Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Greetings to you from the National Assembly.
The President of the Assembly, Rev Gregor Henderson, invited leaders from our migrant communities to meet with him for a pastoral conversation about how our migrant communities were feeling after the
11th Assembly. On Friday 22 September these leaders met with the President in Sydney.
A very positive meeting took place in which the experience and issues faced by our migrant communities were shared in an honest and open way. It was clear that the overwhelming majority of migrant congregations very much value belonging to the Uniting Church. There was a good deal of discussion and concern expressed about the Reforming Alliance proposal to establish an Assembly of
Confessing Congregations. During the meeting the initiative was taken by the migrant leaders to share with their communities and the wider church their views and concerns. This letter introduces to you the Open Letter that has been written by individual leaders from across the various migrant communities of the Uniting Church. I commend it prayerfully to you. Grace and Peace, Terence Corkin
The leaders of nine migrant communities have publicly declared they will not join the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations and have sent an open letter to their communities urging them to consider the impact it will have on the unity of the Church.
The open letter, signed by leaders of the Indonesian, Tongan, Samoan, Tamil, Vietnamese, Filipino, Niuean and Fijian National Conferences and the Korean Commission, follows a meeting in Sydney on September 22 between the migrant leaders and leaders of the Assembly.
The President of the Assembly, Rev Gregor Henderson, invited leaders from the migrant communities to meet with him for a pastoral conversation about how migrant communities were feeling after the 11th Assembly.
“It was a very positive meeting. The commitment of our migrant leaders to the unity and diversity of the Uniting Church is very strong. They conveyed to us very clearly the affirmations, concerns, and hopes of their communities,” Rev. Henderson said.
Rev. Henderson said the migrant leaders were keen to discuss the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations. At their own initiative they then decided to issue an open letter to tell their communities of their commitment to the life and mission of the Uniting Church and of their concerns about the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations.
In their letter the signatories said the Uniting Church was their spiritual home and was a place where their views were respected and where migrant communities would continue to help shape its future and contribute to its life
They said they would not be joining the Assembly of Confessing Congregations and asked their communities to “seriously consider the consequences of such a move for the unity of the Church.” “We do not support the establishment of an ‘Assembly of Confessing Churches’. We do not want to see the setting up of separate structures that undermine the work of the Councils of the Church. We are concerned that this move will create confusion and divided loyalties and be harmful to the unity of our church.”“We need to nurture and build our sense of togetherness. The Uniting Church contains a diversity of biblical and theological understandings. Showing that we can hold together a variety of perspectives and respectfully live together with our differences is a witness to the wider community.”
Congregations, faith communities and small groups in the Uniting Church are being encouraged to reflect on and celebrate international Human Rights Day through a suite of internet based resources being made available by UnitingJustice.
International Human Rights Day is celebrated on December 10 each year and commemorates the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted unanimously on 10 December 1948).
UnitingJustice National Director, Rev. Elenie Poulos said the Universal Declaration envisions a world in which all people enjoy rights and freedoms without discrimination.
“Human Rights Day is a time to celebrate how much has been achieved in bringing this vision to reality, and also to reflect upon how much remains to be done,” Rev. Poulos said.
This year UnitingJustice has produced a suite of internet-based information resources which can be downloaded soon from our website
“The material is suitable for use for individual reflection and group discussion and although issued on the occasion of International Human Rights Day can be used at any time.
“The resources include information about the church and human rights, worship materials, and fact sheets on climate change as a human rights issue, the death penalty and racism and human rights.”
“The Uniting Church has always had a deep commitment to ensuring human rights are upheld and in this tradition, at this year’s National Assembly meeting in Brisbane, the Assembly adopted the statement Dignity in Humanity: A Uniting Church Statement on Human Rights.
“This is the most comprehensive Uniting Church statement made on the subject of human rights, and it affirms the Church's belief that every person is precious before God and entitled to live with dignity.
“The statement commits the Uniting Church to promote and uphold human rights locally, nationally and internationally. It also declares the Church's opposition to capital punishment and calls upon Church members and agencies to work for and model justice, and to stand in solidarity with our partner churches in their struggle for human rights.“International Human Rights Day is a perfect opportunity for members of the Uniting Church to publicly live out the commitment made by the Church in this statement,” Rev. Poulos said.
For the members of Ambassador77, making music is a God-filled process — but they’re adamant that the music they make is for everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike. As the main evening entertainment at NCYC 2007, they hope to share some of their passion for their faith via their music.
The band members — vocalist and guitarists Nick Dubé and Tim McHutchison, bassist Nathan Carey and drummer Tim Dubé — grew up together at their local church, Melbourne’s Rowville Baptist, and started making music together in their teens. Ambassador77 was formed in 2002.
They’re now in the throes of recording their second EP, and thanks to a partnership with a Melbourne’s Melodic Music, they’re well on the way to fulfilling one of their main aims: to be Christians in the mainstream music industry, staying true to their faith and making great music.
Nick says that while he is intensely aware of God’s role in the creative process, the band is discreet about its Christian roots.
“God’s a big part of my life, so he naturally becomes a big part of my songs. I feel like each song is a gift from God, and often they just come to me with ease, but I’ve never been inspired to write songs that are overtly Christian,” he explained.
“That approach allows us to play in a pub scene and have that content in our lyrics without people being freaked out or scared away … and it opens the door for us to be able to go in and work with people in the mainstream industry, which is where we feel we can have the biggest impact.
“We’re pretty out there with the fact that we’re Christians, but we don’t want anyone to ever get their back up and feel like we’re excluding them.”
Nick says that through his lyrics, he tries to express honest feelings that others — whether Christian or not — will be able to relate to. But sometimes he finds God working through the songs in unexpected ways.
The band has just recorded a song called “Two Weeks”, which Nick says reflects his feeling of being lost in the busyness of life, and not able to stop and spend time with his wife: “To see your face without the haste of time would lift me up … to hear your voice without the haste of time would lift me up.”
Nick said that it was only after he finished recording the song that he realised a lot of the lyrics in it expressed his yearning to spend more time with God as well.
“I looked at those three lines and realised it’s a longing to see God’s face as well; for God to hold my hand through the busyness of life. Sometimes we work really hard on the lyrics in a focussed, practical way, and at the end of those songs we look at what’s come out and see meanings that we didn’t mean to come out of it.
“I like to be pretty real about my own struggles in my life and about what’s scaring me, what I need help with. People can connect to honesty,” he said.
Nick grew up in the church and says that although he didn’t have the “radical conversion experience” that some Christians do, he started to take the Gospel message more seriously at around age 18 after attending a Soul Survivor event.
He hopes some young people will have the same experience at NCYC. “That’s something I’d like to see there — kids experiencing Jesus in a real and relevant way that hits them right where they’re at,” he said.You can see Ambassador77 live at NCYC on Friday 5th, Saturday 6th and Monday 8th January, 2007.
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.
For immediate release
Rev. Gregor Henderson, President, Uniting Church in Australia
EASTER IMPACTS ON PEOPLE OF ALL FAITHS… AND OF NONE
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
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.
15 Blackall St, Barton ACT 12.30pm
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.
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