Assembly Update June 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
WARC/REC Call for Delegates  
UnitingJustice News
    
One Great Sunday of Sharing  
National Ministers Conferences  
Women, Faith and Peace   
Uniting Care Merger    
Exposure Trip to North India                   
Uniting International Mission News  
Books  

Just a Thought

From: Glenda Blakefield
Acting General Secretary

an•ti•sep•tic
a: scrupulously clean b: extremely neat or orderly;
c: free from what is held to be contaminating.

Hospitality is more than a dinner party.

Hospitality comes in all sorts of forms. It can be the welcoming of our in-laws for the very the first time, the welcoming back of a friend who has been overseas far too long, or quickly saying to a new neighbour, “Hey, the garbage bins go out on Thursday nights”. Hospitality can also be very antiseptic; only acceptable with the right kind of people and the right kind of table setting.

There is a much deeper understanding of hospitality that the Christian tradition affords us. That is the idea of “welcoming presence”. Hospitality is derived from the hospes, but refers to both host and (guest), stranger. This may seem contradictory on first glance; however it is a reciprocal relationship and operates simultaneously on several levels.

The practice of receiving a guest or stranger graciously was common to many social groups throughout the period in which the Old Testament and the New Testament were composed. This was different from other ancient writings. Also, we can glean that there are special nuances of roles with regard to guest or host roles played by God or Christ. 

In the Old Testament, Abraham rushes out of his tent to greet those unknown visitors at Mamre (Gen 18:1) who approached him in the heat of the day. It was only after Abraham extended the customary acts of hospitality by providing shelter and food that these strangers revealed God’s promises. The promise of an heir for Abraham models for us the time-honoured Biblical tradition of welcoming the stranger and, in doing so, God reveals promises for the future.

In the New Testament we often see Jesus at table, interacting with those pushed to the margins of society. For example, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke: 28-37), a total stranger extends hospitality to an injured person alongside the road.

Jesus uses this story to answer the question, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus' use of neighbour here takes on tremendous implications when applied to all of humanity, to all of creation and most particularly to the way by which we love God. Commentators remind us that the God we are trying to love is of the same nature as the Good Samaritan who noticed the traveller in need, stopped and extended compassionate care, without any regard to cultural or religious codes.

Henri Nouwen has written that, in our culture, “The concept of hospitality has lost its power”. How do we assess our hospitality? Or in other words, how does “loving God” mean “loving our neighbour”? Are our assessments too antiseptic?

WARC/REC Call for Delegates

From: 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 been announced.

The Uniting General Council, replacing the WARC Assembly, is to be held in Michigan, USA, from 18–28 June 2010. The theme is Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace (Ephesians 4:3).

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. More information about the WARC can be found at the website.

As a member church of the WARC, the Uniting Church in Australia has received an invitation to send up to six delegates to the General Council.

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

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 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

UnitingJustice News

From: Jennifer Whyte
Research Officer, UnitingJustice Australia

Australian Citizenship Test

The General Secretary of the Assembly, Rev. Terence Corkin, has written to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, to communicate the UCA’s opposition to the Australian Citizenship Test, which was adopted at the March Assembly Standing Committee meeting.
 
On 20 May, Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice, and Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry National Director, met with Senator Evans to discuss the Church’s position, along with other concerns regarding immigration and refugee issues. In addition, UnitingJustice is preparing a submission to the Citizenship Test Review Committee which will make to the government on possible changes to the test.

The Citizenship Test Review Committee is keen to hear not only from organisations and institutions but from individuals. You might like to consider writing to the Committee to have your say about the Citizenship Test – after all, it is a responsibility of all citizens to participate in our democratic process.

To offer feedback, go to the website.
If you would like to support the National Assembly position please contact UnitingJustice for a copy of the ASC resolution and rationale.

2007 Federal Election Inquiry

UnitingJustice has made a submission to the Government inquiry into the 2007 Federal Election. The submission focused on the impacts of changes to electoral laws in 2006, which we believe adversely affected the integrity of the Australian electoral roll in the 2007 election and threaten the democratic process in Australia.

The UJ submission will soon be posted on the Inquiry website.

UnitingJustice Website

We are working hard to prepare our new website for launch within the next two weeks. Please contact us if you would like resources or information that are not available on our current site.

UnitingJustice Australia
P: 02 8267 4239
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

One Great Sunday of Sharing

From: Tony Floyd
National Director
Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry

The declaration that the Uniting Church in Australia is a multicultural church for all God’s people sets us on a journey of continual discovery and renewal. As one way of keeping this focus at the heart of our common life in the UCA we celebrate “One Great Sunday of Sharing” on a suitable Sunday after the third Sunday in July.

“One Great Sunday of Sharing” provides an opportunity for Uniting Church Congregations, Faith Communities and Fellowship Groups to:

  • Cross over between cultures, experiences and relationships by worshipping and sharing fellowship with neighbours from cultures and languages different from our own.
  • Grow in understanding in what it means to live together as people from different cultures through our worship, witness and service.
  • Celebrate the richness of our diversity as God’s people, sharing faith and fellowship with language, image, songs, dance and artefacts that speak across our cultures.
  • Recommit to the vision of being a multicultural church and what might be life-giving and reassuring about that for Australian society.

The theme for 2009 is “Crossing Over” and is based around our experiences of journey and change — sometimes deliberately chosen and thrust upon us. Communities, small groups and individuals are invited to share stories of experiences of “Crossing Over” to new ways of understanding each other, other cultures, the experience of being a Christian in a multicultural church and a nation that is both multicultural and multi-faith.

Resources to stimulate the development of local stories and resources will be on the Assembly website in the third week of June.

If Sunday 20 July is not suitable, feel free to choose a day that best fits your local calendar.

By God’s grace may we celebrate the wonder and gift of our cultural diversity with hearts deeply moved by the faithfulness of God who leads us through the journey of “Crossing Over” into new places and opportunities of refreshment, blessing and service.

Ministers Conferences

From: Gregor Henderson
Assembly President

Registrations for the National Ministers Conference in Bali, 1-4 July, have now closed. Some 60 Uniting Church ministers and lay ministry leaders will be participating in Bali. Our partner church, the Protestant Christian Church, is very pleased to welcome us. They look forward to the closer relationship which is bound to result from our conference in their facilities. Also, 35 participants are travelling after the conference on exposure visits to the church in Bali, West Timor and Java.
 
The Darwin Conference, 15-18 July, is still open for registration. Leaders of the Darwin conference include Rev. Dr Andrew Dutney, Richard Trudgen, Rev. Mawunydjil Garawirrtja, Rev. Rronang Garrawurra, Rev. Dr Tim Bose and Rev. Shayne Blackman. Registrations close 17 June. A few places are still available for exposure visits afterwards to Aboriginal communities in Ramingining, Nhulunbuy/ Yirrkala and Galiwin’ku.

The Sunshine Coast Conference has around 90 registered to date, and can take up to 150. The dates are 27-30 October. The emphasis in this conference is on excellence in local ministry.

Further information on the Conferences can be found on the Assembly website (on the left on the front page), and registration is also via the website. Queries can be directed to Assembly President, Gregor Henderson, at:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

UCA Theology of Other Faiths

From: Sef Caroll
Chair, Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths

In November 2007, members of the Assembly Working Groups on Relations Other Faiths and Doctrine, together with a number of Uniting Church theologians, gathered to explore and consider the core essentials of a Uniting Church theology of other faiths.

The aim was to identify key theological themes and areas to form the framework and core of a theological statement for consideration by the 2009 Assembly, as well as a Uniting Church theology of other faiths. The meeting arose out of recognition that the theological statement “Living with the neighbour who is different,” adopted by the Assembly in 1998, can be further developed to respond to, reflect on and address issues arising out of living in a multicultural and multi-faith context. The papers presented at the Colloquium will be published for use as a theological resource.

Women, faith and peace

From: Sef Caroll
Chair, Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths

On 23-25 February, the Multi-Faith Centre at Griffith University, Brisbane, hosted the first of the Asia- Pacific Symposium on Women, faith and a culture of peace. The symposium attracted over 150 registrations (10 of which were brave men) from within the Asia Pacific region and a few from beyond.

The focus was on women and religion and their role and contribution to building a culture of peace. Using the definition promoted by the United Nation’s agencies, NGOs and peace educators: “a culture of peace encompasses values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence in all manifestations. It also seeks to address the root causes of conflicts and peacelessness and to resolve them through creative and participatory non-violent strategies”.

The symposium brought together women from different cultures and faiths to explore issues of gender, religion and to celebrate their contribution as well as to share and name the challenges women of different faiths face in building a culture of peace.

The symposium highlighted the need to be intentional about ensuring that women’s perspectives and experiences stay on the public and political agendas in our varying faith traditions and countries. The use of inclusive language in prayer and liturgy was a recurring theme — and so were stories and models of empowerment. The symposium was not intended just for women although it was a welcome change to see men in supporting roles, serving meals and taking roles normally assigned to women.
 
The symposium took a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, making every attempt to address issues in all their complexities, recognising that a particular issue cannot be dealt with in isolation. On the whole it was a worthwhile event highlighting the need for continuing conversation beyond our Australian borders at both the regional and global levels.

UnitingCare Merger

From: Lin Hatfield Dodds
National Director, UnitingCare Australia

UnitingCare Australia’s National Committee this week signed off on the merger of UnitingCare Australia and the Uniting Missions Network (UMN), the two entities that carry out the national work of the Uniting Church’s agencies and missions engaged in community services.

The national functions of these two organisations will now be carried out by UnitingCare Australia, subject to a renewed mandate for UnitingCare Australia being agreed to by the Assembly Standing Committee of the UCA Assembly. 

The National Committee’s decision followed the UMN’s sign off on the merger on May 16, 2008. The UMN membership also agreed to wind up the UMN and transfer all assets to UnitingCare Australia.

The new merged entity will build on the already significant achievements of the two entities, their shared vision and purpose and the strength of the UnitingCare Australia and UMN structures. UnitingCare Australia will deliver on a new set of national functions through a new organisational structure. These new functions include influencing social policy and engaging in advocacy, developing  and maintaining Government and other stakeholder relations, developing the Church’s network of, and capacity to deliver, community services; and strengthening relationships across the life of the church.

The merger will also represent a strong and public statement of our shared identity in the Uniting Church and our genuine commitment to working together for the common good. 

New website for UnitingCare

The new-look UnitingCare Australia website is up and running, thanks to the hard work of Communications Officer, Hannah Cormick. Keep in touch with the latest UnitingCare news, at:
http://www.unitingcare.org.au

Exposure trip to North India   

From: Relations with Other Faiths Working Group

From 24 March to 8 April, 11 lay and ordained members of the Uniting Church, from different states, embarked on a short term exposure trip (STET) to North India, under the leadership of Rev. Dr Robert Bos. The trip was sponsored by Uniting in Mission and supported by the Assembly Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths. 

The purpose of the trip was to enable a group of Uniting Church people to draw on the expertise of its partner church, CNI Diocese of Amritsar, in the area of relations with people of other faiths. This was achieved through visits to Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist holy places and dialogue with active practitioners of those faiths. Other aims were to strengthen the bonds of partnership between the Diocese of Amritsar, Church of North India and the Uniting Church in Australia and deepen the Christian faith of the participants.

Participants in the 2008 Interfaith STET were: Rev. Dr Robert Bos (leader), Brisbane
Rev. Sef Carroll, Sydney
Rev. Paul Chalson, Hobart
Bek Christensen, Adelaide
Rev. Ken Devereux, Perth
Rev. Jean Mayers, Heywood, Vic
Ruth Murchland, Adelaide
Deb Porter, Sydney
Rev. Ainslie Scott, Melbourne
Rev. Neil Smith, Newcastle
Rev. Matt Wilson, Sydney

We visited holy sites and had engaging conversations with Sunni Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmediyya Muslims, followers of Radha Soami Satsang at Beas, Tibetan Buddhists and attended a multi-faith seminar at the Christian Institute for Religious Studies at Batala. We also saw something of the work of the Diocese, met with a number of Presbyters and worshipped with a Congregation.

Agencies and Institutions we visited included: Socio-Economic Development Program at Tarn Tarun; Alexandra School, Amritsar; Earth Centre, Dalhousie; Maple Leaf Hospital, Kangra; St Paul’s Senior Secondary School, Palampur; the Leprosy Home, Palampur; Boys’ Hostel, Palampur; Bishop Cotton School, Shimla; St Thomas School, Shimla; and Auckland House School, Shimla.

India is rich in cultural and religious diversity. The dialogues with people of different faiths provided opportunities to challenge each other’s assumptions, deepen understanding and turn it into collaborative interfaith action.

This is the second of the STET organised by Rob Bos. It is hoped that there will be another trip organised in the next two years with an ecological focus. As a result of these STETs, the Friends of the Diocese of Amritsar, in consultation with the Bishop of the Diocese, has been set up to facilitate mutual enrichment and partnership between the Diocese of Amritsar, Church of North India and the Uniting Church in Australia. The Diocese and the Uniting Church share common interest in such matters as:

• living, reflecting on and sharing the Christian faith
• inter-religious relationships
• children’s and adult education, including Christian education and theological education
• the provision of quality medical services
• community self-development.

This partnership will be expressed through such activities as:

• mutual spiritual enrichment
• exchange visits
• mutual sharing of people, information, resources and insights
• joint participation in community development projects, particularly to enable self-help among the poorest and most marginalised in Australia and the area of North India covered by the diocese (Jammu-Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and part of Indian Punjab).

The Interfaith STET to North India was a worthwhile and transforming experience. An experience I would recommend to anyone wanting to move beyond their borders of familiarity, to deepen understanding of their faith and increase cultural sensitivity and awareness.

For more information on the Friends of the Diocese of Amritsar and the quarterly newsletter email:
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
A: PO Box 483, Redbank, Qld 4301

Uniting International Mission

From: Hannah Hoskin
Communications Officer, UIM

People in Mission Update

People in Mission training will be held in Brisbane in July for those people who have indicted an interest in placements in the second half of 2008.

We hope to move towards two intakes per year for PIM as the main way of promoting and facilitating international mission volunteers. Positions for these intakes will be advertised through Assembly and Synods as well as on the PIM webpage. There will also be opportunities for PIM to be responsive to particular requests at other times. The first advertisements for the intake starting placement will be advertised in September. Training for this intake will be held in Sydney during January/February. This will be followed by deployment in February/March, 2009.

Joy Balazo returns from PNG Joy Balazo, Secretary of Young Ambassadors for Peace (YAP), has returned to Australia from Papua New Guinea, where she has been involved in some incredible peacemaking developments in the Southern Highlands.

We are delighted to welcome Joy back and look forward to hearing her insights and learning more about her projects and travels.

Supporting our Pacific Partners Frances Voon has recently joined our team at UIM as a Research Assistant. She is a leader among students in the Uniting Church, including in the School of Discipleship.

Frances’ work is focused on the Millennium Development Goals, reviewing what the Uniting Church has said about these, and what more we might need to do, and also in relation to Fair Trade, Free Trade and Just Trade, particularly in relation to the Pacific.

Frances will be working with us to develop a plan for helping congregations and others understand and engage in these issues, as part of the process of building momentum for change.

The main aim is a larger UCA capacity at all levels to understand the issues in the Pacific, to stand in solidarity with the Pacific churches and to take forward our advocacy work leading to the 2009 Assembly and then beyond.

Burma Appeal

Uniting International Mission, through its relief and development division, Uniting Church Overseas Aid, has launched the UCOA Burma Cyclone Appeal, to raise funds and support the Burmese people in this time of need. The appeal has already raised over $7k, and UIM continues to urge support as the devastation from the cyclone persists in Burma. To support the appeal, go to the UIM website.

Books for Unitings

These books are selected by Hugh McGinlay and are available from UCA bookshops and resource centres. For further information on any title, contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website.

Grace and Necessity
Reflections on art and love
By Rowan Williams
(Continuum)  
How human beings open themselves to transcendence and how this leads to a new understanding of God that puts gift and dispossession at the foundation of everything.

ISBN 9780826481504   $34.95

Healthy Congregations
A systems approach
By Peter Steinke
(Alban)
Offers ten principles to congregations at risk from anxiety and conflict; and how spiritually and emotionally healthy leaders influence the emotional systems of congregations.

ISBN 9781566993302   $24.95

Introducing the Women’s Hebrew Bible
By Susanne Scholz
(Continuum)
Practical, stimulating, intelligent and accessible introduction to feminist biblical writings.

ISBN 9780567082572   $49.95

Oblation
Meditations on St Benedict Rule
By Rachel Srubas
(Paraclete)
Author is a US Presbyterian minister and Benedictine oblate who reflects on her experience of learning the Rule of St Benedict and incorporating it into her “secular” life.

ISBN 9781557254887  $19.95

The God Problem
Alternatives to fundamentalism
By Nigel Leaves
(Polebridge)
Australian author provides an excellent point of departure for a discussion on how we may speak of God today when “God-talk” has become increasingly difficult for contemporary believers.

ISBN 9780944344989   $27.95
 New from MediaCom

Living With Purpose in a Worn-Out Body
Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults
By Missy Buchanan
(The Upper Room)
With compassion and honesty, Buchanan gives voice to those living an assisted life. Through the painful-to-consider feelings of loss, self pity, resignation and loneliness, she leads caregivers and those in their care to see that living with purpose in old age is an extension of the challenges lived all along: learning to offer one's will to God's, trusting God's grace and continuing to respond with the joy and fortitude of faith.

Buchanan fosters empathy for and expresses the deepest concerns of the frail elderly without tap-dancing around the tough issues. 42 short, comforting devotionals offer much-needed spiritual encouragement to the once-vibrant who now cope with daily limitations and failing health.

ISBN 9780835899420   $15.00

Abingdon Preaching Annual 2008
By David N Mosser, (ed.)
(Abingdon Press)
Now the most comprehensive and useful aid for sermon preparation.
• Lectionary-based sermons for each Sunday and special liturgical event of the year
• Commentary on lectionary passages not used in the weekly sermon
• 23 topical sermon series on such diverse themes as the nature of sin, family life, war and peace, prayer, holidays, emotional health, and more Worship planning aids
• Four-year liturgical event calendar and guide to liturgical colors
• Lectionary readings in one, easy-to-read table Searchable CD-ROM included with every book!
• PDF format
• Full text of the print edition with a hyperlinked table of contents
Pre-sermon and pastoral prayers, classical prayers, affirmations of faith, and classic sermons

Product code AB195      $38.45

New From Group Publishing
Quick Children’s Sermons

Volume 1: Will My Dog Be In Heaven?
Volume 2: Why Did God Make Mosquitoes?
Volume 3: Did Adam and Eve have Bellybuttons?
Volume 4: Did Samson Eat Spinach?

All volumes:     $26.95 each