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World News

No change for Baptist ministers on same-sex marriage

by Donna Birrell

The Baptist Union Council has voted not to change its rules on marriage and ministry.

Following what it calls a “period of prayerful and careful listening” across the Baptist movement, the Council voted by 49 votes to 27 that an accredited minister should not themselves be in a same-sex marriage.

The Council says it also upholds the liberty of the local church to appoint ministry according to their governing documents.

However, it makes clear that sexual orientation is no bar to accreditation.

In a statement, the Council said that it “laments all the pain that has been experienced through the process which has led to this decision and is acutely aware of the significant impact it may have. While Council has reached a decision, it recognises that the consultation report reflects a range of convictions across our Baptist family.”

In a video message, Baptists' Together general secretary Lynn Green said it had been a long journey to reach this point. The request for a change in the Ministerial Rules arose in 2020 and came to Council in March 2022.

52 per cent of churches responded to a consultation, with 93 per cent of accredited ministers. She said it had been a “challenging period” but described the response as “fantastic”.

Lynn Green asked Baptists to remember that these decisions “affect real people’s lives and that these are our brothers and sisters in Christ”. She added that members should show “grace and respect to those who hold differing views to our own….Council has requested us to show pastoral sensitivity to all those who requested this change or who are unable to be in accredited ministry.”

She also went on to discourage the use of social media to discuss the decision, preferring “gracious conversations to happen in person…in this way we will guard our unity and build each other up as we continue to follow Jesus together.”

And she concluded that although it has been a challenging time, she believes it is part of the “birthing of the new thing the Lord wants to do in and through us….a polarising world needs a reconciling church.”

Chris Goswami who is a Baptist Minister and Christian blogger told Premier he welcomes the statement:

"This is a topic where we must have face to face, person to person conversations with people you agree with and people you don't agree with. It's so important that we don't resort to sound bites or any triumphalism. There are always people who are hurt by these decisions and it's so important to reach out to them personally. There are many Christian brothers and sisters who will feel damaged and hurt by this and we need to draw them in. It is also not the end of the conversation as in other denominations and I'm sure this conversation will continue."

The Council, which has around 90 members, has a key role within Baptists Together and meets twice a year to discern the broad strategic direction of the Union. It also oversees the work of the Ministerial Recognition Committee, which administers the accreditation of Baptist ministers and church workers and the national recognition of preachers, pastors and pioneers.

You can read the Baptist Union Council statement here.

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