Monday, 30 June 2014

Defining the Uniting Church in Australia

Rev. Dr Chris Walker - National Consultant, Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship.

The Uniting Church in Australia was inaugurated on 22 June, 1977 with a public celebration at the Sydney Town Hall. 

It was the result of the union of three protestant denominations – Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational – after a long period of negotiation. Many Presbyterian and some Congregational congregations chose not to be part of the union.

People from these three traditions were inspired by the vision expressed in the Basis of Union of a new and uniquely Australian Christian community. They believed that they could better serve God and witness to Jesus Christ by joining together rather than remaining separate. 

The Uniting Church is both part of the tradition of the church going back to its beginnings and also a relatively new church.  We seek to show the love, justice and peace of God, following Jesus’ example, with those we contact.  We strive to be a community where people can find a sense of belonging as they live out their own spiritual journey.

Qualities and Commitments of the Uniting Church

The Uniting Church is committed to serving the mission of God in the world, to help transform lives and communities for wholeness, peace and justice.  Our Basis of Union speaks of ‘the reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation’ as God’s purpose in which we share.

In the spirit of uniting we:

  • affirm the gifts and role of all people in the life of the church;
  • accept women and men as equals in ministry in all aspects of our church’s life and ordain women;
  • are concerned about social justice
  • value our vital relationship with indigenous people, particularly through the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress;
  • commit to being a multicultural church ministering and serving cross-culturally.

Worship

The Uniting Church has more than 2,000 congregations and faith communities in every part of Australia.  These include small rural congregations to large regional churches, gatherings in homes to large urban congregations, from café churches to other ways of worship.  A wide variety of music is used. 

The Uniting Church celebrates being a multicultural church and on any given Sunday worship will be held using more than 40 different languages including more than a dozen indigenous languages and many others using more than one language.  We are committed to building communities of love and hope where individual lives can be transformed as people journey together in faith and are called to make a difference in their wider communities. All who wish to join this journey are welcome.

Community services

The Uniting Church is the largest non-government provider of community services in Australia, providing services to more than 2 million Australians each year, employing 35,000 staff and 24,000 volunteers nationally.  UnitingCare agencies and Frontier Services provide services to individuals, families and communities in every state and territory and at all stages of life.

Our services include aged care; children’s services, youth and family support; disability support; patrol ministry; counselling; emergency relief; and housing and employment assistance. The Uniting Church has many chaplains in different contexts. As a church we deliver community services as one way of expressing God’s love for the world, and our care, with God, for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our communities.

Indigenous relationships

We are committed to partnering with indigenous communities in Australia, recognising the pain and damage caused to our country’s first peoples through European settlement and beyond. 

In 1985 the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress was established. Congress is dedicated to seeking the spiritual, physical, social, mental and emotional well-being of indigenous Australians.  In 1997 the Uniting Church made a formal apology to the Stolen Generation in recognition of past injustices and in 2010 a new Preamble to the Constitution of the Uniting Church was passed acknowledging indigenous experience.

Justice

In a Statement to the Nation in 1977 the Uniting Church affirmed that a Christian responsibility to society is fundamental to the church. 

UnitingJustice resources the Church as it considers its position on issues of national and international importance, such as human rights, refugee policy, peace and the environment. It works collaboratively within the Church and throughout civil society to respond to issues of the day and matters of public policy. UnitingJustice exists as an expression of the Church’s commitment to working toward a just, peaceful and reconciled world, communicating this vision through advocacy with government and activities in the public forum.

Overseas partnerships

The Uniting Church is committed to relationships beyond our national borders. 

Through UnitingWorld it has partnerships with churches around the world particularly in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.  In long term relationships we contribute to developing transformed local communities where peace and justice reign, poverty is alleviated and assistance is given in times of natural disasters, and we ourselves are transformed. Together we witness to our hope and life in Jesus Christ through the Spirit.

Ecumenical relationships

As part of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, the Uniting Church is active in ecumenical relationships both within Australia such as through the National Council of Churches in Australia and internationally by being involved in the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Methodist Council.

Our Calling under God

As a people journeying together on the way to God’s promised end we:

  • preach Christ the crucified and risen one and confess him as Lord; and hear his commission to make disciples of all nations;
  • bear witness to the unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural, economic, national and racial boundaries;
  • are a fellowship of reconciliation within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work;
  • recognise that our response to the Christian gospel will involve us in social, national and international affairs;
  • uphold basic Christian values and principles, such as the importance of every human being, the need for integrity in public life, the proclamation of truth and justice, the rights for each citizen to participate in decision-making, religious liberty and personal dignity, and a concern for the welfare of the whole human race;
  • pledge ourselves to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur; will work for the eradication of poverty and racism; will oppose all forms of discrimination; will challenge values which emphasise acquisitiveness and greed in disregard of the needs of others; are concerned with the basic human rights of future generations and will urge the wise use of energy, the protection of the environment and the replenishment of the earth’s resources;
  • affirm that the first allegiance of Christians is to God made known in Jesus of Nazareth, the one who gave his life for others.  In the Spirit of his self-giving love we seek to go forward.

(Based on the Basis of Union and the Statement to the Nation, 1977)