Every so often a group of ministers emerge in Baptist life seeking
to change the course of the Union. In the 1950’s it was
about baptism; seeking to promote a more sacramental understanding. In the late
70’s and early 80’s concern about decline in the denomination led to the
formation of Mainstream and many of those who were involved in those early days
went on to make a significant contribution to the life of the Union.
So what about our own time? Is there a need for a new
generation of younger Baptist ministers to take up the initiative and, if so, what
shape should this take? I suspect that the answer lies in three main areas.
1. The importance of ordained ministry. In contrast to the
move in some Baptist churches towards a belief in the priesthood of every
believer (rather than the priesthood of all believers) we need to reaffirm that
God calls women and men to serve him through a commitment to word and prayer;
to guide the church into holiness and build up the church in the faith. A
recognition that ministry is a gift of the risen Christ and a willingness to
allow such ministry to flourish among us.
2. Reshaping the church for late modernity. Phrases like
emerging church and post modernity are ubiquitous but we need a fresh
appreciation of ecclesiology and a renewed understanding of what it means to be
the church in our post (late) modern culture so that we might in engage in the
mission of God within it.
3. Deepening spiritual renewal. The vacuity of some aspects
of worship today, the squashing of questions and doubts in church members and
the superficiality of relationships in church life are not reflective of the
God we seek to follow. Somehow we need to integrate ancient spiritual
disciplines with the challenges of daily living, encourage a depth of spiritual
exploration that nourishes the soul and energise a commitment to take risks in
forming genuine community.
Trouble with all these thoughts is that they are nebulous,
like asking the church if they believe in worship, mission and quiche.
So I have two questions. First, who can come up with a
clearer sense of the future possibilities? Second, how might this become more
than a talking point and start to have an impact on Baptist life?