An Open Letter to NSW & ACT Baptists

A Special Assembly held in February 2021 passed motions that hold significant consequences for our Association. We are concerned that our Association is locked into implementation of these without sufficient regard for the complexities they present for our pastors and churches and the challenges they pose to the relationship between the Association and its member churches. We write to let you know of our concerns.

The motions passed at the February Special Assembly require the removal from our Association of any church that does not support the Association’s basic beliefs, core values and objects and the withdrawal of the accreditation of any pastor who likewise does not subscribe to the Association’s basic beliefs, core values and objects.

It is our view that this represents a deep and fundamental break with what we understand is central to a Baptist way of being church.

British Baptist theologian Nigel Wright points out that “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.” (Nigel Wright, “Baptist Christians Repentant and Unrepentant” in Cohen and Parsons, Beyond 400. Exploring Baptist Futures.)

Central to this 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.

This has significant implications for the shape of our Association of churches. Our Association exists for member churches to support and consult with one another, but has no place prescribing what member churches must believe and practise. We are an association of local churches that share allegiance to Christ the Lord and a commitment to the Scriptures as our rule of faith, but often reach diverse conclusions as to what the Scriptures say and mean and on their application to our local contexts. Consequently, on those occasions in which our diversity has provoked strong debate between our churches and on the floor of our assemblies, we have found our way forward not by dividing or excluding but by making space for one another.

This has never prevented the Association from making statements of beliefs, values or purposes. We have however regarded these as confessional, that is, descriptions of the consensus position of our member churches, with churches and individuals free to dissent. We have steadfastly refused to treat our statements as creedal, that is, as prescriptive positions to which churches and individuals must conform.

The motions passed at the February Assembly break with these core principles of Baptist practice. Their specific purpose is to prevent member churches and their pastors holding any position that differs at any point with the Association’s basic beliefs, core values or objects statements. To ensure compliance they introduce the requirement that pastors and churches make regular, formal declarations of their alignment with the Association’s basic beliefs, core values and objects and require the disaffiliation of churches and discreditation of pastors that fail to do so. They turn our confessions into creeds, invert the relationship between church and Association, and intrude on the relationship between Christ and every local church.

We cannot support such a shift and will not participate in processes that require us to do so. We are already seeing destructive fallout from the decisions of the February Assembly in a number of our churches and believe the consequences for Baptist churches and our Association will multiply. We intend to explain the risks to our churches and to urge them to join us in supporting a traditional Baptist understanding of the priesthood of all believers and the autonomy of the local church.

We do not have any confidence that it was the intention of the February Special Assembly to break with a Baptist way of being church, nor that it is prudent to proceed with implementation of motions that bear so heavily on our pastors, churches and Association when almost 4 in 10 votes were cast against them.

In view of the matters we are raising, we call the Association to pause implementation of the motions of the February Special Assembly until the member churches have given sufficient time to reflect on the nature of what it is to be Baptist churches in a Baptist Association.

Posted September 17, 2021

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An Open Letter to NSW & ACT Baptists

Signatories

Latest Signatures
227 Roger Swanson Church Member
226 Louise Hughes Church Member
225 Meg Mucklestone Church Member
224 Frank Willis Retired Pastor
223 David Hughes Church Leader
222 Gill Schierhout Church Member
221 Hannah Roux
220 Sharon Debenham Church Member
219 Bruce Debenham Church Member
218 Narelle Hampe Church Member
217 David Hampe Church Member
216 Iven Laufer Church Member
215 Marcia Balzer Church Leader
214 David Deal Accredited Pastor
213 Georgina Hulme Non Accredited Pastor
212 Abby Gibson Church Member
211 Ruth Hamilton Church Member
210 Roslyn Hancock Church Member
209 Alan LIVINGSTON Non Accredited Pastor
208 Jess Stevens Church Member
207 Andrew Roberts Church Member
206 Andrew Hulme Accredited Pastor
205 Russell Hancock Church Member
204 Jono Dorse Non Accredited Pastor
203 Stephen Walter Church Member
202 Stephen Logan Church Member
201 Brendan Handel Accredited Pastor
200 Bethany Parson Church Member
199 Greg Lear Church Member
198 Janine Laidler Church Member
197 James Clarke Church Member
196 Vikki Howorth Church Member
195 David Carpenter Church Member
194 Maddison Wales Church Member
193 Emma Lalic Church Member
192 Rick Middleton Church Leader
191 Ruth Middleton Church Member
190 Barbara Scott Church Member
189 Arden Cassie Church Member
188 Robert Gibson Church Member
187 Natalie Stackhouse Church Member
186 Leona Goodman Church Member
185 Alan Hood Accredited Pastor
184 Judy Kay Church Member
183 Ella Palmer Church Member
182 Peter Kilpatrick Church Member
181 Sally Pilgrim Church Member
180 Shawnee Schmid Church Leader
179 Sue Gould Church Leader
178 Susan Lear Church Member
177 Dorothee Wenner Church Leader
176 Lesley Burgess Church Leader
175 Tracy Wright Church Leader
174 Bruce Millar Church Leader
173 Alwynne Gray
172 John Lewis Accredited Pastor
171 Rosemary Schaffler Church Leader
170 Niall Robb Church Member
169 Dan Walz Accredited Pastor
168 Richard Nash Non Accredited Pastor
167 Mike Jones Accredited Pastor
166 Shannon King Accredited Pastor
165 Mark Hall Non Accredited Pastor
164 Paul Johnson Church Member
163 Terry Logan Church Member
162 Peter GREEN Retired Pastor
161 Ben Rodgers Accredited Pastor
160 Daniel Waugh Accredited Pastor
159 Thomas Schmid Accredited Pastor
158 Vu Thien An Le Accredited Pastor
157 Ric Sindel Accredited Pastor
156 Don Wright Accredited Pastor
155 David Choi Accredited Pastor
154 Peter Junor Accredited Pastor
153 Ian Stanfield Accredited Pastor
152 Anne Kilcullen Church Member
151 Canberra Baptist Church Church/Congregation
150 Sue Lavery Church Member
149 Rob Ellis Church Member
148 Keith Joyce Church Member
147 John Higgins Church Member
146 Richard Bauer Church Member
145 Aaron Rose Church Member
144 Jen Rose Church Member
143 Glenn Jackson Church Member
142 Meryl Jackson Church Member
141 Liz Blackwell Church Member
140 Emily Stein Church Member
139 John Morrison Accredited Pastor
138 Jill Lorenzen Church Member
137 Sharon Cox Church Member
136 Elaine Mercier Church Member
135 Edna Jones Church Member
134 Les Steinl9 Church Member
133 Diana Amos Church Member
132 Neale Amos Church Member
131 Jack Styles Non Accredited Pastor
130 Ross Young Church Member
129 Douglas Sotheren Retired Pastor
128 Barbara Arndell Church Member
127 Annette Conlon Church Member
126 Wendy Schaefer Church Member
125 Ross Dickens Church Member
124 Christine Lambert Church Member
123 Noeleen Horswell Church Member
122 MERILYN HUNT Church Member
121 RAY HUNT Church Member
120 Harry Brooks Church Member
119 Cindy Selwood Church Member
118 Donald White Church Member
117 Patrick Aristobil-Adele Church Member
116 Christene Apps Church Member
115 Heather Jordan Church Member
114 Lynette Hunter Church Member
113 Peter Hunter Church Member
112 Clive Dillen Church Member
111 Tim Lindsay Church Member
110 Virginia O’Bree Church Member
109 Doreen Battle Church Member
108 Steve Cooper Accredited Pastor
107 ROGER KEMP Retired Pastor
106 Glenys Wakeford Church Member
105 Helen Holly Church Member
104 Russell Holly Church Member
103 Mandy Gray Non Accredited Pastor
102 Neil Harris Church Member
101 Barbara Kent Church Member
100 Geoff Crawford Church Member
99 Melanie Wellings Church Leader
98 Tony Richardson Accredited Pastor
97 Glenn Bower Church Member
96 Carolyn Altman Church Member
95 Ian Altman Accredited Pastor
94 Gary Hilton Church Member
93 Peter Churcher Church Member
92 Helen Hilton Church Member
91 Skye Callan Church Member
90 Steve Callan Accredited Pastor
89 colin cowling Accredited Pastor
88 Douglas Hynd Church Member
87 Catherine Stafford Church Member
86 Robyn Richardson Accredited Pastor
85 Sue Williams Church Member
84 Rebecca Hilton Church Member
83 Helen Stafford Church Member
82 Kathy Joyce Church Member
81 Ella Whateley Church Member
80 Janelle Lamont Church Member
79 John Clark Church Member
78 Lucy Gledhill Church Member
77 Miriam Downey Church Member
76 Andrew Jackson Church Member
75 John Fletcher Church Leader
74 Gill FLETCHER Church Member
73 Mark Falson Church Member
72 Graham Weir Accredited Pastor
71 Rose Weir Church Leader
70 Emma Walsh Accredited Pastor
69 Danelle McLeay Accredited Pastor
68 Chris Clarke Accredited Pastor
67 Bradley Blacker Non Accredited Pastor
66 Peter GREEN Retired Pastor
65 Heather Hollier Church Member
64 Paul Hollier Church Member
63 Peter Archer Accredited Pastor
62 Ian Packer Church Member
61 Karen Quah Non Accredited Pastor
60 Lyn Kidson Church Member
59 Christal Richardson Church Leader
58 Rosanne Marsden Church Member
57 Ken Clendinning Accredited Pastor
56 Merrill Dodson-Wellings Church Member
55 Mark Wellings Church Member
54 Darrell Jackson Accredited Pastor
53 Jennie Clarke Accredited Pastor
52 Thorwald Lorenzen Church Member
51 Emma Matheson Church Member
50 Erin Sessions Non Accredited Pastor
49 Dave Rowe Retired Pastor
48 Gary Izzard Accredited Pastor
47 Cheryl Clendinning Accredited Pastor
46 Pip Miner Church Leader
45 Philip Waugh Accredited Pastor
44 Hayley-Jayne Bernhardt Non Accredited Pastor
43 Daphne Bate Church Member
42 Ian Reid Church Leader
41 Rob Mcgowan Church Member
40 Thomas Walton Non Accredited Pastor
39 Vivian Grice Accredited Pastor
38 Todd Darvas Non Accredited Pastor
37 Benj Gould Non Accredited Pastor
36 Christine McPherson Non Accredited Pastor
35 John Reid Retired Pastor
34 Ian Vippond Accredited Pastor
33 Darryl Spicer Accredited Pastor
32 Paul Falconer Retired Pastor
31 Gerlinde Spencer Church Member
30 Dean Moore Accredited Pastor
29 Rob French Accredited Pastor
28 Ian Spencer Retired Pastor
27 James Piper Church Leader
26 Virginia Ellis Church Member
25 John Merchant Accredited Pastor
24 Chris McGowan Accredited Pastor
23 Sid Grindley Accredited Pastor
22 Kelly Crawford Church Member
21 Alan Anderson Church Leader
20 Amy Watkins Non Accredited Pastor
19 Graham Hill Accredited Pastor
18 Matt Beckenham Non Accredited Pastor
17 Mitch Forbes Accredited Pastor
16 Jeanette Mathews Accredited Pastor
15 Andrew Dodd Accredited Pastor
14 Katie Watson Church Member
13 James Kime Retired Pastor
12 John Cavanough Church Leader
11 Josh Dowton Non Accredited Pastor
10 Graeme Anderson Accredited Pastor
9 Mark Beresford Accredited Pastor
8 Phil Smith Church Member
7 Christine Redwood Accredited Pastor
6 Joel Small Accredited Pastor
5 Will Small Non Accredited Pastor
4 Belinda Groves Accredited Pastor
3 Scott Higgins Accredited Pastor
2 Andrew Robb Accredited Pastor
1 Andrew Palmer Accredited Pastor