What do we stand for?
In the last few Insights letter pages we have reflected on what it might mean to stand up for people in challenging situations, like on trains.
I now want to ask not only, “Who do we stand for?” but “What do we stand for?”
I sometimes hear people being critical of the Uniting Church on the basis that we “do not stand for anything!”
I think that this perception flows from the fact that we are more reluctant than some churches to give black and white answers to some of the complex issues faced by our society.
There is also a possible misconception that because we hold “inclusion” as a core value, anything goes.
This is far from the truth.
While all are welcome in Uniting Churches, we have a very clear set of standards for what constitutes a Safe Place for all, including the right to be free from all kinds of abuse. We do not always get it right but we work hard in this area.
It reminds me of the strange story that Jesus told about a man who responded to an open invitation to a wedding feast, then was thrown out because he was not wearing the appropriate clothes!
I take this to mean that, while all are welcome, a mutual respect is required. As followers of Christ, we stand for treating one another as valued human beings and we stand for the common good.
Here are a few more examples of what we stand for:
- The front cover of a recent Insights says it clearly: “13th Assembly. It’s where we stand.” A large group of delegates stand on the steps of the South Australian Parliament in solidarity with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, in lament and protest over the injustices of the so-called Stronger Futures legislation which extends the Northern territory intervention.
- The Assembly website affirms that we stand for the rights of asylum-seekers to be processed on-shore.
- From time spent recently in the Parramatta Nepean Presbytery, including Bidwell, Campbelltown and Parramatta Mission, I saw how in challenging circumstances we stand for the rights of disadvantaged children and adults to be safe, well fed and educated.
- In rural and regional areas, and sometimes in the cities as well, we stand for and coordinate excellent chaplaincy in disaster situations.
- We stand for an approach to mission in our local communities which seeks to meet their needs, not ours. The generous community garden at Moree Uniting Church, among many others, is an excellent example of this.
- In proclaiming in 1985 that the Uniting Church is a multicultural church, we showed that we stand for a diverse community where all can play their part.
- Through our UnitingCare facilities and programs we stand for best practice in care of children, families and those who are aging.
I could go on. I do understand that some people in the Uniting Church might disagree that we should in fact stand for some of the above. That is another matter. We value and stand for our diversity and welcome the enrichment of a variety of perspectives.
What I suggest is that the next time you hear someone saying, “The Uniting Church does not stand for anything,” don’t stand for it. Tell them what you stand for!
The Rev. Dr Brian Brown is Moderator of the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT.