Each year between 1,800 and 2,000 representatives of the Baptist Churches and colleges who are members of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) meet for an Annual Assembly. The Faith and Society Department of BUGB and Affirm (the Baptist Network affirming Lesbian and Gay Christians) held a well-attended Seminar at the May 2013 Assembly on the Pastoral Care of LGBT Christians at which stories were shared by LGBT Christians and Jeremy Marks told the story of the journey of Courage from “ex-gay” to affirming of faithful same-sex partnerships. This is the first year that such a seminar has been held as part of the official programme and the fruit of many years of patient faithful witness “one heart at a time” encouraging fellow Baptists to move on a journey of understanding and discernment seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
A session on the final morning of the Assembly, involving the whole body of delegates began with a Biblical discussion of Isaiah 42 suggesting the way God calls his servant people to deal with new situations. A senior Regional Minister shared that one of his the children is gay and now in a civil partnership and said he spoke as a “parent struggling to understand”. Delegates then broke into groups to discuss the question “How are we to respond in missional and pastoral ways to people in faithful same-sex relationships within our churches?” Feedback through a number of listeners revealed a genuine engagement – a “wrestling with the subject” as BUGB President Ernie Whalley described it. It is a continuation of the conversation that Baptist minister Steve Chalke called for recently. A report of the session is available through the following link:
We are greatly encouraged by the Assembly and believe we are moving to a place where in a very Baptist way we can share our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus and our trust in the Holy Spirit, acknowledging we have a great deal to learn from each other. This will involve disagreeing well, building confidence through the things we agree about, turning away from stridency, oozing gentleness and above all seeing Christ in each other.
Martin Stears-Handscomb, Avril MacKenzie-Parr
Joint Co-ordinators Affirm (the Baptist Network)
For more information on ‘Affirm’ email: email@example.com