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Dear sisters and brothers

We are reluctantly taking the step of writing an open letter to you in response to your emails to us and to the BUGB Council members (16th April) the content of which were then circulated more widely along with a covering note from Lynn Green (19th April).  Please forgive the delay in responding – the evident seriousness of the situation required that we consult with those who have been supporting our stance since the issue of ‘Marriage and Ministry’ was brought before BUGB Council in March 2022. 

We want to make clear that we certainly sympathise with your desire to move on from this issue and renew focus on our God-given mission.  Nevertheless, our immediate concern is that we don’t believe that the matter has been dealt with decisively and until that is the case, it will continue to undermine the ‘covenant relationships’ at the heart of our Union.  As you know, it is this concern that lies behind our request that you address this with BUGB Council (and our plan to call a General Meeting of the BUGB if this request was not granted).  We are, of course, disappointed by your refusal to do so and have been considering our next steps.     

You are probably already aware that we held an online meeting for our supporters earlier this month (8th May).  Around 180 evangelical Baptist Ministers were in attendance, the large majority of whom are accredited ministers.  At that meeting the core team presented a proposal that was supported by the overwhelming majority of those present: 

We comply with the request of the BUGB trustees not to call an immediate General Meeting of the members of the BUGB.  Nevertheless, we believe that all matters of deep significance to the Union should be determined by all the members of the Union rather than the Council. So, should any further resolution or request be brought to BUGB Council regarding any issue of sexual ethics that amounts to a change in the position of BUGB, then we will immediately encourage our member churches to submit requests for a General Meeting of the BUGB.

This is because we believe that all matters of such deep significance to the Union (and that have the potential to divide the Union) should be determined by all the members of the Union rather than the Council. This is in keeping with our long-standing Baptist, congregational principles of the members having a vote and voice and, collectively, the power to make any significant decisions that are required.

We also want to raise four other related areas of concern:

  • The Baptist Union and its member organisations are in sharp decline.  Every measurable indicator (number of churches, number of church members, baptisms, numbers coming forward to train for ordained ministry, giving to Home Mission) is heading in the wrong direction.  We are yet to see the seriousness of this situation being frankly acknowledged and properly addressed.
  • We are not convinced by your confidence in the Declaration of Principle.  The Declaration of Principle remains, as it was intended, the basis of our Union, but it has never been the basis of our faith.  You have asserted that it is driven by ‘profound orthodox Christian doctrine’ yet are now appearing to dismiss our concern to re-affirm the orthodox foundations of our faith.
  • We are first and foremost a Union of churches. The fact 36% of our churches, in their response to the recent consultation, stated they would leave the Union should the MR rules be changed in line with the proposal taken to BU Council, highlights the deep divide which this proposal could have resulted in.  To confuse our ‘distinctly Baptist freedom of conscience’, which is a matter for the individual, with the religious freedom of churches to practice our Christian faith is an example of the apparent lack of concern for any theological boundaries which causes us deep frustration.  Where do the limits of freedom of conscience lie?  This has been the broader issue at stake throughout the last two years.  We believe that it will prove impossible to build authentic Christian unity upon the foundation of freedom of conscience.  This is a complex matter but one we believe must be properly resolved if the Union is to flourish in the coming days.
  • Finally, we are concerned that in Lynn’s covering note of the 19th April she may have inadvertently given the impression that we tabled our proposals for the first time at our meeting with trustees and others on 21st March.  In fact, you have been aware of our proposal to call a General Meeting of the Union for some months beforehand.  We feel that this paints us in an unfairly negative light.  

As we have made clear on numerous occasions our deep desire is for an authentic Christian unity across our Union of churches, associations and colleges.  We will continue to contend for a unity based upon orthodox Christian doctrine, passionate concern for the poor and evangelical zeal for those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord; to that end, and so that we can play an energetic part in the life of the Union, we are in the process of setting up a CIO to serve Evangelical Baptists and our developing vision.

Yours in Christ

Alex Afriyie (London Network Church)

Nigel Coles (Regional Team Leader, Webnet)

James Collins (Purley Baptist Church)

Louise Hearn (East Sheen Baptist Church)

Gareth Owen (The Gate, Reading)

Yinka Oyekan (The Gate, Reading)

Vicky Thompson (Darlington Baptist Church)

Tania Vaughan (Little Stoke Baptist Church)

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