A College of Peers: The College of Baptist Ministers 2013-2021 has just been published! The title of this book is taken from the very last sentence in the original vision statement of the College of Baptist Ministers: “This is a College of Peers”. As befitted an organisation of Baptist ministers, there was no sense of hierarchy amongst us. Yes, to function we had to have a board together with a chairman of the board, but we were first and foremost a service organisation made up of colleagues, there to serve the needs of our brother and sister ministers. As we said in our vision statement: “the College of Baptist Ministers is made up of its members – we are there for one another”.
The College never sought to be a ‘political’ organisation. Unlike ‘Mainstream: Baptists for Life and Growth’, another organisation in which I was a co-founder, we were not in the business of seeking to change the Baptist Union of Great Britain. The fact that we were perceived by some national and regional Baptist leaders as a threat to their standing had no basis. We came into being to fill a need – to provide a resource for our colleagues in ministry, so that together we could rise to the challenges of mission and ministry in an ever-changing world.
In the short life of the College (2013-2021) we achieved a good deal. In summary:
- We helped to put continuing ministerial development upon the agenda of the Baptist Union.
- We created a system of personal professional development which worked amazingly well for those who used it.
- We produced a code of ethics for ministers, which is different from the disciplinary code of the Baptist Union which largely tells ministers what they may not do!
- We produced guidelines for ministerial review.
- We sent out a monthly letter where a member of the Board reflected upon a wide range of ministry issues. The standard of those letters was impressively high!
- We published resources for pastoral ministry including Ministry Today UK 1994-2018, the eight volumes of 512 articles from the former journal, Ministry Today, which remains a ‘cornucopia of pastoral wisdom and insight’.
- We published two major reports on ministers and retirement. Retirement Matters for Ministers: a report on a research project into how Baptist ministers experience retirement and Entering New Territory. Why are retired Baptist ministers moving to Anglican churches? What are the underlying theological issues?
- This ‘legacy’ volume is, of course, another achievement. To quote Henry Wordsworth Longfellow: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending”. I believe that with A College of Peers we have ended well!
In A College of Peers we tell our story. We begin with a history of the College – with few punches pulled, and then move on to share some of the documents we produced. The bulk of the book is made up of 24 former monthly letters, with topics such as: A New Year’s Eve watchnight service; A book a week keeps a pastor awake; Guidelines for the professional conduct of clergy; Professionalism is to be welcomed; Leadership and accountability in the church; Building tomorrow’s church today: young adults and the church; What do clergy do all week?; Preaching at Christmas; Post Truth and Donald Trump; Let’s be concerned for our brother and sister ministers; Children in the church; Pastoral supervision; Counselling young people; Remembrance; Preparing for Christmas; Have we dumbed down our worship and preaching?; Labels are dangerous; Where do you find your support? Church life post-Covid; Great reasons for meeting together one-to-one in a time of Covid; From coping to recovery of the post-lockdown church; and Terminating ministry. The final contribution consists of two detailed studies by myself: the first on our calling to be servant-leaders; and the second on Christian worship seen through the lens of 1 & 2 Timothy.
A College of Peers is a hard-backed publication – with many of the copies going to university and college libraries. However, there are a limited number of copies available for sale at £10 including UK post & packing. Otherwise A College of Peers is also available as a PDF – free of charge! If you wish a copy of the hardback or of the PDF, then please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On one point you made that many retired Baptist ministers start going to Anglican churches – it would be interesting to know why this is? I know it applies to you and it applied to David Pawson for 2 examples.