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168 Law & Just. - Christian L. Rev. 5 (2012)
Baptist Church Polity and Practice

handle is hein.journals/ljusclr168 and id is 5 raw text is: BAPTIST CHURCH POLITY AND
Abstract: Baptists occupy a distinctive middle ground between those
traditions that operate with a centralised and hierarchical legal
structure supported by either canon or other statutory law enshrining
the polity of the church in a variety of dimensions, and those
independent congregations who conduct their life without any reference
to a wider ecclesial body, and organise themselves according to their
own decision-making powers alone. All, of course, are subject to civil
law, especially law of property, charity law and, increasingly,
employment law. This article, however, seeks to explore the way in
which Baptists (and here, I specifically mean those Baptist churches in
membership with the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB)) straddle
a middle ground between local congregational independence and
Union-wide policy and regulation.
Baptist churches in membership with the Union are both inter-related
and independent, with some specific areas of their life governed by the
decisions and policy of the wider Union, and other areas entirely
independent of any external control. This gives expression to the
Baptist conviction that while the embodiment of the church is normally
the local congregation, it is not the totality of the church. The wider
union of churches in association with BUGB is ecclesial, but not a
'church' or (ekklesia) as such.' 'While Baptists have always held that
the local church is wholly the church, they have also committed to the
conviction that it is not fully the church - that is the church in all its
The bodies governing BUGB give rise to a matrix of co-operating and
Steven R. Harmon, The Ecumenical Dimensions of Baptist Denominational
Identity, in. (ed.) Paul M. Collins and Barry Ensign-George, Denomination.
Assessing an Ecclesiological Category, (London, T&T Clark, 20011,) pp.34-
49. p.43
2 Brian Haymes, Ruth Gouldbourne and Antony Cross, On Being the Church.
Revisioning Baptist Identity. Studies in Baptist History and Thought, Vol 21.
Milton Keynes, Paternoster, 2008. p.195.

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