While at the Second Convocation of the Order of Baptist Ministry we spent some good time reflecting on the aim of the Order. I had come to the Convocation because the intimation and invitation seemed a good way of creating space to gather my thoughts and allow the sediment of a too full life to settle a little. Too much sediment and water becomes worryingly opaque.
What follows is a personal reflection shared with the others, and providing a basis for further reflection. During the discussion of the aim of the order the sediment settled enough for me to see that such an Order would provide and important alternative to other understandings of ministry prevalent within our own communities of faith. That is, the Order would provide an alternative living out of Baptist Ministry that, with intentional seriousness of purpose, seeks to pay close attention to both words, Baptist and Ministry, thereby offering a framework of relationships which will enable, encourage and enhance ministry in a self-consciously Baptist way.
Not that Baptist is the only way, or even the best way. But if we take our identity under God seriously, then we are called to be Baptist in those essential convictions and practices which are inhabited, and lived out, in the gift and calling of our varied but shared ministries within Baptist communities.
This means that the Aim of the Order would be neither critical of other expressions of ministry, nor satisfied with our own ways of living out our vocations. Ministry is too rich, varied and expressive of the diversity of the Body of Christ to be captured or constrained by any particular model or embodiment. Baptist however is a term we consciously own, as the talent entrusted by the Lord to our particular communities of faith. While the name Baptist is rightly contested, and understood in Baptist communities in different ways, the Order seeks to give lived expression to the theology, practices and spirituality that are quarried from the rich seams of our own historic and theological peculiarities.
By being faithful to our own Baptist particularity we remain alert and obedient to God who called us to follow and serve Christ in ministry. We do this precisely by seeking to sustain authentic Baptist ministry as a gift to the whole Church of Christ. Calling is always a gift, and the Aim of the Order, it was felt, ought to articulate the specific peculiarity of what we believe is God’s gift to us. Therefore we commit ourselves to walk together under the rule of Christ, faithfully following after the Great Shepherd of the sheep, as Baptist Christians encouraging and accompanying each other in fulfilling the vision of service we believe is entrusted to us.
Nevertheless, and that word is a decisive caution and qualifier – nevertheless we recognise humbly and gratefully the richness and necessity of other forms of ministry, which have their own validity, and which are God’s varied gifts to the Church as the Body of Christ. As Baptist we gladly acknowledge our dependence on the insights and resources of the Church Catholic, and seek to sustain and enrich Baptist ministry by appropriating the gifts and spiritual resources of the wider ecumenical consensus of faith in the Triune God. The Order aims to explore and enrich Baptist pastoral spirituality by conscious indebtedness to the rich catholicity of Christian thought and experience: building upon disciplines of prayer in the Daily Office, developing and sustaining a pastoral disposition that is both attentive and contemplative, and pursuing in prayer and study, a humble receptiveness to the knowledge and wisdom of the Triune God.
The Order aims to give faithful expression to a vision of Baptist ministry and therefore the aim could be stated: To embody, encourage and enable ministry that is intentionally Baptist, vocationally pastoral, and spiritually faithful, under the rule of Christ.