Friday, 6 May 2011

2011 Baptist Assembly

This Bank Holiday weekend, nearly 2,000 Baptist Christians, including many families with children, gathered in Blackpool for this year’s joint Assembly of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, together with BMS World Mission. The sun shone all weekend, and the sea was very blue, and our views from the Norbreck Castle’s walls were breathtaking, when we were not otherwise engaged.

Each year’s Assembly offers diverse opportunities for worship with keynote preachers, and many seminar choices. It is a prime opportunity to meet up with friends, and to attend to the formal business of the two organisations. Many people come as church delegates, (there are always lots of ministers too). Some come simply to be enriched by learning and praying together.

This is also the occasion when we celebrate and pray for those ministers who are now fully accredited, following their training, their ‘Calling’ to a local church, their ordination and induction, and four probationary years in ministry. On another evening we share in the valediction and prayer for missionaries who are departing to work overseas, recognising that their ministry is fundamentally the selfsame ‘Calling’ into the service of God’s Kingdom.

One notable seminar was entitled Politics Matters! and sought to encourage more Baptist churches to become politically aware and engaged. Our Joint Public Issues Team leader, Rachel Lampard, spoke on the "Big Society", outlining the limitations of the Government's proposals during the current period of stringent financial cuts.

Many people’s energies are already concentrated on supporting their immediate families through hardship, leaving little enthusiasm for altruistic service. Rachel outlined some possible related challenges for the churches, as we continue to seek to serve our local communities. For example, will churches be reduced to “to picking up the pieces of economic distress”, and would this compromise our prophetic role of speaking up for justice?

There was just one Public Resolution this year, (passed without any objections), concerning the diabolical effects of tax evasion by multi-national companies on the economies of poor countries, which are currently starved of revenues to develop services and infrastructure. Christian Aid are running a major campaign, having estimated that US$160 billion is lost to poor countries as a result of tax evasion by some unscrupulous international giants. If these countries were to receive their due, their populations could be better nourished and educated. New transport systems and communications networks would sustain rising economies, which would, in turn, benefit world trade. Millions of people could be lifted out of poverty into sustainable employment. International Aid could then be used primarily for alleviating suffering in the event of natural disasters. For more information see: