PLYMOUTH, England (ABP) -- From the port city that launched the Pilgrims on their journey to what would become the United States, British Baptists took aim May 3 at those in America, their own United Kingdom or elsewhere who would cling to nuclear weapons as a means of maintaining national security.
The British Baptist Assembly -- the annual meeting of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) and its international-missions arm, BMS World Mission -- passed a resolution calling on the U.K. government to strengthen its non-proliferation regime. The resolution came just as international negotiators began a monthlong review of the four-decade-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in New York.
The resolution was proposed by Pastor Craig Gardiner of Calvary Baptist Church in Cardiff, Wales, and seconded by Norman Kember, the British Baptist who was among three Christian peace activists kidnapped in Iraq in 2005 and set free the next year. A fourth activist captured with them -- American Tom Fox -- was murdered.
The resolution also called on churches to support a campaign to get a new international nuclear convention with stronger non-proliferation provisions.
“Security is not the same as peace, and it is peace that Christians are called to pursue,” said Gardiner. “The command of God to the church is clear -- a command of peacemaking.”
The Assembly also passed a resolution calling attention to human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Europe and elsewhere. Proposed by Rachel Haig, pastor of Horfield Baptist Church in Bristol, England, and seconded by Tony Peck, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, the resolution called on British Baptists to support anti-trafficking campaigns -- including the work of the Federation and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe.
“The heart of the gospel is to reject violence and bless peacemakers,” said Haig.
Peck outlined EBF initiatives in combating human trafficking, including its employer-check service aiming at ensuring that offers of employment to Eastern European women were genuine.
“We believe it is the call of Jesus to minister to the least of these in his name,” he said.
Massive budget deficit
In other business, British Baptists heard reports on the largest deficit in BUGB funding in modern times. The shortfall was a “watershed” for the denomination, according to BUGB treasurer Malcolm Broad.
Broad outlined the implications of the £628,000 deficit -- the equivalent, at current exchange rates, of nearly a million U.S. dollars -- which he set against a background of rising costs and falling income over five years previous to 2009.
“In a relatively short time, we shall have to take action to address this gap,” he said.
If giving does not increase, “We are talking about people’s livelihoods, and about mission contracting instead of expanding,” he continued. “I don’t believe that’s in God’s plan for us as a Baptist family.”
A £5 million budget for BUGB Home Mission funding by the end of 2012 was “ambitious, aspirational -- but achievable,” Broad said, if more churches would direct five percent of their general income to Home Mission.
The meeting was held in Plymouth, on England’s southwestern coast, April 30-May 3. The BUGB, which includes churches in England and Wales, comprises about 140,000 members in 2,150 congregations. Baptists in Scotland and Ireland have separate denominational organizations.
Mark Woods is editor of The Baptist Times, the BUBG weekly newspaper. This story is compiled from two separate Baptist Times reports and contains additional reporting by ABP Managing Editor Robert Marus.