Yesterday, one of highlighted event for Baptists- the Baptist Assembly 2004 has started in splendor at the Cardiff International Arena. Together with 3000 people representing Baptist churches across the country, Baptist Assembly is opened with worship followed by the a keynote address by Rev Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance UK. (EAUK)
"We need a new message about the church urgently.” In his speech entitled “The Challenges of the Church”, Rev Edwards sharply went straight to the point.
In the midst of social and political turmoil, churches and Christians have been facing great dilemma and confusion in keeping the Christian faith and values in the secular world. Some of the churches start to take active position leading the Christians to counter the unfavorable force. A joint statement urging people to vote against the racist BNP was recently drew by the West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council and most of the denominations have supported the motive.
Not only the external environment has put the church at loose end, the church is also being challenged by many problems within the congregations. Statistics about declining church membership and gay clergy are the typical examples that discourage the church very much.
The Rev Edwards told Baptist delegates and invited ecumenical guests that the church should refuse to react badly to negative views and statistics.
"The problem with us Protestants is that we have the tendency to protest. We should be people of hope. Our primary task is that through us the knowledge of the fragrance of God is spread everywhere." Rev Edwards has wakened Christian leaders to perform the real role that they have once abandoned- bringing the gospel to all people.
Rev Edwards highlighted the problems the church faces today in the UK. "Some people still look to the church for pronouncements on moral and ethical issues. For many people though we are irrelevant. The one thing worse than being persecuted is being ignored."
In the opening session, delegates witnessed the induction of the Revd Peter Manson and the Revd Martin Hodson as President of the Baptist Union and BMS World Mission respectively.
The Assembly is the annual gathering of British Baptists, arranged jointly by the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) and BMS World Mission. It runs through the Bank Holiday weekend to Monday 3 May.