The President of the Uniting Church, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, will be among a group of 28 Australians visiting Brazil for the 9th World Council of Churches Assembly this week.
The Assembly will meet in Porto Alegre, Brazil, from February 14-23 addressing the theme God, in your grace, transform the world. The Assembly will be a time of encounter, prayer, celebration and deliberation for thousands of Christian women and men from around the world.
“The Assembly is the highest governing body of the World Council of Churches and is held once every seven years. This is the first Assembly to be held in Latin America and is being hosted by the National Council of Christian Churches in Brazil (CONIC) on behalf of churches throughout the region,” Rev. Drayton said.
Rev. Drayton said the Assembly would be asked to grapple with a number if important issues, including how to re-build relationships between the various churches in the new century, the importance of minimising competition and working together ecumenically and the richness of the west and the plight of those living in poverty in the world.The Australian group includes members of the Churches of Christ, Armenian Apostolic, Anglican and Uniting Churches.
The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) in East Timor submitted its report on human rights violations to the President of Timor Leste, Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao on the 31st October 2005. In accordance with Timorese legislation, the President then handed the report over to the Timorese parliament and cabinent on 28th November 2005, and to the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, on 20th January 2006. The CAVR's final report is a product of extensive public testimony from more than 7,000 victims and of comprehenesive investigations and research that yielded dramatic evidence of at least 102,800 deaths in East Timor under Indonesian occupation. Between 1974 and 1999 the report found that violations were "massive, widespread and systematic". Indonesian forces used starvation as a weapon of war, committed arbitrary executions, and routinely inflicted torture on people suspected of sympathizing with pro-independence forces. This included organized sexual enslavement and sexual torture of Timorese women. A number of recommendations are made in the report including a call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. While the report covers thousands of pages, it has been released with the short title - "Chega!" - which roughly translates from Portuguese to mean "no more, stop, enough!". A copy of the CAVR 2,500 page final report has been posted by the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) on at www.ictj.org
This morning the Uniting Church in Australia was contacted by Bishop Elmer Bolocon with the news that an entire mountainside collapsed on to the village of Guinsaugon in Leyte, Central Philippines. Covering an area of nine square kilometers, local communities were buried under 30 meters of thick mud.
Bishop Bolocon is the General Secretary of our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). He reports that Pastor Niel Toyhaco and his six month old son along with 65 other church members are among the 1,484 people who died in the tragedy last Friday. In neighbouring Magatas, 15 other UCCP members are feared dead.
The UCCP has formed a Task Group to assist in the search and rescue operation. Meanwhile, evacuees from neighbouring villages are being housed in UCCP facilities in St Bernard. Rescue efforts are concentrating on a school that was buried along with 206 children and 40 teachers.
Heavy rain hit in the region with 478 millimetres falling since 7th February (this is 5 times the average rainfall for the entire month of February). The National Disaster Coordinating Council warns there could be more landslides as “La Nina” is likely to cause further disasters over the next four months. Villagers in neighbouring communities are being evacuated and relocated.
Materials to construct temporary shelters, medicines, food, clothing, cooking utensils, blankets and equipment to retrieve bodies are all needed. Our partners write… “Our sisters and brothers are in great need. They will greatly appreciate all forms of help: your prayers or some material support or financial support.”Uniting Church Overseas Aid (UCOA) responded immediately to this call for help. $A.5,000 was sent this morning to support emergency relief being carried out by our partner. We are not setting up a specific disaster appeal however donations to support the work of our partner in the Philippines can be sent to: Uniting Church Overseas Aid (PO Box A2266, Sydney South 1235), freecall 1800 998122 (Mastercard, Bankcard and Visacard accepted). Rev John Barr
Executive Secretary (Asia)
Uniting International Mission
20th February 2006
The Assembly Standing Committee met in Sydney over the weekend and received several reports from our partner Church in Papua, the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua. The ASC passed a resolution calling on the Australian Government to seek a commitment from the Indonesian Government for them to act responsibly and with restraint in Papua and to offer more opportunities for dialogue with Papuan religious and community leaders concerning the present situation. The President has also sent the Foreign Minister a copy of a report written by UIM Executive Secretary, Rev. John Barr who returned from the province recently.
A man is his friends and the Reverend John Flynn made many of them, in the remotest parts of Australia, and in the cities and towns as well. He spread a ‘Mantle of Safety’ over the Inland, and brought it into the imagination of a nation.
Part of his vision was the design and building of Adelaide House in Alice Springs, a Nursing hostel, Bush Mothers hostel, manse and now museum which celebrates 80 years of service to Central Australia as a ‘Place for People’.
50 years ago, Flynn’s friends came together to build a Memorial to the Man and his vision. He never had time to build his dreamed for ‘Inland Cathedral’ – he was too busy building people, he said – so five years after his death, his friends built it for him.
The Uniting Church Congregation in Alice Springs is hosting a weekend of celebrations for the 50th and 80th Anniversaries of the John Flynn Memorial Church and Adelaide House and is inviting everyone and anyone who shares the story of these places to celebrate with us.
The North Queensland Presbytery Minister, the Rev Bruce Cornish, has visited widely in the area during the week and the minister in Innisfail the Rev Glen Louttit led a service of thanksgiving and remembrance in the Town Hall, the Sunday after Cyclone Larry devastated Innisfail and surrounding areas. Glen says that the situation is still catastrophic with electricity provided by generators, and most other services not yet available. He estimates over 30,000 people lived through this traumatic and catastrophic time, with the force of the winds greater than that of Katrina or the cyclone that devastated Darwin. The Moderator of the Queensland Synod the Rev David Pitman and the Gen Secretary of the Synod, the Rev Jenny Tymms, are in regular contact with the area. Church buildings and manses suffered minimal damage. Some members of congregations have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Many volunteers from churches to the South and North of the region are helping. The destruction is massive, the cleanup is on such a large scale, and the time to rebuild will take months and years. Let us continue to pray for those in the Innisfail area, in the immediate aftermath of this disaster, and vow to keep on remembering them during the long task of getting life back to normal. The Queensland Synod is receiving non tax deductible donations that can be more flexibly dispersed, and for those who want to receive the benefit of the tax deduction the request is to give through the Commonwealth Bank Appeal. Representatives of the Assembly’s National Disaster Fund have been in contact with the Presbytery Chairperson for North Queensland and the Synod Secretary assuring them that there are funds available through this source to assist the UCA’s response. Rev Dr Dean Drayton
Lord God of the winds and waves, of energy and order, we pray for those who have experienced the fury of forces that have devastated their region and struck terror into many hearts. We give thanks for the security of our own precious worlds of home and street and job. We pray for those for whom these have been crumpled up like roofs in a screaming gale, and now feel so bereft and exposed to the forces of this universe, and their own deepest feelings of loss and exposure. Keep before us the ways we can help rebuild shattered buildings, and devastated fields. And give understanding and insight to those who find the tears so close to the surface, bubbling up unheralded when the memories come of the fear and the helplessness huddling before the seemingly never ending wind and rain.
We pray wisdom for those who are given the task of restoring order, hope for those whose needs are great, and patience for those who know there are no quick solutions. Through Cyclone Larry’s threat to community may new communities be built, bringing new life to the area, new relationships with government, and a new confidence in life. As you give, O God, rich and full and always beyond what we expect, help us too, to grow in such generosity. Through Him who lived through a shattered world, to a cross and a resurrection, even Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen.
10 May 2006
We pray for all who have had one focus for the last two weeks, the freeing of those trapped underground. In the glare of the days that are to come, when all returns to a sort of normal, help families find new depths in a time of release.
Bring we pray that realisation of the way you hold us in ways that are within and beyond our ways of knowing. Help us treasure our freedom to live our days for the ones we love in our local and wider communities. In the name of Christ. Amen.
9 May 2006
Lord it is a day for shouting thanks, and a day of lament. The joy and sadness of life locked into one day. Be with the Beaconsfield community as they walk this amazing day with the families of Brant Webb and Todd Russell, and kneel to give thanks with loved ones for the life of Larry Knight.
We thank you for the work of rescuers, and carers, providing support in the height of exhilaration, and the depths of grief.
And now with the mine closed for safety investigations may their still be hope for the future of this community, bonded together by adversity, finding courage for the journeys still to come. In your mercy O God we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
President's reflection on Beaconsfield
5 May 2006
Immediately after the rock fall trapped three miners at Beaconsfield, in Tasmania, Frances Seen, the Uniting Church Community Minister there opened the church from 7am-9pm so that miners, and friends and members in the community could come, light a candle, reflect, pray, and go on their way. So many did.
Last Sunday in the worship service prayers were said for those in grief and those still not found as the Rev. Allan Thompson, the Synod Officer led worship with her. The sadness of the family at the death of their own (name) was followed that night by the most amazing announcement as rescuers ran to the church to share the good news with the community. “They are alive.”
We are now all involved. I rang Frances and talked with her on Monday morning. She was tired, but I assured her that we were all praying with her and the community, in this their longer vigil. And now the long waiting for an extremely difficult rescue has all of us on edge. We wait for news, we long for news when we are in that in between time of hope anticipated, but hope not yet fulfilled. We can see them stepping out into the glare of the television lights, and hardly wait for the joy of that event, yet all in Beaconsfield know the difficulties which must be overcome.
We must also be mindful of the deep hope of Beaconsfield that the community which is dependant on this mine has a future, as they too wait to see whether this will also be fulfilled.
The church has been flooded with people, townsfolk, visitors, politicians, quietly holding in their thoughts and prayers those still trapped, those rescuing them, and their families. And people keep on lighting their candles of vigil and hope.
And we too know something about that sort of waiting; and that sort of hoping; and the need for some sort of space to find ourselves before the God who sustains us in hope.
Lord in your mercy, restore these men to their families. Guard those who are there with them in this rescue mission. Bring your consolation to those in the midst of grief and hope for a community with an uncertain future. In the name of Jesus Christ, on whom we wait and in whom our deepest hopes are fulfilled. Amen
Rev. Dr Dean Drayton.
In memoriam to Larry Knight with prayers for Brant Webb and Todd Russell.
Representatives of the Assembly, including the President and General Secretary met with representatives of the proposed Assembly of Congressing Congregations in Sydney recently to discuss how it would relate to official Councils of the Church. One of the main areas of discussion at the recent meeting was legal advice received by the Reforming Alliance which claims the decision of the 10th Assembly in relation to sexuality and leadership are invalid or irregular.
Meeting in Sydney on August 26 and 27, the Assembly Standing Committee received a report on the meeting from the General Secretary as well as its own legal opinion in response to the claims made by Reforming Alliance.
The ASC accepted the opinion it had received that there is no validity to the claims made by the Reforming Alliance. The ASC expressed concern that members of the church felt compelled to take theological differences to a civil court and made it clear that the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations has no status or formal recognition within the councils of the Church.
It asked the General Secretary to seek more information from representatives of the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations about the exact nature of how it will operate within the existing church structures. When answers have been received to these questions, this information will be distributed across the church.
Guidance from the National Assembly regarding the proposed "Assembly of Confessing Congregations"
This guidance has been prepared by the Assembly officers in response to requests from some members, congregations and presbyteries seeking Assembly comment about the proposed “Assembly of Confessing Congregations”. It has been distributed to Congregations and Presbyteries.
Every year millions of young people around the world spend time at Christian camps, festivals and conferences, taking part in a range of activities from extreme sports to bible studies, small group discussions to Christian rock concerts. But what happens to those young people when they return to their homes and the euphoria of a week spent in close-knit Christian community fades away?
A growing international trend for such camps and festivals is an ‘action day,’ involving participants spending some time experiencing what it means to put their faith into practice. Depending on the kind of event and who is doing the organising, this might involve a traditional evangelism mission into a city centre, with participants being confronted with what it means to go out and share their faith in the wider community. Or it might involve participants getting their hands dirty, taking on practical social or environmental projects for those in need.
The organisers of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) 2007 have embraced the trend, with the concept of ‘mission immersion’ a big part of the original concept of the Perth event. If the idea seems to fit well within the Agents of Change theme, says Mission Immersion team leader Travis Windsor, that’s because the theme and keynote speakers were all chosen around the primary focus of creating a convention which would offer participants the chance to put their bodies where their ears are.
‘If you look at the traditional format of a youth convention, there’s a lot of listening,’ says Travis. ‘In Bible studies, small groups, even during rallies and nitelife, most of the program is about listening to other people talking. What we wanted for NCYC 2007 was to complement hearing with action.’
Back in 2003, when NSW hosted the biennial NCYC event, participants could choose immersion/reflection electives, learning from those involved in hands-on mission work with people in need. The structure of the 2007 program has allowed organisers to build on that foundation, with each delegate opting for one of three streams: xplore, journey and engage. At one end of the spectrum, the xplore stream is for those with lots of questions to ask, who may not be committed Christians but want to know more. The journey stream is for people who want to work through some deeper questions and challenges, while engage is for ‘delegates who are wanting to radically step out and share in the life and work of God in the world.’
Having arrived at the event on the Wednesday afternoon, delegates will already have spent some time within their ‘streams’ and have started developing relationships with others in their small groups before the Friday immersion. Small groups will then be matched up to community organisations and church groups for experiences ranging from nursing home visits, a busy bee at a refuge, prison visiting or taking part in a church community day.
While Travis acknowledges the experience has the potential to be ‘fairly in your face’ for the young people involved, the support of the small groups, which will include extensive briefing and debriefing sessions, means there will be a safe place for them to work through their experiences during the remainder of their time at convention.
The day will also give young people the opportunity to develop relationships with the older people who are leading the immersion activities, giving them someone they can call on for support and advice if they would like to get involved in a similar activity back home. Travis suggests it might also challenge some young people to re-evaluate their assumptions about what happens in the daily lives of people they normally only see in church on a Sunday.
‘It’s about having delegates go home realising that when I say I want to be an agent of change, it’s not just a catchphrase, its part of who I am,’ says Travis.For more information about NCYC and the mission immersion program, go to agentsofchange.org.au or phone 1300 006 292.
You are invited to a special reunion on Sunday, 22 October which will celebrate the rich Heritage of Christian Education in the UCA and its partner churches and the work of the former Joint Board of Christian Education and Uniting Education.
The stimulus for this comes as a result of the following resolution, passed at the most recent Assembly Standing Committee:
"... to acknowledge and honour the rich heritage that the Joint Board of Christian Education and then Uniting Education made to the life of the Uniting Church and its former founding churches over 92 years. The ministry of these former agencies of the Assembly set an example of ecumenical cooperation and provision both of resources and training for Christian Education, Discipleship and Mission not only in Australia and New Zealand, but also for some of our partner churches in the Pacific." The Assembly Christian Education Reference Committee has offered to host this event. The celebration will be held from 2.30pm at Blackburn Uniting Church, The Avenue, Blackburn Victoria.
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