Narration of Steps - Rev Dr Chris Walker

(Delivered by Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer on 9 July 2017.)

Chris’ ministry at the Assembly began on 1 November 2008 with a service of induction at the Assembly Standing Committee on 14 November 2008.

At his induction the President Rev. Gregor Henderson presided and Rev. Allan Thompson preached on Matthew 25:14-30 The Parable of the Talents.

Chris’ initial Assembly placement was as National Consultant, Theology and Discipleship. He did this for five years before becoming National Consultant, Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship in October 2013.

The experience and wisdom he brought into that role from the start was formidable:

• Degrees from the University of Sydney, Garrett Theological Seminary in Illinois and a PhD in theology from Claremont University near Los Angeles.
• Congregational ministry in three placements in NSW including his first at Chapel by the Sea at Bondi Beach, Moree and Jannali.
• Mission roles and consultancies for presbyteries and synods including the Queensland synod and the Parramatta-Nepean Presbytery.
• An extensive career in ministerial and lay education as a lecturer at United Theological College, Trinity College Queensland and as principal of Parkin-Wesley College in SA.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that the Walker name has something of a history in Christian ministry in Australia in our Uniting Church and in our predecessor church the Methodist Church of Australasia, in the World Methodist Council and the World Council of Churches. Chris’s grandfather Rev A. E. Walker was President of the NSW Methodist Conference, his father Rev Dr Sir Alan Walker was internationally known as the outspoken superintendent of The Central Methodist Mission, Sydney (now Wesley Mission), the founder of Lifeline, the Director of World Methodist Evangelism and the founder of the Alan Walker College of Evangelism (now the Alan Walker lecturer in Mission, Evangelism and Leadership at the United Theological College). Chris is the chairperson of the Alan Walker College board.

Faithful church leadership that spans generations, even centuries, is inspiring as we contemplate ministry and mission, and particularly as we consider mission from the margins in an increasingly antagonistic public square.

Work as National Consultant, Theology and Discipleship 

From November 2008 Chris was the National Consultant, Theology and Discipleship working particularly with the Working Groups on Doctrine and Worship and the Assembly Mission and Evangelism Network. He fostered the development of papers and resources and spoke at congregations, presbyteries, synods and other gatherings. He has been a theological resource person for the Assembly Standing Committee.

In 2011 he represented the Uniting Church at the WCC International Ecumenical Peace Convocation having written the book Peace Like A Diamond which was launched at the 2009 UCA Assembly. He was also one of the Australian group at the World Methodist Conference and Council in Durban, South Africa in 2011. He was one of the organising committee and a speaker at a well-attended conference on the Basis of Union in Melbourne.

At the 2012 UCA Assembly a collection of papers from 2000-2011 from the Doctrine and Worship Working Groups titled, Building on the Basis which Chris edited and contributed to was launched. A CD-ROM of Doc.bytes and many papers titled ‘Belief Matters’ was provided to all members of the 2012 Assembly.

Work as National Consultant, Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship

Chris took on a new role as National Consultant, Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship in October 2013. This resulted in attending the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, South Korea, the Christian Conference of Asia in Jakarta, the World Methodist Conference and Council in Houston, Texas and a WCC Ecumenical Officers gathering in Geneva.

At home, he guided the Doctrine Working Group in resourcing ‘A Season of Teaching and Learning’ during 2014 as designated by a proposal the Doctrine Working Group brought to the 2012 Assembly. Chris helped organise the back-to-back national conferences on the ‘Basis of Union – Catalyst for Renewal’ and ‘Preaching for Transformation’ in Sydney in 2014.

Three study books were written by members of the Doctrine Working Group. Chris also helped organise the well-attended ‘A Clear Call’ national mission and evangelism conference in Adelaide in 2014 put on by the Assembly Mission and Evangelism Network.

Chris assisted the Doctrine Working Group in the task assigned to it by the 2012 Assembly to prepare a discussion paper on the theology of marriage and to present a report to the 2015 Assembly. That report was received and the Assembly asked the Doctrine Working Group to do further work. A major report will come to the Assembly Standing Committee in readiness for the 2018 Assembly.

Chris has been serving as the secretary of the Doctrine Working Group since the last Assembly. He has also had a good deal to do with the development of the various Doc.bytes. The book Being and Doing Church: a Uniting Church Perspective was launched at the 2015 UCA Assembly. Chris was the major contributor and edited the collection of papers.

Chris has assisted the Worship Working Group to respond to requests to make changes to or provide new liturgies for the worship life of the Uniting Church.

For example, following the 2012 UCA Assembly changes were made to the Ordination and Induction services. The Working Group co-operated with Congress in providing the liturgy for the Destiny Together gathering in Canberra. The Working Group initiated teaching resources, such as three DVDs on aspects of worship which were widely used across the UCA promoted by Chris. Guides for worship have also been produced and made available on the Assembly website. Chris has helped develop these. Chris organised the Songwrite competition initiated by Rev. Terence Corkin when he was General Secretary. This was followed by the Worship Working Group organising Songwrite workshops to foster the writing of new songs for the Uniting Church. The next Songwrite will be in early 2018. Those involved in teaching worship across the Uniting Church were brought together for a conference at the end of 2014.

Brief biographies of notable people have been gradually gathered for the Calendar of Commemorations. Chris has written some of these. Members of the Working Group have been on the Together in Song Editorial Committee, the Australian Academy on Liturgy and the Australian Consultation on Liturgy. Liturgical resources in languages other than English have been developed. Chris has encouraged this.

A national conference Transforming Worship will be held from 27-30 July 2017 in Adelaide. The group gives oversight to the production of the lectionary each year which is now, after negotiation with MediaCom, available on the Assembly website. The working group has assisted with providing resources for the 40th anniversary of the Uniting Church. Chris was actively involved in this.

Chris has been the secretary of the Christian Unity Working Group since he took on the new role. In this role he has enabled a number of people to attend ecumenical conferences, such as World Council of Churches conferences, the Christian Conference of Asia, the World Methodist Conference and the World Communion of Reformed Churches General Council. Young people in particular have been assisted to attend. Other conferences people have been enabled to attend have included the Consultation of the United and Uniting Churches in India and a conference on Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes in Thailand.

He wrote the first drafts of the Uniting Church response to the WCC convergence document, The Church Towards a Common Vision. He promoted the WCC document widely throughout the Uniting Church and beyond through the NCCA. Other important WCC documents have also been promoted, such as An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace, and Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World. He promoted the outcome of the Uniting Church/Anglican dialogue which was the document “Weaving a New Cloth.” It provides guidance to co-operating congregations. He makes sure the synod ecumenical relations committees as well as the CUWG are kept in touch with ecumenical news such as from the WCC, the WMC, the WCRC and the NCCA.

He has organised the annual two day Christian Unity National Conferences at the Centre for Theology and Ministry in Melbourne which brings together people from the synod ecumenical relations committees, those involved in the dialogues, working group members and some invited ecumenical guests. He has participated in NCCA meetings as a Uniting Church representative and led a session at the NCCA Forum in 2016. He has provided guidance to the President and General Secretary in regard to ecumenical matters.

Other Activities

Chris has spoken to candidates in each of the theological colleges. He did the bible studies for the Queensland and South Australia synods, gave presentations to the Northern and West Australian Synods, has spoken at Presbytery Ministers’ gatherings in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Writing

Chris has been methodic and creative in writing. As seen above he has written and encouraged the writing of many papers and resources, most recently the book Thinking the Faith, Living the Faith: an introduction to Christian theology (2017). He has been the editor of a biannual email magazine Grevillea which has been sent across the church. Early on he wrote a Discipleship Training Course trialed at his home church at Northmead and made available on the website. He wrote the introduction to the section Uniting for Peace: Statements on War and Peace in For a World Reconciled; Justice Statements from the Uniting Church in Australia 1977-2015. He has written articles for synod magazines and his presentation to the SA Synod was published in Australian Leadership magazine. He has regularly written a thought provoking blog, most recently on “What does the 2016 Census really tell us?”

Commitment to peace, justice and well-being through non-violent activism

Chris has had a long involvement in non-violent action going back to protests against the Vietnam War, Apartheid, anti-nuclear and anti-war marches, for refugees and asylum seekers, and in solidarity with First Peoples. In May last year Chris and his wife Dell got themselves arrested by climbing on to a rail bridge as part of a protest in Newcastle against Australia’s continued commitment to coal mining and inadequate action on climate change. They were put on a nine month good behavior bond. Newcastle is actually the world’s biggest coal port and the protestors managed to close it down for a day.

Chris, God bless you. Thank you for your wonderful service.

May God grant you happiness and fulfilment as you continue your journey as one of God’s pilgrim people on the way to the promised end.