Today sees Baptists gathering for their annual assembly (well the BUGB / BMS one anyway). But things will be a bit different this year:
- We are gathering in London. This means it is commuting distance for a larger number of people but also that fewer people will attend the whole event.
- The Saturday events follow a different format being ‘day conferences’ in their own right. Personally I’m not convinced about this but maybe it is a ‘marmite’ moment because I’ve heard several people say ‘great idea’ as well as plenty of grumbles. Marks to the organisers though for being willing to do something different.
- 2012 will be a defining moment. Having realised that the good ship BUGB is taking on water and that we can’t afford a large enough bilge pump to keep pumping the water out we are having to ask ourselves some searching questions.
Lots of people have put in hours of work in preparation, to say nothing of the finanical costs, so I hope it will be worth the effort. Certainly there are reasons for optimism.
1. Mission is vital. In inducting Chris Duffet as president for the year (Chris blogs here) we have choosen someone with evangelistic zeal and I would like to believe it's because we recognise the importance of mission to our future.
2. Hopeful welcome. The range of speakers and leaders reflects the diversity of our London churches. If Assembly can embody a spirit of unity in diversity where all parts of our union feel valued we will be taking an important step forward.
3. Forward Movement. Assembly struggles to be deliberative, it also struggles to cope with anything off message or contentious, but the issues facing us pose stark questions. If we can grapple with them so the wider Baptist Union is engaged with them and we discern God together, good will emerge from this.
You never know; beyond the headlines of celebrating together, inspiring speaker saying something to encourage and motivate, and Baptists gathering to prayerfully discern the futures process, God might be up to something.