This week's Baptist Times has published a couple of letters in repsonse to the Apology for Slavery issued by BUGB. Whilst they raise valid issues, I find myself irritated by them, because they feel as if somehow there is a holier-than-thou mood about them. I'm sure this isn't what was intended, I'm sure it's just me. I'm trying to grow in grace!
One comment was on Baptist ways of doing things - essentially that Council didn't have the right to issue this without it going to Assembly first. The letter points to the way we (theoretically) conduct church business and reads across. It makes sense but... surely this was a moment when delay was unhelpful. Also, if we take seriously our history, the old Assemblies which did make bold statements on issue have in real terms been superceded by Council. I fear we are putting protocol in where it suits us, and happliy ingnoring it where it doesn't.
Another comment seemed to pick up something about tokenism - but which way I wasn't sure. If we are giong to apologise over slavery, it asserted, what else? There could be an endless list - indeed there could. If the point was, as I'm sure it was, that we must beware tokenism, it was a valid one. However, isn't it good if we've finally recognised the need for confession and apology and taken a step to be different from now on? I think it is.
I recognise that we cna't be forever issuing apologies on this, that or the next thing, and lots of the 'sins of the parents' we do not know about. But the wonderful General Confession prayer which is printed inside the cover of such delights as BPW or BHB offers us a good model for approaching this...
Father eternal, giver of light and grace,
we have sinned against you and against our neighbour,
in what we have thought,
in what we have said and done,
through ignorance, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We have wounded your love
and marred your image in us.
We are sorry and ashamed,
and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died for us,
forgive us all that is past;
and lead us out from darkness
to walk as children of light.
(This version, B33 Common Worship)
If we, as Baptist Christians could truly pray this prayer, truly live its outworking, wow, what a difference that would make to this battered world of ours.
In so far as it is in my gift, I am sorry for the evil perpetrated by those from whom I am descended genetically, nationally or spirtually, and pray that the God who forgives, will give me grace to live in penitence and faith.