National Update June 2014

Welcome to the June edition of National Update with latest news from the Assembly.

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From the President

Rev. Prof Andrew Dutney


Celebrating 37 Years of the Uniting Church in Australia

Download the video here --> 

An Anniversary Message from the President of the UCA, Rev. Prof Andrew Dutney

There is an ebb and flow in the circumstances of the Church of God. Sometimes the Church will flourish, sometimes it will languish. Sometimes the Church will be at the centre of things, sometimes it will be on the fringe. Sometimes it will be well regarded; sometimes the Church will be disregarded or even persecuted. That’s something we can take as given.

The Basis of Union affirms that the Church of God is “a pilgrim people always on the way towards a promised goal; here she does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come” (paragraph 3) and that the UCA “belongs to the people of God on the way to the promised end” (paragraph 18). The UCA expects to be moving through a changing landscape with this pilgrim people of God – with constantly changing challenges and opportunities. Read more

As the Joint Commission on Church Union said in their Second Report (1963):

“The Church is a truly temporal institution, because God seeks the redemption of [humankind] within the historical order. So the Church must accept her full humanity… She must keep her Church order flexible and free, in order to respond to Christ in ever-new forms of obedience necessary to bring the Word of Christ to [people].”

At the end of 2013 I conducted a national census of Uniting church congregations and ministers, with the expert help of NCLS Research and the vital cooperation of the Synods. I reflect on the snapshot of the UCA provided by the census in my video message for this year’s anniversary. And the report itself is available in the attachments below.

The census has confirmed that the Uniting Church today is a very different body to the UCA of the 1970s. Not better or worse, but definitely different. We are at one of those points when we recognise again the wisdom of keeping “Church order flexible and free, in order to respond to Christ in ever-new forms of obedience necessary to bring the Word of Christ to [people].”

On the one hand, then, the census confirms what we already thought might be the case – based on reports from the 2011 NCLS survey, the 2011 Australian Census as well as anecdotal evidence from the different Synods and Presbyteries. The big UCA institution of the 1970s, and its predecessors of the 1960s, has largely disappeared. After the generation of those born before 1945 passes away very little of that UCA will remain. The number of UCA congregations (2,078) is 31% smaller than it was when the Assembly last reported on statistics collected from the Synods, in 1991. The number of weekly attenders (97,000) is 40% smaller. Our ministry with children (and, by implication, their families) is poor. We have almost completely disengaged from evangelism. We already knew that the UCA’s demographic is the oldest of the Australian denominations. From this census we can add that our ordained leadership is ageing and not being replaced like-for-like. Something more complicated is happening with congregational leadership with more lay leadership, more part-time roles for ordained ministers, more ministers from other denominations and other cultures and language groups, and a growing proportion of ministers in non-congregational resourcing and chaplaincy roles.

There are notable exceptions to these generalisations, of course, and I celebrate the presence of many thriving larger congregations. But the exceptions are more a sign of the emergence of the church of the 21st century than the endurance of the UCA of the past. For God is already gathering us and reshaping us for mission in Australia today. To make the most of our opportunities to participate In God’s mission now, in 2014, we need to recognise that we are not the same as the UCA of the 1970’s. We are a very different church but if we think and act as if we were the UCA of the 1970’s we will just sabotage ourselves.

So, on the other hand, the census shows us that we have a lot to work with today. With more than 2000 congregations of Christ’s people the UCA continues to be a significant presence within the Australian community. Although it is much smaller than it used to be, the UCA is still big by Australian standards. And that does not take into account the UCA’s presence in the form of its extensive network of schools, hospitals, aged care facilities, and community service agencies.

Our rural footprint is remarkable. We can celebrate the way that small, lay-led rural congregations have been finding innovative ways to be present in their communities (in contrast to the withdrawal of organisations, businesses and services during the long rural decline). There are lessons to be learned here for the rest of the UCA.

We still have a large order of well-trained, experienced ministers to draw on. Finding ways to value and encourage the leadership of these members should be a priority. Renewal in ministry will facilitate renewal throughout the UCA.

We have very strong partnerships and ecumenical relationships throughout Asia, the Pacific and, more recently, Africa. We are in close fellowship with the thriving, growing parts of the church to whom we can look for encouragement and insights.

And, of course, the crucial thing to remember is that it’s not about us or the UCA’s “business plan”. It’s about what God in Christ has done and is doing: bringing reconciliation and renewal to the whole creation. The church doesn’t have a mission of its own. The missional God has a church. And the UCA is just one small, very recent part of that church of God. It is our joy and privilege to contribute what we can in our own time and place – nothing more or less than that – as a foretaste, sign and instrument of the “end in view for the whole creation” (Basis of Union paragraph 3).


Just a Thought

TerenceCorkinRev. Terence Corkin, General Secretary, Assembly

In my office I have a poster that has “Welcome” written in many different languages. I have also seen it in quite a few church porches over the years and I think it is a wonderful statement not just of welcome but also of intent to be a community of faith which takes seriously the cross cultural and international nature of the Church. (It was prepared some years ago by Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry at the Assembly). Read more

I am not long back from three weeks overseas during which time I visited with representatives of three churches from whom we draw our Anglo church historical roots. They are all struggling with adapting to the changing social landscape of their country. Although the Church of Scotland did say that only about 9% of the population were born outside Scotland – and most of them were probably English!

What was very clear though was that the biggest cause of their problem with engaging with Christians from other countries was the way that the systems / rules / historic patterns of ministry of these churches created almost insurmountable obstacles to communities of Christians from other cultures that wanted to join in these long established churches. In comparison it is easy for us in the UCA to get complacent. We shouldn’t. Most of our congregations, Presbyteries, Synods and church systems are most comfortable when the “new comers” just fit in and do things the way we like it. While we have shown some ability to change in response to the UCA becoming the spiritual home of many cultures and faith traditions, I think that we still have a long way to go. My sense is that in the UCA we are at a tipping point. We need to find the ways of being changed by our culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities or we too will close the door on the mission and renewal that God is offering to us.

As happens every June long weekend in Sydney the Tongan National Conference met. This year a 1,000 people attended. On the Sunday night of the Conference the Chairperson and a second generation leader were interviewed on the ABC ‘Sunday Nights’ program. I encourage you to follow the link and see what mission and ministry God might be inviting us into through the contribution of these wonderful leaders from within the life of the Uniting Church.


Relations with Other Faiths

GlendaRev. Glenda Blakefield, Associate General Secretary

The IFTAR Dinner will be held on Monday 14 July 2014. This is a joint initiative of the Uniting Church NSW ACT Synod, the Uniting Church National Assembly and the Affinity Cultural Foundation. The theme for the dinner is 'Sacred Hospitality'. Read more

As we gather together in July on this important time during the month of Ramadan, the Uniting Church feels privileged to share in an Iftar meal with our Muslim friends and also friends from other faith traditions.


Formation, Education and Discipleship

Craig-9Craig Mitchell, National Director

Development of new resources for baptism and confirmation

The FED Working Group is commencing work on new resources for baptism and confirmation. We are interested in hearing from ministers who may have developed original materials for local use. If you have such resources, please contact Craig Mitchell. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Read more

About FACE 2014

The next About Faith and Cultural Exchange (About FACE) program is now less than 6 months away!  Running for 2 weeks from 5th-18th January, 2015, participants in the next program will have the opportunity to spend time living in a Congress community, as well as joining hundreds of Congress people from across Australia at the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC/Congress) National Conference in Tasmania.  Application forms for the next program will be available from Monday 16th June, and will be found on the About FACE website -  or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

National Young Adult Leaders Conference (NYALC)

December 7th to 12th 2014  at Naamaroo Conference Centre, Sydney

NYALCs are designed to affirm, encourage, bless, grow and empower U.C.A. young adult leaders, from our culturally diverse congregations. They are life changing! Young adults aged from 18 to 30 who are leaders or wish to become leaders are encouraged to apply. Ministers and mentors, we need your help to invite and support young adults to get to this conference. Please encourage your young adults to attend.


Overseas Partnerships, Relief and Development

 Rob Floyd, National Director, UnitingWorldRobFloyd

As the end of tax year draws near, I thought it might be a good time to let you know about our annual Matching Gift Fund appeal. In a lot of ways this is our most important appeal of the year as it enables us to access a grant from the Australian Government. Every year the Government provides a grant to support our overseas development projects, but for every $5 of funding we must provide at least $1 in supporter donations first – and the deadline for this is June 30. Read more

This year’s Matching Gift Fund appeal supports our clean water projects in remote communities throughout PNG, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. You can read more about these life-giving projects here but you might also be interested in the following Field Report, written by ourProject Manager for Papua New Guinea, Jane Kennedy when she visited the project in May. It gives an interesting, first-hand account of how access to clean water through low-cost technology really does change lives – and for me brings to life why the work we share with our partners is so important. Read more


Relief and Disaster Recovery

stephenrobinson2smallRev. Dr Stephen Robinson, National Disaster Recovery Officer

 Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy

When disaster strikes, people become aware of the need for a coordinated response from fire brigades, police, SES and other agencies.  They may also be aware of the presence of welfare agencies such as Red Cross.  Less known is the activity of Disaster Recovery Chaplains.  As with all the other groups a great deal of work needs to be done ahead of time to recruit, train and have leadership and systems in place to coordinate ministry agents, to provide chaplaincy– particularly in evacuation and recovery centres. Read more

Across Australia, each state and territory manages its own disaster welfare arrangements.  And in many the Uniting Church is involved directly in this work.  In Victoria and Tasmania, many Uniting Church people volunteer for this work (in Vic organised by the Council of Churches).  In South Australia the UCA Synod coordinates the ecumenical response for pastoral care in the state. Similarly, the Synod of NSW and the ACT coordinates and maintains the NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network (DRCN), a broadly ecumenical  group of ministry agents equipped to connect with traumatised people at the request of the state government.  The training, protocols and software created for this group is now in the process of being taken up in South Australia and the ACT as well.  In my role, I have been running pilot training workshops for this ministry.  I have also been in conversation with the Heads of Churches in Queensland who are in the process of seeking to establish an inter-church disaster recovery chaplaincy network that will fit into the interagency government-controlled response.  This is particularly important given that Queensland has, on average, twice the occurrence of natural disasters as any other state or territory.

Please keep this important ministry in your prayers.  It continues to contribute to bring blessing and comfort to many people in their most trying circumstances.


Justice and Advocacy

Elenie Poulos smallRev. Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice

Let's End Child Detention

Imagine a giant cage outside the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney’s CBD, filled with “children”. Eye catching? We hope so. We’re a partner in the Coalition to End the Immigration Detention of Children and this week, Elenie launched a powerful social action based on a commissioned sculpture, ‘Free the Children’. The aim is to bring attention to the 1023 children locked up in immigration detention. Dolls representing each child are kept inside the ‘cage’ and members of the public are invited to enter the enclosure to help give a child their freedom, also signing cards to send to their local MPs registering their support for more humane asylum policies. Read more

Visit the Free the Children website to register for a DIY kit and find out how to run your own local event.

Refugee Week 2014

Refugee Week runs from 15-21 June and includes World Refugee Day on 20 June. UnitingJustice has prepared an information resource which you can download here. As well as information on such things as the Refugee Convention, children in detention and more, it also contains ideas for action which you can use for this week and also throughout the year.

The theme for Refugee Week is ‘Restoring Hope’. Refugees flee their homelands because of persecution and violence, but such journeys are also grounded in hope: the hope of freedom, safety, a new life and time to recover from trauma. This is the time to think about how we can help bring these hopes to life.

Have you taken action for the future yet?

UnitingJustice has joined a major new campaign for strong action on climate change. We have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten calling for strong meaningful climate action which is in the national and global interest. The letter describes the need for:

  • cutting Australia's pollution by at least 30% by 2020
  • moving Australia beyond coal and gas towards renewable energy, using a Renewable Energy Target
  • putting a price and limit on carbon emissions

With over 97% of climate scientists agreeing that climate change is occurring and is human induced, NOW is the time for our Government to take action.

You can join us by visiting the Australians for Climate Action website and signing the letter. You can invite your friends to do the same. If you look carefully at the rolling photos on the website you might see our National Director, Elenie, in among more famous faces for the campaign!


Defence Force Chaplaincy

Article - r140610 UCA Assembly National UpdateSeniniReverend Christine Senini - Chaplain (Squadron Leader), RAAFSR

 Chaplaincy as an Australian Defence Force Reservist

I am passionate about chaplaincy and interested in chaplaincy opportunities in all shapes and locations. Effective military chaplaincy is multi-faith, mission-orientated, and professional. It recognises the pervasive influence of context, the inherent tensions in serving both State and Church, and the significance of liminality. Read more

Hello and thank you for your time. Serving as a Royal Australian Air Force Specialist Reserve chaplain means providing pastoral care, religious sacraments and worship, ethical guidance, and spiritual leadership to ADF members and their families. It is an interesting and sometimes challenging role but I treasure the opportunity to serve those who may give their lives to serve others. 

Serving as a Reservist provides the flexibility to serve when and where needed. At 22SQN (City of Sydney) I work in a multi-faith chaplaincy team consisting of UCA, Anglican, Catholic, and Jewish chaplains. We hope to connect with others in meaningful conversations, encounters, and events inspiring faith and hope. I have also worked at 322ECSS (Tindal, NT) and 26SQN (City of Newcastle). Every location provides growth and different experiences.

Ministry mission statements challenge and define vocational identity. My statement is, "By holding the hurts and preserving the hopes, by articulating the dreams and naming the fears, and by believing in the creative transformation of those in my care through Christ." I believe Christian military chaplaincy is motivated by a deep desire to provide the best chaplaincy possible for the sake of the Gospel and all ADF members who have a challenging and often difficult task. Please pray for all ADF chaplains and especially, for those they serve in the ADF.


Other Assembly News

Principal - Trinity Methodist Theological College

To manage and develop Trinity Methodist Theological College in accordance with the College Strategic Plan as approved by the Trinity College Council.

This position is key to the future direction of ordained (presbyteral & diaconal) and lay leadership within the Methodist Church of New Zealand, Te Hāhi Weteriana o Aotearoa. It is a dynamic role requiring visionary leadership matched with the ability to initiate and deliver relevant education, training and development programmes in a climate of continuous improvement.

Human Resources Manager - Assembly Secretariat

To provide strong resourcing in the provision of HR policy, procedures and services to the Assembly and its relevant Assembly agencies. These include Frontier Services, UnitingWorld, Uniting Care Australia, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress (UAICC) and the Assembly Secretariat.

Payroll Officer - Assembly Secretariat

Support the Assembly Secretariat Accounting and administration Unit in the delivery of high quality, client focused services through the administration of payroll and related services.

Assistant Accountant - Assembly Secretariat

Support the Assembly Secretariat Accounting Unit in the delivery of high quality, client focused services through the timely and accurate input of key financial data and the provision of reports.


Synod News

To find out about what is happening across the country visit the Synod news sites below:

New South Wales and the ACT - Insights
Northern Synod - Northern News
Queensland - Journey
South Australia - New Times
Victoria and Tasmania - Crosslight
Western Australia - Revive