God’s love made manifest nationally
On September 25 Synod members received an update on the national Assembly’s recent and future activities.
Presented by Uniting Church national leaders including the President, Alistair Macrae, and Associate General Secretary Glenda Blakefield, the report highlighted a number of aspects of the Assembly’s work:
- The significant success of three national appeals in response to devastation caused by Queensland’s floods, Christchurch’s earthquake and Japan’s earthquake. Mr Macrae described the appeals as an “unprecedented call for financial support” met with great generosity from Uniting Church members nationally. “It was heartening,” he said, “to see God’s love manifest within our community and our church members through their quick response to assist and support those in need.”
- Mr Macrae announced a new appeal to help fund a chaplain on Christmas Island in order to mitigate the effects of another ongoing national disaster — that of asylum seekers who arrive on Australian shores. He said the Uniting Church had advocated for a more humane approach to this crisis for many years. The new appeal for a chaplain recognises that systems are unlikely to drastically change in the short-term. “We want to provide a ministry of support to some of Australia’s most vulnerable people,” said Mr Macrae.
- Two out of three National Ministers’ Conferences have been conducted to positive response. The remaining Adelaide conference is already fully booked.
- The President’s attendance at the Assembly of the Church of Scotland which addressed many similar issues to those which the Uniting Church grapples with in its meetings. Assembly staff also represented at the International Ecumenical Peace Convention in Jamaica and the World Methodist Council in Durban.
- He said ministers and church councils had been asked to complete a survey as part of Ministerial Education Commission’s inquiry into lay preachers and worship leaders concerning recruitment, competencies support and oversight.
- Policy changes to the church’s national property policy were launched in November replacing the previous document, “Property Policy in a Mulitcultural Church”. He said those changes embedded the Uniting Church multicultural values into Uniting Church “law”.
- The Assembly Standing Committee Task Group is working on reforming the processes for receiving ministers into the Uniting Church in Australia. This is especially a concern for culturally and linguistically diverse ministry agents, communities and congregations.
- The creation of the President’s Young Leaders Conference scheduled in Sydney for February 2012.The conference selects young adult leaders and aims to have a strong Indigenous presence and a multicultural representation. It aims to resource and network the next generation of leadership within the Uniting Church in Australia.
- Interfaith September has been created by the Assembly Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths to promote interfaith engagement.
Other areas the national Assembly continues to contribute to include Frontier Services Patrol Ministry, the National Christian Youth Convention held in Queensland, About FACE, and Uniting National Conferences including the Korean and Tongan National Conferences.
Speaking of the Korean and Tongan National Conferences, Mr Macrae said, “There is real life flowing into the Uniting Church through these groups.”
UnitingCare Australia is an agency of the national Assembly and provides services to around two million Australians each year. UnitingCare has an impact through private consultations and public debate on issues including the Federal Election, aged care reform and gambling.
Synod heard that during the next 12 months the national Assembly intends to be active in issues including tax reform, asylum seekers, carbon pricing and human rights.
It also intends to continue resourcing Uniting Church congregations and members to be involved in environmental and human rights issues.
Internationally, the Church Connections program places volunteers with church partners in Asia, the Pacific and Africa and includes exposure trips by UnitingWorld.
The Assembly continues to strengthen relationships with church partners in Africa, Asia and the Pacific and work in relief and development in those countries.