This week I’m sharing my thought with you from the final meeting of the 13th Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) in Sydney. ASC members are in the middle of a big agenda in what has been a challenging triennium.
The range of governance and policy-making tasks the ASC tackles across the life of the Church is huge and growing. The business before us this weekend includes matters as different and diverse as recommendations from the Doctrine Working Group on the Theology of Marriage to transitional arrangements for the Minister’s Beneficiary Fund. We’ll listen to members of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress about the struggle against the forced closure of communities in Western Australia, and we’ll also grapple with the future shape of Frontier Services’ ministry.
There are a number of hard decisions pressing on us as to how we sustainably support several of our ministries into the future.
The environment for Australian churches is also particularly complex at the moment, with challenges to respond compassionately and coherently likely to arise from the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse.
Needless to say there are also many loose ends that need tying up for referral to the 14th Assembly in Perth, which opens only 100 days after Good Friday.
There is actually so much business to deal with we’ve had to schedule an extra day to deal with everything.
We will share the outcomes of the meeting with you in due course. In the meanwhile though I would like to put on record pre-emptively my thanks to members of the 13th ASC for their hard work and dedication over the last three years. They have made a significant contribution through the contribution of their time, gifts and energies.
I invite you to join our prayers together seeking God’s grace, guidance and blessing as we head towards the 14th Assembly.
I've just returned from a two-day visit to Vanuatu with UnitingWorld to assist to our church partner, the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu in their response to Tropical Cyclone Pam. The devastation I witnessed there was extensive and the damage to infrastructure and housing was extraordinary. Even in such circumstances the resilience of the ni-Vanuatu people in such difficult circumstances was uplifting. I have started to record some observations about it in my blog. UnitingWorld's Manager of Church Partnerships for Vanuatu Jane Kennedy travelled with me and has also shared her impressions. Please keep the people of Vanuatu and the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu in your prayers. This year has already seen several damaging cyclones striking the Northern Territory, Central Queensland and the north of Western Australia.
Cyclone Lam struck Arnhem Land on 20 February causing extensive damage, including deforestation and rendering over 60 dwellings uninhabitable. Communities on Elcho Island, Gapuwiyak, Ramingining and Milingimbi were affected. I visited Darwin to assist the Northern Synod and visited Galiwinku with Rev Steve Orme, the NRRC Resource Officer. It concerns me that they, once again, are facing another cyclone in Oswald as it approaches.
Cyclone Marcia struck Yeppoon and surrounding villages, then continued on a track to the south through Rockhampton. Apart from wind damage and widespread power loss over a number of days, flash flooding struck areas including Biloela. The flooding ruined many crops, including cotton crops just six weeks short of harvest, and levelled kilometres of fencing. This has been devastating to farmers in these areas, who have endured their second round of floods in two years, and now face the cost of rebuilding and re-fencing yet again without income to cover these costs. I visited the ministry agents here, in the Central Queensland Presbytery, to help support and plan responses to the damage and begin the process of planning welfare in disaster recovery.
Recovery from these events will take years and people I visit ask me to tell people not to forget them. They need support which is ongoing, not just reacting to the next disaster headline.
Each presbytery will assess its own needs and apply for and use funds from the National Disaster Relief Fund accordingly, but even at this stage people on the ground have flagged the need for an increased presence in terms of mental health workers and the need for relief funds throughout this year – in particular:
* Counsellors (suitable for the communities) in both Synod areas as mental health issues will become increasingly apparent over the coming months
* Pastoral workers (targeted to visit and care for people beyond the gathered community of the church)
Already there has been an identified need in both areas for:
* Discretionary funds – to be used for situations of hardship where bills and needs can’t be met in other ways.
* Allocated vouchers for building and fencing materials and food over the months ahead.
Ethical Decision-Making in the Key of an Economy of Life
UnitingJustice Australia has produced a resource to encourage faithful, ethical decision-making across the life of the Uniting Church in Australia. It is based on the principles and commitments to the wellbeing of people and the planet as described in the Assembly Statement, An Economy of Life: Reimagining Human Progress for a Flourishing World. The Assembly Standing Committee has commended this resource for use across the Church and its agencies.
To find out about what is happening across the country visit the Synod news sites below:
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