Echoes from the past

The interesting things happens when you research is that you come across connections you had never expected. In the course of exploring the Baptist Deaconess Order I have been directed to several editions of the Baptist Quarterly. In the January 1964 I came across an article called ‘The Ministerial Service of Women ‘ by LG Champion. In it he discusses the challenge to Baptist life of women who were increasingly wanting to be accredited ministers rather than deaconesses. He looks a biblical material and argues that it is only when men and women work together that the gospel is truly proclaimed.

Whilst I do have some problems with the tone and implication of some of what he says I applaud what he recommends in a world where women were very rarely accepted on this basis:

  • Men and women should share the same basic theological training for the work of Ministry, and the same opportunities for reading free university degree.
  • Men and women should be given at least 12 months further training after the basic theological course; this training would offer variety according to the function which the individual be likely to prevail in the Ministry
  • Men and women should receive the same ordination, be given the same status, and the same stipend.

What is more interesting for those of us interested in, and concerned by, the Futures process that the Baptist Union is currently going through is his next recommendation:

‘it is generally accepted today that the Ministry of the church fundamentally for the whole church offers in the name of Christ, with each member sharing according to gift and experience. Within such a Ministry there must, of course, be leaders, and among the leaders will be ‘pastors and teachers’. This is the concept of a corporate Ministry. But the Baptist emphasis on the independence of each congregation prevents us from accepting this corporate concept, makes us tried to retain the poorer concept of one man and one congregation.
I believe that she would we should interpret our emphasis upon the local church in terms of the community of Christians in a given geographical area, even though normally the community might meet in several congregations. In a town where there are now four Baptist churches, each with its own name, its own organisation, its own Minister, B1 Baptist church meeting normally in four separate buildings as for distinct congregations.
With regard to the Ministry, this larger unit could, of course, maintain several ministers, but since they were ministers of one church secretary chosen for the variety of their gifts, age, and experience. Then in addition to the duties or would fulfil, such as preaching, each one could specialise in one aspect of the work amongst the poor congregations. That’s one could specialise in youth work, another in pastoral counselling, another in public affairs, etc. In such a table finish governesses it would be easy and advantageous for at least one to be a woman. Such a corporate Ministry could offer a more comprehensive and effective service to the churches, and in the name of the church.’

Radical stuff! But one that appeals and I can see the many benefits that could come from such a team, both for ministers who can play to their strengths and for churches who are served by many gifted people that enabling the mission of the church to be strengthened.

I have a dream….

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