The Baptist tradition of Christianity emerged in the early 17th Century when a small group of disaffected and persecuted English exiles founded the first Baptist Church in Amsterdam. They were fleeing what they perceived as the overbearing religious constraints of the Anglican Church in England at that time. This desire for freedom (or non-conformity) has remained a characteristic tenet within Baptist churches right up to the present day. Faith-based organisations emerging from this spiritual tradition have sought to retain a similar attitude and intention. While confidently holding on to their heritage and core beliefs, they wholeheartedly support freedom of choice and conscience for others. This implies more than a simple acceptance of difference but a positive appreciation of others, regardless of faith, ethnicity, gender or background. It also suggests an openness to change and a readiness to hear the prophetic, reforming voice of tomorrow. This theme invites us to reflect on the challenge of holding together different voices and opinions; our acceptance of the wisdom of strangers and our efforts to empathise with others so as to truly appreciate and learn from their perspective.
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