I'm really glad to be able to launch this Building Bridges resource here today at the National Minister's Conference where we've been focusing on fresh words and deeds in the cross cultural, multicultural and multi-faith contexts in which we live.
It's so important that we hear the stories of our own people within the Uniting Church. Sometimes we miss them because we are so engaged in our local context and own particular issues that we aren't quite sensitised to other things happening outside our zone of observation.
So it's wonderful to have these very immediate stories from our sisters and brothers in communities like ours to tell us what's been going on in their area. The other thing that is great about this project is the book itself. It's very usable. I've read through it a couple of times and the process it suggests is completely workable. The book will help people get inside the stories at a deeper level than just watching them.
The Uniting Church as we're aware is deeply committed to living the faith and following Christ and being in ministry cross-culturally and inter-culturally. It's important that we make this commitment at a time when the character of the Australian nation has become so multicultural and will become even more so. That's why we need to be in this kind of ministry, to be committed to it. But that's not the primary reason.
The Uniting Church itself is becoming increasingly multicultural too. We estimate that we are already one third culturally and linguistically diverse. That's entirely likely to increase. The work done by CRA in Victoria on the 2011 Australian Census would certainly say this is a trend that is going to continue.
Progressively in the years to come, the Uniting Church is going to be more multicultural and multilingual, we know that. But that's not why we're in this ministry either.
The reason we're committed to being a multicultural church and living faith and life cross-culturally is because that is what the gospel is about – the gospel of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself; transcending all those barriers that divide human beings from each other; barriers of language, class, culture and race.
This is what we hear in the New Testament constantly.
The calling to love one another is important because of the gospel – that in Christ all of those barriers have been transcended and now we have to learn a way to be one body together. So this commitment to being a multicultural and church and living faith and life cross-culturally is about us entering more deeply into the faith that we hold.
When we're engaging with people of other faiths, no faith or secular faiths this becomes part of the heart of what we present to those that we share with. What we are sharing is the way in which God in Christ reconciles those who are strangers and those who are enemies.
So I am very privileged and very glad to be able to launch this resource.