Open letter: Support young leaders

Open letter: Support young leaders

To the Nominating Committee for NSW/ACT Moderator, and the people of the Synod,

We, the undersigned, commend to you that in the search for nominations for Moderator-Elect, the committee should be determined to bring forward nominees of whom:

  1. At least 50 percent are Indigenous or come from CALD backgrounds; and
  2. At least 75 percent of candidates are under 40 years old if male/ under 50 years old if female. (The age discrepancy here seeks to acknowledge the reality that parenting tends to disrupt the work lives of women more than men)

The Uniting Church in Australia has a long-standing commitment to being a multicultural church, in covenant with the United Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, and this Synod has recently embraced a vision of “Growing Young”; yet the Moderator position (like most visible leadership roles at Presbytery, Synod, and Assembly levels) has yet to reflect these values. We have allowed ourselves to uncritically embrace the vision of leadership promoted by our society – one which privileges whiteness, masculinity, and a rather limited age range. This is the cultural captivity of our movement.

Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthian church (12:21-24) that we are gifted to serve across all members:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”, nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you”. On the contrary, the members of the body that seem weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we cloth with greatest honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect.

The church believes that leadership is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of leadership is not only found within older age members, nor is it restricted to specific migrant-ethnic categories of the Uniting Church. Leadership is not only found in certain limbs of the Body of Christ; rather, leadership is a gift found throughout the Body of Christ, and throughout all our age and cultural categories. If we affirm that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are found throughout the body, we are foolish to close our eyes (and our ballots) to the gifts of leadership the Spirit will offer the Church through younger, Indigenous, and CALD people.

The Uniting Church recognises that responsibility for government in the church belongs to the people of God by virtue of the gifts and tasks which God has laid upon them. The Uniting Church therefore so organises its life that locally, regionally and nationally, government will be entrusted to representatives, men and women, bearing the gifts and graces with which God has endowed them for the building up of the church. (BoU para 15)

Perhaps instead of focusing solely on leadership we need to also consider wisdom. They are related, but not the same. Young and old alike can be wise, and it might be true to say that wisdom does actually increase with age. Yet being a leader is not the same as being a ‘wise elder’. Yes, we need wise elders in the church. But we also need inspiring leaders – hopeful, joyful, passionate and engaged. And inspiring leadership is a gift found among the young at least as frequently as it is found among the old. Jesus was in his late twenties when he proclaimed the Kingdom of God. MLK Jr was in his mid-thirties when he spoke of his dream. Brooke Prentis was in her thirties when she was appointed CEO of Common Grace. Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, the list goes on.

Imagine a Church that took its commitment to growing young seriously enough to decide it will ask younger people to lead us forward? This requires some sacrifice on the part of those who look like the leadership we are used to – white, male, older – to stop talking, step aside, and create space for others to step forward.  Yes, wise elders will be there too. And not every Moderator or President must be under 40… but isn’t it time we had at least one?!

We have before us an opportunity, not for tokenism, but to change. To declare that no corner of our church falls outside of our key theological commitments: to heed the call of the Holy Spirit; and remain dependent on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who at just thirty years of age conquered sin and death and called the church into being.

Signed:

Rev. Liam Miller; Minister of the Word, Supply at Forest Kirk Uniting Church

Pastor Steve Molkentin; Senior Pulse Field Officer (North)

Rev. Radhika Sukumar-White; Minister of the Word, Leichhardt Uniting Church

Co-Signed:

Rev. James Aaron; Minister of the Word, Balmain Uniting Church

Rev. Dr Sarah Agnew; Minister of the Word, Wesley Uniting Church (Forrest)

Rev. Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi; Minister of Deacon, Chaplain at Charles Sturt University

Mrs. Bethany Antill-Cassie; Church Councillor & Elder, Roseville Uniting Church

Mrs. Michaela Antill-Cassie; Youth & Young Adult Pastor, Roseville Uniting Church

Rev. Dr Brian Brown; Past Moderator, Synod of NSW/ACT

Mr Hayden Charles; National Youth Chairperson, UAICC

Rev. Phil Dokmanovic; Minister of the Word, Bangalow/Byron Uniting Church

Mr James Ellis; Elder, Tuggeranong Uniting Church

Rev. Nicole Fleming; Candidate Formation Coordinator, UTC (Dharug Land)

Pastor Milise Ofa Foiakau; Pulse Field Officer/ member, Leigh Fijian, Parramatta Mission

Mr Daniel Gibb; Children’s, Youth and Young Adults Ministry Worker, St Matthew’s Uniting Church Baulkham Hills

Rev. Ben Gilmour; Head of Vital Leadership Pathways, UME

Rev. Chris Goringe; Minister of the Word, Roseville Uniting Church

Rev. Richard Harris; Minister of the Word, Terrigal Uniting Church

Rev. Amanda Hay; Minister of the Word, Berowra Uniting Church

Rev. Danielle Hemsworth-Smith; Minister of the Word, Paddington Uniting Church

Ms Emma Jackson; PhD Candidate, Macquarie University

Pastor Richard La’Brooy; Chaplain, Newington College

Rev. Rebecca Lindsay; Minister of the Word

Mr Andrew McCloud; Tertiary Ministry Organiser, Sydney Presbytery

Rev. Karen Mitchell-Lambert; Pulse Team Leader

Ms Kristy Morgan; Family and Children’s Pastor, Roseville Uniting Church

Rev. Daniel Mossfield; Minister of the Word, Grace Faith Community & Crookwell Uniting Church

Rev. Phil Newton; Southwest Community Animator

Rev. Peter Overton; Presbytery Pastoral Transition Minister FNC & Resource Minister Richmond and Upper Clarence UCA

Ms Liuanga Palu; CALD Mission Officer, Sydney Presbytery/ Mission Shaped Ministry Project Officer, UME

Ms Emma Parr; Lay Leader, Burwood Uniting Church

Rev. Niall Reid; Minister of the Word, Northmead Uniting Church/ Ex-Moderator, Synod of NSW/ACT

Rev. Joy Steele-Perkins; Minister of the Word, St. David’s Uniting Church Haberfield

Mr Raul Sugunananthan; President, Christian Students Uniting (University of Sydney)

Rev. Adrian Sukumar-White; Chaplain, University of Sydney

Ms Susitina Suli; Children & Youth Worker, Willoughby & Northbridge Uniting Church

Pastor Siosiana Joyce Tangi; Pulse Field Officer, UME

Rev Matt Trounce; Minister of the Word, Lithgow Uniting Church

Mr Nathan Tyson; Relationships & Services Manager, NSW/ACT Synod

Mr Kepueli Vaka; Ordinand, Sydney Central Coast Presbytery

Rev. Dr Peter Walker; Principal, United Theological College

Lay Pastor Darren Wright; Gungahlin Uniting Church

Mr Joshua Wyatt; member, Sydney Cheil Uniting Church

Ms Sophie Van Ede; member, Roseville Uniting Church

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