BUGB Council meets again next week; the curious combination institutional process, denominational politics and corporate perspicacity. One item on the agenda is finance and its implications for the future structure of the Union.
I’ve lost count of the number of hours I’ve sat in meetings when we have talked about this over the last couple of years (no sympathy required, it is my own fault for agreeing to moderate the Finance Committee) but the underlying issues can’t be put off any longer. [Though I’m sure someone will argue this isn’t a crisis but an opportunity. Yes it is an opportunity but like repentance, transformation begins when we recognise we need rescue and the Union will need to make critical decisions over the next year and a cheerleading gloss may reassure people but only declares a false peace.]
But before we get too bogged down in detail or worried about where our financial rescue comes from and how we get from Egypt to the promised land, I want to imagine……
Imagine we were starting a grouping of baptistic churches today rather than working with models crafted over 100 years ago. How would we do it, what would be different?
I don’t have an answer but here are some random thoughts.
1. We would be less concerned about geography and more concerned with developing networks of churches.
2. We would seek to use larger churches as resource centres and encourage them to take responsibility for encouraging smaller ones.
3. We would value entrepreneurial missionary churches and ministers; who seek to take the historic core of the Christian faith and live it out in new contexts.
4. We would seek to create a Union culture that equips and releases both people and churches.
5. Recognising value in a diversity of voices we would encourage corporate leadership.
6. Believing we are called to be church and not individuals we would value gathering together to seek the mind of Christ, theological thought, spiritual depth and engagement with the mission of God. (What does it mean to be holy, catholic and apostolic in the UK at this point in world history?)
7. We would revisit the distinctions between BUGB and BMS as if mission overseas is fundamentally different to mission here, and look to work more closely together. In addition we could seek to learn from other Baptist Conventions round the globe how to be partners together on the basis of being in Christ rather than sharing finance.
8. We need to ask ourselves some questions like: if the Union and Associations ceased to exist, what would we miss? If the current structures disappeared what would be the things which held churches in relationship together? Is the model of centralised church house resourcing the regions, with a well governed charity dealing with money the best way to live out our ecclesiology (or our understanding of mission and kingdom for that matter)?
A generation ago a group of younger Baptist ministers challenged the idea that the future was one of inevitable decline. Maybe the time has come to challenge the idea that we must simply modify (and cut back) the existing structures and work on something more ambitious.