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Wednesday, 21 July 2004

New recognition for national conferences

The contribution and value of the National Conferences of migrant communities within the Church was affirmed by the Assembly Standing Committee.

The Standing Committee heard a report from Multicultural Ministry National Director, Rev. Helen Richmond about the ways National Conferences assist migrant congregations to play a more active role in the life of the church.

“National Conferences enable the voice of different communities within the Uniting Church to be heard as they make a distinctive contribution to the life of the Uniting Church,” Rev. Richmond said.

The ASC also resolved to encourage the Councils of the Church to consult with National Conferences, particularly when they are making decisions that impact these communities.

“As national networks that bring together representatives of congregations of the same culture for consultation and sharing, the National Conferences enable issues and concerns of different communities to be communicated to the appropriate Councils of the Church.” The Assembly declared itself a multicultural church in 1985 and acknowledged the need for migrant communities to be able to come together in worship, sharing and discussion in their own language. In 1987, the Togan community was the first to hold a National Conference and today there are 8 National Conferences in the Church. A review done in 2003 showed that National Conferences benefit the communities as well as contribute to developing leadership capabilities of people from the different communities which enriches the whole church.

Rev. Richmond told the ASC the Church took a major step forward at the last Assembly in increasing the number of ASC appointed members of people from non-Anglo backgrounds in the Assembly from 6 to 12.

“This was a very welcome step for migrant communities and congregations. Having the National Conferences involved in nominating people to the Assembly is one way the Assembly can increase the number of members from non-English speaking backgrounds as well as recognise the important place of the National Conferences in the life of the Uniting Church.”

The decision of increasing the number of people appointed by the ASC from non-Anglo cultural and linguistic backgrounds will come into effect at the 11th Assembly. The Standing Committee is to find the most appropriate means of implementing this desire.