Last weekend I was at the BUGB-BMS Assembly where, I believe something very significant took place, not just in one statement that was read out, but also in a very specific ministry being celebrated and the invitation to communion. But what has intrigued me more has been the way that the story has morphed and changed and been misreported and misunderstood since then.
To begin, I want to say that BUGB did an amazingly wonderful job, in my view, in expressing a thoroughly Baptist response to a complex topic (and as 'this is where we've got to so far' not as 'and that's that'). It seemed to me to be gracious, thoughtful and, whatever your views on the topic, helpful all ways round. You can read more here, but this is copied directly from the BUGB website:
As a union of churches in covenant together we will respect the differences on this issue which both enrich us and potentially could divide as we seek to live in fellowship under the direction of our Declaration of Principle ‘That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His Laws.’
Upholding the liberty of a local church to determine its own mind on this matter, in accordance with our Declaration of Principle, we also recognise the freedom of a minister to respond to the wishes of their church, where their conscience permits, without breach of disciplinary guidelines.
We affirm the traditionally accepted Biblical understanding of Christian marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, as the continuing foundation of belief in our Baptist Churches.
A Baptist minister is required to live and work within the guidelines adopted by the Baptist Union of Great Britain regarding sexuality and the ministry that include ‘a sexual relationship outside of Christian marriage (as defined between a man and a woman) is deemed conduct unbecoming for a minister’.
Whatever you think about this, gentle reader, what matters for my purposes is not what it says but what people thought they heard as hashtags and twitterings spread like wildfire, with each person adding a new layer of interpretation.
The Baptist "Church" (nope) had discussed (nope) voted on (nope) approved (nope) a change...
There was some good and careful blogging, notably Steve Holmes, here, who prefaced his original post with a note to the effect 'if I am hearing what I think I'm hearing..." and then revised the post within 24 hours when he had time to check what was said. Thank you Steve.
There has also been some less careful broadcasting, based I suspect on hear-say rather than research, as indicated here and here. What heartens me is that three Baptist ministers, from three different situations (and with different perspectives) each spoke graciously and Baptistly.
So, very interesting from a point of view of how instant communications so quickly leads to misrepresentation - a cautionary tale if ever there was one.
And I'm still proud to be a Baptist because when we do it well, it is wonderful