I welcome the growing debate, which will help clarify the nature of the covenant, which exists between Baptist Churches within our Baptist Union.
It is possible to see two common threads woven through every aspect of our Declaration of Principle - an open generosity, as well as centred values.
Generosity in regards to those who regard Scripture differently (even our oppressors) generosity towards those who understand baptism differently and generosity in terms of a willingness to share the gospel.
However, this does not imply there are no boundaries for understanding, or practice:
Each Church does not have liberty to decide whatever they wish if, for example, it is beyond the accepted boundaries of interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.
Each Church does not have liberty to re-define Christian Baptism, even if our generosity accepts the authenticity of Christian faith represented by those joining our Churches from other Christian traditions.
Each Church does not have liberty to remove the expectation of the ‘duty’ of every disciple, even if we use different words, such as ‘responsibility’.
However, both our generosity around the edges and our values at our centre require boundaries. The resulting creative tension, which exists between open generosity and boundaried freedom, is hugely appealing when it operates effectively. Unfortunately, many people assume Baptists Churches are independent, rather than inter-dependent and freedom is without any boundaries.
The Declaration of Principle of the Baptist Union states ….
The Basis of the Baptist Union is:
1 That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws.
2 That Christian Baptism is the immersion in water into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, of those who have professed repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ who 'died for our sins according to the Scriptures; was buried, and rose again the third day'.
3 That it is the duty of every disciple to bear personal witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to take part in the evangelisation of the world.