Hope for Justice & Reconciliation

Hope for Justice & Reconciliation

Isaiah’s Voice in an Australian Context

Howard Wallace and John Bottomley, Uniting Academic Press, $27.95

This is an unusual book, both in structure and in purpose.

There is a modern play introduced in between chapters on issues facing the Uniting Church and Australian society. While the joint authors share a connection through the Uniting Church in Victoria, they come from diverse backgrounds, one in teaching about the Book of Isaiah and the other in an agency of the Uniting Church, Creative Ministries Network.

They combine to apply the principles found in the gathered writings amalgamated in the Old Testament book to church governance and social service organisations operating within the strictures of Government funding regulations.

They share their feelings of guilt for what they see as the churches’ apathetic response to early settlement and the harsh treatment of Aboriginal peoples, and call for “a deeper responsibility and accountability”.

In their analysis of the involvement of the Victorian and Tasmanian Synod in government funded social-welfare programs, they express their alarm at what has been lost from commitment to God’s call as found in Isaiah.

The privatisation of government agencies has resulted in dualism between church and agencies. CEOs of church social welfare agencies were consulted, confirming the drift away from “religious” to “risk management” strategies.

“Reflection grounded in the prophetic perspective of Isaiah only serves to highlight the deep flaws in the theory and practice of modernity upon which corporate Australia is based.”

The authors may be criticised for stretching one’s imagination from  times of captivity and alienation over two and a half thousand years ago to encompass modern Australian society, but the clear principles, to which they refer, are certainly challenging to the church of today.

John Atkinson

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