I was shocked, but probably should not have been surprised, to hear that the recent Baptist Assembly in Scotland in Scotland did not address the question of Scottish Independence. It says how far we have come that the political questions of the day (and this is a big one) are ignored within our Baptist life. I would imagine this would have been of great concern to previous generations, who were much politically engaged than we are today.
I write as someone from south of the border, who has always seen themselves as British more than English, who is glad to see Scotland as in some sense part of my identity. I’m not sure what that exactly means and so why it is good to see Stuart Blythe inviting and encouraging us to reflect on issues of identity, nationhood and the possibility of an independent Scotland is so important. (Stuart is a Scottish Baptist, currently teaching at Scottish Baptist College, but next year will become the new Rector at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in its new Amsterdam location.)
Stuart suggests that the reasons why the issue has not set the Baptist UK world, and particularly Scotland, alight are: there is no interest in the subject; we're not very good at talking around the table; and/or politics is an inappropriate subject in church.
It seems precisely the opportunity to ask what it means as Christians to belong to any nation, to explore what citizenship means and to reflect what it might mean for Scottish (and possibly English) Christians to argue theologically for independence. Here it seems the work of the Glasgow-based political theologian Doug Gay is ploughing at least one furrow in this direction, with a number of journal articles and a forthcoming book.
Baptists, despite our heritage, have become increasingly un-engaged to questions of church and state, especially as the State is re-shaping them in new ways (see the work of Luke Bretherton), and largely assume the position by at least some in the CofE that wants to cling on to some notion of Christian nationhood England/Britain. It is a timely moment for a fresh, deep engagement with what it is to be Baptist in our lands, whether we consider them British, Scottish, Welsh or English.