What God is calling the church to be

What God is calling the church to be

I write having just returned from spending six days sitting around tables participating in the 12th Assembly of the Uniting Church. For some it might seem to be a waste of time but for me, sitting through the proposals, listening to the debate, sometimes about apparently insignificant things, I discerned and perceived the presence of the Holy Spirit as in our meeting we bore witness to the sort of church we are.

I came away glad to belong to this church. Why? In myriad ways I could see the possibilities, the reality and potential for us to be a powerful and prophetic witness to the God we know in Jesus Christ.

The Assembly began with wonderful worship — contemporary and yet drawing on the liturgical tradition, joyful but not shallow or without rich symbolic depth.

Our new President, the Rev. Alistair Macrae, although seemingly uncomfortable in suit and a tie that wouldn’t stay up, led the Assembly with an authority and poise expressed in humility, humour and grace. Pray for him.

We may look back on this Assembly and think that it was one that spent some considerable time looking at constitutional change but, when it came down to it, it seemed very clear that we were seeking to articulate what sort of church God is calling us to be “in light of the Basis of Union in the current Australian context”.

I was reminded of the Basis of Union in which Paragraph 3 states something about what sort of Church God calls us to be:

The Church as the fellowship of the Holy Spirit confesses Jesus as Lord over its own life; it also confesses that Jesus is Head over all things, the beginning of a new creation, of a new humanity. God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. The Church’s call is to serve that end: to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself…

During the Assembly we gave expression to that calling:

– In many of the discussions and debates on the constitution and our relations with other faiths there was the ever-present emphasis on our faith in Jesus as Lord.

– As we struggled with a new preamble to the constitution which, essentially, through recognition of the truth of our history since 1788 and the way indigenous people have experienced it, is about reconciliation and renewal.

– As we affirmed the work of UnitingWorld, which has an amazing and, given our limited resources, possibly, surprising impact through our relationships with our partner churches in Asia, the Pacific and Africa.

– Simply by the way we meet. The Right Rev. Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, a Bishop of the Church of North India, was impressed by the dignity and respect exercised and imbedded in the conduct of our meeting together. This is the outworking, the bearing witness to our belief that the church’s call is to be a community of reconciliation.

– The adoption of the report from Uniting Justice titled “An Economy of Life: Re-Imagining Human Progress for a flourishing World”, which in its preamble states:

The point is not to find the solution (for there is no one), but to foster the ways in which every human enterprise, including theology, can help us imagine and live a different abundant life, one that will make the earth healthier and people happier…

Our aim, in Christ, is not economic growth but the renewal of all creation.

As a church, in the midst of everything we experience, I am confidant that we are working toward the end to which God calls us, “an instrument through which Christ may work”, being the prophetic voice in our society, bearing the costs that brings, seeking in so many ways “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).

Niall Reid

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