The Triennial Assembly is a meeting of approximately 265 members of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Members are elected by Synods and Presbyteries across the country. These elected members join with office holders, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress members, youthful members and others to form a national decision-making body.
Members of the Assembly meet for six days every three years in a different state or territory each time.
The discussion centres on the direction and priorities of the Uniting Church in Australia for the next triennium.
The outcome is a series of decisions that guide the life of the Church and its advocacy over the following three years.
The Assembly has its main meeting once every three years, the venue being decided at the previous meeting. In July 2015, the 14th Assembly was held in Perth.
The 15th Assembly meeting in 2018 will be hosted by the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.
Participants in the Triennial Assembly
The Assembly participants are drawn from the six synods, 30 presbyteries and various Assembly agencies and working groups. They gather to study the Bible, worship together and pray, review the life of the Church over the past three years, reflect on reports and recommendations, and determine the course of the Church in Australia and overseas.
The Assembly elects its President at the triennial meeting. The current President is Stuart McMillan, who was elected at the 13th Assembly and installed at the 14th Assembly. The President-elect is Dr Deidre Palmer.
The Assembly elects a Standing Committee to meet between each triennial meeting. Currently the Standing Committee meets for 48 hours three times a year to follow up decisions and deal with issues that arise in the intervening period.
Discerning the spirit
Members of the Triennial Assembly are expected to be open both to the Holy Spirit and to each other.
The Uniting Church believes that we hear the voice of God in the councils of our Church.
When a council of the Church makes decisions, it is aiming to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit in response to the word of God.
We believe church meetings that encourage community and listening to one another in openness and humility are more likely to discern the will of God.
The business of the Assembly
The business of the Triennial Assembly meeting falls into three broad categories:
• Holding the agencies and working groups of the Assembly accountable to the Church.
• Making decisions on those matters for which the Assembly has determining responsibility according to the Constitution.
• Making decisions that offer leadership and guidance to the Church.
Because we seek to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a great deal of time is also set aside for prayer, worship and Bible studies.
Written reports are presented by Assembly agencies, together with presentations made by working groups and task groups. Time is devoted to discussing these reports and presentations in small groups, and questions are answered in plenary sessions.
Members of the Assembly also discuss proposals in table groups as a way of helping every voice to be heard. Individuals are also given the opportunity to speak to the plenary and share their insights.
How the meeting works
The business of the six-day Triennial Assembly meeting consists of reports from the Assembly agencies and working groups; business referred by the Assembly Standing Committee; and proposals brought by Synods, Presbyteries or any two members of the Assembly.
A timetable is published ahead of the meeting. Due to the nature of the meeting it is often necessary for the Business Committee to adjust the timetable from day to day.
A daily agenda offering more detail on particular business to be discussed on each day of the Assembly is made available at the beginning of each day.
The Triennial Assembly meeting is chaired by the newly-installed President.
The Triennial Assembly meeting operates on a consensus model of decision-making set out in the Uniting Church’s Manual for Meetings.
Coloured cards are used by Members to indicate their response to proposals and reports being discussed.
Orange cards indicate warmth to a point of view or approval of a proposal.
Blue cards indicate that a person is not ready to support the proposal. This coolness could be because they need more information, have a question or disapprove of a proposal.
These indications enable the chairperson and the whole meeting to gauge the strength of feeling for various ideas.
14th Assembly Agenda
The Triennial Assembly papers are avilable here.