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Uniting Church in Australia Assembly - News

Three Uniting Church members will be spend a week living near Athens in early May participating in one of the great global Missionary Conferences.

Over 500 participants will gather from May 9th to May 16th for the World Council of Churches Conference on World Mission and Evangelism.

The 13th of its kind, the conference is the successor to the great Edinburgh Conference held in 1910 which is seen as the symbolic beginning of the ecumenical movement in the 20th Century under the famous banner of “evangelise the world in our generation”.

Led by Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, the Australian delegation will explore the theme of ‘Come Holy Spirit, Heal and Reconcile’.

Others attending include Catherine Lambert a candidate for Minister of the Word in WA.  She has been involved in Confronting Racism Workshops, the Walking Together Consultation, was a previous volunteer in mission in Tonga, and About Face 4 participant. 

Rev. Helen Richmond, the National Director for Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry in the Assembly has had extensive involvement in giving a voice for a multicultural Uniting Church after serving as a chaplain at the famous Selly Oak Mission Centre in the UK

Rev. Drayton, who brings a lifetime of work in the field of mission and evangelism including lecturing in Missiology and Evangelism at United Theological College in Sydney, said the conference promised an enriching experience for delegates.

“It is fascinating reading the preparatory papers.  Not surprisingly reconciliation and healing are at the centre of the discussion.  On the Tuesday the main theme will be presented, followed by Wednesday’s themes ”Called in Christ to be reconciling and healing communities” On Thursday we will explore “Mission and Violence”, followed by sessions on “Healing on Friday. The conference will conclude on Saturday with a final message – “Reconciliation”

“I was surprised to see the number of times the subject of miraculous healing was mentioned.  Clearly there is a strong emphasis on justice in society and communities as well as healing for individuals in body mind and spirit, as well as in community.  It promises to be an important time of considering how we are God’s people in this time.  This is the first Conference since 9/11 so it will be important to hear how healing and reconciling relate to other world faiths.  We wait to hear how this meeting in the Decade to Overcome Violence speaks to this the first decade of the 21st Century,” Rev. Drayton said.






The 19th World Methodist Conference will be held from 20-24 July, 2006 at the Kumnan Methodist Church in Seoul, South Korea and the UCA is seeking expressions of interest from potential delegates.
The theme of the Conference is “God in Christ Reconciling” and will take for form of a convention rather than a decision-making conference.

The Uniting Church in Australia is invited to send up to 110 delegates to this Conference. All Uniting Church members are invited to consider participating, not simply those with a residual Methodist background.

Those interested in attending are advised that the National Assembly is not able to provide financial assistance for delegates.

Expressions of interest should include name, address, other contact details and information about your relationship to the UCA and should be sent to:

Rev. Dr. Sandy Yule,
Secretary, Christian Unity Working Group,
Level 4, 11 Bank Place,
Melbourne, Vic. 3000
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 03 9606 0034


The recent trial of Schapelle Corby, the Gold Coast beauty therapist who was detained with 4.1 kilos of cannabis in her luggage at Denpasar Airport last year, is causing considerable outrage in Australia. Some of the opinions being expressed are alarming and disturbing. Our commitment is to working together with our close neighbour with the purpose of building cooperative and respectful relationships. The Uniting Church in Australia’s priority is to work for peace and mutual understanding with our Indonesian brothers and sisters.

The recently released paper, 'Why Asia Matters' was produced by Uniting International Mission Executive Secretary, Rev. John Barr to help UCA members understand the importance and complexity of Australia’s relationship with Asia.




Fifty people, including five members of our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and a UCCP pastor have been ambushed or killed on the islands of Leyte and Samar in the central Philippines since January.
Rev Edison Lapuz was shot by two unidentified assassins on 12th May. A father of two children, Rev Lapuz was the Conference Minister of the UCCP Northeastern Leyte Conference and a member of the National Council of the UCCP.

Rev Lapuz was deeply committed to the rights of the poor and many believe that he, along with many others, are victims of a military-backed campaign. Church organizations claim that these killings show “a pattern of harassment and intimidation of progressive church and social leaders whose prophetic voices have been committed to justice for the poor and the marginalised.”

An ecumenical delegation arranged through the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia will conduct an enquiry in the region on 15 to 21 July. Meanwhile a 15 person fact finding mission has already gone into the area.

Bishop Elmer Bolocon, General Secretary of the UCCP, has issued a statement “Prophets may be killed but prophetic voices can never be silenced.”

Rev John Barr
Executive Secretary
Uniting International Mission
22nd June 2005

Monday, 25 July 2005

Tribute to Sir Ronald Wilson

At his funeral in Perth on Friday (July 22), Sir Ronald Wilson - former High Court judge, human rights campaigner and Uniting Church leader - was honoured for his humility, simplicity and his love for all people.

Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton gave one of the eulogies at the service.

"I want to focus on Ron’s involvement in the Uniting Church. Now this was not some esoteric interest of his, he sought to live out his life as a servant of Jesus Christ as the foundation for all that he did. There are others here who will acknowledge the result of the way that faith kept pushing him into the many arenas in which he lived his life. He made such a rich contribution to the life of his family, his state, and his nation, in both public and private life."

"He grew up a Presbyterian and was Moderator in Western Australia in 1965 at the age of 43. That was the time when the studies and preparation for union were underway. When union came in 1977 at 55 he was called to be the first Moderator of the Western Australian Synod for two years. During this time he was knighted for services to the community. At 63 he was elected National President Elect, and when 66 installed as the fifth President of the Uniting Church, for the term 1988-1991, the first layperson to hold that office and so far the only Western Australian to do so. He was actively involved and patron of numerous serving organizations, and received more awards than you can shake a stick at.”

"I remember seeing him for the first time in a lunch time queue at an Assembly, a long meandering line of people. Toward the back was a short man, dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt and shorts. He stood out. “Who is that man?” I asked. 'Oh', someone said, 'He is the next President of the Uniting Church.' I was sharing that moment with James Haire our ninth president this week and he said, “Funny you should say that. When he was President a visiting American dignitary was talking with him as they lined up together in another long lunch queue. ‘Why are you as President lining up in a queue to get lunch’, he asked. ‘To get a feed’ said Ron without a second thought. He was quintessentially Australian. Ron had no airs about himself. He was relaxed and at home in the queue, as he was in his ten year old second hand government car. One to one he was so easy to talk with. One had to remind oneself that this man was a knight of the realm, a High Court Judge and the President of the Uniting Church."

"He served the Church with distinction. We thank God for this man. We are especially proud of his contribution as President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Did he know that at 74 he would make his greatest mark on this nation as a fearless advocate for the underprivileged and indigenous Australia? Certainly earlier as President he had spent a lot of time visiting Aboriginal people especially those involved in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress of the Uniting Church. He stayed with the issue of Aboriginal justice as Deputy Chairperson of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation 1991-1994. But it was later in 1997 that his many gifts and public service were fused together in the joint task he shared with Mick Dodson in chairing the inquiry into aboriginal child removal that resulted in the Bringing Them Home Report. Robert Manne wrote four years ago."

“No inquiry in recent Australian History appeared to have, at least for the short term, a more overwhelming reception and a more culturally transforming impact than the one conducted by Sir Ronald Wilson and Mick Dodson into Aboriginal child removal. The question of Aboriginal child removal moved rapidly from the margin to the centre of Australian self-understanding and contemporary political debate. The quest for what we have come to call reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians would be determined by the nature of our response to the issue of the stolen generation.”

"Sadly Ron quickly discovered what all Aboriginal people know, when the government of the day turned its back on the report. He copped tremendous and unjust criticism for his role in telling the truth many do not want to hear. There is a deafness, an averting of the eye, a distancing analysis, a trivializing as political correctness, that wants to deny and forget the results of the terrible suffering that many Aboriginal families endured. Yet at the time the report was released he included himself in the critique of an Australian society whose attitudes had blindly allowed these acts to occur." "Once more the faith that impelled him to take on this task provided him with the way to live through what had then happened. He staunchly defended the report in his inimitable way, but who knows what he felt in the face of the accusations leveled against him and the Report. He followed his Lord through dark days, before the sun began to shine again for him. He continued an active supporter and participant in the wider Church and his Applecross UCA till the very last. Leila shared with me that lately, he loved to read the paper sitting outside on the verandah in the morning sun."

"In a similar way I believe his dream is that the sun will begin to shine again for our nation when we take seriously what he and Mick Dodson attempted to tell us, and we put reconciliation back into the centre of our nations concern. Of one thing you can be sure: when the history of the nation is written Ron will have to be there. He will not be forgotten because God made him a witness of the deep injustice that is still actively suppressed in the heart of our national life. Until we let the light shine there we will not do justice to Aboriginal people or ourselves and the future of this great nation which he loved." "Now Ron you continue to walk on with the reconciling one who has the keys to life and death. You are in Good Company.”
Monday, 25 July 2005

Religion is dangerous

It was clear, the Moderator of the Protestant Church in East Timor wanted us to see the great statue of Christ the King erected by President Suharto in 1997 on the promontory five kilometers east and north from the centre of Dili. t was built two years before the referendum that ended the last uneasy years of Indonesian occupation.

On a pleasant Sunday afternoon in early July 2005 we drove to where the steps start. There are a thousand or more, starting gradually at first, then climbing more steeply past each station of the cross to the base of this monument. This immense structure stands at least two hundred metres above the grotto of the empty tomb, the last of the fifteen stations of the cross.

The effigy of Christ, 27 metres high is modeled on the 30 metre one in Rio De Janeiro. It was made quite deliberately 27 metres high, representing the fact that East Timor was the 27th province of Indonesia. When, after millions of dollars it was finished, Suharto visited the island to give his gift of Christ the King to this predominantly Catholic province. He declared the outstretched hands were blessing the 27th province as part of Indonesia. What a powerful symbol.

Yet the power of a symbol can sometimes be turned on its creators. The Moderator of the Protestant Church in East Timor did just that. “Look closely at the hands,” he whispered through the city, “they are not raised to bless, they are held out palm upwards toward Dili. Jesus is not blessing Indonesian Dili, he is in fact questioning whether the Indonesians should leave!”

One can only imagine the way that would fizz through a community under oppression. The image was ever present to the eye during the day and lit at night, a living message read differently by invader and oppressed. It was not long before the lights at night were disconnected. But it was too late. By 2000 Christ the King had become the prophetic sign of a liberated country.

Rev. Dean Drayton

I arrived in Suva last Wednesday (July 27), to a nation mourning the death of the Rev. Dr Joni Langi, in the month before he was installed as the President of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma. He died unexpectedly on Thursday (July 21) of a sudden heart attack. At 10am a week later the President of the Republic of Fiji and thousands of members of the Church and the public were joined by Church leaders from throughout Oceania to celebrate the life of this remarkable leader, at the Centenary Church.

His election as the next President of the Conference last year was a recognition of the unique way he had served the Church in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and Rotuma. Leaders gave tributes from each of these places where he had given his inclusive, direct and fun loving approach to growing effective groups and teams of congregations and leaders.

In my tribute I spoke as grieving friend bringing the thanks of the Uniting Church in Australia for his work at Wesley Mission in the late seventies where he was the minister for all the Pacific Congregations that then met there, later his continuing support for the Fiji Congregations in Australia, his wider work with the World Methodist Council, and his help as Gen Secretary of the Fijian Methodist Church.

Four months ago at a Methodist Consultative Council of Leaders in the Pacific held in Australia, there had been a reflection on the way the Holy Spirit comes to burn the wood that we offer in service to God. “All very well”, said Joni in his laconic way, “But it better be good wood, and not wet, or all we get is smoke!” His service to the World Church, the Pacific Church, the Fijian Church and the Rotuman Church, was the offering of the best wood.

He had a remarkable ability to work across the boundaries that bedeviled others. One could say that it was a Rotuman gift, to know that the smaller island must always respect other more powerful neighbors. For Joni Langi it is clear that this gift was not just that of being a diplomat, but a discovery about the nature of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. He anticipated the future that God is building, bringing cultures and peoples to live together creatively. Above all he was one who built for the future, believing that his contribution was one amongst many, ‘but it was God who gave the increase”.

He was laid to rest in a Mausoleum at Davuilevu, the Methodist Training College, after a further service in the historic Baker Memorial Church. The stark white tomb was covered with flowers and garlands as it was sealed bringing to an end one of the largest funerals every held within the Church Community. It was fitting that this Rotuman missionary died on the same day as the missionary to Fiji, Thomas Baker.

The Conference will meet in late August to elect a new President. In the meantime the Rev. Laisiasa Ratabaca, the previous President continues as the Acting President.

Rev. Dr Dean Drayton


Tuesday, 02 August 2005

A life full of love ends

Joni Langi funeral July 28, 2005 – Tribute from Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton.

The President of the Republic of Fiji, distinguished guests, and members of the Methodist Church.

Ringa and the family - we cannot know your grief and loss. It is hard enough saying goodbye to my friend. But this is the time in the tears that we also take a longer perspective, look to the horizon of a persons life and see the way he has sailed. He was a man of the Kingdom of God. Inevitably it means he was caught up with a world vision, a Pacific vision, a Fiji vision and a Rotuman vision.

He was a builder always looking forward in his witness of the kingdom of God that he saw drawing us on. Because his confidence was with God, and not in himself, his life is a living definition of what it means to be part of God’s future.

He was willing to move a long way from his beloved Rotuma. What a task he had in Sydney. Working at the Wesley Mission he was the one encouraging and shepherding all the Pacific congregations that used to meet there prior to the mid eighties when each found their own property to worship in and moved away from the one central sight. He must have had the wisdom of Solomon to help so many cultures work together.

Perhaps it is because he was a Rotuman that he saw so clearly the need for all to work together, Fijian and Indian, Polynesian and Melanesian, Pacific and Australia, Oceania and the world. When you come from the edge you know you cannot do it by yourself. It is necessary to work with others. But he saw beyond necessity, he saw that this was the way of Jesus and Jesus kingdom.

Since hearing the awful news I have been asking myself, what passage of scripture gives us insight into the man of God Joni was. From the first and now after days I come back to 1 Corinthians 3:7 “So neither the one who plants or the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Verse 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
Can’t you hear him saying. Verse 11, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that is laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

What a keen sense of injustice he had. Last year when one of our Presbyteries was most unwise, Joni named the issue as unfair in no uncertain terms. He was direct, no backing away from important issues, but if one was honest and direct too, then the foundation was laid for matters to be worked through. He know how to speak the truth in love.

He passionately worked for the Conference, for Fiji, for all to have their rightful part. Joni had a great capacity to surprise, to pull one out of the hat, or in Rotuman “Bring it out from behind the knees”

But for me one gets to the deepest issues in the way in which he wanted Rotumans to have a place here in Suva, with many more Rotumans living in Fiji, than on Rotuma itself. The Churchwood chapel is a testimony to his faith, to his belief in the future, to his willingness to take risks in the serving of his people, providing a home for them in Fiji.

This was a dream of his. I first met him in 1983 when he was talking about it. After talking with Jone I could see this octagonal concrete building in my mind. That is a great gift, to so describe that which is not yet, that we can see it take shape before us. I heard about the building, and I had always wanted to worship there, and was given the opportunity to do this last August. Joni told me about the major pour of the concrete floor. I am sure that you have heard about it, especially the miracle of that night, when in faith they kept pouring when the engineer was urging caution, holding back. They had committed themselves and went on, trusting God despite what else was happening.

In the traditional blessing “May your shadow never grow less”. As he stands close to the Lord of light, his shadow will now stretch to God’s horizon. In Revelations 7:9,10 it is clear that we will all stand together before the throne.
“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
The cried out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Won’t Joni Langi be at home. He spent his whole ministry pointing to the one who now holds him. Salvation belongs to our God, and to the Lamb. Rev. Dr Dean Drayton