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April 25, 2015


Steve Holmes

Andy, whatever the rights or wrongs of the issue, I think you are being unfair in your last point here. As you indicate, both the Union decision and the Association decision were taken by representative bodies; it is hard to regard only one of them as going 'against our Baptist principles' (unless you know things about the representative bodies that I don't). Further, I don't see WEBA's decision as 'opposition' to the Union: the BUGB position is permissive; for an association to decide that the sphere of permission it allows is more restricted than the sphere the Union allows is not to *oppose* the Union's position, surely? The position demanded by the Association of its churches and ministers is compatible with the position demanded by the Union.

Andy Goodliff

Steve, thanks for your comment.

I guess the question is whether Associations are properly enough representative - for example I don't believe that to be the case in the Association I am in - BU Council seeks to be properly balanced, although I think it is hard at its now reduced number. The Union's statement last year sought to affirm the local church, which is surely at the heart of Baptist identity. I am happy for the Association to come to a different view, it is (a) how that view was reached - and here perhaps we need more information - and (b) can the Association, or the Union, over-ride the local church's discernment. For example, there would be uproar if an association made the decision that all churches in its area had to affirm women in ministry. Again WEBA refer to the Bible, and have basically interpreted for all their churches. The WEBA statement says the Union's position 'reduces the place of the Bible', well that has always been the Union's position on the basis of DoP - authority of Christ and authority of church to interpret under guidance of Holy Spirit. I think there is also something not quite right in doing this on the basis of trust deed, feels a bit underhand. I trust the journalist who's written the article, but I acknowledge we may not be hearing whole story. I'll change wording of 'opposition' to 'disagreement', which is perhaps less incendiary.

Tony Peck

Being in a WEBA church I wrote to the Regional Team Leader some time ago to say that, leaving aside the interpretation of the Declaration of Principle, it is simply not within the legal powers (as defined on the Baptist and Congregational Trust Act of 1951) of WEBA as the Custodian Trustee of its churches to be able to impose its will on local churches in the matter of registration of their buildings for marriage. That responsibility lies with the church and its Managing Trustees. I think you are right, Andy; that rather trying to reach for legal sanctions it would be better that in the Union and Associations a space is created for healthy debate on the issue of government legislation on same-sex marriage and what should be the response of our churches.

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