Back in the days when "Baptist" was a fledgling movement in England, the Churches started to do something that was completely counter-cultural and frankly quite shocking! At a time in history when less than 20% of the adult population had democratic voting rights, the Baptist church said "No! - we believe everyone should have a say!" They introduced voting for Church Member's and thus allowed all voices to be heard in major decision-making, not just the voices of the rich and influential. This was a revolutionary practice that uniquely expressed the idea of "discerning together", at a time in history when decision making in Churches, like most organisations, was more likely to be dominated by a select group of individuals.
This history makes me proud! It also makes me question: what might be an equally radical and counter-cultural way of claiming back the idea of "discerning together" at this time in history where everyone has rights to democratic processes, and yet many voices remain unheard? Rooted in a history of radical and counter-cultural activity, that exposed the weaknesses of the power processes of the day, can we find a better way that will help us to "discern together the mind of Christ" in this time in history? Are inherited models of "Member's meetings" and democratic processes effective for us anymore? Should we be looking at new ways that can help us to gain back this idea of true input and participation in finding God's will together as a community of faith? Does a Baptist Church in Hawera have a role to play in these things?
I think that we have already started doing this. We are exploring different ways of doing "Church meetings" (eg. forums; preliminary discussions; prayer oriented etc.). We are trialling new leadership structures (eg. Focus areas and the “Champions” concept). In the midst of all of this we remain “Baptist” and so continue to value the idea of “discerning together the mind of Christ”. Our practices should therefore allow everyone the potential for participation in decision making. This is a challenge that sits alongside another: how do we allow our chosen leaders to lead well? These are tricky issues, however I believe we are navigating these things right now! Pray, with God's help, that together we will navigate well.
Arohanui, Pastor David Auty