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Uniting Church in Australia Assembly - News
Tuesday, 14 November 2006

National Rural Ministry Gathering


From Rev. John Whaley

A National Rural Ministry Gathering was held at Culcairn NSW on 16th – 18th October, 2006. John Atkinson (WA Synod Resourcing Local Mission), Mac Forsyth (WA Synod Mid West Resource Ministry) and John Whaley (WA Synod Central South Eastern Region Resource Ministry) were included in about 20 people (lay and ordained) who gathered from around Australia. Each delegate displayed a passion for rural ministry and had a deep concern for rural communities. Culcairn is a small rural town situated north of Wodonga/Albury in southern NSW.

The purpose of the gathering was to worship together, share stories, joys and challenges, give reports about our regions, learn from each other and decide on some ways ahead. Local arrangements were more than adequate, yet with minimal impact on the Culcairn Congregation. The generosity and hospitality of the Culcairn folk was exceptionally warm, welcoming and plentiful and in the tradition of rural church.

Opening worship was focused through a clip from the film Chocolaté. Rev. Narelle Penman invited us to reflect on the issue of change, raising the question, “Are we open to a fresh wind?” The way we embrace change will be crucial to the future rural church. Geoff Wellington then introduced two questions: “Where do we find truth?” and “Is the Lord with us?” These questions are important and should be held before us; in fact, they often resurfaced in our discussions throughout the gathering.

The Culcairn Uniting Church provided for coffee breaks and lunch. Breakfast was at the local bakery and dinner at the Culcairn Hotel. These informal times of meeting and discussion proved invaluable (perhaps more than the main sessions) as people got to know each other, shared their stories, listened and learned.

Ross Neville (NSW Board of Mission and Coordinator of the National Rural Ministry Gathering) posed the question, “What do we hope to gain from this gathering?” The overwhelming answer was to recognise that, collectively we are on a journey together. We need to listen to each others stories and gain encouragement and support from our shared journey. And then we need to identify what is working and what is not, realising there are no “magic” answers; in fact the rural church is facing issues now that the city based church will have to deal with in the (maybe not too distant) future.

Much of the formal time involved listening to reports from NSW/ACT, SA, WA, and Vic/Tas. As each speaker talked about their work we imagined a rich tapestry of ministry offered to rural communities. Of particular interest was Ross Neville’s report on Project Reconnect, a DVD worship resource assisting worship in isolated areas. And from WA we heard of Mac Forsyth’s ministry into the Mid-West which is fully sponsored by the Light House Christian Fellowship of the Geraldton Uniting Church. Future directions focused on three main issues. Firstly, drought-related issues which raised more questions than answers: “How can we support and resource local churches to respond and address needs?” Secondly, the issue of: “What is Church in the rural Community? And then the issue of theological education and ministry formation for rural ministry.

It was agreed to reconvene as a National Group – 15th-17th October 2007, in Donald, Victoria.
If you would like to read a more comprehensive report contact Rev. John Atkinson via the WA Synod.


A new publication, aimed at fostering faith development, faith sharing and which will share a positive message about the Uniting Church and Christianity in general is being launched in February as a joint venture between the Synod of Western Australia and the National Assembly.

The Transit Lounge, a fortnightly zine (electronic magazine) is a response to the growing need within the Uniting Church membership for a publication that can show the broader picture of the work of the Uniting Church, encourage faith development and have a mission focus.


The letters editor
The Daily Telegraph

In his rush to discredit those concerned at the appalling treatment of David Hicks it seems Piers Akerman has misrepresented the substance of a press statement I issued yesterday (Trials, tribulations of life in free Hicksville - Daily Telegraph, 6 Feb 2007).

In an attempt to paint me as ignorant and somehow unaware of the imminent charges, he jettisons the introductory paragraph of my statement, where I acknowledge that draft charges have been prepared against David Hicks, notwithstanding the fact Hicks has been incarcerated for five years with no charges and no trial.

Then through his gratuitous comment - “Hallejuah Henderson, Hallejuah Thomson” (I think he means “Hallelujah”) – Mr Akerman grossly misrepresents me by implying that I somehow support the atrocities committed by the Taliban. That’s offensive.

For the record let me make my views and those of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church very clear:

  • We continue to be astonished that the Australian Government supports an Australian citizen facing trial before the flawed processes of an American military tribunal when other countries, including Britain, have not deemed those processes suitable or appropriate for their citizens.
  • We believe David Hicks should be returned to Australia to be charged and face trial under Australian or international law, and if no such charges can be laid then he should be released into the community; if he is deemed dangerous to the community under our current anti-terrorist laws, then he could be placed under a control order.
  • We believe that the conditions in Guantanamo are inhumane and cruel (5 years of detention without trial; 22 hours a day locked in solitary in a windowless cell when he’s not been found guilty of anything; no access to books or educational programs etc).
  • We condemn terrorism, we believe that terrorists should be brought to justice under right and proper legal procedures.
  • In no way do we support the Taliban and their atrocious attitudes and actions.


Rev. Gregor Henderson
Uniting Church President
Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest Canberra


For immediate release

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia has today written a letter of congratulations to the newly consecrated Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Perth, the Right Reverend Kay Goldsworthy.

Rev. Henderson said the appointment of Australia’s first Anglican Bishop was an historic occasion.

“The Uniting Church in Australia has long been committed to gender equity in all areas of life and society,” said Rev. Henderson.

“We therefore particularly rejoice that the Anglican Church in Australia has taken the key step to include women in its three orders of ministry.

“It fits very well with the ecumenical commitments of the Anglican Church and with ecumenical developments across the worldwide Christian communion.

“We are certain that the gifts Bishop Goldsworthy brings to her appointment will enrich the life of the Anglican Church in Perth, WA, and beyond.”

In his letter, Rev. Henderson offered the ongoing prayers and support of the Uniting Church in Australia.


Rev. Henderson is available for comment.


Penelope Monger, Assembly Communications Manager: 02 8267 4233 / 0417 416 674.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Easter Message 2008


For immediate release

Rev. Gregor Henderson, President, Uniting Church in Australia

Despite walking this earth 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ continues to make more impact for good on people in the world today than any other single human being.

We hear much these days about the tension, competition and conflict between people of different faiths. This Easter it is worth noting that the stresses that can occur between those of differing religions are generated by a very few people. The far more common story, not often told, is the good relationships that are being nurtured, together with a commitment to maintaining peace and harmony, by the vast majority of people of faith.

In the Indian city of Machilipatnam, thousands of Hindus and Muslims come to the city cathedral every Christmas Eve to pray, in respect for the Christian faith and in commitment to community togetherness. Further, each visitor drops a few rupees into the cathedral’s offering boxes and, on that one day, they contribute more than 10% of the cathedral’s annual budget.

In Jerusalem last year, a new Council for Religious Institutions was established. Membership includes the Jewish chief rabbis; the Christian heads of churches; and the Muslim supreme judge and mufti. They are particularly working on the very sensitive issue of the long-term future status of Jerusalem.

In Australia the leaders of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths are planning a joint visit to Israel and Palestine in 2009, in order to see the conflict there from all sides and to work out together how faith leaders may contribute to peace in the region.

None of these things would be happening were it not for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to live out and teach God’s love for the whole world, not just for his particular followers. That is why people of many faiths celebrate Easter.

Whether you are of the Christian faith, another faith, or a person of no religious faith at all, we encourage you to at least enjoy the Easter holiday season and to give thanks for Jesus; a man who promoted peace and advocated for justice for all humans; and the man whom we Christians worship as Son of God and Saviour of the world.

Media enquiries to:

Penelope Monger, National Assembly Communications Manager 02 8267 4233 / 0417 416 674.

For immediate release 

As the tragic reality of the Burma cyclone continues to emerge, Uniting International Mission, through its relief and development division Uniting Church Overseas Aid, has launched the UCOA Burma Cyclone Appeal. 

This has followed discussions between Kerry Enright, Director of Uniting Church Overseas Aid and Alistair Gee, Executive Director of Christian World Service, the International and Development arm of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA).  

“For many years the Uniting Church has stood with the Burmese people and many refugees as they have suffered at the hands of, or fled the repressive military junta.  We commit ourselves anew to supporting them in this moment of need,” said Rev Gregor Henderson, President of the Uniting Church National Assembly. 

“As the doors of Burma open to aid agencies, the UCOA Burma Cyclone Appeal will be a central contributor to the efforts of partners through Christian World Service in responding with the compassion of Christ to a devastated nation.”  

Christian World Service will work with the Myanmar Council of Churches which has a fine record in delivering emergency aid and longer-term rehabilitation assistance to people and communities hit by natural disasters.

The Director of Uniting Church Overseas Aid, Kerry Enright has also urged members of the Uniting Church to pray for the leadership and members of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar, the Methodist Church (Upper Myanmar), the Methodist Church (Lower Myanmar) and the Myanmar Council of Churches. Contact has been made with the leadership to express our solidarity at this time of devastation.

People wishing to make a donation to the UCOA Burma Cyclone Appeal can do so by visiting www.overseasaid.org. Gifts of $2 and more are tax deductible.

Donations can also be posted to:

PO Box A2266 Sydney South NSW 1235
P: 1800 998 122
F: 03 9262 7936
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

MEDIA INQUIRIES: Robert Lutton, Communications and Fundraising Manager, 02 8627 4223 /0433 470 387.


The Uniting Church in Australia has initiated an ecumenical prayer service on Wednesday 13 February 2008, to mark the National Apology by the Federal Government to the stolen generations. 

The Ecumenical Prayer Service will involve prayer for the continuing journey of healing for Indigenous Australians and action to end Indigenous poverty. 

Attending the service will be Reverend Professor James Haire, former President of the Uniting Church in Australia and current Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Charles Sturt University. 

He will be joined by members of the Uniting Church in Australia, including:

  • Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) National Executive;
  • Rev. Niall Reid, Moderator of the NSW Synod;
  • Rosemary Hudson Miller, Associate General Secretary (Justice & Mission), WA Synod.  


Coordinated by the NSW Ecumenical Council, the service will be held at: 
The Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture
15 Blackall St, Barton ACT 12.30pm 

Media Opportunities

Uniting Church representatives, including NSW Synod Moderator, Rev. Niall Reid and Past President, Rev. Prof. James Haire are available for comment.  

ContactPenelope Monger, National Assembly Communications: 02 8267 4233 / 0417 416 674.       


In an historic move, a group of Australia’s religious leaders have banded together and signed an open letter to the Federal Government, calling for immediate and decisive action on climate change. 

Signed by 31 leaders from various faith groups and organisations, the letter draws specific attention to the communities across the globe facing devastation through climate change, including the small island nations and low lying areas of the Pacific. 

The collaboration coincides with a visit to Australia by Pacific Church leaders, who are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change on the region.  In countries such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands, climate change is an urgent issue, with rising sea levels already endangering many of their islands. 

“As people of faith, we affirm the fundamental value of the whole of creation, and assert that the responsibility to safeguard human flourishing and ecological integrity extends beyond economic considerations of costs and benefits,” the letter states. 

The open letter has been facilitated by the independent research organisation, The Climate Institute, and the signatories represent faiths including Christian; Baha’i; Jewish; Muslim; and Hindu.  

All of them are committed to working for ecologically sustainable living and advocating for communities, both in the Pacific and worldwide, affected by climate change.  

PDF iconClick here to view letter in PDF format.

Open Letter from Australian Religious Leaders to the Australian Government 

National Council of Churches in Australia
Level 7, 379 Kent St, Sydney NSW 
8 August 2008

Available for interview 

Mr Fe’iloakitau Kaho Tevi, General Secretary, Pacific Council of Churches
Imam Riad Galil, Chairperson, Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia
Gregor Henderson, President, Uniting Church in Australia