Women in leadership

There is a letter in the Baptist Times this week signed by
myself, Simon Woodman, Andy Goodliff and Craig Gardiner. For those who don’t
read the BT there has been some correspondence following BUGB Council’s recent
discussion about women in leadership.


As can be seen I’m wholly committed to women in ministry
believing that this is an outworking of the gospel. I’m entirely unsympathetic
to those who say Council has no right to consider this subject (and graciously
suggest people should read the BUGB Constitution before writing such letters to
the BT). However, I do have some sympathy with those who have argued that the
Baptist Assembly ought to have space to consider this; readers of this blog
will be aware that I think Assembly ought to include more deliberation. I also
have some sympathy with those who wonder how we handle dissent, though as I
have blogged before there are questions here about who plays the price for

Here is the letter:

We have been
interested, but not surprised, by some of the recent correspondence in the
Baptist Times following the BU Council debate on women in leadership. Whilst
the basis of the BUGB is the Declaration of Principle the
Union’s constitution, which is agreed by
Assembly, makes Council the body responsible for the general policy of the
Union. The policy of accrediting women
ministers has been settled for over forty years. On the basis of this policy
ministers are ordained and commissioned for ministry within the
Union, accredited and in due course
recognised and affirmed each year at Assembly. The difficulty arises when
churches decline to accept a particular group of people whose ministry has been
affirmed and accredited in their name and the recent March Council reflected on
the continuing struggle for acceptance that many women still experience in our
churches. Historically we have handled diversity though a commitment to one
another and dissent by encouraging each other to look afresh at what the Spirit
is saying to us through Scripture and the wider Baptist Community. Council was
not seeking to threaten anyone but rather to call us to discern how we proceed
with integrity, grace and gospel conviction.

Council seeks, as part of its remit and through its deliberations, to discern
the mind of Christ for the
Union. This process of discernment by those gathered is profoundly
Baptist, as is the subsequent offering of these reflections to Churches on
behalf of the
Union. It is surely not un-Baptist for the Union to say to its member churches that it
affirms the leadership of women: we have been doing this since the 1920s. It is
surely not un-Baptist for the
Union to challenge those churches who disagree to reconsider their reading
of scripture: without this, we might still be supporting slavery as a
legitimate reading of scripture. It is surely not un-Baptist for the
Union to actively seek to promote,
facilitate and encourage the leadership of women: it is part of our calling to
welcome those whom God has gifted among us. In fact, this is surely all very
Baptist; it is an expression of the covenant relationship we have with one
another in Christ.


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