, but as Baptists we now have a wonderful, accessible resource in the Angus Library, in which Barrie must have spent many hours.
The second selection of extracts comes from 'The Task of the Baptist Historian', Baptist Quarterly 22 (1968):
... "Why bother with Baptist history anyway?" there are certain things which can be said at once: first, if Baptists do not investigate and care about Baptist history no-one else will. No-one else is likely to take the time or the interest to sift the diamonds from the dust of our denominational yesterday. No-one else will be prepared to attempt the reconstruction of that yesterday from our generous but annually diminishing early source materials. No-one. else will have the same creative sympathy with that yesterday and under- standing of the texture, the subtle overtones and undertones, of our denominational heritage in its national setting. To say this does not, of course, mean that non-Baptists should not be encouraged to write Baptist history or that Baptists from other lands should not touch English Baptist history. There is certainly always a sense in which the onlooker sees most of the game: a detached observer may well discern patterns and meanings which those too closely caught up in their own personal or partisan enthusiasms. may miss. Nevertheless, when all this has been readily and cheerfully admitted, it remains true that if Baptists are to wait for others to do their fundamental research for them they will still be waiting, with a sense of growing disappointment, for a good many years to come.
... Baptists can far less easily ignore their own history, their own heritage, than they can that of other Christians. To slam the door, as it were, upon their yesterday would be, first, to lose their identity and most of their understanding of why they stand where they do and, secondly, to limit all their insights into the Word and the Will of God to the narrow vision of the present generation and even, on some occasions, to that of the local congregation. On the other hand Baptists dare not allow their yesterday to dominate their today for two other reasons: first, because their own past does not speak with one voice; there is, for them, no golden age of an "undivided church" where all the Fathers spoke with a single unanimous voice. T h e second reason why Baptists cannot allow their past to have the last word is that to do so would be to bolt and bar another door: that against the continuing, contemporary, guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
... Baptist historiography is always in danger of domination by a spirit of historical fundamentalism according to which the past becomes a chunk of dead rock from which anachronistic but superficially relevant proof-texts are chiselled to the required shape.
... it is not the denominational historian's task to be a partisan, he must always be aware of the greater army marching the same way to the left and right of him; he must resist the temptation to rub the rough edges off history in the interests of a later respectability and he dare not forget that whilst Baptists have often been brave they have even more often been bigoted. It is not the Church historian's task to whitewash anyone, least of all his own side.
... One thing should now be entirely plain: whilst the basic ingredients [of Baptist history] may remain the same, there is a great. deal more involved in telling that plain, unvarnished tale adequately than perhaps some of our predecessors ever realised.
There will be a thanksgiving service at New Road Baptist Church, Oxford, where Barrie had been a member for many years, on Monday 28th November, 12pm.
Whatever we make of the Baptist Union's Council statement on same sex relationships last month it will not be the last word. Those Baptists who feel they are unable to affirm any kind of same sex relationship and who see this as a victory for a perceived 'majority', will find that the statement will not be the last word. In fact it may well be that the statement will galvanise those who seek to affirm same sex marriage to be more open in their conviction, and will also lead others, not affirming themselves, to more vocal as well, in arguing that an affirming position be acceptable within the Union. That is, rather than drawing a line in the sand, the statement has ignited a bigger conversation.
Those who affirm same sex marriage amongst BUGB Baptists are more numerous than the conservatives realise; not a majority within the Union, but then I challenge the view that the conservatives hold the majority either. (I'm not convinced that speaking in terms of 'majority' is helpful, because it smacks of democracy rather than communal discernment). I suggest that many sit in the middle between the two extremes, and find themselves pulled by both Bible and culture, but are driven most, by wanting to find pastoral solutions. If I'm right then the view of the Baptist Union, if the Union is to hold together, must be one of reconciled diversity on this issue. The question that must drive the Steering Group and the Council and all those who care about the future of the Union, must be, (as Angus Ritchie's suggests with regard to the Church of England):
can we find a way of living together in one Body that preserves the integrity of opponents as well as supporters of change?
This is what we have done on the issue of women in ministry, we generally tolerate a diversity. We do not (openly) seek to unChristian those who hold a different view from our own - and this is not always easy.
We need to find ways not to unChristian one another of the issue of gay and lesbian relationships. To quote Ritchie again:
This requires traditionalists to accept they are not the only orthodox Christians, and those of an affirming view to accept that traditionalism is not always based on homophobia.
What is needed are those on both sides to say, in view of the tie that binds us, can we for the sake of unity and mission, seek to listen to one another, hard and painful though that may be, to see if that tie is strong enough to enable us to continue to walk together. My hope is that the Steering Group might, behind the scenes, seek to make that happen.
The Council's statement attempted to 'humbly urge' those who affirm same sex marriage not to press ahead, in all reality, this will carry little weight. The seeming imbalance of the 'mutual respect' asked of those churches who have registered or are seeking to register, challenges any moral authority they might otherwise see the statement as having.
It is my own view that neither those who are against or those who affirm hold the monopoly on truth on this question. In fact much of the arguments for or against I find wanting. As on many other issues, it remains contested, and it remains contested, also amongst those who identify as gay or lesbian.
This will continue to not be an easy time for the Union, especially those who hold office at a national level. For them we must pray especially. Whilst I don't think they can or will (at least not quickly) retract the statement, I hope that the Steering Group and the Council (when it next meets), will recognise they will have to come back to this issue, that we have not reached a settled place. A more theological conversation is now all the more pressing and the willingness of all sides to participate is essential if we are to avoid the fragmentation of our Union. This is the story of all other church traditions, Baptists are no different.
Last week I posted that Council were to meet and part of their agenda was to reflect again on same sex marriage. Following their meeting they have issued a new statement, which appeared on Monday morning. (A copy was emailed to ministers on Friday afternoon).
I am part of a Baptist church that is not planning to register as a place where same sex marriages can be held.
As a minister I do not feel at the moment in a position where I could conduct a same sex marriage.
I do though have good friends who take a position of wanting to affirm same sex marriage in the church. I would happily be a member of any of their churches and would happily share in ministry with them.
I continue to be open to engage theologically, biblically and pastorally around this issue. In my mind this is not a settled issue.
I am not troubled that other churches and other ministers might come to a place of affirming and celebrating same sex marriage.
I recognise that as Christians we will come to different positions, and that every view on homosexuality - those that affirm and those that are against - have strengths and weaknesses.
In the words of one friend, we always read the Bible 'in the fray and on the way', in fact, I suggest our relationship with God is always one in the fray and on the way. As American Baptists Curtis Freeman and Steven Harmon have argued recently, Baptists are a pilgrim people, both historically and theologically.
Our engagement as a Union on the question of homosexuality I think has been a too narrow one. We have not even begun to engage with the conversation that is taking place biblically and theologically amongst theologians and biblical scholars. We have not adequately considered the biblical and theological arguments of those who have come to affirm LBGT relationships, which while they may not convince all, do demonstrate that this again is not a settled issue.
With this preamble in view, I am disappointed by the statement the Baptist Union Council agreed last week. On first reading I didn't think it was too bad, further readings worry me more. On the plus side it has not overturned the 2014 statement and there are some gaps in the new statement that give space for churches to continue to dissent from what is claimed is the Union's view. (For my reflections on 2014 statement see here).
In the accompanying letter to the statement, the Union's General Secretary Lynn Green mentions that 'we identified from the outset that our aim was to reach a settled place on this issue.' First of all I'm not sure who the 'we' refers to - the Council, the Steering Group, the Trustees? Second, I am unconvinced that we can reach a settled view on same sex relationships. Council making a statement does not mean we have reached a settled view. (While we have adopted the name Baptists Together, I am of the view that the changes to the Union, implemented in 2012, have made us more fragmentary.) I would prefer that we see this as an ongoing conversation and the most recent statement is where the Council discerns we are currently.
Churches and individuals have been invited to contribute to the Union's attempt to reach a settled place on this issue via an email address that is called 'talkingtogether' - how can we be talking together, when those who might contribute a view by email are not part of the talking together - there is no opportunity to hear what others have said. The Council are talking together but that is not the same as the Union. While the Union held one (good) session at the 2013 Assembly, this has not be repeated. In the five years I have been part of my Association at no point have we 'talked together' about homosexuality.
I am troubled that we can have 'profound disagreement' over other issues - women in ministry, the use of violence, what constitutes Christian economics, etc - and yet we make no statement that seeks to ask churches to refrain from not allowing women to preach or lead. We live with the difference, even though I am more troubled and more angered by those that seek to deny women as ministers of the gospel. Why must the profound disagreement over the issue of same sex marriage require us to make a statement that 'humbly urges churches to refrain' from conducting marriages of this kind?
Lynn speaks of the 'way we discern' as being as important as 'what we discern.' I think the way we discern can be done better. The way we discern at the moment is churches or individuals are encouraged to make their views known and then Council discerns. I would like to see an improvement in the way we discern:
1. Recover the practice of Listening Days. Twice during the 1990s the General and Deputy Secretary toured the Associations, holding listening days about the future of the Union.
2. For Associations to take much more seriously gathering together for discernment. Again in many cases the view of an Association is not a view of the churches that belong to it, but the Trustees/Council.
3. See Assembly as a place of discernment that complements the work of the Council. This of course is very difficult with the current one day Assembly format (which will continue until 2017).
Reflections on the Statement
'The Union's historic Biblical understanding of marriage' I guess is reflected in the ministerial rules, rather than any other kind of historic statement made by Council or Assembly. Has the Union ever reflected on a theology of marriage? I am equally troubled by the language of 'Biblical', because we use it as trump card. The use of 'biblical' reflects a conservative evangelical doctrine of Scripture that claims the text has one meaning and we can know that one meaning. (John Colwell's chapter on scripture in Promise and Presence is one example that challenges this view). Marriage in the Bible is not the same as we understand Christian marriage in 21st Century.
It is good to see that the Declaration of Principle comes first in the statement. The statements refers to 'the potential for some diversity in pastoral and missional practice'. Does this mean there is room for diversity also in theology, of which I am sure there is lots. The Declaration of Principle emerged out of the two Baptist streams - Calvinist and Arminian - joining together to form the Union without their convictions about the gospel being required to change. Theologically the Union has never been uniform, outside of a shared conviction of being trinitarian.
The second part of the statement refers to mission and the need for churches to engage in mission with imagination and compassion. Does that give space for churches to engage with the LBGT community in different ways. I suggest there is so room here.
The final part of the statement is the more contentious bit. The first paragraph is helpful - it acknowledges genuine and deep disagreement and there is tension around the fact some churches are registering their buildings for same sex marriage. It then adds the need for God's grace to enable us to walk together. All good.
The final paragraph sets out how this should be outworked. The Council first asks that 'we humbly urge churches who are considering conducting same-sex marriages to refrain from doing so out of mutual respect.' I'm not sure that this follows from the previous paragraphs around freedom and mission. It seeks to stop churches exercising their freedom. The key words are 'mutual respect.' It secondly asks that 'we also humbly urge all churches to remain committed to our Union out of mutual respect.' This second sentence appears to give room for churches to dissent from the Council's view and asks other churches and/or Associations to remain committed to the Union, where this might take place. (Of course it might also be read that those who might affirm LBGT relationships are being asked not to leave the Union.) Again the basis is 'mutual respect.' The strength of the statement and its interpretation will be to hold these two sentences together.
The statement does leave a lot of questions unanswered. If a church does decide to go forward and conduct same-sex marriages, what consequences will there be? The statement gives more power to those churches and associations that are seeking to discipline and remove said churches from relationship. (I don't think it is unfair to say that is what they were pushing for.) Here we will have to see whether they heed the call to remain committed to the Union out of 'mutual respect'.
To remove a church from an Association does not mean removal from the Union and so it may create the need for a new non-geographical association (although that would need Council and Assembly approval) or to see those churches joining another Association. None of this could happen with a real possibility of churches leaving the Union. There is also the question on what basis are churches members of associations, is it on the basis of the Declaration of Principle, which it is does not make it entirely straight forward for Associations to override the autonomy of a church meeting. We will have to wait and see how this plays out, but the issue is definitely not settled.
This week the Council of the Baptist Union will meet. On its agenda will be to look again at the issue of same sex relationships, two years on from the statement it agreed, which affirmed the Union's position that marriage is between man and women, but also affirmed (in line with the Declaration of Principle) the liberty of the local church, through a process of discernment to possibly affirm a same sex relationship.
In the two years a good number of churches have spent time considering the issue of same sex relationships, many using the BU's own material that seeks to help church think biblically and pastorally (I can think of at least 5 in the Southend Area). This is good news.
What has also happened is that a small number of churches have registered, or are in the process of registering, as places of worship in which same sex marriage can take place.
That some churches have registered is proving very difficult for churches (and possibly Associations) who are unable to affirm same sex relationships.
This may well be a test of our Union. This is not the first test (other issues have tested it in the past) and it will not be the last.
I pray that the Council and the churches and associations of our Union will find ways to continue to live in fellowship despite our disagreement around this issue, that we will seek to continue to talk, and pray and worship and read the Bible together. I hope that we can say that disagreement does not have to mean division.
The Whitley Lecture is an annual lecture given by Baptist in the UK. This year's lecturer is Joshua Searle, who teaches at Spurgeon's College. It's title is:
Church Without Walls: Post-Soviet Baptists After the Ukrainian Revolution
Recent events in Ukraine have forced post-Soviet evangelicals to address a question they had long avoided: ‘in what way is the gospel not only the source of personal salvation, but also the source of social transformation?’ This lecture advances the provocative argument that instead of calling the people to repent and make peace, the church itself should repent for betraying the people, and for failing for so many years to speak truthfully to those in power and to stand on the side of the oppressed. The lecture concludes on a hopeful note by showing that despite their limited numbers, Baptists can be in the vanguard of a new movement (a ‘church without walls’) for the reformation of the church and the renewal of society, which moves towards an open future with hope for greater freedom. While drawing on the author’s experience of living and working in Ukraine, this lecture also addresses vital issues that affect the global Baptist community, such as the missional imperatives of social justice and solidarity and the limits of political authority.
You can here the lecture here:
– Cardiff (SWBC) on Wednesday 27th January, 13:30–15:00
– London (Spurgeon's College) on Wednesday 3rd February, 11:15–12:45
– Oxford (Regent’s Park College) on Tuesday 23rd February, 16:00–18:00
– Manchester (Northern Baptist College) on Monday 14th March 19:00–20:30
– Bristol (Bristol Baptist College) on Tuesday 12th, 19:30–21:00
Or buy a copy here.
The 1640 group are 9 Baptists churches that celebrate their 375th anniversary since they were founded in 1640. These are some of the earliest Baptist churches. Together these churches are gathering in Bristol at Broadmead for a shared anniversary service on the 19th September.
Broadmead Baptist Church, Bristol - read about Broadmead here
Newbury Baptist Church, Berkshire
Abbey Road Baptist Church, Reading
Dagnell Street Baptist Church, St Albans
Kings Stanley Baptist Church, Gloucestershire
Alcester Baptist Church, Warwickshire
Berkhamstead Baptist Church, Hertfordshire
Kingsbridge Baptist Church, Devon
Castle Hill Baptist Church, Warwick - read about the church here
As we approach this year's Baptist Assembly (which is a much shorter and will be less well attended) a statement from last year's Assembly has emerged back into the spotlight in the news that one Association of the Union is seeking to dissent from it.
Last year's statement sought to find a way to recognise our Baptist principles of local church government and our wider associating as a Union (see here for my reflection on it). The Union changed the ministerial rules to allow a minister and the church in which served (which was already free) to discern whether they could take part in blessing or performing a same sex marriage.
According to this news report, the West of England Baptist Association has sought to take the move to disallow any church that comes to the decision to register their building as a place where same sex marriages could take place, by exerting their control of church trust deeds:
It appears to say that it would refuse outright permission for any church held by the WEBA Trust Company (the ultimate 'owner' of most of the churches in its region) to be used for a civil partnership ceremony.
In 2007, there was a request for a redundant church to be used for the blessing of a civil partnership; the request was refused. The trustees say that in line with that decision, "The WEBA Trust Company does not give permission for any building for which we are the holding Trustees to be used for such purposes."
It seems a number of points can be made here:
1. The statement made by the Baptist Union at last year's Assembly was one that had been agreed by the Council of the Union.
2. It might be commented that now the Council is only 80 people, it could be argued that it is not as representative as it once was of the Union. However, it is the only decision making body of the Union or at least is the only body able to hold the decisions of the National Steering Group to account.
3. The statement was one announced and there was no opportunity at the Assembly for delegates from local churches to affirm (or not) the statement. It is my view that on issues like these the decisions made by Council would carry a lot more weight if they were brought as resolutions to the Assembly. This of course would require that the Assembly has time to carefully reflect on any resolution put before them - not a present possibility. I argued back in 2011 for the renewal of Assembly in this direction.
4. Turning to the WEBA statement again we see an example of the WEBA Trustees making a decision without consultation with the local churches that make up their association. So I return to my argument that having 'reformed' the Union, the Associations themselves need reform, as too many Associations have become a separate entities from the local church.
5. The WEBA response would carry more weight if, having heard the Union's statement, it called its churches together to discern on whether this was something the churches of WEBA could support. Even if this was what discerned, it is not clear whether the authority of the Association can trump the liberty of the local church, according to the Baptist Union's Declaration of Principle, to discern differently.
6. As a side note, the WEBA statement does reflect, that for all our talk of being independent churches, we are bound together by church trust deeds, local churches are not entirely free. Our buildings being in trust with an association or the Union is an expression of our catholicity. (See Keith Jones BQ article from 1989 on the 'Authority of the Trust Deed'.
7. We are left with asking where does authority lie? With the local church, with the Association, or with the Union? The answer must be to say that authority is shared across these different bodies, residing most clearly in the local church, in the same way that authority in a local church 'flows' between minister, deacons and church meeting. Union and Association cannot act independent of the local church and we must find ways once again to allow local churches to discern and deliberate together as Union and Association.
8. The actions of WEBA go against our Baptist principles, which last year's statement by the Union sought to re-affirm. The WEBA trustees should be challenged against this unilateral action, in disagreement with both Union and, at least, in one case, one local church. Likewise the Union must find ways to trust the Assembly to be able to affirm decisions made by the Council and so give them more weight as statements of the Baptist Union.