Book opens vital discussion
As the Uniting Church considers its future direction through the Act2 Project, the relationship between its congregations and agencies is an important part of that discussion.
A new book launched on 31 July tackles the issue through a series of essays exploring the consequences of changes in church and society, the growing dependence of agencies on government funding, and issues of compliance, competencies, and responsibilities.
‘For I Was Hungry: Congregations and Church Agencies in Relationship’ is edited by Pilgrim Theological College Professor of Contextual Theology Rev. Dr John Flett and was launched yesterday at the Centre for Theology and Ministry in Parkville by Uniting VicTas CEO Bronwyn Pike.
The key concern of the book is a division between congregations and agencies, both imposed and perceived, and asks some sometimes uncomfortable questions about mission and witness, ownership and connections, oversight and responsibility, secularisation and the serious decline in local membership.
“Fundamentally, this is a question about the changing shape of the churches in Australia and the professionalisation of agencies in Australia, and this has created a particular type of tension,” Rev. Dr Flett said.
“So it’s a struggle for resources, but a lot of people talk about policy and governance, and we end up getting stuck in a discussion that has very little by way of theology but a great deal about what the state requires of us.
“And the question I had in all of this is, where does theology enter this discussion … and let’s boil it down to the question: what do congregations and agencies have in common?
“The answer is human beings, and not just human beings, but those who we believe are created in the image of God, and demand respect and dignity, and that is as true in a congregation as it is in an agency, and that actually starts a theological line of investigation.”
This article first appeared on Crosslight.
For I Was Hungry is published by Coventry Press, and is available through their online store.