Assembly Update July 2008

The latest edition of Update is now available online and in PDF format. It includes the latest news from our Agencies and Working Groups as well as Uniting Church resources.


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Just a Thought
UIM News    
Ministry of Pastor Update  
WARC/REC General Council  
2020 Summit Report   
Code of Ethics Review 
DocBytes now available  
Books and resources

Just a Thought

From: Terence Corkin
Assembly General Secretary

When I was travelling overseas in May and June I had the opportunity to visit churches in Scotland, Canada and the USA. There is nothing like speaking with people from other churches to sharpen both ones understanding of where we might do better and how good we have it in some areas.

One of the interesting conversations I had was around how decisions are made about when the denominational support and structures for congregations should be withdrawn. In some people’s language “when should a congregation be closed?”

In the Church of Scotland they have a central system of stipend support and they have an in principle commitment to fund enough clergy for their 1200 Parishes. The central office requires those that can pay to do so and presently they require 50% of additional income to be contributed to the central fund (although this was changed to a sliding scale at their recent meeting). Only 400 Parishes are self-funding for their approved level of staffing. This means that the 400 are subsidising the other 800. My sense is that they can only sustain this system because they do not have enough Ministers to fill every Parish.

At the other end of the spectrum is the United Methodist Church in the USA where there seem to be a lot of church officers with a pretty quick trigger finger when it comes to shutting down congregations. I heard of one conference where it was being proposed that in order to be a viable congregation there had to be 200 members!
It seems to me that language of shutting down congregations is somewhat problematic. Certainly we have provision for removing the recognition of congregations. But that administrative action does not cause the existence of a group of faithful people
 to just disappear. Christian communities exist because of the work of God through the Holy Spirit that convicts people about the message of Christ and draws them into a new community. As the Basis of Union says: “… in his own strange way Christ constitutes, rules and renews them as his Church”.

Perhaps the focus question for church leaders caught up this denominational equivalent of the contest between rabid Darwinism and the nanny state is to ask other questions. Perhaps we could ask questions about the vitality of congregations rather than viability. Maybe we could be more interested in how our presbyteries and synods can support the communities of faith that God is raising up (inside and outside the UCA) rather than being concerned about how they can make our life easier. Perhaps the administrative response to the issue of “closing churches” is to be identified by following the advice of the first President of the UCA, Rev Dr Davis McCaughey — the responsibility of presbyteries is to know and love their congregations.

UIM News

From: Hannah Hoskin
Communications Officer, UCOA

Welcome to new staff

We are delighted to welcome Denise Seymour as Executive Assistant to the UIM team. Hannah Hoskin has recently moved into the position of Communications Officer for Uniting Church Overseas Aid (UCOA). We will shortly be advertising for a person to promote Pacific partnerships. Watch our website.

Knox to Milne Bay

Ten students and four staff members from Knox Grammar School, Sydney will be travelling with a doctor to Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, on July 1st to stay in the village of Lelehudi. Whilst in the village the students will help build two toilets as part of UCOA’s Sanitation Project in Milne Bay.

UCOA staff members Rob Floyd and Sharyn Robinson are leaving on Thursday 26th June to ensure that everything is in place for the Knox visitors who will be staying in the region for 10 days. It is hoped that this is just the beginning of a long term relationship between Knox Grammar and the people of Milne Bay.

PNG 40th Anniversary

Over the weekend of 21/22 June, during a visit by the Council for World Mission, the United Church of Papua New Guinea held a further celebration of its 40th anniversary. At the Sunday service, the Uniting Church in Australia presented a DVD of the history of the United Church that had been commissioned. Copies of the DVD will be available shortly. A copy of a prayer for the Church is on the Uniting International Mission website.

More peace in Bougainville

Joy Balazo, Secretary of Young Ambassadors for Peace (YAP), has recently returned from Bougainville where she conducted a peace building workshop.

In the workshop she worked with 18 women from churches in Bougainville, helping them to identify the issues of conflict in their area and encouraging them to work together.

 Bougainville Inter-Church Women’s Forum is the organisation Joy set up with others, after holding a women’s peace gathering with the theme “In Search for Genuine Peace and Reconciliation” way back in 1996.

Some women, who attended the 1996 Peace    Gathering for women, attended the recent YAP workshop and said it is the next step to what was started in 1996.

New connections in North India

Following in the footsteps of a group led by the Rev. Dr Rob Bos, Laurie Fitzgerald, Associate Director of Uniting Church Overseas Aid, met with members of the Church of North India to discuss developments of two new UCOA projects in the area.  Relationships with the Coimbatore Diocese are being strengthened.

Supporting our partners in the Pacific

In the next few weeks, we expect the Australian government will adopt a seasonal labour mobility scheme by which Pacific Island workers come to Australia for a few months a year. Our Pacific partners have been calling for this for some time and many workers will come from them. Safeguards will need to ensure fair conditions, good accommodation and active support. The Uniting Church’s regional and pacific network can provide advocacy and support. If a scheme is adopted, UIM will work with councils in the Church to ensure support and facilitate connections with our partners.

Burma Appeal

Uniting Church Overseas Aid’s Burma Appeal has reached over $43,000 in donations thanks to generous support. This money will be forwarded directly to Christian World Service and will work in helping the Burmese people rebuild their lives, communities and country.

Uniting Church Overseas Aid

From 1 July, Young Ambassadors for Peace will join with Uniting Church Overseas Aid. The programs will continue with their current projects, yet will have merged together under the one banner of Uniting Church Overseas Aid.

Ministry of Pastor Update

From: Terence Corkin
Assembly General Secretary

Core competencies

In June the Ministerial Education Commission (MEC) approved the draft list of “Core Competencies” that are required of all persons who shall be recognised as Pastors. They are now available on the Assembly website via a link from the letter sent by the General Secretary in May. The link is found under the resources section of the Assembly home page.

Resources for Presbyteries

As part of the work it has undertaken the MEC working group on competencies is also producing Performance Criteria and Assessment tools for Presbyteries. These will be invaluable resources for Presbyteries, as they will provide appropriate standards by which competencies can be assessed. It is important that the church seeks the highest level of consistency in the assessment process as this will give confidence across the church when people present claim that they have been assessed as satisfactory in the core competencies. Special thanks need to go to Craig Mitchell from South Australia for his work in this area. It is anticipated that these materials will be available to Presbyteries in the week beginning July 14.

Resources for prospective Pastors

The Assembly is establishing a learning resource that can be used by Pastors as a self guided way to develop their competencies prior to assessment. This material will probably be developed in the form of a booklet and will be available for purchase. It might also be purchased as a “text” for synod or presbytery led groups.

The learning resource will concentrate on understanding the Uniting Church (mainly through the Basis of Union) and matters of ethics through exposure to the material and issues present in the Code of Ethics and Ministry Practice.

The production of this material is dependant upon the final work on performance criteria and assessment tools for Presbyteries. However most of the work has been completed and every effort is being made to have this learning resource available for purchase by the end of July. 

WARC/REC General Council

From: Rev. Dr. Sandy Yule
Secretary, Christian Unity Working Group

The inaugural joint meeting of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC), to form a new organisation to be called the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) has now been announced. The Uniting General Council, replacing the WARC Assembly, is to be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, from 18 to 28 June 2010. The theme is “Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace” (Ephesians 4.3). The Uniting Church in Australia, as a member church of WARC, has received an invitation to send up to six delegates.

The WARC Assembly in Accra adopted a strong call to Reformed and Congregational Churches around the world to work for global economic justice (the ‘Accra Confession’), which the UCA has received. The WARC also has a strong Theological Office which has supported the WARC’s involvement in world level dialogue with virtually every other Christian Confessional family. One fruit of the ecumenical activity of the WARC is the agreement to unite with the REC, to be inaugurated at this Uniting General Council. Click here to visit the WARC website.

The Christian Unity Working Group therefore calls for expressions of interest in participating in this Uniting General Council as UCA delegates.

Interested persons are advised that the UCA Assembly is not able to provide financial assistance for delegates, apart from one “youth delegate” (who must be under 30 at the time of the General Council meeting).

Expressions of interest should include name, address, age if under 30, other contact details and information about your relationship to the UCA and any other relevant bodies.

Please send your expressions of interest before 1 August 2008 to:

Rev Dr Sandy Yule
Secretary, Christian Unity Working Group
Level 4, 11 Bank Place
Melbourne VIC 3000
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
P: 03 9606 0034

2020 Summit Report

From: Hannah Cormick
Communication Officer, UnitingCare Australia

UnitingCare Australia’s National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, attended the Australia 2020 Summit in April this year. Lin was part of the Families, Communities and Social Inclusion Stream, and welcomed the positive outcomes for social change from the ideas-filled weekend.

Lin said the most exciting aspect of the Summit was the very clear signalling from Government that ideas matter, and that they are open to listening. Lin said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spoke very warmly in his summation about moving to a collaborative governance model. Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries were active participants in each stream and the Prime Minister moved between them all and spent time in each working group.

The key recommendation from the Families, Communities and Social Inclusion Stream was the development and implementation of a National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, which both combats poverty and increases social inclusion, with clear goals and targets developed in consultation with the community. The stream also recommended the establishment of a National Development Index to provide regular public reporting on progress against social, economic and environmental goals and targets. These key recommendations are recurring themes in the final report.

There was a raft of specific policy measures canvassed. The ones that attracted most attention and endorsement in the Families, Communities and Social Inclusion stream included:

• The Prime Minister’s proposal for one stop child and family shops. The inclusion stream was quite strong on early intervention, both at the early years stage of the life course, and early in the life of a problem;

• Eliminating homelessness by 2020. Specific measures to engage the complexity of issues around homelessness included a proposal for the creation of a housing foundation where a small proportion (half of one per cent) of the sale of every property in Australia be directed into an endowment fund to be used for public housing and homelessness initiatives; 
• The establishment of community hubs, starting in areas of identified disadvantage, to be one stop shops for services and supports covering income support, housing support, primary health services, child care, legal advice, family support, early intervention services etc. Data would be collected in each hub identifying the causes of disadvantage and would feed into a new National Development Index. Each hub would have its own social inclusion board with specific targets to reduce disadvantage;

• A concern to recognise the value of the community sector and the capacity and sustainability issues we face. Ideas arising included the establishment of a Community Services Commission, much like the Productivity Commission, to review the state of the community sector, to provide independent review and advice, to develop a vision for the sector as a whole, and to support the sector;

• The development of a National Disability Insurance Scheme; and

• The establishment of a national microfinancing scheme to provide low or no cost personal or business loans to low income Australians. The National Australia Bank put $30 million on the table for that at the Summit, flagging a swift take up of the Prime Minister’s desire to work closely with business and the community.

One of the key points made at the Summit was that there is no “one good idea” or silver bullet that will combat poverty and increase social cohesion, but that a raft of integrated ideas needed to be delivered on to adequately address the range and complexity of the issues we face. Lin was delighted that the structural enablers of an action plan and a development index emerged as key recommendations as they will provide the umbrella processes and structures by which communities can work with government to capture and resource the ideas that will make a difference to vulnerable Australians and Australian communities.

Click here for a copy of the final Summit report.

Code of Ethics review

From: Terence Corkin
Assembly General Secretary

The 11th Assembly resolved to undertake a review of the Code of Ethics. The Review Group has settled on its questions and processes and is now beginning to make contact with various parts of the church.

One of the options is for individuals to respond to the Review Group by via a questionnaire. Go to the main Assembly site to access the questionnaire.

Bite-sized theology

From: Chris Walker
Doctrine Working Group

The National Working Group on Doctrine has prepared the first three discussion starters of what are being called ‘DocBytes.’ They aim to encourage theological thinking on specific topics across the Uniting Church. These two-page discussion papers are especially aimed at groups, although they can also be used for personal reflection. They provide some input, questions, and also point to further reading options. The first three are on: apologetics, doctrine and marriage. 

Future DocBytes are being prepared on evangelism, the christian life, baptism and peacemaking. The current Docbytes are available on the Assembly website and can be downloaded free of charge.

Glossy copies can be purchased from the Assembly: $10 for 10 Bytes. Please contact Assembly Communications: 02 8267 4233.

Books for Unitings

The Resurrection Effect
Transforming Christian life and thought
Anthony Kelly

New, accessible book from Australian theologian. Kelly argues forcibly that the resurrection is the very basis of Christian hope and faith, the key to God’s relationship with Jesus and with us.

ISBN 9781570757709   $39.95

Tokens Of Trust
An introduction to Christian belief
Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury considers the ancient creeds of the Church as containing the essentials of Christian beliefs: how they show us who and what we can trust in life and how our lives can be transformed.

ISBN 9781853118036   $29.95

A Life-Giving Way
A commentary ion the rule of St Benedict
Esther de Waal

Shows how the Rule of St Benedict can help many people who today are seeking a contemplative centre in their busy lives.

ISBN 9780826490902   $14.95

The Ten Commandments
Laws of the heart
Joan Chittister

What does it mean to love God and neighbour in a world of violence and fear that threatens our lives and our souls?

ISBN 9781570756849   $22.95

Good Night And God Bless, Vol 1
Austria, Czech Republic, Italy
Trish Clark

Takes us on a tour of religious hideaways, offering tourist and pilgrimage accommodation throughout Europe.

ISBN 9780646485201   $29.95

New from MediaCom

Calendar and Lectionary 2008/09 Year B
Officially approved list of lectionary readings, with listings for special occasions within the Uniting Church. $2.25
Lectionary Story Bible Year B
David N Mosser ( ed)
In this second volume of the Lectionary Story Bible series, author Ralph Milton once again brings his enormous talent as storyteller to the task of retelling biblical stories.    $45.00