On 14 July, NSW/ACT Baptist churches received a letter from Assembly Council to tell us, that having been charged by the May Assembly to develop a process to disaffiliate churches and disaccredit pastors who do not support the Association’s Position on Marriage, they are making progress.
My mother has been serving in a leadership role at Frenchs Forest Baptist Church, and received this letter, and was greatly distressed to realise things had reached this point.
She rang me to express her dismay, and asked if this issue was worth the cost? Was it worth risking my accreditation after the struggle to be accredited and to stay in ministry as a woman? Was it worth risking disaffiliation for this church? She knows and appreciates Canberra Baptist Church for the warmth and welcome of our community, our commitment to justice, our theological thoughtfulness and the attention that we give to worship. She loves our church, and worries for our church – but, understandably, as my mother, she loves and worries even more for me!
It was a hard conversation, but my response to her was that I believe it is absolutely worth it.
I hold as incredibly precious our Baptist way of being church; that we believe God gathers disciples into a local congregation and calls them to be the church together, that they are led by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to reveal the Kingdom of God in their local context.
I also hold as incredibly precious that we continue to interpret Scripture; that our understanding of the world, our contemporary learning about gender and identity and attraction is shaped by what we know of the love of God and the dignity and worth of every human being.
And, finally, based on that understanding of being church and reading Scripture, I hold as incredibly precious our seeking to be a community that welcomes LGBTIQ+ people and recognises their call as followers of Jesus; that honours those in faithful committed relationships and those who are single; that invites everyone to live out God’s intentions for us as God’s people.
Over the next six weeks we are going to take some time to look at these issues – why our church has, to date, opposed the motions requiring churches and pastors to support the Association’s Position on Marriage.
The deacons have prepared a discussion paper (attached) for the church – Same-sex marriage and the NSW/ACT Baptist Association. I want to thank Megan Williams, who has done an amazing job coordinating the writing of this paper, as well as contributing to it, along with John Clark, John Higgins, Thorwald Lorenzen, Jeanette Mathews and myself.
We want to encourage you to do three things:
- Read the attached paper.
- Discuss the paper – in your small group during September OR after the service on Sunday, 10 September, or Sunday, 17 September.
- Pray that we, as a church, are led by Christ, empowered by the Spirit, and reveal God’s Kingdom in our context.
After this process, the diaconate plans to call a special church meeting to approve this paper as a helpful response from CBC to what is taking place in our Association.
In Acts 15 we read how the early church navigated difficult questions of faith and church practice, discussing them together, relating the stories of what God has done, listening to each other, and reflecting on Scripture. We want to be faithful to that pattern as we navigate this difficult time in our denominational life.
Grace and peace be with you as you read this paper, discuss it and as we pray as a church.
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