Thursday morning included a number of reports - it is a Council meeting after all! Tony Peck, the General Secretary, reflected widely on the kind of society we want, where God's kingdom is, and the task of engaging our society. He noted that several Middle East leaders weren't with us because of the huge changes in their countries. He made a plea for religious freedom, alluding to Thomas Helwys' Short Declaration of 1612.
We heard a report from the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague (IBTS) which went on to update the Council on the financial situation and options.
It was particularly good to hear from three delegates who shared stories from their churches. The first was from Terje Aadne, the General Secretary of the Norwegian Baptist Union, reflecting on the attacks in Norway. He spoke movingly about the deep shock that has affected the nation and the way that the nation has been united in this tragedy with a resolve to stay together and protect democratic values. The church, both State and Baptist, is making a significant contribution, having opened wide its doors in the days following.
Christer Daelander spoke of his relationship with the Baptists in Uzbekistan and shared something of the struggles of the church in a context where they face significant opposition and persecution. We heard from another delegate about an exciting church planting initiative in Latvia.
Late afternoon we had a break and visited the Nazareth Village which is an authentic reconstruction of a village from the time of the first century -an interesting experience culminating with excellent food! It was especially good to meet up with friends from the Association of Baptist Churches (ABC) with whom the Central Baptist Association (CBA) has a relationship through the Baptist Twinning in Israel (BTI) - with apologies for acronym overkill!
One of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of the Council takes place in the conversations during meals, breaks, and over a drink, when stories are told, new perspectives gained, connections made, and friendships formed.