Today’s Daily Telegraph has run a series of inaccurate and vexatious news items about the Uniting Church and our Uniting community services agency in NSW and the ACT. The accusation on the front page of the newspaper that the Church is removing Christ and religious symbols is totally incorrect.
The explicit Christian commitment to people in the care of Uniting Church agencies remains the same as it has for the last 40 years. Our Church, since its beginning, has borne witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and racial boundaries. The work of our agencies is a crucial expression of our continuing faith and mission. The Uniting agency in NSW and the ACT states clearly on its website “Christ invites us to serve humanity by creating an inclusive, connected and just world.”
Uniting, the largest provider of social services in NSW and the ACT, changed its brand name last year. This decision was taken to ensure that awareness of our services reaches more of the vulnerable and disadvantaged people we seek to serve. Preparation for moves towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the shift to self-managed care were important considerations in this decision. Other church agencies are considering adopting the Uniting brand.
The Daily Telegraph articles also misrepresent the Church’s very real concern for survivors of child sexual abuse. The suggestion that branding decisions are “a desperate bid to distance itself from child sex abuse scandals” is completely false and despicable.
The Uniting Church has acknowledged, apologised and expressed our deep regret to those children who were sexually abused in our care. We are committed to working with survivors to make amends for what happened in the past.
Our formal apologies to survivors predate the Royal Commission by many years. Yet the Daily Telegraph takes survivor group comments out of context to conflate an allegation about a “culture of denial”. The representative quoted in the article has since verified to the Church that she told the journalist that she would not provide comment on specific institutions.
I would like to thank the many Uniting Church members and supporters who have condemned the Daily Telegraph for its disgraceful coverage. Their ongoing support and commitment is a significant endorsement of the effectiveness of our work as an inclusive justice-oriented Church seeking to follow the way of Christ in the mission of God.
President, Uniting Church in Australia
2 December 2016