« let's change the world | Main | G.R.Beasley-Murray Lecture 2011 »

05 May 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Andy Goodliff

Amen, to the serious theological reflection ... I guess a question I might have is the need for the BU (and the BMS?) to make available some more funds / spaces to allow that to happen, especially around seeking to be a more inclusive union and the then related question of catholicity (can we say anything together and how do we do that without immediate appeals to the liberty of the local church) ...

David Kerrigan

Hi Andy - I guess if we're true to ourselves the answer wont be found in weakening our convictions about soul competence or the 'liberty under Christ' of the local church, but maybe in a rediscovery and strengthening of what it means to be a people in covenant agreement together. Finding the right space for exploring and expressing that is vital - and maybe the small beginnings (and they are small) of the Monday morning plenary session at Assembly is a clue here.

But I am also looking for certain tipping points here. Back to theological engagement and if people amongst us can bring forward the kind of work needed to stir up discussion, and then make that available in a wider, maybe more accessible form for the churches,we may get there. If the right ideas are out there, the funds could be available. Let's get started!

Keith Tarring

One of the questions we have been wrestling with for about 6 months now, and in one sense it was encouraging to hear that Jeff Lucas and his church are wrestling with this too and have not come to any answers yet...is the whole question of membership and accountability within a baptist context. Whilst I wholeheartedly embrace the value of welcome and inclusion for all how does that evolve into discipleship, leadership, lifestyle, discipline...answers on a postcard please!

David Kerrigan

Good points Keith - and that's where we need to work hard at this. I am wondering whether our starting point needs to change from 'who are the right people to allow in?' (children at communion, people into church membership, people who haven't yet got it all sorted out allowed to participate in leading worship) to 'on what basis am I saying these people of faith are not right or ready to do x or y). This could be a very exciting time for us all.

Tim Presswood

Another question which we need to address is 'who are we to decide whether or not this person is ready to do x or y?' The Church (deliberate capital letter) has always assumed that authority for itself - but it seems to me that the Matthew 19 passage brings that into question.
On the other hand, if we are going to take a very radical, inclusive approach, that does bring all sorts of other questions into play, not least of which, for Baptists, are questions around the nature of 'gathered community.' If we can't make rules about who is out and who is in, where does that leave the church meeting?
We have already moved well beyond the starting point of whether person a or child b is allowed to perform act x or y. As Keith shows, many of our churches are already having these discussions, but we do need a way of capturing some of those discussions and broadening them out to the whole denomination.

David Kerrigan

Tim, on one of the response walls at the Assembly there was a comment that touched on what you've written here. I cant remember the phrase (it was captured well in about six words!) but it was something like "if the included decide which of the excluded can be included after all, that stil suggests all the power is with the people who have themselves decided that 'we are in' and 'they are out'.

And yes, the issues than then come into view appear rapidly - church membership is certainly one, though I strongly suspect your remark "If we can't make rules about who is out and who is in, where does that leave the church meeting?" was tongue in cheek :-)

Keith Tarring

The issue we've been wrestling with is not so much who to allow in and then who to allow to do what, but is the question of once there are 'people' doing 'stuff' are there choices they then make / things they then do that mean they should no longer be doing those things.

I don't think we're any closer to an answer than when we started. There are so many different issues that we are trying to juggle and balance. And when we're dealing with real people rather than hypothetical situations it gets a whole lot more challenging.

Alastair Newman

Thank you for the reflection. I think the earlier comments have rightly raised the question for the Baptist Church today of whether we still insist on believing before belonging, or whether belonging before believing is an acceptable alternative. (Is there in fact any evidence that all of the followers of Jesus in his lifetime actually believed in Him from the start?!)

Another point I would raise, (and it's always bugged me) is how BUGB describes the Baptist Core Value of being "An Inclusive Community" as transcending barriers of gender, language, race, class, age and culture. With apologies for the blatantly rhetorical question, but are these really the only criteria by which people are discriminated against (particularly by the church)? Is it not time for BUGB to consider a new poster/policy mentioning sexuality too? For wherever you stand on the rights or wrongs of homo and bisexuality surely the correct position has to be one of inclusion and not exclusion?!

The Baptist Church I attend contains a wide variety of people with very different views on this particular issue. The issue was discussed (before I came into membership) a number of years ago in the context of whether to allow someone into membership, and I understand it was an extremely difficult time because of the wide ranges of opinion. I fear that if this issue were ever to be discussed in any great depth - really digging into the important texts and their varying translations, and in the context of the overarching context of the Gospel narrative of disarming acceptance - it would risk tearing the church apart. So I guess another question I would have is whether there is a way for local church communities to be able to discuss really important issues like this without tearing themselves to pieces?

John Levick

Inclusion or exclusion relate to artificial barriers we create. However we also need to remember that Christ did not accept everyone as they were. He set some tough hurdles as for the rich young ruler. We need to be thinking about what are the Christ-like hurdles we need to set for some to become members (i.e. part of Christ's body - His church)whilst removing our artificial barriers. Inclusion should be about strengthening our position as a gospel people as we show the world that Christ died for all. All are welcome but the individual's response is moving to the point of acceptance of Christ into their life. Inclusion should strengthen our theology not allow it to be weakened.

David Kerrigan

Alastair - thanks for the helpful comment. I don't think anyone sets out to exclude anyone, but there are two ways in which we consciously or unconsciously exclude.
- Sometimes its by accident or negligence or ignorance - e.g. for years we excluded disabled people by not thinking about access issues.
- Sometimes we adopt a principled stance that we defend on scriptural grounds (e.g. an opposition to women in ministry) and whilst we must retain the right to defend something on the ground of biblical orthodoxy, we also need to have the grace to revisit that position in the light of the convictions of others in our covenant community who read scripture differently, and in the light of the hurt caused to those who suffer because of our principled position. Slavery and apartheid were defended on grounds of principle, and whilst I am NOT likening people who adopts a principled stance to those who defended slavery or apartheid, I am making the point that our reading of Scripture changes and will go on changing.

And to be clear, there will always be boundaries. We cant have a Pastor whose run off with someone else's spouse just allowed to carry on as normal. But that's where we need to talk about a "trajectory of grace" - see my article on p11 in the current Mission Catalyst that you can find here http://www.bmsworldmission.org/mission-catalyst

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

My Photos