Well, even though still on study leave, I felt it difficult to keep quiet and at least want to say ‘hello’ from the annual Assembly of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It’s been a very good occasion to have conversations with various people interested in what we are doing in Prague, and to meet more friends I already know from Prague than I would have expected! The motto of the Assembly is ‘One World, One Mission’, and has been reflected on from different angles.
On Saturday, we had an enjoyable meeting of IBTS friends – a warm gathering of people who had been on our campus as students, teachers, tourists, on their sabbatical, for a conference or for some other purposes, as well as some who have never been but continue to keep us in their prayers and are raising questions how friends of IBTS in Britain could provide a more active support and promotion of IBTS (something we would be delighted to see happening).
Yours faithfully has also presented BUGB with the newly published history of my home Union, Baptists of Lithuania, the publication of which was assisted by a gift made by the Tithe Fund a few years ago – a moving reminder of links which go back to 1920s with Dr Rushbrooke visiting Lithuania and assisting with launching the periodical of Lithuanian Baptists, Friend of the Truth.
I’m writing this in the lobby of the Arena where the last plenary session on ‘Listening to God’ is taking place, watching on the screen the adoption of two resolutions which the Baptists of Great Britain would like to go ahead with this year. Have just heard Craig Gardiner propose the first resolution on Nuclear weapons and the Non-proliferation of Nucpear Weapons Review Concerence: “One world, one mission, not to blow it up.” Norman Kember (who had visited IBTS after his release from hostage in Iraq) seconded it by acknowledging that whilst we cannot ‘unknow’ the science of making nuclear bombs, now is the time to uphold the vision of a peaceful world. (You can find more on the NPT Review Conference here.)
The second resolution has just been proposed by Rachel Haig (who has also been to IBTS) and is on Violence and Human Trafficking, seconded by our own Tony Peck. This resolution drew attention to many expressions of abuse and violence, especially those caused by human trafficking calling Baptists to look for ways of acting in solidarity with movements aiming to address this often ignored injustice and transform the situation (particularly focusing on Thursdays in Black campaign). For EBF anti-trafficking resources, look here.
The session continues with the four appointed ‘listeners’ of the Assembly sharing what they have been hearing during these days. They give some glimpse to many ideas and concerns discussed outside of the big meetings – which I’ve enjoyed a lot, in many conversations and in the alternative events of the Prism which were often run in parallel to things happeing in the Arena, providing another way to engage with the themes of the assembly. (My first experience of such ‘alternative’ meetings – a ‘no-no’ for many Baptist contexts, where everybody’s expected to attend ‘the thing,’ unless it’s officially approved seminars and workshops; and a very healthy provision, it seemed to me.)
Well, this is hopefully to give you a little glimpse into the atmosphere I’ve been enjoying over the last few days. Oh, but I haven’t said where this is taking place – it’s Plymouth! I was most impressed by the journey to here from Oxford which took me through the roads with signs of “Warning – sheep lying on the road” and “Ponies crossing”. However, once in the city, the most likely creature to meet was a Baptist.