The annual update from our National Leader, Charles Hewlett, for 2023.

We are a collective of faith communities bringing gospel renewal to people and places in our local neighbourhoods. To me, gospel renewal is all about God’s plan to reconcile all things to himself through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19-20). And the gospel message we proclaim is from God; it is the very power of God, and it actually works – it can restore all that sin has marred and destroyed (Romans 1:16-17). This is our purpose, and this is the message we carry with us as the people of God.

The clear highlight for me in 2023 has been hearing gospel renewal stories from our faith communities. Maybe it is post- COVID-19 pandemic, but over the past six months, I have heard so many stories of churches starting to fill up again, of people just walking in off the street, of God bringing healing to broken lives, and of many, many baptisms. Like never before, we have heaps of Baptists actively involved in providing solutions to housing and food insecurity. The number of people taking up chaplaincy opportunities in their neighbourhoods is amazing. Together, we are making a difference!

Thank you for your commitment to the mission of God.

Throughout 2023, we have seen the ongoing strengthening of our Regional Associations. This has perhaps been best seen in the successful five Regional Hui. Our movement has a regional structure, and to see so many of our leaders wanting to associate and support one another will only enable our faith communities to thrive.

Thank you, Reti Ah-Voa, Peter Foster, Mike Warring, Chris Chamberlain, and Rachel Murray (our Regional Leaders), for meeting with me each Tuesday morning – your regional shaping of our national direction is clearly making New Zealand Baptists stronger. The continued development of robust regional leadership will be my major goal in 2024.

I have been encouraged this year by the continued shaping of our Leaders Registration programme, especially to support registrants to maintain safe and ethical practice. A massive thanks to Karen Warner, Glenn Melville, and Neil Baker for their foundational work to ensure that by 2025, all registrants will be required to meet with a Baptist Union of New Zealand (BUNZ) approved external supervisor who is qualified/trained in ministry supervision.

I am also excited about the work of our Code of Ethics/Conduct Advisory Group led by Helen Brereton. Their task is to revise the current code to produce a best practice Code of Ethics/Conduct for anyone who leads or ministers within or on behalf of a New Zealand Baptist faith community, BUNZ-affiliated entity, or an approved body. The goal is to have this completed in 2024.

Another significant piece of work being undertaken in 2023 has been beginning the process of reviewing the Baptist Union Constitution – led by Peter Crow. This was discussed at length at the National Hui in November 2023.

What an enormous privilege to have worked alongside Ravi Musuku over the past two years in his role as President. To observe up close his deep love for Jesus and the church and to be on the receiving end of Ravi and Alice’s prayers has been a real gift. Thank you, Ravi, for your humble yet strong leadership in our movement during a time of significant change. Many times, I have looked across the room and thanked God for Ravi being present.

Another highlight of 2023 has been having Luke Kaa-Morgan and Ethan Miller join our staff team. As our Te Pouarataki mō te hīkoi (Treaty guide), Luke is providing a Māori perspective and leadership to the Support Centre in order to best fulfil our commitment to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. As our National Youth Catalyst, Ethan is not only charged with creating, nurturing, and communicating a shared vision for Baptist Youth Ministries in NZ, but he is also providing great resources and support for the leaders of our young people.

How blessed I am to have Karen Warner, Luke Kaa-Morgan, Mike Crudge, and Wayne Schache working alongside me as the Lead Team. There is enormous change happening in each of their focus areas – Operations and Finance, Communications, Leadership Coordination, and our Treaty Journey together. You are ‘fruit of the Spirit’ leaders with tremendous experience and expertise. Thank you for serving the Baptist family as you do.

A personal highlight for me was being able to attend with Joanne the Baptist World Alliance Conference in Norway. The reminder that we are a valued member of a global missionary movement was hugely encouraging. To hear stories of Gospel renewal from our Baptist brothers and sisters, often serving in situations of hardship and persecution, was inspiring. I was reminded of how big our God is and that we must become more courageous in serving him.

May God continue to use the Baptist Union of New Zealand to bring honour and glory to his name.

Photo: Regional Leaders: Chris Chamberlain, Peter Foster, Rachel Murray, Reti Ah-Voa, and Mike Warring with Charles Hewlett and Mick and Ruby Duncan. Provided by Charles Hewlett.

This update is from the 2023 Annual Report of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, which you can view here.

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