Consent, our Missional Gateway

Jul 03, 2024
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But who are you really

Theology and Culture

You may go to a friend’s house, and whilst you’re there you’re asked if you want some tea. You should receive tea, maybe a biscuit if they’re available. If you don’t ask for tea, and are given tea, or forced to have the tea, your consent has been ignored. At least according to one successful video, see below.

It’s often that simple. Consent is the act of giving a free willed yes to another’s proposal or desire. This can be expressed directly and unmistakably, implied through interpreting a particular action, or fully informed through clear explanation of facts. Often consent is discussed within the context of sex, either initiating or prevention of sexual assault. If anyone doesn’t consent to sexual engagement that’s assault.

For us as Baptists consent is key, we were born out of our church’s consent being violated. During our inception mandates were put upon the early Baptists around infant Baptism, congregational governance, and the place of the Common Book of Prayer. This led to early Baptists being exiled and developing in Amsterdam before returning to England and advocating for the freedom of local congregations.

We Do Faith Differently

This is shown in our decision not to baptize infants, nor force baptism upon others. We do not violate the free choice of individuals, nor do we coerce people to join the elect. Baptism is given to those who profess the creeds and faith in Christ. People must give their fully informed and explicit consent to enter the Kingdom of God. The Baptist tradition is filled with individuals who say they want to be a part of God’s mission. They consent and act towards the benefit of the Kingdom with their church.

We do faith differently! We were among the first Christians to focus on this ancient way of Baptism rather than keeping the tradition of infant baptism. Infants and young children cannot give informed consent and so we would argue they cannot consent to entering the family of God, which is symbolised in the new birth of Baptism. Instead, we seek to introduce people to the Living God, even as children, so when they can give consent and follow him they are well informed and understand God.

Why Understanding Consent is Important

As we are a collection of individual churches struggling to maintain numbers, I believe this understanding of consent grants us a deeper appreciation of how our world is thinking at this point in time. Those outside churches want safe spaces where they have the ability to choose, to give full informed consent. For us we have that built into our understanding of church, that pressuring others is unnecessary, we need only show the reasons we have faith.

Giving people reason to meet the loving God, opening the door for the Holy Spirit to meet the dormant soul and enliven it to his purposes. We must also respect the differences between people, yet offering confidence in our choices is essential. The Holy Spirit has met us, we have joined the family of Christ, and the Father guides us. Mission is the act of doing this in such a way that we can maintain consent, giving full and soulful choice to a new believer. This is the power of holding the door open and welcoming people to meet God rather than demanding conformity.

Offering the Right To Choose

If we’re leading ministries, giving people under us the opportunity to exercise this freedom, to give of themselves wholeheartedly without pushing them, grants them freedom to accept or refuse as they need. If we’re attending ministries, it’s important to stand up for what we can and can’t do, stating clearly our boundaries and enforcing them for the good of a ministry or ourselves, God’s image bearers. Open spaces to discuss consent, both in terms of the religious power we have of fully and freely giving of ourselves to God’s mission, but also in giving women space to advocate for their own desires, children space to speak their minds, and the elderly a chance to advocate for their needs.        

Offering people the right to choose and honouring that, just as God does with our salvation, gives us the opportunity to be more moral people, to uphold each other’s sanctity before God, and to see each other as co-authors to the coming Kingdom of God. Will we stand beside those seeking his kingdom so they may choose him and be alongside him forevermore.

Liam Conway is Associate Pastor at Riverlands, Longford.
He was born and raised in Hobart, graduated from UTas with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology. He is now the associate Pastor of Riverlands community church and is studying his Master of Divinity.

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