The Uniting Church in Australia is a culturally and linguistically diverse community.
We have a banner which depicts this diversity by showing a large tree with branches spreading out and covered with multi-coloured leaves. Below the tree are the words: One Body Many Members.
In the early 1980s Bishop Ting led a visit to Australia, seeking to know more about the Uniting Church.
Bishop Ting had read our Basis of Union, the founding document of the three denominations Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches joined together in 1977 after 40 years of conversation, forming the Uniting Church in Australia.
Bishop Ting said he was excited by the Basis and thought that what the Uniting Church was trying to do and be would be valuable for the post denominational church in China.
Bishop Ting said there was much we might share with one another.
It took us almost another 25 years to begin to intentionally enter into a relationship with you.
Today our relationship has become a strong friendship.
This is our first visit to Xian and the Shaanxi Christian Council and Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).
I am the first President to visit Xian. Although there have been seven delegations come to China since 2010 and seven Chinese delegations come to Australia.
We met yesterday with your President and the General Secretaries and we look forward to a growing friendship with you.
We recognise the significance of the history of this ancient province of China.
China Christian Council and TSPM have come together with the Uniting Church in Australia to form a mutually enriching relationship, a partnership: together we are many, but through the power of the Holy Spirit and in Christ we are made one body.
In John’s gospel 13: 34-5 Jesus is recorded as saying:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples. If you love one another.”
In relationship with you we have been reminded of the power of relational evangelism. The way the Church here has grown.
I remember when we asked in 2011 how the church in China was growing we were told it’s because neighbours see something different in Christian neighbours and ask 'What’s happened? "What’s changed you?" and they are invited to come to the local Church.
It’s love in action that is underpinning the growth of your Church. This is a gift for us in the West, because it’s the heart of the gospel – the love of God expressed through God’s people in the power of the Holy Spirit.
With my colleague Rev Dr Ji Zhang we are here in Xian with four female colleagues who are registered nurses. They have been with their Director in Shandong province delivering training in aged care to 100 people from 22 provinces across China.
This was made possible because the Shandong Christian Council–TSPM and a local Christian business man came together and joined with us to make it happen.
In 2013 the Vice Minister for SARA Mr Jiang invited us act on the developing relationship, particularly to build capacity for the CCC to improve the provision of care for the elderly within China. There have over the last two years been 200 people undertake training. This is the living out of the commandment to love one another.
God’s plans are not our plans and God’s ways are not our ways.
Two of the Registered Nurses with me whilst working with the Uniting Church in Australia are Chinese.
This has been wonderful in our friendship and training in Shandong.
I met Vice Minister Jiang in 2013 before I was President and now this last Friday I have met him again and spoken of the work which in relationship has been possible in China.
God has a purpose and plan which is the reconciliation and renewal of all creation in Christ.
The China Christian Council–TSPM and the Uniting Church have become good friends and partners in God’s mission of reconciliation and renewal.
We love because God first loved us.
I leave you with a blessing from the Indigenous nations of Arnhemland in northern Australia:
Garray nhe dhu gurrapan ŋorkal mägayamirri rom walalaŋgu. [Jesus please give these gathered here your peace, peace within, peace between, deep abiding peace].
This is an edited version of a speech delivered to members of the Nan Xin Jie Christian church in the Chinese city of Xian on Sunday 22 May 2016.