Influential English Baptists?

If I had a fiver each time someone in English Baptist life said ‘we need leadership’ I would have an impressive stock of single Islay Malts and a few cases of red wine by now.  

So who are voices we should be listening to? Noting we seek the mind of Christ, recognising the Spirit often speaks to us through those we don’t expect and remembering that we are a Union of ministers, churches etc, are there people whose opinion we should give particular weight to?

I’ve complied a top ten whose opinions we need to listen to. I’ve weighted the list towards people who think theologically or who have roles in Baptist life which suggest they could positively influence events. But if I’m honest, it is basically the list of people I would invite if I wanted to start a denominational conversation. 

Clive Burnard

Nigel Coles

John Colwell

Paul Fiddes

Andy Goodliff

Phil Jump

David Kerrigan

Joe Kapolyo

Juliet Kilpin

Pat Took

I have loads of other contenders: Ruth Bottoms, Stephen Copson, Craig Gardiner, Lynn Green, Nick Lear, Clare Mcbeath, Sian Murray-Williams, Ian Randall, Kumar Rajagopalan, Ian Stackhouse, Simon Woodman, Nigel Wright, Tony Peck (EBF) and Steve Holmes (BUS). However, part of the challenge is choosing a ‘top ten’ as well as identifying those whose input would help us imagine a new future as a mutually supportive Union: one which is rooted in Baptist convictions, theologically coherent, enthusiastic about sharing in the mission of God and able to inspire the church to live as faithful followers of Christ.

The real test for us as a denomination is not identifying names but ensuring we give them opportunity to speak followed by deliberative space for their words to be considered and acted upon.

18 thoughts on “Influential English Baptists?

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  1. Amen! (thought I don’t know one of your top ten- now looked them up!) I would add you in place of one or two of your ‘other contenders’!

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  2. My question has to be, if this is the Baptist Union of Great Britain, why only English Baptists? No Welsh or Scottish? And by that measure, none of you can have Craig Gardiner at your table for a start!

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  3. Polly I used English simply because it is only English people (a subset of BUGB I know) who have said this to me. But you are right that the conversation needs to be across the BUGB. I don’t know what is happening in the BUW but BUS have been on their own journey recently (and I wouldn’t want to imply they needed to engage in this same process)
    Jonathan, I missed Simon Jones off my list, I would invite him round for coffee as well.

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  4. BUW and BUGB are working very closely together, and a large number of Welsh baptist churches are members of BUGB regardless. Hence the need for a South Wales Baptist Association.

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  5. Rev Dr Stephen Dray who is currently working on an exciting new history of mission. I’d love to hear more about his ecumenical work with the Orthodox Church and OT expertise. I think he would be a fantastic asset to such a conversation. If you need a reference, you should ask Ian Randall or J I Packer.

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  6. An interesting list. Not exclusively ‘English’ though – last time I looked Craig Gardener was Irish… and Ian Randall is a Scot…

    Who is influential in Scotland? Some obvious contenders would be:

    Jim Gordon
    Stuart Blythe
    Jim Purves

    And, I think, given a bit of time, Alan Donaldson, our wonderful head guy.

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  7. “The real test for us as a denomination is not identifying names but ensuring we give them opportunity to speak followed by deliberative space for their words to be considered and acted upon.”

    I think this last paragraph says it all, really – identifying particular names is a potentially damaging, rather than constructive, exercise. Let’s allow God to use whomsoever He wants, in whatever way He wants.

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  8. I like this, I like the desire to open up the conversation.

    I’d like to open it up further than this to a contribution of insights from those who have not been shaped by ministerial formation or theological college training, the un-stipeneded 95 percent (made up statistic!). I’d like to hear the theological insights and leadership they would offer?

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  9. Hmmm interesting… I agree with BaptistJon that Jonathan Edwards, David Kerigan, Chris Ellis, Nigel wright and Paul Goodliff certainly have to be included high on the list. If I look at the work of Baptists on my bookshelves then I would have to include Roger Hayden for his contribution to documenting our Baptist history and also Simon Woodman and Helen Dare for ‘The ‘Plainly Revealed’ Word of God?’ that looks at Baptist hermeneutics and practice. I guess I would want to add Jesus to the top of the list as well!

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  10. This leaves me cold !

    Highly risky naming names and creating exclusion

    Many folk I am certain have an input – I suspect there are some folk sitting somewhere without a voice because there are always the TOP ten who speak and get listened to.

    I worry that it is this kind of dialogue that creates separation and division rather than a togetherness and unity

    But hey what do I know a Lay pastor seeking to serve and maybe not even in the top 1000

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  11. I totally agree about the risks of naming names! There is so much wisdom and knowledge of many kinds among the wider Baptist family. We must not lose sight of this.

    Open up the Baptist Council, the revive the Baptist Assembly and involve local Church meetings. Simples!

    To the best of my knowledge, the Baptist Council doesn’t even have a website. Surely this can be quickly addressed?

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  12. I get the point about the dangers of naming people; but it is the naming of a ‘top ten’ that has generated blog traffic and comments not the idea we should listen to one another.

    Whether deliberately or otherwise we create a hierarchy simply by how we operate. Those Baptists who we invite to speak at Assembly or other events and those whose publications we promote through the Union gain influence. My list also has an eye to who might bring a positive influence to events in view of the scale of the challenges the Union currently faces. In light of the timescales imposed by finance we do need to think about who we listen to; not just because of who they are but also the parts of the Union they might be representative of.

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  13. I can only speak for one of the top ten whose name I am amazed to discover there. All I can say is that I hope any influence arises from spending significant time life seeking to listen TO our Baptist family – in local churches, often in the midst of struggle and frustration, by reading their blogs, through the Spirit of God and from watching the times in which we find ourselves. My hope is that God speaks in the coversation.

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  14. Just a couple more disjointed thoughts:

    Was it Anselm that defined Theology as “Faith seeking Understanding”?

    Lets us all as Jonathan encouraged immerse ourselves in prayer and seeking to understand God’s perspective.

    Let us all realise that maintenance versus mission is still a tension that many are living with – keeping the doors open is a challenge for many this sunday in the local / small / rural church.

    I had the privilege of being at the recent “We Belong” event in Birmingham. Some profound wisdom was shared but just two words are so vital – let us all help each other realise and know that “We belong”

    And finally:

    I have been engaging with a book called “The Unstoppable Church” – by David Shearman ( A disciple working through his faith in the Pentecostal denomination)

    I will share with you some of the intro written by the author

    The Church will be more effective in its mission of representing Jesus in every place in every generation when…

    1. It understands that it has been empowered and given authority

    2.It sees clearly its mandate and the power and effectiveness that comes from working together

    3.It takes seriously its responsibilty to make disciples of all nations

    4.It holds to the conviction that no one and no thing can destroy it

    (NOT even pension issues and deficits – my own addition)

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  15. My feeling as someone a little on the edge of Baptist life is that as a denomination we really don’t value leadership and we are more comfortable with discerning the mind of christ within the “priesthood of all believers” than following a leader who has a God given vision – I realise that there is “creative tension” here but we do need to affirm and recognise those with the “gift of leadership”. I agree that the final sentence is the crucial one but within it we do need to affirm those who we see as leaders within the Union which does mean naming them… From my perspective within Fresh Streams I see people like: Peter Nodding, Paul Maconochie, Gavin Murray, Martin Young,Lynne Green as some who could contribute to the conversation…

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  16. I am sure most people in our churches as well as ministers could contribute to the conversation given the chance
    The naming of the top ten seems remarkably elitist to me and for what it’s worth there is a load of those names I have never heard of

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  17. Really interesting to read this post and all the comments. Great discussion starter!

    For what it’s worth I have posted some thoughts on the topic here http://wp.me/p1IClP-24.

    However I would like to highlight what someone said on Neil’s fb page in response to this which was that whatever appears in the BUGB e news sweep seems to have most ‘virtual’ influence at present, so I nominate Chris Hall as most influential English baptist!! 😉

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  18. Neil – big problems with this, not least because it is indicative of how distant Baptist “leadership at a national level” (whatever that means) is so remote from the experience and contexts of Baptist church members. The sort of hierarchical “we like these people” implication is why Baptist Union Council is so unrepresentative. Where are the people who are not in paid employment by Baptist churches or theological academies? Where are the plumbers, school teachers, et al, who seek to live out baptistic principles in their workplaces? We need to hear their voices, not only the voices of the Professional Career Baptists….

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