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Assembly Update September 2009

The September edition of Update is here, with all the latest news from the Assembly agencies and working groups.



Just a Thought

Stories of Spirit and Leadership

Glenda Blakefield, Acting Assembly General Secretary We’ve heard a lot about leadership in the media in relation to the rise of Barack Obama. Now the media is questioning his ability to fix things. In Australia we were overloaded with tales of “Ute-gate”, the leader of the opposition and a call for his dismissal. He wasn’t a suitable leader. Leaders are supposed to get things right, fix things; save us from chaos. This version of the story of leadership is one we have been telling ourselves for  a very long time: the few, or even the one have all the answers and therefore have the power to protect us from chaos. Because of their strength we learn or are forced to do the right thing and this will ensure the preservation of our life as we have come to expect it. Order and stability are the fruits of our obedience. As are a full belly, a full garage, and jobs that are always available. There is no shortage of employment and housing. It’s easy to blame someone — leaders — when we don’t have these things. Of course, this theory or practice of leadership has hardly caught up with the surreal rate of change that our ecological systems, our churches, organisations and our communities are constantly experiencing. Chaos has become the norm. Is there another story to be told and lived? Is leadership that is not the exclusive property of the few or the one possible?  In this story there is no lack of leadership, but rather the emergent presence of a very different sort of leadership. Perhaps questions and not answers would predominate. The goal of leadership is not to establish perfection. It is to wait on the spirit .What might that look like? The spirit is alive and well when you look at some churches, some organisations, some local communities, and some parts of how a country governs its people. People themselves are leading. Community is created; justice is served and creativity is cherished. Everyone knows when the spirit is up and also when the spirit is diminished. No amount of money, strategizing or technological savvy can substitute for the spirit. Indeed when grass roots community churches with no money thrive the spirit is up and running. When local communities demonstrate that they care about one another more than a new development the spirit is up and running. It is about inspiration. The spirit infuses situations and people. This is another story of leadership and it is a very old one. The gospel tells us a story about leadership, the most profound one. The resurrection tells us that the spirit is for all and not the few. Christ is raised for the community and for everyone. Jesus of Nazareth underwent the most profound transformation possible through the love of God. The spirit was up and running. So in the end who we are; the way we relate and connect with people is vital. Are we spirit-infused people, ready for leadership? The spirit is already waiting for us and like the disciples on the road to Emmaus; we only need recognise it. This is our heritage as ordinary human beings and our particular and glorious heritage as the Christian community. Shalom


ASC News

New standing committee meets

The newly-formed Assembly Standing Committee has convened for the first time.

Elected by the 12th Assembly, the 16 voting Standing Committee members come from all synods of the Uniting Church.

The group will carry forward business referred by the 12th Assembly, as well as other issues that arise for the national church during the next three years.

Meeting in Sydney over the weekend of 29-30 August, the ASC discussed a range of issues and formed some important task groups to carry on the work of the Assembly. Some of what was discussed is outlined below.

School chaplaincy

Following a proposal brought by Ku-ring-gai Presbytery (unfinished business from the 12th Assembly), the ASC has agreed to request the Doctrine Working Group to prepare a paper on school chaplaincy.

The last major Uniting Church paper produced on the ministry of chaplaincy was in 1986 and the discussion within the ASC centred on the changed context in which chaplains are now working. General Secretary, Rev. Terence Corkin, said that this changed context had led, in some instances, to confusion and conflict between agencies, schools, councils of the church and the chaplains themselves.

Added to that, there was agreement that there were different expectations about how schools operate as sacramental communities. The Doctrine Working Group will be asked to come to some theological understanding about the role of chaplains with particular reference to the changed context and the issues outlined above.

Some ASC members had concerns about the narrow focus of the paper, suggesting that there was a greater breadth of work in non-congregational settings beyond school chaplaincy. However, it was agreed that broadening it out would not only be a huge undertaking, but that there were issues that were unique to school chaplaincy that were valid to explore in their own right.

The President, Rev. Alistair Macrae, said it was a "modest proposal" but a piece of work we needed to do to get some clarity before we entered into a broader conversation.

The Doctrine Working Group will report their findings to the November 2010 ASC Meeting.

Centenary of Australian Inland Mission

Frontier Service has begun to consider the ways in which the centenary of the establishment of the Australian Inland Mission might be celebrated, both by Frontier Services and by the whole church, in 2012.

A planning group will now be established (by Frontier Services) to progress a conversation on behalf of the UCA in relation to a shared celebration with the Presbyterian Church of Australia, which is also planning its own celebrations.

It is hoped that a commemorative coin or note and a centenary stamp or first day cover might also be developed for the occasion.

Funding aged care providers

The Uniting Church is the largest provider of aged care services in Australia and Frontier Services is the largest provider in the outback. However, with the current funding, Frontier Services is struggling to provide the level of services required.

Speaking to the ASC, National Director of Frontier Services, Rosemary Young, said, "Aged care is becoming much harder because the care is becoming much higher. The commonwealth continues every day to completely deny that the aged care work force is underpaid, overworked and ageing."

General Secretary of Queensland Synod, Douglas Jones, said, "We are facing enormous challenges in Queensland. We [the church] have to position ourselves to have a voice in what is a significant debate."

The ASC strongly supported a proposal to write to the Federal Minister for Health and Aging to express serious concern over the shortfall in Commonwealth government subsidy funding to approved aged care providers. The letter will also request the Minister to consider options for increasing subsidy funding to approved providers.

Connecting with young people

Assembly Key Direction (c) includes providing opportunities for young people to lead. With that in mind, the ASC has established a task group to look at youth and family ministry.

The task group will:

  • identify areas of effective ministry with children, youth, young adults and family ministry across the life of the UCA;
  • explore what is the future of ministry and mission with younger generations in the life of the UCA; and
  • identify what the Assembly could usefully do to assist the church to more effectively engage in ministry and mission with younger generations.

One of those who drafted the terms of reference, Andrew Johnson, said that there may well be something that the Assembly could do in this area of ministry and the ASC agreed it would be worth giving a group of people a go at identifying what that might be. Any work will be in consultation with existing groups and projects, including Christian Education, the National Young Adults Reference Committee, synods, presbyteries, etc.

The task group will report back to the ASC in July next year. Andrew said the report will include: "This is what we’ve seen, and this is where we’re at, and this is what we think the Assembly could do in this area."

The task group will report back to the ASC in July next year. Andrew said the report will include: "This is what we’ve seen, and this is where we’re at, and this is what we think the Assembly could do in this area."

Addressing Afghanistan

"Since the formation of the Uniting Church the Assembly has repeatedly addressed Jesus Christ’s call for peace," said Rev. Dr Chris Walker as he outlined a proposal to the ASC. The proposal relates to the withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan.

Chris said that the church had made comments about peace in general before, but this situation afforded us the opportunity to make resolutions about a specific area that required peace; where we wanted peace. "The purpose of this proposal is to focus on a specific conflict arising from the so-called War on Terror," said Chris.

The ASC supported the proposal to write to the Australian Government, encouraging it to increase its humanitarian and diplomatic means in Afghanistan; to assist the people of Afghanistan to build a peaceful and just society; and to support the Australian government policy to withdraw Australian troops as soon as possible from Afghanistan.

The President gets down to business

Since his installation in July, new President, Rev. Alistair Macrae, has been keeping busy. He has spent time meeting with some of the National Directors of Assembly agencies to get briefings about the areas of work of the Assembly for the triennium.

Alistair’s responsibilities include nurturing relationships with partner churches overseas and he has been working with UnitingWorld to prioritise visitations to those churches in the next three years. One such priority is Vanuatu and Alistair therefore attended their recent Assembly.

Alistair will also visit Korea for the 120th anniversary of Australian Mission to Korea, where he’s been invited to preach at the ecumenical service in Seoul.

Back home, he has been invited to lead Bible studies at the Northern Synod and South Australian Synod meetings. He told the ASC that he was grateful for the opportunity to participate in those meetings.

Alistair named the relationship with the UAICC as a priority for himself and said he will be meeting with its leaders soon to determine and stimulate the covenanting process across the church; to see how he can best serve that process.

And for those who attended the Ministers’ conferences in 2008, you’ll be very pleased to hear that Alistair is looking to host another series in 2011.

Changes to the Constitution

Six amendments to the Constitution were approved by the 12th Assembly, three of which relate to the church’s relationship with Congress.

Speaking to the ASC, General Secretary Rev. Terence Corkin, said that the proposed amendments to the Preamble, in particular, were complex and raised a number of issues. Because these amendments will now go to synods and presbyteries for consideration, Terence said, "It seems reasonable to try and make clear some of the learnings that we made at Assembly."

A small pamphlet has been produced that provides the text of the new Preamble and outlines ‘frequently asked questions’. Added to that a short DVD will be made available that asks the same questions but will be recorded in a different way. The President and/or the General Secretary will attend every synod to also assist with the progression of discussions around these issues.

The ASC determined that the closing date by which presbyteries and synods must respond to the proposed changes to the Constitution, including the Preamble, is 31 October 2010.

The Q&A pamphlet will also be translated into Tongan, Korean, Fijian, Samoan and Indonesian, in consultation with Rev. Dr Tony Floyd.

It will also be translated into some Aboriginal languages in consultation with Congress and the Northern Synod. However, Congress Chair, Ken Sumner, said that it was most important for the English language to be clear.

Responses to proposed changes to Clause 39 will also have a response date of 31 October 2010. However, decisions relating to the co-option of members to Synod and Assembly Standing Committees will be required by 31 December 2009.


Relations with Other Faiths

Shannon Dillon, Education/Administrative Assistant, Uniting Faith & Discipleship
and Glenda Blakefield, National Assembly Associate General Secretary

UCA National Assembly to host session at Parliament of the World's Religions

The Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly will be hosting a session at the upcoming Parliament of the World’s Religions (3-9 December, Melbourne) entitled Neighbourhoods of Difference: The Uniting Church in Australia and Interfaith Relations.

The program will explore the topic of how migration to Australia has brought together people of different cultures and religions. This has raised new challenges for the Uniting Church in terms of how it lives and expresses its faith in both a multicultural and multi-religious context. One challenge faced by the Uniting Church on the topic of interfaith relations is that church membership includes a range of people with different life experiences, cultural backgrounds, and perspectives. For example, some migrant members who have been persecuted by another faith group in their home of origin often wonder how and why the Uniting Church engages with people of other faiths, while other members openly embrace people of other faiths.

The theme of the program, “neighbourhoods of difference,” expresses the simple but integral message that “loving the neighbour who is different” is part of the Uniting Church’s identity and mission. In extending its welcome and hospitality both within and beyond its church boundaries, the Uniting Church holds together and values “neighbourhoods of difference” within the Australian context and in our international relationships. The theme will be explored through a DVD presentation and a panel of key Uniting Church leaders.  The session will demonstrate how the Uniting Church learns, struggles, embraces and lives with diversity and difference.

For more information and to register for the Parliament of the World's Religions go to: www.parliamentofreligions.org/

Relations with Other Faiths co-hosts visit of Inter-religious Coordinating Council of Israel

Three members of the Inter-religious Coordinating Council of Israel (ICCI) recently visited Australia to spread their message of grassroots interfaith peace-building. Through the commonalities of their Abrahamic faiths, they seek to find solutions for people of different faiths to work together for the common good.

The three speakers included Dr Debbie Weissman, the President of the International Council of Christian and Jews and Co-Chair of the ICCI, an Israeli Jew; Issa Jaber, Co-Chair of the ICCI, a Muslim- Arab Israeli; and Rula Shubeita, a Christian-Arab Palestinian.

The ICCI seeks to utilise the common values and bases of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as a means of engaging people through religious understanding to embrace reconciliation, mutual coexistence and to promote understanding of each other's faith. Going beyond dialogue alone, the members of ICCI have a commitment to problem solving in practical contexts and have developed valuable tools for use in negotiating difficult interfaith conflicts. ICCI works with people to promote Jewish-Arab coexistence and peace building and is affiliated with the International Council of Christians and Jews.

The group’s visit to Australia included a speaking engagement on 26 August sponsored by the UCA National Assembly Relations with Other Faiths Working Group, the Council of Christians and Jews NSW, and the Uniting Church NSW/ACT Synod.

Ms Pearl Wymarra acknowledged the land of the Gadigal people with a short prayer and a warm welcome to the overseas guests and the other visitors was given by Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia and Mr William Szekely, the President of the Council of Christians and Jews NSW, Inc. The event was well-attended and there was opportunity for questions and discussion.

New Resources Available on Relations with Other Faiths Website

The website of the Relations with Other Faiths Working Group, launched in July, continues to be updated with new resources. This month, additions include:

  • Glossary of Religious Terms from each of Australia's major religions
    Expanded recommended reading list including a section dedicated to Australian publications
    New book review of Transformation by Integration: How Inter-faith Encounter Changes Christianity, by Perry Schmidt-Leukel
    New article posted about Australia’s Religions


To explore the many resources on the website including news and upcoming events, or to sign up for monthly e-newsletters go to: www.assembly.uca.org.au/rof/


Adult Fellowship


2010 Adult Fellowship Celebration

Alistair Christie, Chairperson, UCAF National Committee The 2010 National Adult Fellowship Celebration is to be held at Greenhills Centre, Canberra between 21st and 25th April. Greenhills is a community centre of the Uniting Church Presbytery of Canberra Region providing live-in facilities for many groups including school, church and community, to enable group training, leadership development, retreats, conferences and many other activities. The centre is located in a rural setting,15 minutes by car from the heart of the city, overlooking the lovely Cotter Valley towards the Brindabellas.
Detailed information on registration, speakers and post celebration tour has been distributed through all Synod UCAF committees and contact people. For more information contact:

Denise and Allan Secomb
 02 4951 6885 (Celebration)

Judy and Geoff Hicks
P: 02 4933 3703 (Post Celebration Tour)

Ron Gregory
P: 02 0747 1448 (Registration)


Frontier Services

Felicita Benedikovics, Communications Officer, Frontier Services

Over the past three months Frontier Services’ staff have sported an unusual accessory in the interest of boosting health and fitness: a pedometer. This month the winners of the 10,000 Steps initiative were announced with the top two team places (the Griffiths team — consisting of the Patrol ministers — and the Northern Territory team) clocking up over a million steps. Even more impressive were the individual steppers (Helen Dann from the NT regional office and Patrol Minister Rob Dummermuth in WA) whose efforts brought them closer to 2 million steps each. Unsurprisingly top rated steppers came from more remote areas. The exercise (or lack thereof) provided a much needed wake up call to the National Office in Sydney whose daily coffee run did not amount to much on the pedometer! The gates to this year’s annual Frontier Services Old Timers fete in Alice Springs looked more like a Myer’s New Year Sale on Saturday 8th August. And a very successful event it was too, raising an impressive $72,000 for the Old Timers Village, a $10,000 increase on last year. It enjoyed support locally and from right across Australia with donations from synods in Victoria, NSW and South Australia gratefully received. This year’s top selling items were cakes which doubled their taking on last year and chutneys and relishes practically walked themselves out the gate. The induction of Rev Walli Fejo the new Patrol Minster of the Mobile Aboriginal Patrol based in Port Augusta South Australia will take place on 20 September.


Theology and Discipleship

 Chris Walker, National Consultant, Theology & Discipleship

Doctrine Working Group

The Doctrine working group has recently met and identified priorities for the next triennium.  These include doing some work with others in relation to the new Preamble to the Constitution, developing papers on “Theological Diversity” and “Being an Apostolic Church”, putting out a list of Essential Resources for those in leadership in congregations, and producing more Doc.bytes and pamphlets.  A paper prepared by Andrew Thornley on “Sexuality and Church Leadership – an International Perspective” and a paper tracing the history of the issue, “Sexuality and Leadership – an ongoing story”, which was approved at the recent meeting of the Assembly Standing Committee, will go on the Doctrine website.  This concludes the work on that subject which the Doctrine working group was asked to do.  In response to questions at the recent Assembly, people were reminded of the Becoming Disciples process as a valuable resource.

Worship Working Group

The Worship working group is developing a booklet that will contain orders of service for Holy Communion similar to the well used blue booklet produced in the past.

Theology and Discipleship

The National Consultant is trialling a Discipleship Training course at present in a local congregation which he intends to make available next year. A Bible Study on peace is being prepared by a small group.  It will include commentary, prayers, suggested activities and interviews on a DVD with a number of people involved in engaging in peace as part of their discipleship.  The resource is planned to be ready by the end of the year.



Amy Goodhew, Communications Coordinator, UnitingWorld

North Korea Appeal

Hitting mailboxes right now is our ‘Right now in North Korea’ appeal for UnitingWorld projects in Rason, North Korea. The brochure for this appeal is using a new format that folds out to display a map of all the projects you can support. Our hope is people will support the growth of these incredible projects and mark their contribution on the map. This appeal comes after months of turmoil between the North Korean government and the rest of the world and is an important part of showing love and compassion to the North Korean people, the real victims of international tensions. 2009 is a special year for Korean/Australian relations as it marks the 120th Anniversary of Australian missionaries in Korea, which will be celebrated on October 4 of this year. September and October see celebration in both Australia and South Korea to mark the occasion.


Tension has been growing in Fiji. Since the government decision to ban the Methodist Church’s Annual Conference and Choir Festival, seven members of the Church’s Standing Committee including the Church's President, the Rev. Ame Tugaue, and its General Secretary, the Rev. Tuikilakila Waqairatu have been charged with breaching the Public Order Act. 

UnitingWorld is posting regular daily updates from a variety of sources: www.unitingworld.org.au.

Fiji Methodists: a situation snapshot

In recent months the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma (MCIF) has experienced unprecedented government intervention. Permits were refused for the 2009 Methodist Conference and the annual singing & choir festival which usually gather 600-700 choirs of all sizes. They were also refused when the Festival was then changed from a national event to a series of divisional gatherings and when the event was then moved from divisional gatherings to even more localised circuits. The choir singing was for many years part of the MCIF budget planning; contributing about 25% of the total annual budget. Other aspects of their budget have come from overseas Fijian congregations, including from the Uniting Church in Australia which contributed this year. These events are placing the MCIF under considerable financial strain. In terms of church administration there has also been a range of Government limitations: The Fiji Government has not allowed the MCIF officers to be inducted into their elected positions of President, General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and others, the reason being that some of them were charged with offences under the Public Emergency Regulations. 
Some nine members of the Standing Committee including the President and the General Secretary are in court for a charge of breaking permit conditions. The next hearing on their case will be in November 2009. The Fiji government has said that they will hand over power in 2014 after a general election. UnitingWorld is continuing to work closely with the MCIF in developing plans for collaboration to meet the challenges ahead. More will be said about this as soon as those are finalised. Please be in prayer for wisdom for the leadership of the MCIF and for the UnitingWorld team at this time.

UnitingWorld Intern

UnitingWorld is hosting a short-term internship from the Pacific Conference of Churches.  Miss Oiner Moa, a member of the Congregational Church of Samoa, will be with UnitingWorld until the end of October. She is working specifically on Pacific Issues including trade justice and concerns relating to people who will potentially be displaced because of climate change.  Oiner is also helping UnitingWorld on matters regarding the Uniting Church’s relationship with the Pacific Conference of Churches.


The full list of Experience placement opportunities for 2010 is now available at: www.unitingworld.org.au/programs/experience

This list includes opportunities in Asia, Africa and the Pacific from time frames between 4 weeks and four years. All placements are at the specific request of our international church partners and we develop these to place a volunteer in the host church community. Experience placements provide life changing opportunities to use your gifts in the service of communities who need them and to learn from new cultures and traditions.

Be sure to check the UnitingWorld website for the full list. If you think you may have the skills and passion to explore these possibilities, please contact:

Kathy Pereira
P: 02 8267 4250
E:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Relief and Development

Rob Floyd and Laurie Fitzgerald have returned safely from Zimbabwe after traveling to the country for our Zimbabwe Emergency Food Relief program. While the country is slowly recovering from food shortages and economic disasters, the people of Zimbabwe are still struggling. Rob and Laurie were able to oversee the distribution of food stuffs provided by UnitingWorld’s emergency response and what a difference these things make in the home The Zimbabwe Food Aid Appeal will be launched in full shortly. Please check our website for updates.


Joy Balazo was in North East India between 23rd August and 1st September conducting peace workshops and training for local community leaders. Joy’s work in North East India has inspired many participants to spread YAP’s message in their long conflicted communities.



New from Mediacom

Outreach Beyond Business as Usual
John Jackson

A Christianity Today survey identified the most common self-described leadership weaknesses to be in strategizing, visioning, and entrepreneurial skills. Pastor and speaker John Jackson equips pastors to employ businesslike strategic planning and innovation skills to enhance their congregational leadership. Jackson's practical strategies and grand vision will empower you to explore new methods for maximum impact on your church and community. Abingdon Press
Paperback, 158 pages
Product code AB5842
Contemporary and Traditional Resources for Worship Leaders

Mary J Scifres and B.J. Beu, eds A trusted planning resource for traditional and contemporary worship now includes interactive CD. The Abingdon Worship Annual 2010 offers fresh worship planning resources for pastors and worship leaders. Abingdon Press
Paperback + CD, 288 pages
Product code AB5671
David N Mosser, ed Pastors and other preachers have long turned to The Abingdon Preaching Annual for help with one of the central tasks of their ministry: sermon preparation. The 2010 edition of the Annual improves this fine tradition: Sermon Helps

  • Lectionary-based sermons for each Sunday and special liturgical event of the year ·
    Commentary on lectionary passages not used in the weekly sermon
    19 topical sermon series on such diverse themes as the Jonah, Parenting, Serpentine Tales, Faith and Eschatology, Mountains of Revelation, and many more


Worship Planning Aids

Four-year liturgical event calendar
Guide to liturgical colors
2010 Lectionary readings in one, easy-to-read table 
Related worship aids following each lectionary sermon, and each series sermon Searchable CD-Rom included with every book

PDF format provides ease of navigation and use
Full text of the print edition with a hyperlinked table of contents
Offertory and pastoral prayers
Classical prayers
Classical and contemporary affirmations of faith 
Classic sermons
Hyperlinked helps: annotated bibliography, full text of every lectionary passage Abingdon Press
Hardcover+cd, 448 pages
Product code AB5661
$40.95 Order books from MediaCom at:

W: www.mediacom.org.au
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
P: 1800 811 311

  • 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 at: www.rainbowbooks.com.au. CONGREGATIONAL LEADERSHIP IN ANXIOUS TIMES
Being calm and collected no matter what
Peter Steinke
(Alban Institute)       
ISBN    9781566993289            $27.95

Anxious times call for steady leadership, acknowledging not only the potential for loss but also for creation, important learnings, and changes that will strengthen the congregation. Steinke inspires courage in leaders to maintain the course, unearth secrets, resist sabotage, withstand fury, and overcome timidity or doubts. IN THE BEGINNING
Creation culture and the spiritual life
Marva Dawn
ISBN    9780830837076            $25.95

Shows how the opening pages of the Book of Genesis rivet our attention on God, calling us to worship and to praise. By focusing on God, we become different people - not by trying to perfect a technique or follow a set of rules, but by allowing who God is to form who we are. THE SPECTACULAR ORDINARY LIFE
Experiencing full, vivid and rich life

Viv Thomas
(Authentic Media)
ISBN     9781850787914            $21.95

In a world of confusion and loss of purpose, Viv Thomas shows how a relationship with God can and should transform life. Combining exposition of major Biblical themes with powerful real life stories, this book instructs and empowers Christians to live life to the full in Christ. PATRON SAINTS FOR POSTMODERNS
Chris Armstrong
ISBN     9780830837199            $26.95

A professor of church history, Armstrong provides rich portraits of ten people from the past who translated the gospel for their own times, broke down barriers, ministered out of the brokenness we all share, knew what it feels like to live on the margins and believed in the power of stories to bring transformation through Christ. BRINGING THEOLOGY TO LIFE
Key doctrines for Christian faith and mission

Darren Marks
ISBN    9780830838523            $33.95

Shows the meaning of key doctrines for the day-to-day life of a faith community. ‘A very useful guide to some classic Christian doctrines, and recent theological reflection about them.’ (Alister McGrath)