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December 05, 2011



Some good points Andy. And worth considering in conjunction with questions about (e.g.) BUW or BUS do Assembly.

What was especially good in BUS this time was...

- speakers from the three Unions and the Network as well as BMS
- some stuff that was 'real theology' not just 'inpsirational speaking'

What was not so good was...

- the handling of the one significant resolution, not just because of minor hiccups on the administrative aspects, but becuase it felt something ended up being rushed through part-considered.

- the BUS are not so good (yet) on engaging even superficially with public issues. This whilst BUGBs trident response might be largely 'toothless' at least there was one. Some good 'behind the scenes' work being doen in the whole field of public issues (two of my folk involved)

- it's all everso male!

Yes, a really good question you raise - let's hope it provokes some equally good thoughts.

John Smyth

Some great thoughts but even now, I am very pessimistic about the prospect of change.

\\\'Who do you think we are?\\\' is a very key question that needs to be asked. And we must ask who we are as *Baptist Christians* and not simply as those affliated to a central Union bureaucracy.

As for the \\\'business meeting\\\', I hope incidences of where the central Union has been found to be unfit for purpose are put right at the top of the agenda.

Julie Aylward

Agree with you entirely.
I remember being at a European Conference in Brighton when I was first married - so over 30 years ago - where we were placed in small groups to really get our teeth into issues - I can still remember some of the conversations we had! So it can be done!

We need to get a grip of who we are and what we are about and not just be led by Didcot - however much I respect the people and the work they do on our behalf.
As you note Churches do not feel it is necessary to send delegates which suggests it needs reforming. Less inspiration and more theology! I suspect most don't even know what Council has grappled with or decided and with demise of BT that will diminish even more.

Ed Kaneen

Thanks Andy, I really think we need to be discussing this as a Union, but there is no public forum (apart from you blog!) in which to do so, especially given the forthcoming demise of the BT. Where is the call for prayer and discernment - and sacrificial giving? If this is as critical as people seem to indicate, why are Church Meetings across the country not prayerfully reflecting? Leaving it to Council does not seem adequate to me, which is no disrespect to those good people who make it up, but rather that it is an issue for the whole Union, and therefore the whole Union should take responsibility for the way forward.

On the other hand, where I recognise we have a real problem between theology and practice is in the speed of decision making. An annual Assembly is simply not frequent enough to keep pace with the changes being forced upon us. In fact, a bi-annual (or so) Council is not really frequent enough either. Indeed, in the local church we used to find our bi-monthly Church Meetings were often not frequent enough. Now that most Associations have done away with the County-wide meetings that used to happen, it's difficult to see that the decision making can be easily distributed to Association level for speed, either.

So where does this leave our ecclesiology? Ours is deliberative and consensual, which requires time to do properly, as Catriona indicates. If we try to rush, we often get it wrong (or half-wrong, which is just as bad). Beyond 400 therefore needs to ask the question, as you point out, how we can continue to relate to one another as a Union, both with respect to our tradition and the times we live in. Let the discussion continue.


My own (terribly biased, obviously) opinion is that the Assembly has been getting better at listening to a variety of voices over recent years.

I have no reason to think this will be depleted at next years Assembly, and I am confident that even in the tightened schedule there will be some space to focus on the current situation.

I think your comment about the need to learn the practice of listening and dialogue is a valid one, and is something that ought to be a feature of a healthy church. That it is not probably tells us more about the ecclesiology of the average minister, rather than a weakness in Assembly.

Andy Goodliff

Jonathan, I think the use of listeners at the last few Assemblies have been helpful and positive, but for me it fails to land anywhere ... so in most recent Assembly there was some interesting reflections, but what happens to that, where does that go ... what it should do is possibly shape the conversations in between, perhaps most notably at Council ... I guess for me it doesn't yet go far enough and if I was to be really honest is in danger of being a little bit token, although I believe there is potential for it be something more meaningful. A reflection might be that Assembly plays at the edges - listeners, Prism - but the thing itself hasn't really changed in the time I have attended.


@Andy - It would be a completely token, even counterproductive gesture, unless the Trustees and Managers of the central Union are held to account. I fear Didcot has gone into seige mode.

(I would be interested to know how much they are spending on legal advice or on operating their "unwritten complaints procedure").

Andy Goodliff

CH Spurgeon be warned, if you're going to keep making these kind of comments, you need to stop being anonymous. You've obviously got an axe to grind with a particular issue, this is not the place to grind it!

Jenny Few

Thanks Andy for your clear thinking. Agree with you, especially your point about the listening and the debates, and the public issues resolutions not going anywhere. I've alsways been concerned that Council discussions and thinking and resolutions are not shared in any meaningful way, with local churches and Associations. While respecting Jonathan's opinion, his perspective on things, as Gen Sec, is vastly different from the rest of us, however much of the 'bigger picture' we feel we might grasp, as members of Council or other 'structural roles'. In this new climate where the fundamental questions need to be urgently asked, Assembly razzamatazz (how do you spell such a siilly word!)seems misplaced. Let's get serious!!


Just for the sake of clarity, the Jonathan responding here is Jonathan Somerville, not Jonathan Edwards!


@Andy - I note your warning but I don't accept that I have an "axe to grind". I do have legitimate concerns as well as plenty of positive suggestions of how things can be improved. But where can I express them within the Baptist family? Surely, that is precisely the issue at hand?

I don't wish to be unkind to anyone but I do think accountability is important in all walks of life. It also strikes me as historically being a key Baptist principle.

Neil Brighton

Andy / Jonathan - I think there are two different types of listening in play here. There is listening which is akin to feedback, seeking to capture what the Spirit might be saying which doesn't find easy expression from plenary set pieces; here I think the listening which Jonathan, Lynn and others have facilitated is making a helpful contribution.

But there is also the listening / discernment where Assembly seeks (in some way) to discern the mind of Christ together. This is the area which we have failed to grapple with in recent years. It seems to me that not only to we need to relearn the art of corporate discernment but also to consider what issues are meaningfully considered by Assembly so we can truly say we have, as a Union, discerned x.

ian tutton

There is need for accountability, 'up and down' - e.g. BU Council. My Regional association is represented, but it appears no attempt is made to seek the views of constituent churches/ministers on matters that will be on the agenda, nor is there any way that decsions reached/discussions held are fed back - is the BT closing?

We need to establish a 'forum for dissent' within the Baptist family - drawing on our dissenting heritage where those who think differently from the assumed BUGB line can express themselves without fear of losing accreditation or disassociation - I want to bless a civil partnership - there I've said it, but where is it being discussed other than in whispered converstaions by ministers looking over their shoulder to see who is listening.

We need to rediscover belonging - I remember being part of the consultations that 'scrapped associations in order to begin associating' - whatever happened to that sentiment...

Ian Tutton
Hampstead Garden Suburb Free Church

Patrick Gillan

Ian how refreshing to hear a Minister in my denomination declaring he wants to bless a civil partnership.Why oh why this issue is discussed in hushed tones by members hidden in dark corners is beyond me.Is the climate of fear so pervasive at the union that people feel so afraid to speak openly. What does this tell us about our denomination? As an open Gay Baptist Christian I just wish my fellow Baptist would realise we are not a deep dark hidden secret or a faulty strain of the human species! We are normal folk walking in the light and our aspirations are no different from anyone else,s,To be accepted and share the same rights as our fellow Baptists.If the union is ever to change or move forward then it must stop sidelining this issue or pretend it doesn't exist,we are here among you!


Rowena Wilding

Ian, I'm with you completely. I would very much like a forum in which I can be both Baptist and hold beliefs that are dissenting from the BUGB party line. I spend too much of my time wondering if I'm allowed to say things like "Yes, I want to bless Civil Partnerships", and "It's not Gay Marriage, it's just Marriage", or if I'm gonna be denied a place on the accredited list for saying it.
How wonderful to hear other people who wish to openly express opinions outside of the mainstream.

Peter Dominey

Andy, thanks for your blog, the questions raised and insights shared. It's providing a healthy space for concerns, discussion and imagination. It's also a place for people to put their name to views and ideas in the comments. God bless you!

John Smyth

What a breath of fresh air this thread has become. I really hope this is the start of something really positive (revival?). What are the next steps?

"scrap associations in order to begin associating"

Ivan King

“I began revolution with 82. If I had to do it again, I'd do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.” Fidel Castro

Any sign of an emerging consensus on what our hoped-for future might look like? And what's the plan of action?

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