Assembly Update April 2009

The April 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. 

PDF icon Download a PDF version of April Assembly Update.

Just a thought

From: Terence Corkin
Assembly General Secretary

As Easter approaches I am suffering from a little dread.

My dread is that we will find ourselves again assailed by the preachers of this world who will fall into the traps of modernism.

Modernism is marked by the confidence in scientific method and reason to allow us to explain and understand everything. Such preachers — whether identified by themselves or others as conservative evangelicals or progressive liberals — consider it essential to ‘make sense’ of the Easter story of Good Friday and Easter Sunday (I say story, not stories deliberately, but that, as they say, is another story).

‘Conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ alike have been seduced by the wisdom of the age — modernism — and so will seek to press upon us an awareness of the ‘reasonableness’ of the miraculous, or the ‘reasonableness’ of their reinterpretation of the Easter tradition.

I have nothing against ‘reasonableness’, indeed our faith must be plausible, all things considered; but is it not somewhat arrogant to think that unless we, in our frail and transient humanity, can understand and explain something then it lacks truth and reality?

My hope for this Easter season is that we might have a bit more encouragement to a humble pondering on the mystery of the cross and God’s saving work in Jesus Christ, rather than all this modernist mumbo jumbo.

But perhaps Paul said it best of all (again!) when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 1: 20 – 25:“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.”

 

The 12th Assembly: What’s New

From: Penelope Monger
Assembly Communications Officer

 Guiding your thinking

Two papers to assist in guiding Assembly members’ thinking have been made available on the 12th Assembly website. They are The Nature of Doctrine and the Role of the Assembly and Guidance for the Church’s Faithful Thinking.

Prepared by the Doctrine Working Group, and initially brought to the 11th Assembly, the first considers different kinds of theological statements while the second describes the way to go about theological thinking with a view to how most helpfully to address controversial issues.

You can find both papers in the resources section of the 12th Assembly website: www.assembly2009.uca.org.au.

Visitors’ program

A range of church excursions have been organised to provide delegates with the opportunity to learn about the breadth of ministry being carried out in the Sydney area. Online registrations will open for these excursions by mid-April. Further information on the excursions can be found at: www.assembly2009.uca.org.au .

Latest Stories

The 12th Assembly website is being frequently updated with stories and information that will be of interest to both 12th Assembly delegates and UCA members. Visit the website to view the latest updates including an interview with Associate General Secretary, Rev. Glenda Blakefield on discerning God’s call and the continuing work of the Relations with Other Faiths working group.

Visit the 12th Assembly website.

 

Theology & Discipleship News

From: Chris Walker
National Consultant, Theology & Discipleship

 Assembly Report

The Assembly report from Theology and Discipleship has been finalised. This includes the reports of the working groups on Doctrine, Worship and Mission and Evangelism. 

There is now a separate Theology and Discipleship section on the Assembly website.  It offers Towards a theology of Resource Ministry and Enhancers and Inhibitors of Evangelism and other papers.

Doctrine Working Group

The Doctrine Working Group has provided two background papers for the Assembly. One paper, The nature of doctrine and the role of the Assembly, points out that theology has different kinds of statements with different status.  The second paper, Guidance for the Church’s faithful thinking, describes the way to go about theological thinking.

These and other papers can be accessed at the Doctrine website.

Worship Working Group

The Worship working group wants to highlight the value of Uniting in Worship 2 with the CD as a resource that can be used flexibly in a variety of settings.  All leaders of worship would benefit from having this resource to draw upon. 

To access resources go to the Worship website.

UnitingJustice News

From: Jennifer Whyte
Research Officer, UnitingJustice Australia

Seeking an end to the nuclear threat

On 2 April, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev. Elenie Poulos, was part of a diverse group of NGO representatives meeting with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (an international body, established by the Australian and Japanese Governments, to further awareness among governments of the need for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament). The meeting, organised by ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons of which the Uniting Church is a member, was held to discuss the concerns of the NGO sector in relation to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and the international treaties designed to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. It was also a chance for the sector to press the importance of the Australian Government taking a lead in international diplomacy on nuclear issues.

The NGO team met with members of the Secretariat of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) to discuss the work of the Commission, a global initiative funded by the Australian and Japanese governments, and chaired by Gareth Evans. A separate meeting was held with key staff from the Arms Control and Counter Proliferation Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

In both meetings, Rev. Poulos stressed the Uniting Church’s complete opposition to the production, possession, threatened use or use of nuclear weapons and support for a Nuclear Weapons Convention which would systematically lay out the process for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons globally.

International diplomacy on nuclear issues is entering a crucial phase. Every five years, nations that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) meet to discuss measures to further nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

The last Review Conference in 2005 was largely viewed as a failure, not achieving any agreement progress on further disarmament. A similar failure in 2010 will render international efforts to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons lifeless. In May this year, Australian Government representatives will attend a Preparatory Committee meeting for NPT, which will convene to lay groundwork for the next NPT Review Conference in 2010. These meetings are crucial for reviving fledgling international mechanisms for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. DFAT is preparing for Australia’s participation in these meetings and the NGO delegation was able to have a worthwhile conversation about the hopes of Australian civil society for a strong and positive Australian contribution.

Find out more on UnitingJustice’s work on peacemaking and nuclear weapons as well as the WCC 2006 Minute on the Elimination of Nuclear Arms at the UnitingJustice website.

 

Working ecumenically for economic justice

From 15-20 March, Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, attended the second meeting of the World Council of Churches advisory body, the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA).

The CCIA, which advocates on public policy and systemic issues to promote peace, reconciliation, social justice and social transformation, met in Cuba to discuss the Global Financial Crisis.

The agenda focused on the effects of the GFC on the regions of the world, the Council of Churches’ response, ways of assisting those nations most in need and the creation of a new financial global system under the United Nations.

The CCIA believes that the current financial crisis is forcing the economic powers of the world to recognise that the current global economic system, one based on greed and "moneytheism", has failed almost all the world’s people. Now is the time to make deep and radical changes to the way we live so that we may fashion a new system that supports dignity for every person and respect for the integrity of creation.

In particular the CCIA believes that there is a need to democratise the global financial system so that all countries may participate in decision-making. It is not enough for the G20 to make all the decisions. The United Nations must be supported so that it can become the space for true and authentic international cooperation. It is also critical that we recognise that we cannot deal with the global financial system in isolation — it is intimately connected with then other crises we are facing — the energy, food and climate crises.

A full report of the meeting will be available soon on the UnitingJustice website.

UnitingWorld News

From: Amy Goodhew
Communications Coordinator, UnitingWorld

Relief and Development

Watch out for events in your region launching our new name. The first official event was held in Adelaide on March 28th. South Australian supporters of the overseas work of the Uniting Church gathered at Spicer Uniting Church in Adelaide to celebrate.

National Director, Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, spoke of the mission of the Church being at its very essence worldwide in scope, saying: “Our desire is that the heart for mission embedded in the Basis of Union continues to play out in new and creative ways.’” He thanked those present for their rich contribution to the overseas work of the Uniting Church and expressed our desire to re-energise the global engagement of our denomination.
 
Joy Balazo, Associate Director of Peacemaking, shared about the peacemaking work of Young Ambassadors for Peace as indicative of the creative ways God is working in conflicted areas in Asia and Pacific.

Those present also viewed the release of a new DVD on the work of UnitingWorld.

Further events are planned through 2009 as we work to connect the Uniting Church with our partners in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

New appointment

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Bryan Cussen as Pacific Project Officer for our Pacific relief and development programs. Bryan brings counseling, planning and project management experience and has been a University teacher in Papua New Guinea. For the last four years Bryan has managed the program-wide projects of the PNG Church Partnership Program, of which UnitingWorld is a partner. Bryan will work alongside existing staff Rob Floyd and Laurie Fitzgerald.

Call to fill placements

Experience programs still have two urgent placements for an Architect/ architectural draftsperson to teach at a Vocational Education College in Tonga and carpenters/builders for the Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s project in Mwandi, Zambia.

If you think you may have the skills and passion to explore these possibilities, please contact:
Kathy Pereira:
Ph: (02) 8267 4250
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Church Solidarity

UnitingWorld Pacific Associate Director Bruce Mullan was part of a small delegation (along with ACTU and others) to the Government's Pacific and Trade related parliamentary secretaries and staff recently, advocating the Uniting Church's perspective on Australia's Pacific trade negotiations. Bruce organised for Pacific Church leaders to meet with Ministers Crean and McMullen when they visit the Pacific late March.
 
In mid-April, a UCA delegation of four led by Assembly President Rev. Gregor Henderson is meeting in Fiji with Methodist Church Leaders from across the Pacific for this valuable opportunity to find ways to collaborate on major Pacific issues.

Vale Beth Davies

UnitingWorld wishes to advise that former mission worker with the Methodist Church in Fiji Miss Beth Davies died on Tuesday, 24 March. She was 86 years of age. Miss Davies served in Fiji as a tutor sister and then as a district sister (pastoral worker), coming home to Australia in 1959 to care for elderly parents. She returned to Fiji as a district sister in 1977, following her father's death in 1976 (her mother died in 1970) and served for another nine years or so before retiring to Sydney. She always had a warm place in her heart for Fiji and its people. UnitingWorld gives thanks to God for the life, ministry, and testimony of Beth Davies, especially for her outstanding contribution to the ministry of the Methodist Church in Fiji.

Christian Education News

From: Mark Hillis
National Director, Christian Education

Religious and Values Education in Schools

The Commission for Mission in the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania has been producing religious and values education curriculum materials for the past several years (organised by Margaret Scanlon, now retired). The project is close to completion. It has components for school grades from Preparatory to Year 10 (P-2; 3-4; 5-6; 7-8; and 9-10).

The curriculum material has attracted some interstate interest and deserves wider usage. This is a valuable resource for the Church, towards which the Assembly contributed funds between 2004 and 2007. It is designed for purchase by school communities. This material is recommended by the National UCA Schools Consultative Group.

To access the materials visit the Synod of VICTAS website.

National UCA Schools Consultative Group

In cooperation with Synod partners, the Assembly is building relationships with Uniting Church Schools and demonstrating concern for school education generally. The national profile of school education is growing along with the Australian Government’s engagement in that field.

This group was convened in late 2008 and held its first face-to-face meeting in January 2009. The group consists of the National Director, Christian Education and those persons who relate to Uniting Church schools directly on behalf of their Synods. Key objectives include:

  • Building relationships between the Uniting Church and its schools;
  • Supporting initiatives that strengthen identity, addressing the question, “What does it mean to be a Uniting Church School?” In doing so, this group also acknowledges the value and learning gained through several school communities that are based upon ecumenical relationships; and
  • Encouraging informed discussion of school educational issues across the Church.

The creation of this group enables collaborative work on the implications of the growing national agenda in school education, which includes national curriculum, national goals, school funding, and relationships with independent and non-government schools organisations. Of continuing concern also are matters relating to Indigenous scholarships, religious education, interfaith education, human rights issues, and school chaplaincy in both government and non-government sectors.

The Uniting Church’s presence in all kinds of school education and related ministries is frequently underestimated. Yet, from a national perspective, Uniting Church schools, and schools in which the UCA is a significant partner, care for more than 50,000 Australian children and youth every week. Add to this the participation of Uniting Church members and ministers in Government school education, through local volunteering, committee work, mentoring, religious education teaching, and chaplaincy support. There is much to celebrate in this vast arena of service and ministry to the wider community.

If you would like to know more about the Schools Consultative Group, contact Mark Hillis by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Frontier Services News

From: Greta Howard
Frontier Services

From the Outback to the Sea

Staff from Frontier Services Aged and Community Care services gathered in Sydney this week (23 – 27 March) for their annual conference. The conference, entitled ‘Stepping Out’, provided an opportunity for senior staff from more than 30 services based in Western Australian and the Northern Territory to share their stories, clarify their strategic goals and be informed and educated on matters impacting their services.

One of the most significant benefits a conference like this provides is the opportunity to gather together and feel connected and supported. Frontier Services operates in some of the most isolated regions and it is important that its staff have the opportunity to gather with colleagues to help overcome any sense of isolation.

For some staff, it was their first time to the ‘big smoke’ and the visit provided the opportunity to enjoy some of the best Sydney has to offer — a cruise on the harbour, a night at the theatre along with wonderful restaurants and great shopping.

Patrol Ministry

Frontier Services Patrol Ministry is continuing to expand as the need of people in the bush for spiritual care and practical support grows. There are continuing discussions with the Croagingolong Parish (combined Anglican/Uniting placement in far East Gippsland), Cobar/Nyngan (NSW) and the Flying Patrol based out of Broken Hill.

Rev. Ian Boudry has accepted the call to the East Kimberley Ministry.  He will commence in June for a three year placement.

Frontier Services now has vacancies in the West Kimberley Ministry (Derby) and the Gascoyne Patrol (Exmouth).  

Those interested in finding out more about Patrol Ministry should contact Rev. David Thiem:
Ph:  (02) 8270 1322

 

Filipino National Conference in Melbourne

‘Hawak Kamay’ (hand-in-hand) is the theme of the 2nd Filipino National Conference, being held at St Albans-Filipino Uniting Church, Melbourne, 5-7 June 2009.

Malugod naming inaanyayahan ang lahat ng mga Filipino sa Uniting Church dito sa Australia na makilahok at maki-isa sa ika-dalawang Pambansang Pagtitipon ng mga Filipino. 

Convenor of the conference, Gabby Ocampo, said, “The conference aims to gather as many Filipinos in the Uniting Church as possible. If you live anywhere in Australia we would like to hear from you and listen to your stories. Let us all join hands and reach out to one another in love and unity”.

The first Filipino conference was hosted by Quakers Hill Uniting Church, Sydney, in January 2007. Members of the two established Filipino congregations in the Uniting Church participated.

This year’s conference will begin with an opening worship on the Friday night and continue on to an exciting Saturday packed with great speakers from the Uniting Church, led by the Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, national director of UnitingWorld, Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, national director of Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry and Rev. Andy Tiver, minister of St Albans Filipino Uniting Church. Local speakers will lead our workshop topics.

Sunday is a great opportunity to worship together with the rest of the St Albans community. The closing program will be an evening of cultural presentations to be held at the Victoria University of Technology theatre, highlighting our rich heritage of Hawak Kamay.

Accommodation will be provided by members of the St Albans-Filipino Uniting Church for those coming from interstate or from areas far from the conference venue.

Please contact the following to register or for more information: Gabby Ocampo (ph) 0411278 738 or visit the website.

Books for Unitings

 For more information on Books For Unitings contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit their website .

What was Mark at?
Wilfrid Harrington

Mark's main concern is an abiding Christian concern: the centrality of the cross. His theology is a theology of the cross and Mark's Jesus is the most human in the gospels. Ideal preaching and study resource for this year of Mark.

(Columba) 
ISBN 9781856076340 
$38.95

Finding Francis, following Christ
Michael Crosby

The counter-cultural message of St. Francis for the church, the world, and for disciples of Christ today, with his teaching and witness that challenges the violence and materialism of our time.

(Orbis)
ISBN 9781570757297 
$29.95

Wounded Prophet
Michael Andrew Ford

Paints an honest and sympathetic picture, examining all areas of Henri Nouwen’s life, including his family upbringing, his vocation as a priest, his outstanding gifts as a writer and speaker; his friendship, his sexuality and his deep restlessness.

(DLT)
ISBN  9780232526523 
$40.95

The Fat Jesus
Lisa Isherwood

Provides a fascinating study of the complex ways that food, women and religion interconnect, and proposes a Christology of embrace and expansion, emphasising the fullness of our incarnation.

(DLT)
ISBN  9780232526387 
$40.95

Not Ashamed of the Gospel
Fleming Rutledge

Fifty-one sermons on Romans present the radical gospel of Paul, showing how Paul actually makes explicit what is implicit in the Gospel narratives and reveals the full dimensions of God's project to redeem the cosmos and everything in it.

(Eerdmans)
ISBN 9780802827371  
$38.95

New From MediaCom

Sermons On The Gospel Readings
Series 111, Cycle B

Robert J Elder, John Smylie and 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 skilfully 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
An Anthology

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

Turnaround And Beyond
A Hopeful Future for Small Membership Churches

Ron Crandall
  

This book offers helpful insight to any leader seeking to take small-membership church into a new phase of witness and mission.  

(Abingdon Press)
Product code AB699   
 
$32.45
  

Christian Weddings
Resources to make your Ceremony unique
Andy Langford
  

Ideal for engaged couples and ministers to plan unique and meaningful wedding services. CD-Rom included.  

(Abingdon Press)
Product Code AB959   
 
$27.45

For more information on books from MediaCom, visit their website.