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Assembly Update November 2008

The November 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

From: Glenda Blakefield
Acting Assembly General Secretary

The ongoing global financial crisis has raised, and will continue to raise, serious moral questions about how our world decides what is right to do. If the human being is chief of the earth, if there is no ultimate reference point beyond us, then we are  entirely left on our own to decide what is good for not only individuals but for society and the whole of creation.

It might happen, in these circumstances, that certain people decide implicitly or explicitly that it is good to be kind, just, unselfish and compassionate. It also might happen that certain people decide again implicitly or explicitly that it is good to be selfish, greedy, unjust and to look after number one. In these times, who decides if the latter is wrong?

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian and much imprisoned writer died earlier this year in August. He was nearly 90years of age. As far back as 1978, with his commencement address at Harvard, he spoke of the spiritual exhaustion of the west.  He attributed this to the fact that in the thinking of the west, human beings had become the centre and pinnacle of reality. Thus the wants of the human ego and the limits of technology become the measure of human action.

The limits in the end are simply what can be done rather than what is good to do.
Amidst this kind of environment it is very difficult to convince people that it is not good to pursue a lifestyle that deprives many others of the bare necessities of life.

The biblical revelation invites us to see what God’s reality really is. It invites us to reflect upon who and whose we are. We are made by God in God’s image and likeness. We are bound to God. That is our reality. Only in this light can we begin to understand what is good or bad. The bible also tells us something else about being human. Something is amiss in us. In and of ourselves we are not capable of being faithful to God and to who and what we are. We are in need of redemption.
Also, our ability to know good from evil isn’t perfectly ordered. Only in Christ is this possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Morality is not first and foremost a set of rules but a relationship, a covenant with Jesus Christ. It is not about imposing Christian values on a society either. Jesus Christ never did this. We go to a society in the spirit of Christ. We expose the truth by the way we live, and offer a lifestyle that is redemptive, just and full of hope.

Of course the place to start is with ourselves.

UCA meets with PM

Assembly Communications Unit
Representatives from the Uniting Church in Australia have met with the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, for the first time, speaking with him on issues of climate change, human rights and the death penalty.

Meeting with the Prime Minister in Canberra on 21 October were the UCA President, Rev Gregor Henderson, National Assembly General Secretary, Rev Terence Corkin, and National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev Elenie Poulos. They had a half hour meeting with Australia's leader, presenting him with an information pack about the Uniting Church. Included in the pack was an overview and explanation of the structure of the Church along with a copy of the Basis of Union and the 1977 Statement to the Nation.

“We spoke about who we are as the third largest church in Australia and our commitment to making a difference to the Australian community and nation,” syas Rev Henderson.

“We talked about UnitingCare, Frontier Services, Uniting International Mission and Uniting Church Overseas Aid, and UnitingJustice. We talked about our multiculturalism and the importance of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress."

Rev Henderson says the Prime Minister shares the UCA's belief in the importance of upholding human rights. The Uniting Church has expressed a strong commitment to better human rights protections in Australia, in the form of federal legislation and voiced an intention to raise the issue ecumenically.

The Bill of Rights charter, the Northern Territory Intervention and its recent review, and our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals were all raised in the meeting, too.

"We gave him the Heads of Churches statement on Palestine and Israel as well as key Uniting Church statements such as 'Uniting for Peace and 'Dignity and Humanity'” says Rev Henderson.  “And we shared our view about the death penalty and explained that the Church is against capital punishment in all circumstances including the Bali bombers.”

The Church affirmed some of the government’s policy directions to date including the apology to the Stolen Generations, efforts on climate change, social inclusion, creating a positive relationship with the United Nations, the initiative they are taking on nuclear disarmament, and the handling of the current economic crisis.

All three Assembly staff agree that the Prime Minister places great value in churches and their contribution to the Australian community and that there was a good deal of agreement on basic principles.

“He spoke to us as a person of deep Christian faith with a deep personal interest in public theology,” says Rev Henderson.

"The UCA has a positive relationship with the highest levels of government. That encourages us to continue to do our homework well on the national and international issues that concern us most and to know we have the avenues of further representation to the government."

Frontier Services News 

From: Rosemary Young
National Director, Frontier Services

Grant to aid mental health training

Frontier Services has received a grant from a private trust to provide training for its 22 Patrol Ministers on dealing with mental health issues in remote areas.

The $195,000 grant over three years will fund training in identification and prevention of illnesses such as depression, which is a major issue in remote areas. The funding will also enable the Patrol Ministers to train other Frontier Services staff, and members of their local communities.

Patrol Ministers normally spend their time visiting people on remote properties and communities and are in an ideal position to seek assistance for people with mental health issues.

Frontier Services is exploring a possible partnership with the Beyond Blue organisation for delivery of the training. The program begins in 2009.

Shortage of carers critical

A recent Qld conference of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association attended by Frontier Services discussed the critical shortage of child carers in that State, and Australia-wide.

“Our In Home Care and Remote Family Care Service programs in the Outback are desperately short of qualified carers,” according to Marina Izatt, Frontier Services’ Queensland Regional Manager.

“One reason for the shortage is that child carers aren’t terribly well paid in the industry, even in the cities. We face the added disadvantage of asking them to relocate to remote areas where they may often work long hours.

“There are rewards, however, and these come from being able to provide a service to isolated families and to children who can’t access mainstream child care,” she said.

Any Assembly Update readers who might be interested in a stint as a child carer in the Outback — or who know someone who might — can contact Marina on Ph: 07-3870 8605. Candidates need to be over 18.

UnitingJustice News

From: Jennifer Whyte
UnitingJustice Research Officer

Uniting Church submission to the review of tax and transfer system

UnitingJustice and its justice staff network from Synods around Australia have contributed to a Uniting Church submission to the Australian Treasury’s review of the tax and transfer systems. This major review, examining Australia’s systems of taxation and support payments, was announced in May of this year, and will produce its final report at the end of 2009 after two major rounds of public submissions and further public meetings and hearings.

Our submission is based on the belief that taxation is the primary means we have to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth in our society and to raise public money. It is through this system that we ensure that the basic needs of people in society are met. The expertise and experience of the UnitingCare Australia network has also contributed greatly to this submission.

This submission will be available on the UnitingJustice website.

'Taking Religion Out of Politics?' Forum

The National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev. Elenie Poulos, took part in a Greens Public Forum at NSW Parliament House on 27 October, addressing the role of religion in politics and public institutions. The forum, chaired by NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, also featured speakers from the Victorian Council of Civil Liberties, speaking on current abortion law reform in Victoria, and from the St James Ethics Centre, speaking on the campaign for an ethics-based alternative to scripture in primary schools.

Elenie’s speech is available on the UnitingJustice website.

Uniting Church Justice Staff Network Meeting

UnitingJustice recently hosted a meeting of the Assembly and synod-based justice staff in Sydney to discuss our continuing collaboration and plan for our work into 2009. The meeting is an excellent opportunity for staff from around the Uniting Church working on issues of justice and peace to get together and find out about each other’s achievements and plans for the year ahead, priority areas of work, and to share resources and knowledge.

Contact UnitingJustice:
P: (02) 8267 4236
Click here to email UnitingJustice
Click here to visit the UnitingJustice website 

Uniting Church Adult Fellowship National Committee

From: Angela Lester
Adult Fellowship

The Triennial Consultation will be held in Brisbane from 21st -24th May 2009. A committee from New South Wales will be dedicated as the next National Committee at the conclusion of the Consultation. States are encouraged to consider any recommendations which they wish to be considered during the Consultation.

The National Committee still has a number of rugs for distribution. Please contact Alyson Madsen if you can assist with areas of need.

The Solomon Islands is the prayer partner for Australia. The following is a list which the Unit Area Leaders have provided showing areas where assistance would be appreciated. 

List of items:

1. Baby needs — blankets, towels and clothes
2. Off cut materials.
3. Wool, sewing cotton, buttons, embroidery cottons, needles and crochet hooks
4. Financial Assistance for Training Programme:   

Bank account
Assembly UCWF Fund
Bank South Pacific,

A new Resource Training Centre has been completed, comprising one large room and also a smaller Administration Communication room. The smaller room will also be used for selling craft. The money raised will be used to support the women’s programme.

The Centre was dedicated on 21st October, 2008. It still needs a photocopy machine, photocopy paper, refrigerator, stove and carpet.

Goods can be sent to:

United Church Women’s Fellowship
United Church Assembly Office
PO Box 82
Solomon Islands.

When money is placed in the account or goods are being sent it is advisable to send a separate letter to inform them details of donations. Boxes/monies etc do have a habit of going astray.

Diary Dates


18-19 National Lay and Leadership Educators, Melbourne (CTM)
8-9 Triennium Conference of the National Historical Reference Committee and State Archivists

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 Hugh via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website.

Richard Rohr
Invites us to prepare not merely for the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day but for the coming of the cosmic Christ who brings heaven to us on earth. Ideal resource for all congregations. St Anthony Messenger Press
ISBN 9780867168839  $3.95

Verena Wright
Offers an entirely different world view on the spiritual nature and role of women in church and society. Christian feminist writing at its very best. DLT
ISBN 9780232527315  $40.95

Gerald Caron
An innovative approach to the Gospel of Mark, inviting us to play an active role in the interpretation of the Biblical text. Paulist
ISBN 978080914591  $36.95

Bernard Brandon Scott
Six veterans of the Jesus Seminar help us uncover the answers to basic important questions: how do we search for the historical Jesus? What are the rules for sorting through the evidence?Six veterans of the Jesus Seminar help us uncover the answers to basic important questions: how do we search for the historical Jesus? What are the rules for sorting through the evidence? Polebridge
ISBN 9781598150070  $32.95

Reliable and practical, hard back diary with double spread pages for each week; with full liturgical notes and important Australian information. David Lovell
ISBN 9781863551274  $32.00

New Resources from MediaCom Education

MediaCom is an agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. To find out more information or to order resources, please visit the MediaCom website.

Uniting Church
Certificate of Recognition as a Pastor

Certificate to be given to a lay person who has been commissioned by a Presbytery or Synod, for the Ministry of Pastor.

Product code UCPMPASTOR  

New Resource from Abingdon

What Do You Want For Christmas?
• Explores the question of what people really want for Christmas, which only Christmas can give — peace, joy, love, and forgiveness
• A four-week study providing one lesson for each week of Advent
• Each lesson includes a Scripture, a brief reflection, discussion/reflection questions, a brief prayer, and a focus for the coming week

Published by Abingdon Press, 48 pages
Product code AB064

New Resource from Woodlake

The Spirituality of Music
John Bird
Journey into the heart and soul of the music that forms the soundtrack to our lives.

Author John Bird invites us to discover how music touches us throughout our lives, from the pulsing rhythms we experience in the womb, to the music that will escort us out of life. In between, Bird shows how music connects us with family and friends and the world of the spirit; how it can express our “authentic voice,” both as individuals and as members of particular cultural traditions; how it strengthens and unites us during times of protest, and comforts us during times of loss. He shows how music and word combine to integrate mind and spirit, and how music and movement combine to integrate spirit and body. As with all titles in this series, The Spirituality of Music is beautifully illustrated with full-colour photographs throughout.

Published by Northstone  Publishing
Product code WL688

$52.75 each