Baptists Assemble 2011!!!

The Baptist Union of South Africa held its 2011 assembly in Port Elizabeth over this past weekend. It was my second assembly, and my last as a probationer. This assembly had many highlights and BU quirks that I hope to share in this article.

Registration happened at a Presbyterian Church, we met at an Anglican School and many of the delegates were accommodated at a Roman Catholic lodging- it may sound ecumenical but it was more a baptism of the baptised for these groups.

One thing I learned about South African Baptists is that we can make the most unmusical song possible somehow sound musical. We had a theme song for the conference and the first line went like this, “We need effective Bible leaders”- oh the musical pain! However it gets the point across, this is what the BU was driving for as we met this assembly- Next year’s theme, “We Need Better Rhyming Theme Songs”

A welcome change to the assembly program was the addition of a time of Bible study and prayer which took up most of the mornings.

Bible study

The executive decided that since Baptists have historically been known as ‘people of the Book’, it would be good to place that Book in prominence in our meetings; so every morning God’s Word was studied and applied followed by a time of prayer. What a wonderful way to start the assembly! I feel that this was a wonderful move by the executive, it sets the tone for the kind of Baptists we want to be, what a great thing to put God’s Word and prayer as the most important part of our meetings together. We were fed with the Word and sought God’s Face before we went about seeking to do Assembly business- that’s the way to go. My group’s able facilitator was Peter Holness (Trinity Baptist’s Pastor in P.E.), I enjoyed being with this seasoned pastor, he has a real pastor’s heart and I learned from that even in the short time I was with him in the groups.

The Lord’s Day saw particularly interesting business being discussed, which also demonstrated something of how the Union has succumbed to secular pressures. During a discussion on amending the Union’s constitution with regards to a particular issue, the word ‘his’ was used when referring to a pastor, two delegates took exception to this, arguing that it should read ‘his/her’ (as you can well imagine Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy and Genesis were not the passages being discussed in the morning studies). The response from the pastor chairing that meeting was basically to say that the constitution also says that whenever ‘he’ is mentioned’ both the masculine and feminine is implied; this was not good enough for the two individuals and a motion was passed to change the line to ‘his/her’. So with sadness I witnessed the Union’s bowing down to secular culture and the feministic attitude so prevalent in it, in this case directly disregarding Scripture.

One encouraging move on the other hand, was the tightening up of other aspects of our constitution. While pastors who are going through a divorce immediately have their name suspended from the ministerial list pending an investigation, till now nothing happened to pastors who were merely separated from their wives. This was tightened up and a clause was added which basically states that if a pastor has been separated from his wife for over a year, and there appears no way of reconciling them, the name will be dropped from the ministerial list. I was glad to see the step taken as it shows a desire to hold firm the integrity of the office of a pastor in the Union. Taking a strong stance like this, especially at leadership level bodes well for the growth and nurturing of biblical leaders.

Much of my time was well spent in fellowshipping with like-minded brothers; the four reformers (Mark Penrith, Rocky Stevenson, Malcom Cunningham and me) and one whose persuasion shall not be labelled (Ian Stuart) had good chats over issues ranging from Eschatology to Liturgy to the meaning of ‘perfect’ in 1 Corinthians 13. On the Sunday Malcom, Rocky and I took Ian to celebrate his birthday with an ice-cream and a walk on the peer; it was a very special time of Christian fellowship. Our little reformed group affectingly dubbed itself BATS- I can’t remember what it stood for, but it reminded me of Batman so I am cool with it.

The Baptist Women’s Division marked their 100th year with a wonderful banquet (from what I hear). This year we have the second none white BWD president over the last century. There were wonderful reports of the chaplain’s work; ministry in the defence force, prisons and police is very tough, but the fruit that those who labour there are seeing is extremely encouraging, to even the dreariest pre-mil…. I mean pessimist.

Another thing I found encouraging about our Union was the racial diversity, we had many people from different races; it truly was something of an anticipation of that day when there will be people from every tribe, tongue and nation worshipping the Lamb.

Even after I left the assembly the good times where not over, at the airport I bumped into Marcus and Sandra Elaya from the Ebenezer Community Church in Pietermaritzburg; we identified each other by the nifty BU blue bags we were given. This lovely couple have been working at a church plant for 10 years in an extremely poor area. It was so wonderful to fellowship with them and hear about their sacrificial work for the Lord. I praise God for bring us across each other’s paths; we enjoyed a good coffee and chat while we waited at the matchbox of an airport for our flights.

  10 comments for “Baptists Assemble 2011!!!

  1. October 5, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    BATS – burning at the stake! Although Batman also works!

  2. Roland Eskinazi
    October 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Thanks for a wondeful summary of the BU Assembly.
    Stuart Cranna is a good friend.
    Peter Holness was my principal at College.
    We need to be much in prayer for wisdom for the BU leaders to unashamedly adhere to the Word- and not bow to secular pressures.

  3. tyrellh
    October 6, 2011 at 11:12 am


  4. October 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

    That photo of Rocky is hysterical!

  5. October 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Hi there Tyrell Haag, I accidently came across your blog. I am a deacon serving at West End Baptist Church under pastor Jonathan Galant (main organiser of this year’s Assembly in PE & husband of the new president of the BWD – Janet Galant). Thanks for this excellent report of the BU Assembly, I will tell others as well of your blog, Keep up the good work until all the nets are full. Godfrey Brink

    • tyrellh
      October 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Godfrey. Thanks for the kind comment. Feel free to tell others about the blog, I appreciate that. Lord bless you as you serve in your deaconal role.

  6. Stuart Mortimer
    October 18, 2011 at 8:08 am

    “Reformed group” What does that mean? I hear that a lot these days in the BU.

    • tyrellh
      October 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      Hi Stuart

      I guess the simplest way to explain the Reformed group, would be that it is those Baptist that still hold to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.Our baptist History has two groups springing up out of the reformation. They became know as General Baptists and Particular Baptists, this had to do with their view of the atonement, basically the General Baptists saw atonement as being made generally for mankind, whereas the Particular Baptists saw the atonement as being made specifically for the elect. Though there are much bigger and more important differences today.

      Reformed Baptists find their heritage in the ‘Particular baptists’. How this infulences the BU? Well it doesnt really, we are all joined together on a common bond of our Baptist principles, specifically our eccelsiology. One of our Baptist Principles in freedom of conscience, and that is expressed in the fact that we have Reformed Baptists, Arminian Baptists, Conservative Baptists, Charismatic Baptists.

      Interesting that you hear alot about them… where do you hear it?

  7. November 10, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Maybe speaking out of turn but, Ian would describe himself as Reformed. What his opinion of the 1689 confessions are I don’t know but, Calvinistic too the core.
    Love your blog especially your two Zombie blog posts, nicely explained.

    • tyrellh
      December 1, 2011 at 10:01 am

      Hi Tommie. Not out of turn at all. In speaking with Ian, he would rather have his status as ‘reformed’ on the low down, since many people in the Union have misconceptions about what reformed means, also there is some kind of stigma attached to it, at least that’s what I got from him at the assembly.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, hope to see you round these parts again

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