Moderator’s column: Living out the ethics of Christ

I heard a story recently about a fight between two wolves, which were both fierce and competitive. The question was asked ‘which wolf will overcome the other?’

The simple answer is whichever wolf we feed.

Ethics is rather like this. There is a growing awareness that ethics matter. We live under the shadow of the tragic findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. There has been story after story of the most horrendous misuse of power and of the failure to bring the perpetrators to account.

As a Uniting Church, thankfully we have become much more conscious of the essential need for the church to be a safe place for everyone, especially children. We have a strong Code of Ethics for  people in ministry and a Code of Conduct for Lay Leaders that guides us in areas where there is ethical ambiguity, and points us to ethical wholeness. Ethics must matter to all of us. While the Gospel offers grace and forgiveness, it comes with the call to discipleship, to live a holy life; to pursue a lifestyle of behaviour that models the highest Christian standards of ethics. Continue Reading

Editorial: towards tolerance

A few weeks ago I did something I’d never done before; I visited a Jewish Synagogue.

Our profile story this edition is Rabbi Dovid Freilich, who is leaving the Rabbinate after 45 years of service. During our interview, he specifically asked me not to use the term ‘retire’ as he has plenty of life left in him to get involved in a host of other interests.

Our Moderator, Rev Steve Francis, actually alerted me to the story, as he had heard the Rabbi speak the night before on ‘tolerance versus respect’ and thought it was a story worth sharing. I have to agree.Continue Reading

Review: Good Christian Sex: Why chastity isn’t the only option and other things the Bible says about sex, by Bromleigh McCleneghan

Bromleigh McCleneghan, a pastor of a Union Church in Chicago, has written Good Christian Sex for what she calls mainstream, Protestant Christians who have come to accept that people may live together before marriage, but are concerned to ensure sex and sexual behaviour remains good and not bad.

It finds the goodness of sex in the belief that it belongs to our being human. That includes seeing sexual desire and pleasure as something positive, whether in relation to oneself or in relation to others. The author writes of her own experiences, openly, sometimes self-critically, but always very sensibly.

This is a commonsense book likely to benefit greatly those who seek an alternative to the traditional norm of faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness. It invites critical reading. It has helpful chapters on the nature of fidelity, on sexual abuse and lust which treats others as objects, and offers useful reflections on the wisdom of controlling one’s sexual desires and their expression, just as much as we need to control our appetite for food. Continue Reading

Review: The Permanent Resident by Roanna Gonsalves

Judging from its cover, I first assumed this book was the tale of a modern migrant who finally calls Australia home. Instead, The Permanent Resident by Roanna Gonsalves is a collection of 16 short stories that detail the lives of Catholic Indians from Goa, India now living in Sydney, Australia. This is her first book.

In every story, characters grapple with various issues such as domestic violence, doomed marriages, miscarriages, alienation, racism and the dramas of being an Australian permanent resident. They all have this in common: dreams of a better life in their home away from home.

Many of Gonsalves’ characters, though well described, are laced with stereotypes, which unfortunately for Indians like myself, can be true representations. I loved the matter-of-fact writing style and she can be funny when she wants to be.

Take the story of ‘Curry Muncher 2.0’. I heard the phrase ‘curry muncher’ only in my second year in Australia. I thought what a hilarious, but weird insult to pay an Indian, because how on earth do you munch a liquid curry? And it was the same thoughts of Vincent’s friend who narrates this story. Young Vincent works two jobs to send money to his family in India whilst paying for his ridiculous university fees. Continue Reading

Genes re-Uniting

I am grateful to Rev Dr John Squires for his paper on the DNA of the UCA, which he distributed locally at the Meeting of the Presbytery of WA in May, and on the Assembly website. It helpfully identifies ten characteristics of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) which I warmly endorse. They are some of the reasons why my wife and I, despite many moments of disillusionment with the path taken since 1977 by the UCA, nationally and at state level, have maintained our membership of this faltering denomination throughout the past 40 years.

Rev Dr Squires’ paper also invites comment from his readers about his proposed list of key characteristics. I believe that identifying these particular characteristics – or genes, to maintain the metaphor – is a necessary, but not sufficient, clarification of the denomination’s DNA.

Despite a few unexpanded mentions of ‘God’, ‘the Spirit’, and ‘Christ crucified’ in the paper, it would be hard to deduce from this evidence alone that our denomination stands for much more than an ethical humanism shakily sustained by the unbounded slogan of ‘inclusion’. The list doesn’t yet identify as part of our DNA those ultimate beliefs about God which empower the ethic: his nature and his self-revelation in Jesus as reliably reported in the Bible; and his expectations of the species he has made in his image. Continue Reading

Moderator’s column: Celebrating 40 years and asking the hard questions

Some people who hit 40, experience a midlife crisis; if they are affluent they might buy a red sports car or go on a big European trip. But, 40 years of living often also prompts us to look back with thanks and gratitude and it can be a time to ask oneself some hard questions.

For some, the questions are about weight gain, career dissatisfaction, parenting struggles or financial worries. For others, it is a time to deal with regrets, missed opportunities, failed relationships and broken dreams. After the big 40 celebrations are over, midcourse evaluations begin and new hopes for the future start to emerge.

This year marks 40 years since the Union of the Uniting Church, and it is first and foremost a time to celebrate. Forty years ago, we tended to be defined by which denomination you came from  (Methodist, Presbyterian or Congregational). Now, that is in the past and is not as important as who we are in the present: Uniting. Continue Reading