Friday, 05 May 2017

Pacific Reflections

Written by Stuart McMillan

I was blessed to spend this week in Tonga with church leaders from across the South Pacific.

Leading the gathering in devotions, I read from the Lectionary passage Acts 2:42-47: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”.

The fellowship referred to in the scripture describes Christians in the family of God, truly sisters and brothers.

It is what I envisage when I speak about being in the body of Christ - a sense by which the relationships shared within the fellowship have a kind of mutuality that prefers the need of the other above one's own.

I explained that I have learnt so much about the grace of God through the gift of adoption into an Indigenous First Peoples’ Clan, the Yolŋu people of Arnhem Land.

Later in the meeting, I had the opportunity to deliver a paper on reconciliation and renewal with Australia's First Peoples to the gathering, and we had a rich conversation about indigenous peoples, land and the oppressor.

My colleague from UnitingWorld Rev. Dr Seforosa Carroll led a candid discussion on gender equality in the church and society. Sef outlined the history of women’s ordination in the UCA and the way our Basis of Union explicitly speaks to gender equality.

We also spoke about women in leadership in the church; issues of climate, poverty and domestic violence, the importance of family and revisited some of the previous sessions about young people together with second generation young people in our churches today.

Sef and I were particularly blessed to see the dynamic young people of Tonga in action at Queen Salote College, a Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga all-girls school with over 1000 students.

Deputy Principal Rev. Lilio Fakava, the girls and staff offered us amazing hospitality, and showcased their great talent.

The Queen Salote College brass band were sensational and their drummer rocked 50s and 60s tributes to Bill Haley, Elvis and others!

There were traditional dancers, poetry and prose - all written and presented brilliantly.

When I complimented Principal Rev. Dr 'Asinate Samate, she told me: “we are training the young women leaders of tomorrow”.

Our Uniting Church in Australia does have a number of women in leadership: four Moderators, the President-elect, currently two General Secretaries and the first Assembly General Secretary among many others.

When released, the 2016 National Church Life Survey will tell us that more than 60% of Uniting Church attendees are women, so we might expect a much higher percentage of women in leadership positions.

We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking we can rest on our laurels.

We are called to do much more as the people of God called Uniting to be a fellowship of reconciliation.

President Stuart McMillan and Rev. Dr Sef Carroll of UnitingWorld attended the annual Methodist Consultative Council of the Pacific in Tonga.