An acutely observant reader of Partnership Perspectives issues 69 and 70 will have noticed that whereas on the rear inside cover pages I was listed as Chairman in issue 69, I was no longer thus in issue 70. This requires some explanation.
Why resign? I was diagnosed in late 2019 with two forms of blood cancer, a rare and aggressive combination for which there is no cure but control by medication is possible. In the early part of 2020 I was struggling with the developing symptoms, and the board very kindly suggested I take a period of medical leave which would be reviewed at the AGM in November 2020. By then I had taken retirement on health grounds from my part time judicial role, and been informed (on 15th October) that my life expectancy was more likely measurable in months rather than years. That, and the fact that I had been ‘out of the loop’ for the best part of the year, led me to the view that even if I were to experience a remarkable recovery within months I would be in no position to provide a chairman’s lead at this critical time. I therefore tendered my resignation from the role of chairman of the board.
Partnership’s role. I resigned with a heavy heart, as I believe that Partnership plays a vital role in encouraging churches and especially their leaders to engage in local, regional and national networking for the purposes of prayer, mutual encouragement and training with a view to greater effectiveness in mission. Because of its unique networking Partnership is well placed to extend that networking by active co-operation with Counties, GLO and Church Growth Trust. It is pleasing to note that Counties have released Martin Erwin to devote time to developing wider networks with that same missional purpose. As a result of discussions between the boards of the 4 named bodies Martin now attends Partnership board meetings, it being recognised that he is a key leader among us.
Hopes for the future. I would love to see a wider coming together of all shades of Brethren, Brethren-background and other like-minded churches in mutual love and respect, and Partnership (or its successor) will be well placed to facilitate this as the gospel is treated as ‘the main thing’ and we are all encouraged to focus on our unity in the gospel and not on those secondary issues on which we have managed to disagree over decades. One key role of Partnership has been and remains its publishing programme – both Partnership Perspectives and the books that are provided as part of the package of furthering our aims. It seems to me that this most valuable publishing ministry is unlikely to be taken on board by any of the other bodies, and I would hope that any successor body would embrace such publishing with enthusiasm and with greater shared resources to enhance its scope and availability, always keeping our ultimate missional purpose of making disciples at its forefront.
Although 2020 has been an ‘annus horribilis’ in many ways, I have been greatly encouraged as I see how so many of our churches have taken giant leaps forward in the use of social media and online presence, something I see repeated through reports from Echoes International, OM, UCCF and IFES. Given the highly technical nature of some online functions, such as live-streaming and website design to name but two, partnerships between us should enable sharing of the significant gifts and abilities in that domain for the benefit of all.
May I conclude this message by thanking you all for your many faithful prayers on behalf of my wife Ruth and me. God has graciously blessed us, particularly as we have fully embraced dear Peter Maiden’s message in his wonderful little book ‘Radical Gratitude: Recalibrating Your Heart in an Age of Entitlement’. To God be all the glory!
30th December 2020
On 6th January 2021 I had a consultation with the specialist haematologist who had given me the ‘months rather than years’ prognosis. Since mid November 2020 I have been on a regime which includes hydroxycarbamide tablets (colloquially known as ‘chemo light’), and having checked out my current symptoms he pronounced himself delighted with my progress, which was much better than he had expected. Whilst the long term prognosis remains the same (he counselled against getting carried away with the excellent white blood cell results just before Christmas) he said that if current levels were maintained it should be ‘many months’ of life expectancy rather than what he had previously thought. You can imagine my joy at receiving such news, and how our hearts have been lifted by such a remarkable answer to prayer. Please pray that this foreshadows at least the long term control of the symptoms, and perhaps a step towards a miraculous healing. To God alone be the glory!
8th January 2021