News

I was deeply saddened by the earthquake which so damaged Gunungsitoli, the principal town on the island of Nias. This Easter devastation followed on from the Christmas tsunami which killed at least 3,000 people on the island, and wrecked an already fragile economy, especially on the West of this Island made up principally of Christians. Nearly a thousand people are known to have died in the town itself.

I visited Nias in middle February, and we met the representatives of the Protestant Church there called the BNKP, and Bishop Geya. We met near the principal church building on the island, and drove often along the main street and visited some of the restaurants there, and a village not far to the South. There is a sense this earthquake brings home the devastation to me more than in Banda Aceh because I know the people there and know their town. Most of the two story homes are gone, the main Church and other Churches flattened, and the main road into town is the place where rescue efforts continue hoping to free people alive from beneath the masonry. Far less were killed than the 200,000 killed in Banda Aceh, but it is another tragedy that calls out for help from us, sister Churches to the Churches in Nias.

Updated reports are available from the UIM web site, documenting ways that congregations and individuals can help. We had already determined a course of action prior to the earthquake, but now, since Gunungsitoli has been hit, the communications nerve centre for the island no longer is functional. We are sending people to visit there and doing all we can to make contact again, and find the best way to add to our previous plans to provide assistance. Already money has been sent to the church for emergency purposes. Please pray for the Christians and Muslims in Nias, and the surrounding islands, and encourage your communities to continue giving.

Grace and Peace

Rev Dr Dean Drayton
President of the Uniting Church in Australia

 

On Sunday April 10th an earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter Scale was recorded 120 kilometers south west of the Sumateran city of Padang. Located close to the Mentawai Islands, this recent earthquake lies in the same fault line as the March 28th earthquake (registering 8.7) and the December 26th earthquake and consequent tsunami (registering 9.0). This is a highly unstable region with 5 earthquakes registering above 6 in the past 5 days.

No reports have been received as yet from the the remote Mentawai Islands concerning damage or loss of life. Meanwhile the latest report from Nias indicates the number of dead resulting from the March 28th earthquake is around 1,500 people. Approximately 5,000 people have injuries while 71,000 people are homeless. Following the March 28th earthquake, the local hospital in Gunungsitoli collapsed and the local airport was severely damaged. Schools, government buildings, churches and mosques were severely damaged or destroyed. Around 80% of the major town, Gunungsitoli, has been severely damaged with other major centres suffering similar levels of damage. Acess to Nias is via a 12 hour ferry trip from Sibolga on the island of Sumatera. Roads and major bridges in Nias have been destroyed while electricity and telephone lines are down. Hundreds of people are fleeing Nias each day on the ferry due to food shortages and the fear of futher devastating earthquakes.

Uniting Church Overseas Aid sent $A.10,000 to Nias on 6th April. This was in response to a call from the Protestant Christian Church in Nias for emergency humanitarian assistance. The Uniting Church in Australia is also contributing to the relief effort in Nias through ACT International. This is an ecumenical emergency humanitarian relief agency. Implementnig partners in Nias include Church World Service, Yayasan Tanggul Bencana (YTB) and Yakkum Energency Unit (YEU).

Today, April 12th, Rev Yono Abadi from the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania left for Medan in Indonesia. Rev Abadi will travel to Nias to visit local churches and to demonstrate our concern to those who are suffering in the region. Rev Abadi will also gather further information and develop contacts with grassroots community organisations. This will enable the effective distribution of aid in Nias by Uniting Church Oversea Aid.

Rev John Barr
Executive Secretary (Asia)
Uniting International Mission 
 

 

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