Strengthening Support to Local Churches
D i d c o t – The Baptist Union in Great Britain faces major changes in its work. Fourteen of 46 posts at its headquarters, Baptist House, in Didcot, have been made redundant, for financial reasons. In addition, the current five departments will be replaced by three specialist teams, following the decision of the highest governing body, the Baptist Union Council. In this way, the Council hopes primarily to strengthen the work of local churches, in order to be better able to meet the missionary challenges of the 21st century, as the Baptist Times reported in their on-line edition. The Finance and Administration departments will be handled by the Support Services Team; and the departments for Faith and Unity, as well as Mission and Communication, will become the Faith and Society Team. The duties of the General Secretary will also be revamped. In the future, they will include the tasks of the general manager. As a result, the current General Secretary, Jonathan Edwards, announced his desire to leave the service of the Union as of July 2013. General Manager Richard Nichols will remain in office during a transition period. A Steering Group was formed to assure that the decisions of the Council are implemented. The future General Secretary will belong to this group, as well as the leaders of the three Baptist House teams, along with representatives of regional associations, theological seminaries, the BU Trustees and the Council.
The first two team leaders have now been appointed. The new leader of the Faith and Society department is the Revd Stephen Keyworth, who currently heads the Faith and Unity Department. He said he could take on the new assignment only in full dependence on God, adding, “In a world that so often speaks of hate and despair we are called by God to live as those who share love and real hope.” The Revd Dr Paul Goodliff was appointed leader of the Ministries team. He currently heads the Ministry department. He regretted that his future team will consist of fewer members.
In the future, a portion of church contributions, from which the interregional work of the Baptists in Great Britain are financed, will flow back as grants for special projects of local churches. Currently, this money is centrally administered by Baptist House; in the future, regional partnerships will be responsible for this.
During consultations, the Younger Leaders’ Forum repeatedly emphasised the urgency behind the reforms. The goal must be to end the decline in membership in Baptist churches by an increase in mission efforts, as Ian Bunce, head of the Mission Department said. Christians must take responsibility for their neighbours outside of the Sunday worship service. Diversity must also be strengthened: “Church in the future will look far more messy. We don’t need uniformity, we desire a culture where diversity is celebrated.”
In a statement to the European Baptist Press Service, EBF President Hans Guderian (Berlin) recalled that the EBF has experienced great blessing through the British Baptists. “I hope that a good way will be found to have fruitful development in the future.” He further pointed out that the German Baptist Union had also experienced that “the Lord led us through very difficult and disappointing times.” The British Baptist Union has more than 132,000 members in over 2,000 churches.