Dear Friends,

It was lovely to have people in church last Sunday – those who live on streets from A to H!

This Sunday we are hoping to see those of you on streets from I to Z! The numbers are restricted to 45 in the church, but there will always be room in the ‘overflow’ space in the hall, and an opportunity to meet new people and catch up with friends – without masks – outdoors afterwards! (And if you get confused as to which week it is – there is always forgiveness here! That is what church is about!)

Also after the service this Sunday, at 11:15am in the Lounge, we are having the first of two info sessions (the second is at 7:30pm on zoom on Wed 10th Nov) about the developments in the ACT/NSW Association and whether we, as a church, put our name to the letter. (If you need to join us a little late, after driving in from home, that is fine.)

In February, as you know, motions were passed at a Special Assembly requiring the removal from our Association of any church that does not support the Association’s foundational beliefs, objects and values, and the withdrawal of the accreditation of any pastor who likewise does not subscribe to the Association’s foundational beliefs, objects and values.

There has been a great deal of concern about these motions. They are seen as fundamentally changing the nature of Baptist identity; the principles of the priesthood of all believers, the autonomy of the local church and liberty of conscience. As the letter states, “Central to this [Baptist] way of being church is our recognition that every local church has Christ as its head and that it is the responsibility of its members gathered, with Christ in their midst and the Scriptures as their rule of faith, to discern the will of Christ for their faith, life and mission.”

It may help to have some understanding of the Constitution ( and how it has been enlarged over the past 100 years.

  • In 1919 when the Baptist Church was incorporated in NSW, these doctrines were set out as its basis: (a) The sinfulness of man (b) The Deity of Jesus Christ (c) His atonement for the sin of man (d) The need of the Holy Spirit for conversion (e) The divine inspiration of the Scripture (f) The resurrection of the dead (g) Rewards and punishment in a future state (h) The baptism of believers only by immersion.
  • In 1979, after much debate, a longer Statement of Beliefs was added. At the time, however, it was agreed that ministers would be required to respond to the Statement of Beliefs, but not required to affirm it; that affirming it would impinge on liberty of conscience.
  • Between 2007 and 2012 the Association developed and adopted a set of values which were also added to the Constitution. These are: a) Christ centred (b) Mission shaped (c) Relationally committed (d) People empowering (e) Partnership oriented. It was as a last minute push, in this process, that an item was added under the ‘Relationally committed’ value stating that we affirm, “honouring marriage as an institution created by God as the foundation for a lifelong faithful union of a man and a woman.”

What has happened in the last few years is that five Baptist churches jointly brought motions to Assembly with the goal of removing Hamilton Baptist Church from the Association because, as a church, Hamilton has welcomed and affirmed LGBTIQ people. These five churches are pointing to this item under the value ‘Relationally committed’ and arguing that Hamilton Baptist’s actions have contravened the Constitution.

It has grieved many people (not just those who also affirm LGBTIQ people as part of the church) that the Association values are being used for this purpose – as a method of compliance rather than a confession of shared mission. The letter says that we, as Baptists, can have confessional statements, but that if these are turned into creeds, the relationship that has existed until now between the local church and the Association becomes inverted and intrudes upon the local church’s relationship with Christ. Those who sign this letter are stating that, “We cannot support such a shift and will not participate in processes that require us to do so.”

At our Quarterly Church Meeting (and AGM) on Sunday, 28th November, we will be voting on whether we, as a church, will sign this letter. The info sessions are a chance to ask questions and talk about this together. Can I urge you to join in these important discussions about what it means to be a Baptist church.

I am going to close with the wonderful quote from British Baptist theologian Nigel Wright from the letter:

Baptists are at the radical end of the Protestant spectrum and represent a markedly different way of being the Church of Jesus Christ. They have broken with the idea that the church was ever called to be an imperial institution exercising sacred power over its members and with the power to command. They came to see it as a free community of the redeemed, of those committed to voluntary and wholehearted commitment to the way of Christ pursued in solidarity and mutual affirmation.

Amen to that! May it be so!