What Carey Believes

What is different about Carey and other mainstream Baptists? How do our beliefs contrast with other Christian church groups?

1. The Supremacy of Scripture

Carey, together with most Baptists, and many other Christian groups, believes that the Bible tells us all about God and his love for mankind. The supreme example of his love was Jesus Christ who, even though he was the Son of God, came to Earth and died on the cross as a sacrifice for our wrongs. We worship God through Jesus Christ. We learn from the Bible the essential principles of faith and practice for the Church as Christ himself revealed them. The writings of the New Testament give us direction and it is by these standards that we must seek to regulate our conduct.
This belief is set out in the first point of the Declaration of Principle of the Baptist Union 100 years ago:
Our Lord Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Each Church has liberty to interpret and administer His laws.

2. The Nature of the Church

Our concept of the Church (capital "C") is that it is a fellowship of all those who believe in Jesus Christ. He founded the Church which carries his name and where his Holy Spirit is active. A group of believers meeting together form a local church (small "c"), which is a self-governing fellowship under the authority of Christ through the Holy Spirit. The vital relationship to Christ which is implied by membership in a local church carries with it membership of Christ’s Church universal which is both now and eternal. To worship and serve in such a local Christian community is, for us, the essence of churchmanship.

3. The Church Members’ Meeting

Carey, like other Baptist churches, is self-governing through its church members’ meeting, as guided by Jesus Christ through his Holy Spirit. We believe that he guides all decisions made by the gathered church as they seek to come to a "common mind". As the 1948 Baptist statement of principles says:
The Church Meeting is the occasion when, as individuals and as a community, we submit ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and stand under the judgments of God that we may know what is the mind of Christ.
The Church Meeting is not just a business meeting where decisions are taken on matters of church administration and the fabric of the church building. A principal item on the agenda of all church meetings is fellowship or, as it might be called, pastoral matters. Under this heading matters are discussed relating to care and concern for individual members of the church, those absent through illness, details of happy events where the meeting can rejoice, news of members known to be in trouble or distress where the church can help, transfers of members to other churches and details of those wishing to become members.
It is also a meeting concerned with the evangelical witness of the church: what is being done to make known the love of God through Jesus Christ to the neighbourhood, the country and the world, and what more could be done. In the light of these discussions plans for future activities are prepared. It may also discuss human rights issues and decide what it can do to make its views known and ensure appropriate action is taken. Though each individual Baptist church organises its own affairs under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is part of a larger fellowship of churches that work together through Regional Associations, national Unions and a worldwide Alliance. Each church is expected to be outward looking with burdens for the needs of its local community and the worldwide mission of the Christian Church, and not turned in on itself.

4. The Ministry

Carey, and other Baptists, believes that men and women with particular gifts should be set apart and commissioned for specific tasks. People who feel that God is calling them to become Pastors and Ministers tell the church meeting which, if it accepts the rightness of the call, advises the local Baptist Association which tests their calling through a process of Ministerial Recognition. If it is agreed that the call is God-given, they are accepted for study at a suitable theological college, after which they offer themselves for appointment to a church. They are ordained (appointed ceremonially to Christian ministry) as Ministers and inducted to the particular church that called them. The members of the church and congregation make weekly or monthly contributions towards the cost of the Minister’s stipend; there is no central funding for ministry.
When Carey seeks a new minister it asks its Deacons or a specially appointed Pastorate Committee to interview potential ministers and invite any likely candidates to preach "with a view". After the candidate has visited and preached at one or more services, a Special Church Meeting is held to seek the leading of the Holy Spirit. An invitation to join the church as its minister may be extended as a result of that meeting but the candidate, similarly, seeks God's guidance and may not feel that he/she is called to that church. The process continues until an invitation is issued and accepted.
The minister, once appointed, is the pastoral leader of the church receiving a stipend paid from the church's funds. But the minister, as all other church officers and members, submits to the authority of the church meeting.

5. Worship

Sunday worship generally follows a non-conformist pattern with hymns and songs, scriptural readings and prayers (either recited from a book or spoken without preparation), all forming important parts. Carey varies the pattern of worship, Sunday by Sunday, using a range of traditional and contemporary styles in order to provide something for everyone. Whatever the form of worship, the emphasis is placed on Bible teaching and its relevance to today.
Services once a month include the Sacrament of Holy Communion. As in most Baptist churches the bread and the wine, the elements of communion, are brought to the congregation in their seats. The Minister, lay preacher or senior deacon (it does not have to be an ordained person) presiding at the Communion table introduces the service; the elements are blessed, and the Deacons distribute them to the congregation.

6. Baptism and Membership

Carey, along with other Baptists, believes that God calls men and women to follow him. When a person hears the call they are free to choose to follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, or to reject his call. Ideally, the decision to follow Jesus should be followed by baptism. Baptism, as practiced in the New Testament, involved complete immersion of the candidate in water after he/she accepted the call to follow Jesus. Baptism symbolizes the forgiveness of sins both by the use of water (which washes) and by the identification with Christ who was himself baptized by John in the river Jordan. We follow the tradition established by Jesus, his disciples and the first New Testament churches, and the candidate is completely immersed in water by the presiding Minister, witnessed by the gathered church, which offers its Christian love and support.
Christian people need the fellowship of other believers in order to learn more about God and their role in the world. After baptism the candidate should be linked with the Carey fellowship or another church. This is the preferred route to church membership although many prefer to join on profession of their faith or by transfer from another church, and see baptism as an optional extra.
Infants are brought to the church and blessed in a service of dedication when the parents promise to give him/her a Christian upbringing and the congregation agrees to support and help them.

7. Baptists as "Dissenters"

Because Carey and other Baptists are not subject to hierarchical church government, they often lead the way in human rights issues and have been responsible for many changes in social structures such as slavery and penal reform. Baptists in this country and abroad are active in many worldwide issues of human rights and conscience, and action against torture.