Today, I feel hope for the future of our Baptist Union! We have taken a number of steps forward and “one giant leap” ahead when I think about all that unfolded last week at the Baptist Union Executive meeting. Last week’s meeting could well be described as a roller coaster ride of climbs, turns, u-turns and loops. When the week ended, we arrived safe back home, but not the same as we were when we started.
Here’s a list of some of the more significant decisions reached regarding the restructuring. Each of these decisions, will, necessarily, be presented to this year’s Assembly to be voted on.
- It was agreed that every Association will become a regional Network over the next three years.
- There will be formally recognized regional networks and informal networks.
- Every formal network would need to meet certain requirements in order to be approved as a formal network by the newly formed National Leadership Council which will replace the Baptist Union Executive.
- Previously, the matter of the restructuring of the Baptist Union left the Associations very much wondering what as to what their future may be. This was answered finally as the Baptist Union Executive put the matter to a ballot vote and voted on the question, “Is it necessary for a member church to belong to a formal Network?” It was agreed that this would be the case (18 Yes, 2 No, 1 Abstention). The rationale for this was the thinking that our structure should be built around our core beliefs. And one of the core beliefs that the BNA holds to is the Unity of the Body of Christ. Thus, we do not believe that a member church of the Baptist Union which acts independently and in isolation, is what God intends churches to be and that a spirit of independent isolation is detrimental to the pastor, the members of that church, threatens the unity of the wider Baptist body, very often leads to that church acting against their Statement of Faith and Baptist Principles, and sets a poor example for others to follow.
- The National Leadership Council will consist of 5 positions; the National Care Developer, the National Administrator, the National Network Developer and the Ministry Board Chair augmented by 7 representatives from the formal networks.
While this is hugely promising and leaves me with a sense of optimism, the greater sense of hope and joy came from the Baptist Union Executive’s virtually complete satisfaction and acceptance of the Draft Statement of Belief which will be circulated to every member church and tabled at this year’s Assembly in Port Elizabeth. There are a number of significant improvements on the 1924 Statement of Belief;
- For the first time in South African Baptist history, in addition to stating that we believe that Scripture in fully authoritative, proof is given of this by every statement of our Statement of Belief now being supported with Scriptural texts, so emphasizing the point and serving as a teaching tool in churches for people to know what God has said directly that we must believe.
- A statement on the role of translations with respect to the originals and the process of inscripturation (point 1).
- Clarity on the love of God for sinners such that from before creation, God determined to save by the sacrifice of His Son (point 2).
- A new statement on creation which includes the equality of men and women and the distinction of roles of husband and wife (point 3).
- A new statement on the person and work of the Holy Spirit (point 7).
- Clarity as to the roles of women in leadership in a church (point 9).
- How a church is ruled, governed, led and served by Christ, members, shepherds and deacons respectively (point 9).
- A new statement on the mission of the church (point 10).