Assembly Update March 2009

The March 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. 

Download a PDF version of March Assembly Update.

 

Just a thought 

From: Terence Corkin
Assembly General Secretary

It was my privilege to visit the Presbytery of North Eastern Victoria a few weekends ago. It was not long after the devastating fires of which we have heard so much. While not at the epicentre of the catastrophe, the congregations on the eastern edge of the Presbytery were directly engaged in ministry to affected communities.

It occurs to me that in times of special need — private or communal — people are far more open to reaching out beyond themselves for assistance. But sometimes people do not know where their hope and help is to be found. It is at this point that people need heralds of hope: those who know that there are other possibilities available rather than to continue with what is less than the fullness of life.

On Sunday, that weekend, I preached in a couple of congregations and the text was the lectionary reading from 2 Kings 5: 1 – 14. This text is about a person being encouraged to hope through the witness of a person who would be considered small in the scheme of things. Indeed at the end of the story it is this same ‘bit player’ who is the one to encourage obedience and thus salvation. The story of the healing of Naaman is very rich and full of parallels with the people we meet.

Space does not permit a canvassing of all those rich images so I will limit myself to the unnamed King of Israel. He is a parody and judgement on every official representative of God who cannot comprehend that a person might look to them to be the agent of God’s salvation. Unfortunately I have met too many people who are astounded at the idea that God might use them and as such put people off expecting God to work in their lives.

What the world needs, and the Uniting Church needs to cultivate as much as possible, are people who will be heralds of hope and who know that God is ready, willing and able to act to bring life in all its fullness to those who do not have it.

The 12th Assembly: What’s New

12th Assembly photo project

From: Meera Atkinson
Assembly Communications Unit

Over 70 entries have already been received for a photo project launched by the National Assembly to encourage UCA members to engage with the 12th Assembly and its theme of Living Water Thirsty Land.

Participants are invited to explore the Christian metaphors of water and thirst in the world around them through the medium of the photographic image.

In light of the Victorian bushfires and the floods in Queensland, the theme of living water, thirsty land seems more relevant than ever and those in the affected areas are particularly welcome to submit images. 

Images should be sent unedited and in original size, along with photographer details and permission to use images, to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Friday, 10 April 2009.

Selected photographs will be exhibited at the 12th Assembly in Sydney and as an online photo gallery on the 12th Assembly website.

For further details about the photo project or 12th Assembly go to the 12th Assembly website.

UCA participates in Summit

From: Meera Atkinson
Assembly Communications Unit

The Uniting Church joined with more than 70 religious leaders in Brisbane in February to consider the multicultural and interfaith issues critical to the wellbeing of Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
 
Rev Glenda Blakefield (Assembly Association General Secretary), Rev Elenie Poulos (UnitingJustice Australia) and UCA President, Rev Gregor Henderson, presented an account of the Uniting Church’s interfaith relationships and activities.

These activities include UnitingWorld (previously Uniting International Mission) church partnerships; participation in Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-led interfaith dialogues; work in Uniting Church schools; advocacy for human rights; and work carried out by the Relations with Other Faiths committee, an agency established by the Assembly in 1989.

Rev Glenda Blakefield said the summit, hosted by the Multi-Faith Centre at Griffith University, resulted in some clear directions for the future: a statement and exploration of the possibility of a National Interfaith Council. This statement will be made available in the near future.

The divide between faiths that proselytise and those that don’t emerged as a hot issue.

“What comes up at these summits is that some faiths have as their faith foundation a decision not to proselytise and that Christianity has evangelism as one of its faith foundations,” said Glenda.

“There is, unfortunately, confusion, both theoretically and practically, by some of our Christian friends who would seek to proselytise rather than evangelise. This is a concern also expressed by Christians saying, ‘Yes, we have done that in past and it’s not good and we seek now to be in respectful dialogue’.”

A Buddhist leader, who was in the midst of the Victorian bushfires, told of the difficulty she faced when, in her involvement with various aid agencies on the ground during the crisis, she encountered Christian groups who proselytised while giving aid.

 “The Uniting Church would support her concerns,” said Glenda. 

Glenda was heartened to see that the Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh faiths are enthusiastic about interfaith dialogue, pointing out that the Uniting Church has a particularly important role to play in a country that embraces democracy and religious freedom.
 
“We are in a unique position, having stated we are a multicultural church and engaging with the struggles and joys of that on a day to day basis,” she said.
 
“The conference was a great occasion where we could work together in our common humanity and in our hopes for peace for the world.” 

UnitingJustice News

From: Jennifer Whyte
Research Officer, UnitingJustice Australia

National Human Rights Consultation toolkit

UnitingJustice Australia has produced a toolkit to help individuals and groups within the Uniting Church to participate in the National Human Rights Consultation, now under way.

The kit provides information on how to get involved in the Consultation and on how human rights are relevant in our daily lives as individuals and as a society. It also includes information about the possible development of national human rights legislation and why the Assembly believes it to be an important step towards the better protection of human rights in Australia, especially for those who are most vulnerable in our society.

The toolkit is available in Word and PDF formats on the UnitingJustice website.

We urge you to use this kit to reflect on the human rights issues facing us as individuals and as a society, and to get involved in the Consultation.

You can do this by making a submission to the Consultation Committee or by attending one of the Consultation’s many Community Roundtables.

Information on making a submission as well as the locations and dates for the Roundtables are available on the Consultation’s website.

Please visit the Consultation’s website.

Freedom of Religion Submission

In August 2008, the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (now the Australian Human Rights Commission) launched a project entitled Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century. This inquiry will release its final report in 2010, after receiving submissions from the public on a broad range of issues and consulting further with faith communities and other civil society organisations.

UnitingJustice has contributed to a National Assembly submission to this inquiry. The Assembly’s Relations with Other Faith Working Group, the Justice and International Mission Unit of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and other Assembly agencies also contributed greatly to this submission.

The submission is available on the UnitingJustice website.

Human Rights and Religion Conference

UnitingJustice Australia and the Centre for Public and Contextual Theology (PaCT) at Charles Sturt University, are holding a conference on the occasion of the National Human Rights Consultation for people interested in the relationship between religion and human rights.

The Conference is entitled Seeking the Common Good: Why human rights matter.

Speakers include Rev Gregor Henderson (President, Uniting Church in Australia), Father Frank Brennan (Chair of the National Consultation Committee), Graeme Innes (Human Rights and Disability Discrimination Commissioner),  Assoc. Prof. Dr Clive Pearson (Principal of United Theological College and Associate Director of PaCT), Susan Ryan AO (Chair, Human Rights Act for Australia Campaign), Prof. Abdullah Saeed (Sultan of Omar Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Melbourne) and Prof. Spencer Zifcak (Director, Institute of Legal Studies, Australian Catholic University).

Workshops include submission writing, Islam and human rights, about human rights charters and justice and human rights for Indigenous Australians.

The Conference will be held 3-4 April 2009 and the Uniting Church Centre for Ministry, North Parramatta, NSW.

Registration forms are available at the UnitingJustice website.

New brochures now available

UnitingJustice has produced two new colourful, informative brochures for church members. They present the Uniting Church National Assembly's statement on human rights, Dignity in Humanity: Recognising Christ in Every Person, and the Assembly's statement on climate change, For the Sake of the Planet and all its People.

These brochures are provided free of charge, and are useful to make available in church foyers, at church events and for the general information of people who are interested in these issues. Both brochures have been printed on carbon neutral paper.

Please contact UnitingJustice to obtain copies of one or both of these brochures (please include a postal address and indicate how many copies you would like).

Contact UnitingJustice:
Phone: (02) 8267 4236
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

UnitingWorld News

From: Amy Goodhew
Communications Coordinator, UIM

We have reached an exciting point in our development as an agency of the Assembly. Uniting International Mission and Uniting Church Overseas Aid have formed one agency with one name – UnitingWorld.

Our range of programs remains unchanged under this new name. We hope this development will make it easier for you to engage in our work and the lives of our partner churches. Our programs are managed by the same people and we maintain our commitment to high standards, transparency, sustainability and ethical practice. We continue to aim to assist those challenged by disaster, disease, violence, famine, drought, injustice and poverty to overcome these hurdles.

We work to connect communities for life through our program areas:

Church Solidarity (formerly Uniting International Mission and Church Connections)
Relief and Development (formerly Uniting Church Overseas Aid)
Peacemaking (including Young Ambassadors for Peace)
Experience (formerly People in Mission)

As these changes take effect, you will notice some differences – job titles have been updated, a new website is under construction and we are developing more resources to communicate with Uniting Church members here in Australia.

If you have any questions about these changes, please call (02) 8267 4267 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Staff abroad

Kathy Pereira, Associate Director of Experience programs and John Barr, Associate Director of Church Solidarity (Asia) have travelled to India to meet with church leaders and view the range of programs we support in India. You can read more about their visit in the next issue of UnitingWorld magazine, out in April.

Joy Balazo, Associate Director of Peacemaking programs spent time recently in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea with our ongoing Young Ambassadors for Peace programs in those countries.

Laurie Fitzgerald, Associate Director of Relief and Development has recently returned from India, where he visited to attend the re-establishment of UnitingWorld’s India desk.

Church Solidarity: New Appointment

Bruce Mullan has commenced work as Associate Director of Church Solidarity (Pacific) on Monday 2nd March 2009. UnitingWorld is delighted to welcome Bruce to our team and looks forward to his contribution to our engagement with our neighbours in the Pacific.

Experience

Experience programs have two urgent placement needs for which we are receiving expressions of interest. If you think you may have the skills and passion to explore these possibilities, please contact Kathy Pereira by phone on:
02 8267 4250 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

1. Urgent need for an Architect/ architectural draftsperson to teach at  a Vocational Education College in Tonga (any time commitment considered)

2. Critical need for carpenters/ builders for Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s project in Mwandi, Zambia.

Experience’s next pre-Service training will be held from 1st – 8th July, 2009.

One of our Experience Volunteers, Rev David Howie from Victoria, has returned in early 2009 from 12 months working in Mwandi, Zambia. David was asked to take up a Supply Ministry position in Whittlesea, Victoria, and now finds himself facilitating the Uniting Church response in this area to the Victorian Bushfires. Please pray for David as he has to rapidly re-adjustment to Australia.

Victoria Bush Fires

UnitingWorld has received numerous expressions of solidarity and support from Uniting Church partner churches in response to the devastating fires that have ripped through Victoria. We have received expressions of support from churches including:

  • Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu
  • Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga
  • Indonesian Christian Church - Regional Synod
  • West Java
  • Church of North India
  • Sudan Council of Churches
  • Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
  • Christian Conference of Asia
  • Methodist Church of New Zealand
  • Ekalesia K Niue
  • Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

 

Messages can be viewed at the Assembly website.

News from Asia

Sri Lanka is currently witnessing the horrific crescendo of 25 years of civil war. The Sri Lankan Government has in recent months mounted an offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or Tamil Tigers in the north of the country. The collateral damage from this campaign has been horrific with some estimates as high as 250, 000 civilians caught in the cross fire between the two groups. UnitingWorld has been receiving updates from the Bishop of Jaffna, the Rt. Rev Dr Daniel Thiagarajah who has expressed to us the horror of their situation. UnitingWorld asks that you remember the Tamil people of Sri Lanka in your prayers as they struggle to find a way though the violence. For more information, email Amy Goodhew.

John Barr, Associate Director, Church Solidarity (Asia) welcomed church leaders from West Papua on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th March. The Moderator, Rev Jemima Hirino-Krey, and the General Secretary, Rev Hiskiah Rollo of the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua came to Sydney to discuss ongoing partnership with the UCA.

Rev Jemima was appointed Moderator in July 2008 – she is the only current female Moderator of a church in Indonesia.

The Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua is the largest church in West Papua and it is involved in human rights advocacy, peace initiatives, education and health.

Discussions also involved representatives from the United Evangelical Mission based in Germany. We are seeking ways of working more cooperatively in West Papua, particularly in the areas of education and leadership development.

Relief and Development

Uniting Church Overseas Aid has had an office in India for the last three years. The office, which is run by local staff, provides support for a range of programs on the sub-continent. On Fri 6 February we celebrated the re-establishment of this office as an expanded UnitingWorld office.

Theology and Discipleship News

From: Chris Walker
National Consultant, Theology & Discipleship

In the past month the working groups on Doctrine and Worship have met. The Doctrine group looked at a number of papers. Future work will include papers on Theological Diversity and Being an Apostolic Church.

The Worship group considered responses to the draft, A Short Guide for Daily Prayer, which is available for people, especially groups, to use. It will be revised slightly with indications as to how it can be used flexibly.

The National Consultant has also had valuable meetings with leaders in both the Queensland and South Australian Synods emphasising the importance of theological and missional thinking and fostering discipleship.

Doctrine News

From: Rod Horsfield
Secretary, Doctrine Working Group

User friendly Doc.bytes are publications from the Working Group on Doctrine that explain in simple language, the Uniting Church’s understanding of basic or current theological issues.

Doc.bytes can be purchased in glossy print from the Assembly office or simply downloaded from the website. Topics covered so far include Doctrine, Apologetics and Marriage.

Other Doc.bytes on the topics of Evangelism, Baptism, Ordination, and Peacemaking will be made available in the near future.

We encourage members of the church to visit the Doctrine website which we will continue to update and use as a means of making the work of the group available to the church.

Suggestions for other Doc.bytes are welcome. Please feel welcome to recommend them by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Frontier Services News

From: Greta Howard
Frontier Services

Living Water for a Thirsty Land

Is it coincidence, that the 12th Assembly has chosen the theme Living Water for a Thirsty Land?

In its territory covering 85% of the Australian continent, Frontier Services Patrol Ministry has, since 1912, been supporting families living on isolated properties and communities, for example, in the Lake Eyre region who have endured many years of drought.

But now the Queensland flood waters are wending their way along the Diamantina and Georgina rivers, through the corner of the desert in South Australia and spilling into Lake Eyre.

The 9,690sqkm basin, which at 15m below sea level is the lowest point in Australia, has filled to brimming only three times since it was first sighted by Europeans 160 years ago, and it has been a very long time between drinks for locals waiting for this drought to break.

While in the Kimberley and the Pilbara regions of Western Australia, our staff are on hand to respond to the dislocation and uncertainty that recent job losses in the mining industry are causing.

Charleville childcare service

We have moved quickly to reassure concerned parents that Charleville Early Learning will continue to provide much needed childcare services to the community when Frontier Services takes over the operation of the centre from Monday, 20 April.

We are excited about the opportunity of providing a high quality service for families and their children in Charleville. 

We currently operate the Remote Area Families Service (RAFS) based in Charleville which provides a mobile early childhood and family support service to outlying properties and communities. We also provide RAFS services in 4 other Queensland regions, operate a national In Home Care program, have a Family Day Care program based in Hughenden and a Remote Family Care Service providing short term live-in carers to people on remote properties throughout Queensland. The Charleville Early Learning Centre, together with its Family Day Care and In Home Care programs will benefit by becoming part of our larger network of children’s services already operating across rural and remote Queensland.

Patrol Minister, Rev John Case, is also based in Charleville as well as our volunteer program, Outback Links, coordinated by Davida Melksham.

Reliable regional air service needed

The collapse of regional carrier MacAir on 6 February, combined with the floods in the North, has compounded the sense of isolation people are feeling in rural and remote parts.

Frontier Services has called on political parties to clarify their position on regional transport prior to the 21st March Election.

While the Government has taken steps to ensure former MacAir destinations are now being serviced by other airlines for the next 6 months, people need to know what will happen when those arrangements conclude and whether regional air services will be a priority for a new government.

A reliable and affordable regional air service is a major concern for the people of rural and remote areas and political parties should reassure regional communities that this will be a priority if elected to government.

Christian Unity News

From: Sandy Yule
Christian Unity Working Group

Are you a Uniting Church member ecumenically involved and interested in further involvement?

Opportunities are always there for local and regional involvement of various kinds. In addition, there are occasional opportunities for participation in ecumenical conferences and in the work of the Christian Unity Working Group.

If you want to record your interest, you are invited to contact the Rev Dr Sandy Yule, Secretary of the Christian Unity Working Group with a brief curriculum vitae which highlights your ecumenical experience and involvement and your areas of particular interest.

Contact Sandy Yule:
CUWG, Level 4, 11 Bank Place, Melbourne, Vic. 3000
Ph: (03) 9606 0034
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Adult Fellowship News

From: Alyson Madsen
Adult Fellowship

Thank you Australia

The special project commissioned by the 2006-2009 National Committee invited each Uniting Church member to knit, crochet, or sew a square from warm material. The squares were then sewn together to form rugs. The rugs are a symbol demonstrating the Son shining through us, in the uniqueness of each one of us and from all different situations and stations of life, and yet reflecting the combining fabric of the church.

During the three years just over 2,400 rugs (approx. 48,000 squares) were received. They came in all colours, sizes and textures, all made with the special love of Jesus. The rugs were dedicated at the Fellowship’s National Celebration in Caloundra and then distributed through UnitingWorld as well as other sources to areas of need throughout the world.

Rugs were forwarded, free of cost, to:

  • Orphanages in Russia via Mission without Borders
  • Watoto Program, Uganda Orphanages - through Bayside UC, Queensland
  • PNG Cyclone Appeal ¬ - through Christian Outreach, Rockhampton
  • Nan Province, North Thailand - through Tear Australia
  • Mongolian Orphanages - through Soroptomist Association
  • Shi-Loh Church Ministries Orphanages - through UC Church Rockhampton
  • Napal and Kinglake Fire Victims - through Moreton Bay College
  • Luwi (Love) Orphanage Scheme, Zambia - through Brethren Church Wynnum
  • PNG Highlands - through Rotary International, Jindalee Branch
  • Cambodia - Dorcas Program
  • Solomon Islands - rugs for new born babies
  • World Vision (Guardian Pharmacy) held for despatch
  • Equestrian Group Members in Warwick as a result of the Equine Flu shut-down

In a very practical way, this will deepen our relationships with other denominations and with churches in Asia, the Pacific, Africa and indeed throughout the world. Continued support of Uniting Care, Frontier Services and UnitingWorld is just part of the joyful work of the fellowship members and will continue to be for years to come.

Positions Vacant

Reference Committee seeks assistance

From: Terence Corkin
Assembly General Secretary

Are you interested in bringing your knowledge of the church and the law together in assisting the work of the Assembly Legal Reference Committee? The Committee undertakes a range of tasks in support of the good ordering and life of the church. The members of this voluntary committee review regulations and assist the Assembly Standing Committee in this area; provide advice to the President when a Presidential Ruling is sought; offers advice to other bodies when they are developing policies that have a legal aspect to them and assists the General Secretary when his advice is sought in certain areas. It is varied and interesting work and requires people to be available for a lunch time (approximately 2 hours) meeting every couple of months (a little more regularly around Assembly meetings) at 222 Pitt St, Sydney.

This area of service suits Ministers with legal qualifications as well as practicing or non-practicing lawyers.

Expressions of interest and requests for more information should be directed to the Assembly General Secretary:

Ph: (02) 8267 4202
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

National Distance Education Network Officer, Uniting Church in Australia

The Uniting Church seeks a person with initiative, imagination and flair to build networks linking providers and users of distance theological education. This position has been established to support the transition of Coolamon College to Parkin-Wesley College.

The person appointed must have proven administrative and organisational skills, an engaging manner, and be willing to undertake some interstate travel. The position is based in Adelaide.

Applications addressing the selection criteria and providing the names of two referees must be received by 16 March 2009. For a position description and further information contact Annette.

Ph: (08) 8416 8431
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Applications for WCC Stewards Program 

From: Sandy Boyce
National Faith Development Consultant

Applications are invited for the World Council of Churches Stewards Program, for young adults aged 18-30, to take place in Geneva from August 19 to September 4, 2009.

The WCC Stewards Program involves unique events providing opportunities for participants to deepen their knowledge of the ecumenical movement, renew their ecumenical commitment and find inspiration for further work towards the unity of the church. The program will bring together 25 young people (aged 18-30) from all over the world and give them the opportunity to contribute with their work to the operations of the WCC Central Committee meeting. It will also provide a space for ecumenical learning, encounters and discussion.

For further information go to their website or UCA youth & young adults site

Applications close March 31st, 2009.

For more information contact Sandy Boyce:

Ph: 0409 283 004
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., http://nyyam.org.

Books for Unitings

Be Thou My Breastplate
Paul Wallis

Explores the ancient Celtic breastplate prayer of St Furza, inviting us to call on God’s protection and guidance in life.

(Continuum)  
ISBN: 9781906286194  

$27.95

Europe’s Monastery And Convent Guesthouses
Kevin Wright

Ideal for people planning an overseas holiday, with over 275 places to visit and stay throughout Europe.

(Liguori)
ISBN: 9780764817809  

$34.95

Apostles Of Fear
Morag Zwartz

The story of the Brisbane Christian Fellowship and how a church’s cruel drive for perfection resulted in broken marriages and divided families.

(Parenesis)
ISBN: 9780958795524  

$29.95

Living With Wisdom
Jim Forest

Revised edition that introduces us to the life, prayer, teaching and legacy of the monk who influenced millions of Christians world-wide.

(Orbis)
ISBN: 9781570757549  $44.95

Consuming Passion
Simon Barrow (ed)

Suggests that many Christians have the wrong idea about the killing of Jesus and asks how his death connects with the conflict, division, suffering and violence of our world. Profound reading for Lent and Easter.

(DLT)
ISBN 9780232526073  

$34.95

For more information on Books for Unitings email  Hugh McGinlay or visit the website.

New from MediaCom

God-size Your Church
John Jackson

This new how-to for church growth outlines principles of growth for all sizes of congregations, while emphasizing that church growth is not about numbers, but about fulfilling God's vision for your church's impact on the world.

(Abingdon Press)
Product code: AB909  

$32.45 

First Light: Jesus and the Kingdom of God
John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg

First Light is a 12-session DVD and web-based study of the historical Jesus and the Kingdom of God with two of the world's leading Jesus scholars on location throughout the Galilee and Jerusalem.

(Living The Questions)
Product code:  LTQFL   

$325.00

Old Testament Theology
Walter Brueggermann

In this 1st volume in the Library of Biblical Theology series, Brueggemann portrays the key components in Israel's encounter with God as recorded in the Hebrew Bible.

(Abingdon Press)
Product code: AB4090  

$37.45

Sermons on the Gospel Readings
Robert J Elder, John Smylie, Kristin Borsgard Wee

One life changed the course of history — and the accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection contained in the New Testament gospels provide stirring evidence of how God’s Son offers new birth to humanity. In this complete set of insightful and inspiring sermons for every Sunday and major celebration in the church year, an experienced group of five master preachers skillfully articulates the timeless truths embedded in the Cycle B gospel texts of the Revised Common Lectionary.

(CSS Publishing Company)
Product code: CSS544  

$60.75

Best Funeral Meditations

This collection of best funeral meditations provides a wide range of messages that address almost every death situation from the anticipated to the tragic. These classic meditations have been gathered from the writings and contributions of pastors, church leaders, and teachers of many denominations.

(CSS Publishing Company)
Product code: CSS159  

$14.95

Order books from MediaCom at their website.