Uniting Church condemns Daily Telegraph for disgraceful coverage

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.

Stuart McMillan
President, Uniting Church in Australia

2 December 2016


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3 thoughts on “Uniting Church condemns Daily Telegraph for disgraceful coverage

  1. Shirley Colless

    The Daily Telegraph has had it in for the social justice work of the Uniting Church for the last forty years and this editorial quite clearly shows how selective its editor can be in framing his criticism. He is, basically, going for the jugular on Uniting Justice, the social justice agency of the UCA, by aiming a low blow at the social service agency of the UCA. He has, of course, deliberately ignored the UCA logos evident on the Social Justice web site, in the statements of the Moderators and the President of the Uniting Church – basically, this bloke and his boss do not like any church ‘getting its hands dirty’ by involving itself in political issues. He fails to admit that we have gone a long way past the old dinner table dictum, don’t talk about religion or politics …. sadly, too many congregants still feel that the church should not get involved in politics, so it is a great joy to me to see the UCA and fellow Christians like Fr. Rod at Gosford, Dean Peter Catt inBrisbane and the people of many parishes and congregations prepared to stand up for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalised, as Jesus commanded us to, even to the point of peaceful protest.

    Reply
    1. Joanna Webb

      Shirley, one cannot “go for the jugular” by “aiming a low blow” …

      Facetiousness aside, it saddens me to feel the Uniting Church (and many Protestant churches) are doing themselves more damage than anyone else out there could do to them. We are so inclusive that no-one knows who we are, what we stand for or what our rules are (do we have any?) We are so wishy-washy, and with us, anything goes, that we have become bland and flaccid.
      Christians and their churches need to be attractive, have personality, be prepared to say who they are and what they stand for. Many young people prefer the more dogmatic Pentecostal churches. Islam with its very tight and, to me, many very unkind, rules for life is attracting many converts, including women. It appears masculine, it appears strong, and that seems attractive to young people especially. They seem to actually prefer the boundaries, the rules, even the dress code for women.
      Our churches by comparison seem too soft, too weak, to even have people notice them. How many people joined our Church when we marched in the Gay Mardi Gras and accepted same sex marriage? How many converts did we get by helping refugees of other faiths?

      I fully believe in outreach, but I also believe that if the social and humanistic arms of the Uniting Church become longer than the beam between God and ourselves, we will have lost balance and tipped the Cross over onto its side.

      Reply
  2. Warren Bird, ED Treasury & Investment Services

    I sent this message to many of my colleagues at Uniting and the synod more broadly and wish to share them with all Insights readers. It’s an attempt to be encouraging at a time that was very discouraging for many of the Church’s leaders.

    First, don’t lose sight of Romans 8:28. All things work together for good for those who love God. Out of the media coverage will come opportunities to share the gospel and the work of Uniting and the Church that were not there before. Things like this are intended to bring us down; but that which others intend for evil, God works for blessing.

    I think we need not be defensive. I don’t think we have so far, but it’s easy to feel beaten down. Instead, let us simply declare to anyone who asks about the stories that they were wrong and to explain that the gracious embrace of God through Christ is and always will be what all parts of the Uniting Church are on about. We make mistakes, systems need to be reviewed and changed where they do not serve Christ’s glory, but we will not shy away from repentance and renewal. There was, however, nothing in the Telegraph article that pointed to anything other than the sad state of the Australian media in 2016.

    How ironic that page 16 of the next day’s paper declared that “facts have been left for dead”. They would know!

    Second, I was in Orange on the weekend after and took a peak at the new Wontama. Wow! What a wonderful facility that is. The residents rooms are outstanding and the public spaces inviting, stylish and appealing. If the high standard of care that my late Aunty praised while she lived in the Dickensian old Wontama is carried Into the new building it will be brilliant. Well done to the team that has brought this project to fruition.

    And there is a link between these two. Perhaps someone needs to send a picture of the stained glass window on the chapel at Wontama to the Telegraph. The lovely depiction of the elements of the sacrament, with wheat and bread alongside grapes and wine, and the Spirit above, should convince anyone who cares about the truth that proclamation of Jesus is alive and well within Uniting and the Uniting Church.

    Reply

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