Several pastors in the Washington Metropolitan Area welcomed a document laying out principles and guidelines for relationships between Baptists.
BWA General Secretary Neville Callam introduced the document at a reception for pastors from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC, at the BWA international offices on April 25. He said that though it was created specifically to guide relationships within BWA organized life it could prove useful in other contexts. This view was affirmed by participants at the meeting, stating that the document could be modified so that it could be used by local churches while, at the same time, taking care not to water it down.
It was also proposed that the guidelines and principles form the basis of a Bible Study to be used by churches. One pastor indicated that his church just considered the problem of divisiveness within church life and felt that this document could form the basis for discussions on the matter. Two pastors representing two separate churches informed the meeting that they were contemplating merging into one congregation. They indicated that the document could serve as the starting point on which to forge congregational unity and that it would be an important resource in the drafting of a vision statement.
The view was that the document was long overdue and that it reflects a collaborative and servant leadership model that is worthy of emulation and adoption.
The document, Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships, was unanimously endorsed by the BWA Executive Committee in March. It is to be presented to the BWA General Council for ratification at its meeting in Jamaica in July.
Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships is currently being translated into 27 languages for dissemination around the world. Baptists are encouraged to have it translated into their own local language.
The document takes into account the great diversity that exists among Baptists, particularly within the BWA, which has 223 member organizations in 120 countries. It seeks to forge an understanding of how such diversity may work itself out into a unity that, according to Callam, “is not mono-layered but is thick.” This diversity, Callam said, is God’s gracious gift, but so is the unity among believers. The challenge is to negotiate the living out of these two gifts – diversity and unity – within the life of the church.
Callam emphasized the need for a consensus approach to decision making within church life rather than a majoritarian approach. Worship, Callam believes, should be at the heart of church life, including in the decision making process. When decision meetings are held, they would not fall captive to or be based solely on a particular constitutional order that is culture-bound, but would be done in an atmosphere where participants seek to apprehend the mind of Christ. In such a setting, there would be love, mutual respect, a willingness to receive each other, a desire to look out for the interests of others and a commitment to accomplish the will of God more fully.
The reception on April 25 was part of a series of meetings hosted by Callam on an annual basis, usually in the spring and in the fall, for Baptist pastors in the Washington Metropolitan area.
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© April 26, 2013