News
Thursday, 22 September 2005

C-Change small group resources

Thank you for your interest in the C-Change series. We trust that you will find them informative and challenging.

These sheets are designed to be used as discussion starters in worship services, home fellowship groups, youth groups and many other situations. They are meant to guide and encourage groups as they explore their faith, so please use them as a starting point rather than a prescriptive study guide.

High quality print versions may be ordered from Mediacom, PO Box 610, Unley SA 5061, Australia (phone 1800 811 311) in sets of 6 for $5.00 plus postage and handling. These sets of 6 may be all different, or all the same – please specify.

C-Change sheets may also be viewed and downloaded from the Assembly Website at http://nat.uca.org.au/TD/resources.htm. These will be a much lesser quality, but nevertheless useful.

These sheets have been prepared by the National Assembly’s Working Group on Missiology. We commend them to you with the prayer that you will find them very enriching.

Grace and peace, Rob Bos
National Consultant
Theology and Discipleship

 

Monday, 10 October 2005

Earthquake in Islamabad Area

A reflection from the Uniting Church President

O God, we pray for those in the Islamabad region who are still trapped beneath shattered buildings, those desperately searching for relatives or friends, those in grief for those they have lost, the hundreds of thousands suffering deprivation as they look on in shock at what the quaking earth has done to their homes and community. We pray for those in Pakistan and India, and throughout the world who are organizing to find and deliver food, water, blankets, tents and other necessities for life.

Give us open and generous hearts for those who find themselves living in earthquake zones now in the midst of terror and chaos. Give us the wisdom to know how each of us build our daily routines before the unimaginable forces of nature. We pray now for those who must start to live again first in the open, say goodbye to their dead, as they risk moving back into buildings. As their lives are caught up with doctors and aid workers and planners bringing different and confusing perspectives give a sense of hope that life can be sure again. Rev. Dr Dean Drayton
President
Uniting Church


Rev. Dr Dean Drayton
As we meet to launch UIW2 we must thank the Assembly Working Group on Worship for the tremendous job they have done, building on the work of the Assembly Commission on Liturgy. Would the members of both groups please step forward so that we may express our gratitude for their long hard and distinguished work.

But this occasion must also recognise the magnitude of the task that has so admirably been led by the Rev. Paul Walton. He has brought leadership and wisdom to this Working Group, as well as his own distinctive creativity as a writer, poet and liturgist.

And too, last but not least, how well Mediacom have worked to bring this quality production to us, as a handsomely presented book, and as an intriguing CD and DVD. We acknowledge the contribution Tony Nancarrow has made to this project with his efficient and responsive Mediacom team, and I am aware that only Dr’s orders could keep him from being here tonight.

The focus of our attention now turns to this great resource Uniting in Worship 2. Uniting in Worship 2 is not just a re-working of Uniting in Worship, it is a revolution in the resourcing of congregations throughout the Uniting Church and beyond.

In the last 17 years the covenant with the UAICC and the growing development of a multicultural church led to a new appreciation of the diversity and range of backgrounds of people in our congregations.

At the same time the digital revolution has brought DVD and digital projectors into the worship service. Many congregations now have a worship committee that helps prepare the service. And we have become far more aware of the range of settings in which worship occurs. I have worshiped on a concrete slab, a community hall, a city centre cathedral, and a suburban chapel in the last few weeks

There can be no one size fits all any more, but a need to find a balance between structure and freedom. So this next step in providing a leaders book and CD and DVD turns out to be more than another step – it sets a new way before us for considering our worship. Three registers of voice, a wide range of resources, the ability to choose the sort of imagery we use, and indeed the chance to modify and personalise for a particular congregation.

Here is the best of tradition reshaped in the light of today, together with a remarkable series of worship resources, some for the first time, others tried and true from various congregations, now included them in this fantastic range on the digital format.

I was fascinated by the media response. The Australian imagery bowled them over. In the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald the following Call to Worship was printed out for all to read:

O God, we gather at your waters as a hot and bothered crowd gathers on the beach on a sweltering, summer day
O God, we drink at your fountain as a parched dog laps at the fresh, running water of a bush creek.
O God, we await our refreshment as a tired worker watches the changing of a shift
Quench our thirst, satisfy our longings. May we be refreshed and restored in you.

And the service for healing for those whose marriage has ended. They went to this service because it had to be controversial. But they too learnt that this was not about prescriptive services but a resource for people in their pain. Listen to what the article stated. "The service for separating couples is not meant to be a divorce blessing but rather a public expression of grief, regret, affirmation and forgiveness, involving the partners and any children in an intimate ceremony conducted by a minister at home or in church." This moved beyond the initial interest in morality, to the way the resources give us all an opportunity to mark profound life events in or beyond the congregation.

It is clear that the excellent work of the National Working Group on Worship will lead congregations throughout Australia and beyond to explore both our tradition and the language and experience of the world in which we now live and worship.

And now to the formal launch. In the name of Christ and for the sake of God’s Mission I formally launch Uniting in Worship 2.

 

Uniting Church leaders today condemned the Government’s proposed industrial relations reforms and the limited safeguards announced yesterday which do little to protect the rights and conditions of Australia’s most vulnerable workers.

Uniting Church President, Reverend Dr. Dean Drayton, said the Government’s ‘WorkChoices’ reform package is more about choice for business than protecting the country’s workers.

“We are not comforted by the very minor safeguards which have been included. The Government is so focussed on the economy as an end in itself that it has lost sight of the real purpose of economic systems. The economy is a tool which should serve the needs of people.

“Workers are not commodities in the service of greater profits – they are people trying to make a decent life for themselves and their families. ‘WorkChoices’ claims it will make our labour market and our economy more competitive - but where does it legislate for cooperation, collaboration and community?”

Rev. Drayton said the Prime Minister has made an art form out of the use of the word ‘choice’. “The ‘WorkChoices’ package wrongly assumes all employees can negotiate a fair deal for themselves and that employers will not take advantage of the most vulnerable in the pursuit of profit,” he said.

UnitingJustice Australia National Director, Rev. Elenie Poulos said the Church was very concerned about the plight of low-paid workers on AWAs, especially casual employees and younger workers.

“These are people who cannot risk saying no to an employer’s request for a change in wages and conditions.

“The membership of the Fair Pay Commission is skewed in favour of economists and big business. The Government must act to ensure that workers earn enough to provide for themselves and for their families and we’ve seen nothing in the package that shows the Fair Pay Commission will do this.

“On top of this, the changes to unfair dismissal laws mean that many workers will be unable to challenge their termination, even if it is grossly unfair. The removal of unfair dismissal laws is a disgraceful and excessive over-reaction to a system that may have needed some reform.”

Rev. Drayton said that the Uniting Church will continue to advocate for the well-being of those most in need and for a society that has justice and community at its heart.

“Christian teaching has, from its beginning, named the pursuit of wealth as the priority in life as a fool’s errand. Happiness requires a great deal more than wealth and will not be created by a continued focus on a free and unfettered market,” Rev. Drayton said.

 

This is a statement by the National President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Dr Dean Drayton, following a meeting with the Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, in Adelaide on Friday, January 7, while he was attending the National Christian Youth Convention. A baptised member of the Uniting Church was forcibly deported from Baxter Detention Centre on the night of January 3, the New Year’s Day public holiday.

I immediately emailed both Senator Vanstone and the Prime Minister to express the Church’s disappointment at the decision

I was able to meet the Minister Vanstone personally while I was in Adelaide for the National Christian Youth Convention to personally explain the concerns we had.

I was encouraged by the meeting. The Minister was gracious, warm and open to our concerns.

Neither the Minister nor the immigration authorities will reconsider material which has already been examined in any case. But we have authenticated and documented the conversion of some asylum seekers who are baptised members of the Uniting Church.

We believe this should be considered ‘new information’ and so allow a new stage in their applications for humanitarian visas, permitting the Minister to consider them on a case by case basis.

The Minister also left the way open for further communication between us, which we appreciate.

It is my fear that members of the Uniting Church who are forcibly returned will face persecution and possible death at the hands of fundamentalist Islamic governments or groups.

Religious persecution is a reality in many parts of the world. It is expressly prohibited under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and as President of the Uniting Church in Australia, I have a duty to see that members of our church are not persecuted for their faith. This is not matter of choice, but one of deep pastoral responsibility.

As I said at the National Christian Youth Convention: “We are most concerned about former Muslims who have converted to Christianity being forcibly returned to fundamentalist Islamic countries.

“It’s hard for Christians in these countries. It’s even harder for people who have converted from Islam to Christianity. Under Islamic law they are seen as apostates – people who are traitors to Islam. In some countries this may be punishable by death.

“The Minister acknowledged that the Uniting Church has been careful and thoughtful in the way we have authenticated people’s conversions.”

The President of the Uniting Church, the Reverend Dr. Dean Drayton today cautioned against the apparent religious politicisation surrounding the appointment of the Chair of the new Fair Pay Commission.

“It appears the Prime Minister is disturbed by the questions that religious leaders are asking. While Churches are being urged to applaud the appointment of someone of deep religious convictions to this position, the Uniting Church is concerned that the Prime Minister has bound the Chair’s hands with the very mandate of the Fair Pay Commission. It is not the person that is important but the policy which is the central issue in this debate.

“It is our fundamental concern that this new system is creating an uneven playing field for those who have to bargain from a position of weakness. The Fair Pay Commission’s mandate is geared towards keeping wages low rather than assessing the minimum wage according to what workers need to live a decent life.

“Christians are called to challenge, in word and deed, systems and structures that breed hate, greed, oppression, poverty, injustice and fear. Anything less than this is a watered down expression of our faith. The Fair Pay Commission will be tasked with putting economic prosperity and wealth ahead of the needs of people.

“We are concerned individuals will be considered commodities in the service of greater profits and left open to exploitation. There is more to being human than simply being a piece in the economic jigsaw puzzle.”

Rev. Drayton said the appointment ahead of the release of the legislation and its passage through Parliament appeared to exploit the Coalition’s Senate majority.

“This is significant legislation that will affect the shape and character of Australian society for generations to come. It deserves more than a fleeting public debate followed by a hasty passage through Parliament.

“We will always be more concerned with the upholding of democratic principles, human rights and policies which support the most vulnerable, than the particular religious affiliation of the individuals charged with supporting and enacting those principles and policies,” Rev. Drayton said.

 


Media Contact: Gavin Melvin, Manager, National Media and Communication – 0417 416 674

 

The Federal Government’s anti-terror legislation puts Australia on a dangerous path according to the Uniting Church President, the Reverend Dr. Dean Drayton.

“While every Government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, these new laws send a clear message that the only way to do this is to erode people’s rights. They have the potential to create an atmosphere of fear and distrust in Australia.

“We are concerned the Government has failed to allow adequate time for public discussion and debate about the proposed laws. It is unacceptable that the community is being told to accept measures that radically curtail civil liberties without widespread and substantial consultation.

“Preventative detention without judicial sanction is out of step with community expectations of accountability and transparency. Administrative detention has a dark history in some of the most oppressive regimes in the world. It is imperative, therefore, that a very clear case is made for its introduction and that appropriate and stringent safeguards be put in place. The Government must ensure that this legislation is not open to abuse,” Rev. Drayton said.

“We are concerned about the erosion of community trust. What will it do to the psyche of the Australian people to know they can be detained with no recourse and no way of telling their loved ones what is happening or making arrangements for work commitments?” Rev. Drayton said the Church was also concerned that these new laws could threaten freedom of association and speech.

“We are especially concerned that these laws will result in suppression of peaceful activism, religious freedom and expression, and may encourage discrimination against members of the Islamic community. The recent deportation of peace activist Scott Parkin was conducted with no explanation. We do not know and cannot know why he was determined to be such a grievous threat and we are concerned that these new laws will further entrench this culture of secrecy.”

Rev. Drayton said that politicians must remain accountable to the electorate and vigilant in their protection of civil liberties.

“We all want to live in security, but laws which take action against citizens without the sanction of the judicial system damage trust and needlessly engender fear. We urge our political leaders to work for an open and tolerant Australia committed to overcoming violence through peaceful means.”

 

Media Contact: Gavin Melvin, Manager, National Media and Communication – 0417 416 674

 

Wednesday, 02 November 2005

Time needed to consider Anti-Terror laws


“While our nation stopped for three and a half minutes for a horse race this week how many Australians have spent three and a half minutes considering the new anti-terror laws to be introduced into Parliament? How many of us have really thought about the impact they could have on ordinary Australians"
asks the Uniting Church President Rev. Dr Dean Drayton.

The world is a very different place today than it was 30 years ago. Sadly, we are confronted by people who are so committed to a particular cause that they are willing to take lives in the name of that cause.

National Security is now the big issue and political leaders of all persuasions in Australia have, rightly or wrongly, campaigned on the issue in recent years.

The so called War on Terrorism is in full swing, and as our political leaders have taken steps in recent years to protect Australians, they have unashamedly played the fear card.

More recently, as part of the latest battle in the war, we have been confronted with harsher, more authoritarian laws that give authorities unprecedented powers deal with that threat.

Our leaders now expect us to give away the basic common law right of habeas corpus (the right for a prisoner be brought before a judge to determine if they are being held lawfully), the right to due process and the presumption of innocence, because they say this is the best way to track and intercept terrorist activity.

If recent polling is anything to go by, our political leaders have succeeded in their fear campaign. An AC Nielsen survey released this week showed three quarters of respondents support the toughest elements of the proposed new laws - locking up suspected terrorists without charge, putting them under house arrest or shackling them with tracking devices.

Australians have been convinced by the rhetoric and accepted that these “difficult” times require exceptional laws that give more power to the authorities to deal with the threat of terrorism. In the race to track down and weed out terrorists, Australians appear willing to accept laws that take away the very building blocks of our democracy – the very building blocks that underpin our quintessentially Australian traditions of dignity, respect and a fair go for all.

We’ve agreed to place our trust in the administrative arm of Government that any infringement of a citizens existing civil rights will be reserved only for those who’ve done the wrong thing – the rest of us law abiding citizen should have nothing to fear.

The Rau and Alvarez cases are a stark reminder of what could happen under the proposed laws. My own experience of working with Asylum Seekers in a Departmental culture that could not be questioned, was frightening. Thank God the Minister in charge was helpful when the Department was not.

Where is the justice in detaining someone, who later turns out be innocent, without charge or trial for up to seven days with the possibility of seven more at ASIO’s discretion?

Have you considered the possibility of mistakenly being detained with no right to contact any person, including family, friends, or lawyers, other than to say you are safe but not able to be contacted at this time?

What if through no fault of you own, you fail to answer the authorities' questions satisfactorily and are liable for five years' imprisonment?

Would you willingly accept a control order being made against you or a family member on the application of a Federal Police officer when the person being “controlled” has no chance to attend, or be represented by a lawyer when a court hears that application?

How many of those surveyed recently would still consider Australia the lucky country and the land of a fair go, if they, or a loved one, were subjected to electronic tracking, phone intercepts and even home detention for up to a year without being told the reason why? How then could they possibly get a fair hearing in a court if they apply to have the order overturned?

Of course, we have been reassured that these laws will only be used in exceptional cases where national security is threatened.

While we all hope mistakes or injustices will never occur, can we really accept these new laws in their current form with no more than a promise from our political leaders that the rights of innocent people will not be jeopardised? What will it do to the psyche of the Australian people if innocent people are detained, interrogated or placed under control orders and they are unable to easily prove their innocence?

The history of those responsible for administering the mandatory detention of asylum seekers is not encouraging. They gave us Baxter. Do we want to give authorities even greater powers like the ones contained in this latest Australian Solution? How long before we have our own Guantanamo Bay?
All Australians want to live in security, as Gerard Henderson points out in one of his recent columns, “… social democratic leaders alike understand that there is a demand among a clear majority of Australians for a greater focus on national security at a time of terrorist threat.”
The problem occurs when that focus results in laws which take action against citizens without the sanction of the judicial system. Yes, we live in changed times and it would be irresponsible for any Government not to take steps to protect it citizens from a terrorist attack.

Yes, we do need new anti-terrorism laws but we need laws that are open and accountable to the Australian people, which don’t remove our basic rights. We shouldn’t be asked to relinquish our right to be charged if we are imprisoned, our right to a lawyer and our right to defend any charges made against us with full access to the details of why we were charged.

The minute we give those rights away, the land of the fair go may become a thing of the past.