There was once a time when European Baptists were perhaps considered to be at the forefront of social justice and, for many, progressive theology.
Alas, this is not so today.
After returning from a weekend that passes for the annual gathering of the Baptist community in Great Britain, I have never felt more disillusioned at the state of play within our once forward-thinking grassroots movement.
Which is a bold statement considering the number of times that I have stared down rejection by the Baptist community, largely as a result of my sexuality and marriage, and the consequent refusal to acknowledge my call to ordained ministry.
As a union of gathered churches and Christian communities we seem to be pretty good at talking the talk, yet our practiced theology is reductive, restrictive, and rudimentary. The language is that of pioneering, yet our actions are more dated than daring.
Perhaps more disheartening than the tired conversations repeated again and again of the desire to seek inclusive and affirmative change for all who are marginalised as “the other”, yet the unwillingness to count the cost of doing so, was the rapt devotion to loud and charismatic figures who speak the language of revival through marketing and “re-packaging” the Gospel.
The Gospel doesn’t need repackaging. We just need to start doing it more.
The Gospel isn’t a deal to be scrounged from the bargain bucket and given a lick of paint, up-cycled, or repurposed.
The Gospel is not transactional, it is transformative.
The Gospel is not sexy, it is sacrificial.
The Gospel is not to be branded, it is to be boldly and bravely brought to the broken.
If I’m honest: I’m tired. I’m exhausted by the excuses, the devotion to unity above inclusivity, the prioritising of the powerful at great cost to those on the margins.
We are more preoccupied with ourselves and own churches than we are with the increasing numbers of those rough sleeping, the ongoing mental health crisis, the tide of people turning to food banks, the increase in human trafficking, the political and social disharmony in our communities, the destruction of the planet, the murdering of Trans people – particularly women of colour, the robbing of the poor for the benefit of the rich, the creation and manipulation of wars for financial gain…
If we are to thrive as a movement of Christians we must challenge tired models of church community, question our leaders and demand that more be done for those who have been forgotten, seek justice not just in the context of our local congregations but in the fabric of our union and broader society in Britain AND abroad.
We need to refocus our goal so that we are not creating an empire in our own image, but a Kingdom in the image of God.