Friday, 20 March 2020

ASC Update-March 2020

Members of Assembly Standing Committee gathered in Sydney from 13-15 March. President Dr Deidre Palmer and Rev Kath Merrifield of Kiama Uniting Church led opening worship, which included a coronavirus-aware sharing of the sacrament of Holy Communion. Dr Palmer preached on John 3:1-17.  

Assembly Strategic Plan

The ASC approved a new three-year Assembly Strategic Plan (2020-2023) plan, which was developed over a series of sessions with the Standing Committee and an online survey to which over 500 people responded. The new Strategic Plan includes five strategic directions – Respond to the Church; Identity; Innovation; Intergenerational: and Intercultural. It comes into effect from 1 July 2020.

Risk Appetite Statement

The Standing Committee approved a Risk Appetite Statement for its work based on the responsibilities of the Assembly as set out in the UCA Constitution. There are two main categories: risk relating to Mission of the Church and risk relating to Governance and Discipline. The Risk Register will now be revised so it is aligned to this Statement.

Assembly Resourcing Unit Report

The Assembly Resourcing Unit provided its annual report to the Standing Committee. Highlighted in its report were the new Assembly website, which will be launched shortly; the new online learning platform for the UCA, Uniting Learning which already has 800 participants nationally; and a new online portal through which over 1500 Assembly documents will be able to be accessed.

AIC Charter Revision

The ASC approved a revised Charter for the Assembly Investment Committee. The revision saw the title of the Committee changed to the Assembly Investment Advisory Committee (AIAC). AIAC will report, in the first instance, to the Assembly Finance Audit and Risk Committee.

Royal Commission Updates

Claerwen Little, National Director of UnitingCare Australia, provided updates to the Standing Committee from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The recently established National Task Group for the Disability Royal Commission has begun meeting and developing its work program for responding to the Royal Commission.

UCA Redress Ltd Annual Report

Sarah Lim, National Director and Anne Cross, Chair of the Board provided an update to the Standing Committee following its first year of operation and the UCA’s participation in the National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. Reports will also be provided to various Synod Standing Committees.

National Safe Church Unit Report

Rev. John Cox, Director reported on the Unit’s first year of operation. Rev. Cox said much of the Unit’s work across the year focused on putting the necessary structures in place to enable the NSCU to become fully functional. This included establishing the legal structure of the Unit, agreeing parameters for its work, recruiting staff, agreeing delegations, confirming the operating budget and addressing operational issues.

A Governance Committee was created to oversee the work of the Unit and a Consultation Advisory Group was established to help inform that work. Rev. Cox said the strategic frameworks, policies, tools and resources developed by the Unit are intended to be used by all entities and individuals associated with UCA who engage in child related services or activities.

This includes, but is not limited to: Congregations, Presbyteries, Synods, the Assembly, agencies, ministries, childcare services, out-of-home care services, family and community services, disability services, health services, camps and schools. Moving into 2020, the Unit is working across three pillars – strategy and policy; quality; and education and training – and is looking to deliver a suite of tools and resources for the Church and its entities to implement locally. Underpinning these pillars is a commitment to a culture of safety for all people, which is founded on the existing culture of the Church and its values.

National Child Safe Policy Framework 2019

The National Child Safe Policy Framework 2019 was reviewed in September/October 2019 following COAG’s endorsement of National Principles. The content of the Framework has been updated but is largely unchanged.  The main change has been to the structure of the Framework, now aligning to the National Principles. This aids clarity and consistency with compliance frameworks across jurisdictions and enables the Church to more easily articulate how our framework is consistent with Royal Commission recommendations.

Theme for 16th Assembly

The ASC confirmed the President-Elect, Rev. Sharon Hollis’ proposed theme for the 16th Assembly - ‘Ola ma tumau i le alofa’: Dwelling in Love: 사랑 안에서 살기. The theme invites local communities of faith to be loving neighbours, seeking to really get to know the people and communities where they are in ministry and to discern prayerfully how to live lovingly with our neighbours for the sake of the gospel. It calls us to strive to be communities of justice and mercy remaining with those most in need of God’s liberating love and embodying God’s love in our worship witness and service. We look forward to exploring this theme at the triennial Assembly in 2021.

Assembly Disability Access Guidelines

Assembly Disability Access Guidelines were approved following their development by UnitingCare Australia, consultation with all parts of the Assembly and with guidance from Rev. Andy Calder, Disability Inclusion Advocate for the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. The Guidelines cover attitudinal, physical, sensory and communication areas, and will be available in the coming weeks on the Assembly website.

Additional ASC meeting 2020

The Standing Committee agreed to an additional meeting via video conferencing between its meetings in July and November. This is in acknowledgement of the work that Standing Committee undertakes in the lead up to the triennial Assembly meeting which will take place in July 2021 on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.