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19 March 2010


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David, your post put me in mind of the document produced by the Faith and Unity department in September 2009, called "Knowing what we believe: Theological authority amongst Baptists". It's available still on the BU website, (not sure if I should put a link in here?) and includes a section on the settled position regarding women in ministry.

It suggested that those who don't agree, rather than being excluded from the centre, were actually in the process of excluding themselves.

I think that is a very helpful way of putting it, because too often it seems to me those who wish to exclude others are the first to complain if they feel excluded themselves, and you end up with a battle of who feels the most excluded!

But that document was phrased in a way suggestive of more discussion in the future. I'm not sure quite how the Faith and Unity department fits in with the Baptist Council, but was the meeting you described part of this process?

David Kerrigan

Chris, the link you refer to is to be found http://www.baptist.org.uk/resources/a-z.asp?section=61 , a document well worth reading.

To answer your question, it was indeed the ‘Faith and Unity’ department that brought forward this matter for discussion. It seems to me that the Council is doing exactly what the above document envisaged, namely “helping recover a confidence to debate, discern and agree statements of conviction and belief that have authority amongst us. This is part of our covenant responsibility to discern the mind of Christ, and is a way in which we give meaning to our identity as Baptists”.



An interesting post, thank you. Some awful examples of prejudice although as a male minister I get comments about my shape, weight and haircut as well.

Simon Goddard

I am so pleased that Council has spent some time seriously considering this issue. I wrote a letter to the Baptist Times a couple of years ago on this matter http://www.exacteditions.com/exact/browse/354/377/4095/3/8/0/ and my strength of feeling then came from hearing similar stories from my female ministerial training colleagues. Whilst we do need to be gracious to those who hold different views, there are clearly some aspects of what we believe which should define us as a family of believers. As a denomination we rightfully no longer tolerate discrimination against ministers from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (even though in the past some might have mistakenly used scripture to justify such behaviour) - I think the time has come for us to take a similar stand with regards to this unjust treatment of the women whom God has called into baptist ministry.

Julie Aylward

I just want to say thank you to Council and especially to you for being willing to say this in such a public way. Your support in this matter means a great deal to me. I pray other leaders in our denomination also express such views so publically.


Thank you David, and BUGB council, for grasping this particular nettle at this time. Thank you for 'putting your head above the parapets' by speaking publicly on this. Every blessing.


The time at Council drew out the unacceptable comments and behaviours of some in our churches. Whilst this affects both women and men in leadership, there have been some particularly harrowing incidents for our women. Many of these behaviours and comments would not be tolerated in the secular world. As a family in Christ we should be better than the secular world and any failure to treat others with respect is unacceptable. Dissent is no excuse for rudeness. Our focus needs to be on the God given gifts in both women and men.

David Kerrigan

Keep two things in mind. Firstly, we are a dissenting people, and even though that dissent was, and is, more naturally expressed in our opposition to those who sought, or seek, to control what we believe and how we worship, a measure of internal dissent is not unusual nor is it unhealthy. We are not a hierarchical structure. Therefore we mustn't demonise in any way those whose views are different, simply because they are different. What Council recognised is that there is an unacceptable face of dissent, which shows up as a prejudice which is rude or offensive.

Secondly, the document Chris mentioned above ( http://www.baptist.org.uk/resources/a-z.asp?section=61 ) makes it clear that far from excluding people who think differently, it is others who tend to exclude themselves. A key extract reads:

“a local church may always choose not to receive that which has been agreed in the wider bodies of the Union. But this may then have the consequence of the church excluding itself from covenant relationships. A church needs to be aware of the convictions that unite Baptists and the possible consequences of putting itself outside the processes of discernment that guide our life together.”

Peace and Grace



I wish I lived in England.

David Kerrigan

Anon - your comment reminds me that we have great freedoms here in the UK but, as we know, with great freedom comes great responsibility. As we encourage and celebrate the unique contribution of women in leadership among us, I hope that fewer and fewer women leaders will have to struggle to fulfil their calling. Hang on in there!

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