The National Reference Committee reflects the diverse and respectful nature of the Uniting Church in its membership and processes, said Rev. Glenda Blakefield, Associate General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly.
"This is a chance for us to discuss community and what being a part of the Uniting Church means to different cultures, including the dominant culture," said Rev. Blakefield.
"Through our multicultural life and cross cultural ministry we are able to recognise the gifts and calling of peoples of diverse cultural and language backgrounds."
The reference committee meets twice a year for three days to discuss topical community and national issues and upcoming events.
Committee members discussed growing congregations and community initiatives, including the growing Dinka congregation in Adelaide under the ministry of Rev. Amel Manyon and the successful Marhaba Cross Cultural Community in Perth.
Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, National Director of Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry, said that these programs show ways in which cross-cultural communities and ministries are thriving within the Uniting Church.
"These communities are a strong part of our present reality and central in the future of our church, as it becomes increasingly intentional in working across cultures," said Rev. Dr Floyd.
"Supporting initiatives like emerging congregations and cross-cultural community centres makes us a church for all of God's people."
Over 800 people will live on-site and hundreds more daily visitors are expected to attend the Tongan National Conference (TNC) in the Blue Mountains over the June long weekend.
"This is a powerful time of celebration and affirmation of Tongan culture and presence in the Uniting Church here in Australia, a time when out voices re heard," said TNC Chair Rev. Jason Kioa.
Committee members discussed a number of important issues across the Uniting Church including cultural understanding and expectations of marriage within their communities, access to culturally appropriate theological education and training, and ther sense of homelessness felt by many communities trying to find appropriate places to worship, especially for emerging churches.
Representatives of the committee will next meet in July with national theological educators to discuss cross cultural considerations in the methods and content of theological training.
"It is important to think about how we educate in our theological schools as we have students from many backgrounds and cultures," said Rev Dr Chris Walker, National Consultant, Theology and Discipleship.
"In this year's candidature for ministry at the Centre for Ministry in North Parramatta, for the first time ever, every candidate is from a different cultural background."
"We are called to bear witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and racial boundaries."
"Discussing how we educate candidates for ministry from culturally diverse backgrounds is just one way in which we can do this."
The Uniting Church in Australia declared itself a multicultural church at its 4th Assembly in 1985, and affirmed that it is a church for all God's people at the 11th Assembly in 2006.
The area of Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry falls under the mandate of Uniting Faith and Discipleshi, a unit of the national Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Photo: Top row (left to right): Rev Gaby Kobrossi, Rev Dr Tony Floyd, Rev Dave Williamson;
2nd Row: Rev Amel Manyon, Rev Hung Ly (Interpreter), Rev Dr Chris Walker, Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho;
3rd Row: Rev Kisoo Jang, Rev Dr Clive Pearson, Rev. Jason Kioa;
Bottom row: Dominique Khoury, Rev. Thresi Mauboy, Mrs Nga Ly, Rev. Amelia Koh-Butler (Chair), Centre for Ministry, North Parramatta, 28 May 2013.