Uniting for the Common Good
The Synod staff worked hard to develop a Leadership Charter which was endorsed by the last Synod. It speaks of ‘our Vision’, ‘our Mission’ and ‘our Behaviours’. In the next few columns I would like to introduce this work and use it as the basis for a reflection. The starting point is ‘our Vision’
Have you ever tried to draft a vision or mission statement? Perhaps you’ve seen one in someone’s business, or you have done an exercise in church to develop one. It is quite hard work, because done well, it requires a great deal of consultation – collecting people’s views and ideas and synthesising them into one statement. Even then there is final tweaking and word-smithing as people argue for their key idea to be included. This was the process that we went through with senior staff in the Synod as we tried to develop our vision statement. We also tried to use language which was not completely “churchy”, but would speak to a broad cross-section of people – particularly staff – who may not be too familiar with the subtle nuances of a well-reasoned theological argument!
In the end we settled on “The Uniting Church will be a fellowship of reconciliation, living God’s love, following Jesus Christ and acting for the common good to build a just and compassionate community”. It may alarm you to know that the words “following Jesus Christ” were added after the first draft! Were we forgetting Jesus?! Or was it that Jesus is so foundational to our thinking that we took it as read and did not include it specifically? The words are there now so that there can be no ambiguity – we are clear that we are a church that is “following Jesus”.
Perhaps you also forget that at times! It is clear that the church does from time to time and so the Basis of Union reminds us that “Christ reaches out to command people’s attention and awaken faith” and that “in his own strange way Christ constitutes, rules and renews them as his Church” (BoU para 4). It is also in the Basis that we find the idea of the church as a “fellowship of reconciliation” (BoU papra 3).
Our language of “common good”, while it may have echoes in the Basis of Union, is not explicitly used there. For me there are two ideas. The idea of serving the common good of humanity has been well explored and is quite familiar territory. We are able to say that we are working for a “just and compassionate community”. But the idea of ‘the common good’ for this Synod at this time also speaks to our need to continue to work together – to always ask what is for the common good of the church as a whole. We all have a tendency to protect our own turf and this has led to elements of distrust between parts of the church. A silo mentality. Them and us thinking. What if that were to be no longer the case and that in all the decisions we made, all the planning we did we always kept before us the question “are we acting for the common good of the whole church?”
Jesus prayer was that the disciples might be one, so that the world might believe (Jn 17). This is what motivates us to always work for the common good of the church and the community.
Rev. Dr Andrew Williams, General Secretary