Celebrating Lynn Green’s election

Today, the Revd Lynn Green has been elected as General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. (Report here.)

On one level, this news is distant from me. It happens that I do not know Lynn – we have met, more or less in passing, but I certainly cannot claim any close relationship with her. And it is eight years or more since our family moved to Scotland, and so I transferred my ministerial accreditation from BUGB to the Baptist Union of Scotland.

That said, BUGB is the denomination into which I was baptised, which tested and affirmed my call to ministry, which ordained me, and in which I began my ministerial service. The two General Secretaries before Lynn are personal friends, as are several other national and regional leaders. I owe BUGB more than I can say, and retain many relationships with individuals, churches, and translocal structures within the denomination; I still feel as if I belong to some extent – I do not know if BUGB would still want to own me as one of theirs, but I would want to be so owned; for me, there are deep ties of history, loyalty, and friendship here.

So today, knowing from friends that something exciting – I did not know what – was in the offing, I repeatedly checked my Twitter feed between sessions of our church awayday. I saw that Lynn had been proposed, and then that she had been elected; I saw the rejoicing from brothers and sisters ‘down south’ at the election; I shared in the rejoicing; I saw at least one friend, an Anglican priest, express a wish that she were a Baptist today; I began to reflect.

The General Secretary of BUGB is the leading Baptist office in the UK. This is, so far as we have one, the equivalent of the Archbishopric of Canterbury, or the See of Westminster. Lynn is the first woman to be called to the role. I saw numbers of friends down south tweeting ‘proud to be a Baptist today’ – and, as I say, at least one Anglican friend wishing to be a Baptist. What did all this mean?

Of course, the calling of the first female General Secretary is a moment of history; this will be recorded and remembered as the moment when a decisive change became visible. And many – perhaps on my timeline 75-80% – of the comments were celebrating this moment in history. They did not know Lynn; they had no doubt that the selection committee had made a wise choice; but the celebration was for the crossing of a Rubicon: now there is no office left in (British) Baptist life that is not open to women and men indifferently.

The other 20-25% of the people I heard celebrated because they knew Lynn and had no doubt that this was a transparently excellent appointment, to be rejoiced in because Lynn is Lynn, not because Lynn is female.

It seems to me that both reactions are valid, and both are important to understand why today should be a day of rejoicing for British Baptists. The second first: Lynn was called because, simply, she was the best candidate for the post. Nothing I saw even began to0 suggest any element of ‘tokenism,’ or even of a desire to right a lasting injustice, appropriate though such a desire might have been. I was not privy to the internal discussions, but I feel completely convinced that I have heard enough today to assert with utter confidence that Lynn was called because she was the best candidate for the post.

The first reaction: as I read the reaction – and the reports of voting percentages – this was not a moment where the view of the denomination changed; rather, this was the visible working out of a change in view that had already happened. Almost nobody in BUGB is worried about the highest office being occupied by a woman now. Many of us knew, or suspected, or hoped, that that was the case; the Assembly’s calling of Lynn, however, was a public and visible confirmation of what we knew, or suspected, or hoped – as such it is worthy of great celebration, not as a moment of change, but as a moment when a change that happened before became transparently visible.

I have read dozens of tweets announcing ‘Today, I am proud to be a Baptist’. Yes. Today, I am proud to be a Baptist. Not just proud, but hopeful. Lynn’s calling is profoundly important because she is the first woman to be called to this position, and that will, I pray, give hope and renewed courage to so many women whose gifts and callings are transparently clear but who have been so far rejected by churches who, we can now say, are completely out of step with the denomination. Hopeful for my own denomination, the Baptist Union of Scotland, where the calling of a female General Director seems almost unimaginable. May the insight into the Scriptures of our brothers and sisters down south, and in so many other places, convict us of the errors and injustices of some of our communal assumptions!

Hopeful – and proud. BUGB are my people, or so I continue to feel in my heart (BUS are my people too, these days). Yes; today, I am proud to be a Baptist – not because we have got everything right, but because today, my brothers and sisters – I had no part – got one thing right; one thing that matters enough to be a cause of rejoicing, and, yes, pride.

6 Comments

  1. ©raig
    May 4, 2013

    You would always be welcome back here, but bless your work in Scotland

  2. Bev Murrill
    May 5, 2013

    Something is tipping in the heavenlies…what was totally impossible has reached its time; the substance of things hoped for is now a reality. God always has His way in the end. I’m not a Baptist and never heard Lynn’s name until this article, but am thrilled that God’s will is so well done by those who listen to His heart and labour to follow through. Congratulations BUGB, well done.

  3. Anon
    May 5, 2013

    Just allowing my wife to preach in many of our Scottish Baptist churches would be a huge leap forward…..

  4. Neil Brighton
    May 6, 2013

    I’m delighted to have been one of the people on BUGB Council and at Assembly who got to vote for Lynn; as you say it is an important moment in Baptist life (and in particular for BUGB).

    As someone who also knows Lynn personally, I’m also pleased because she is well suited to the role, a gifted leader and a gracious person.

  5. JD
    May 6, 2013

    I do not know Lynn but I trust the Holy Spirit was at work in appointing her. I will be praying for her in this role. But I have to be honest I feel rather grieved (no doubt people will disagree) that there are other people who do not know Lynn but are rejoicing anyway because she’s female. I care about having the best candidate in the role, a candidate that is God-fearing and Christlike. If they are not then I don’t care if they are man, woman or extra terrestrial, they are not suitable for the role. I have to be honest I don’t feel any more proud to be a Baptist just because the BUGB have called a woman. If Lynn turns out to be the leader I expect her to be (based on some of the things I’ve heard/read) and she presides over a communion growing in discipleship and prophetically witnessing to the world then I will start to really rejoice.

  6. Phil jump
    May 6, 2013

    Steve – without doubt we would own you – you are a treasured voice of wisdom to us, yet for once I am not sure I agree with you “Lynn Green was the best” well maybe, she is certainly hugely gifted and able, but I think you are missing something – the message from the process was that she was evidently the person of God’s calling. Human reason can appoint the “best” candidate – I would not want us to lose that conviction that GOD HAS LED US to this historic moment.

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