With a touch of jet lag, great hopes and a few anxieties I checked in on Sunday lunchtime at Trinity Residential College for the beginning of the Uniting Church’s 14th Triennial Assembly. This Assembly was on our home turf; Trinity, the Assembly accommodation, is a Uniting Church WA college, and just across the road from the beautiful Winthrop Hall where we had our daytime sessions.
Our collective task was the same as whenever people of the Uniting Church meet in church councils, presbyteries and synods; we gather in the presence of God to discern the will of God. For the next six days that was our core purpose. The smoking ceremony right at the beginning reminded us of the welcome of Nyungar people and our covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).
The evening installation of our new president, Stuart McMillan, was a powerful and creative celebration of the rich diversity of God’s people in the movement we call Uniting Church. Sadly, sometimes worship is bland, but the worship experience was rich and varied and honoured the one who brings sparkle and new life to us. Rev Cathie Lambert, worship coordinator for the week, and her team did an amazing job. Each morning we began with worship that was simple, reflective and celebratory; this set the tone for the rest of the day. I also believe that the faithful band of prayer warriors who prayed and fasted for 40 days and gathered each morning to pray on a 24-hour basis during Assembly, significantly contributed to the texture and spirituality of our gatherings. Continue Reading
UnitingWorld hosted three lunches at the recent 14th Triennial Assembly which discussed the work of our Uniting Church international partner churches.
At one such lunch, two presenters from church partners in the Pacific joined Dr Deidre Palmer, moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia in a discussion about gender equality. Later in the week, Deidre was voted by the Assembly as the president-elect of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Deaconess Martha Yamsiu – the gender officer for the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu spoke of the many challenges women faced in her community. She outlined the disregard of women as religious leaders in the community and the ongoing issues around gender violence – a silent issue for many women living in Vanuatu. Martha spoke of the successful workshops UnitingWorld and The Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu have been undertaking in Vanuatu to educate and inform men and women about respectful relationships.
The second speaker Rev Maleta Rumaroti, secretary for mission, Kiribati Uniting Church, presented on climate impact and rising sea levels in Kiribati. Changing environmental factors due to climate change have magnified issues of gender inequality with women bearing more of a burden as a result. High tides have led to increased illness with mosquitos breeding and causing dengue fever. This has resulted in increased workloads for women, as they take care of their partners, children, elderly, sick and the disabled.Continue Reading
International guests to the 14th Triennial Assembly a tour of local Indigenous sites, visited local enterprises, and enjoyed some local multicultural hospitality on day four of the meeting.
UnitingWorld guests and other ecumenical partners found themselves warmly welcomed at St Aidan’s Claremont Uniting Church as guests of the congregation and the Western Australia Multicultural Committee at an Assembly Multicultural Dinner.
“The most lovely food and the most lovely people!” enthused Pacific partners in particular as they tucked into traditional taro and other delicacies from their homelands. Domino’s Pizza also put in a special appearance, as did a youth choir singing grace and Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA.
UnitingWorld guests continued to be impressed with Western Australian innovation and commitment on a morning tour of the Good Samaritan Industries warehouse in Canningvale. Donning bright fluorescent vests – some of which they were reluctant to hand back later – the team toured the floor of the factory which provides employment for people with disabilities, who sort and prepare donated goods for sale in iconic ‘Good Sammy’ stores throughout WA. Continue Reading
The Uniting Church in WA supported three youthful members to the recent 14th Triennial Assembly Meeting. They share their experiences with Revive.
Rockingham Uniting Church
One thing that was constantly discussed at the Assembly was a reading from Luke, chapter 24, verses 13-35. In that reading, two men were walking to a village called Emmaus, and on that road Jesus greeted them, but their eyes did not let the men recognise the newly resurrected Jesus.
During Assembly, when we discussed heavy issues such as same-gender marriage and relationships, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the rights and recognition of the Aboriginal and Islander peoples of Australia, sometimes it felt like there was no spirit around us, nothing to support us and guide us, and I asked “where are you?”
The answer is simple. He was there the whole time.
I didn’t realise it, I was blind, the same way the two men on the road were when they encountered Jesus. They didn’t realise that he was there all along. And there were moments amongst the angst, hurt and loneliness that his presence felt so real and more present than it ever has in my life before. Speaking to other members of the youth, I know they also felt his presence and his absence during the Assembly. Continue Reading
The 14th Triennial Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia was held in Perth from Sunday 12-Saturday 18 July. Uniting Church members of the Assembly came together to discern the will of God and the direction of the church for the next three years. Following are some of the decisions that were made at Assembly. For in-depth coverage of these decisions and more visit http://assembly2015.uca.org.au. Continue Reading
Over days of difficult and prayerful discussion, the 14th Triennial Assembly has committed to continue to engage in a culturally-appropriate conversation about marriage and same-gender relationships.
In addition to this conversation, the Assembly resolved to issue a pastoral letter to the church affirming the Uniting Church as an inclusive church embracing those members who identify as LGBTIQ. If a change to the Marriage Act is made between now and the next Assembly in 2018, the General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia, will issue a letter to all Uniting Church authorised celebrants advising them of their freedoms and constraints under that legislation and in their church-authorised role.
“It’s important that if there is any change to the Marriage Act, that all of our authorised celebrants are on the same page as to what that means,” said Rev Alistair Macrae, convenor of the National Working Group on Doctrine.
It was requested that the General Secretary’s letter would be translated into several languages so as to be clear and accessible to all culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Another proposal outlining procedures for respectful conversation with the multicultural bodies of the church was referred to the Assembly Standing Committee. A proposal to reaffirm the Uniting Church’s existing stance on marriage and reject any public celebration of a samegender union lapsed.Continue Reading
The Assembly Standing Committee has been authorised, by members of the 14th Triennial Assembly, to make changes to regulations in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Rev Allan Thompson, the executive officer of the Uniting Church National Task Group on Engagement with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, spoke about the Commission, the Task Group’s report and the proposal relating to it.
“The Commission has been both necessary and helpful for Australia, and necessary and helpful for the Church,” said Allan.
He said that there has been an increase in awareness of incidences of abuse as a result of the Commission. Churches have also been forced to learn from the past to improve the safety of children in the care of the church into the future.
“If the Commission has been good for the consciousness and the conscience to continue for the nation it has also been good for the church, for abuse did occur in some of our agencies, schools and communities of faith.
“As soon as the Royal Commission was announced the Standing Committee established the task group, and asked synods to do the same. All synods responded and had the same terms of reference,” he continued. “The Uniting Church must be a safe place for children.” Continue Reading
In an emotional discussion, the 14th Assembly sought to understand the reasons behind the changing circumstances of the Uniting Church’s valued remote area ministry, Frontier Services.
Frontier Services is changing tack, re-directing its work to community support activities and resourcing patrol ministry. Less than a year after Frontier Services celebrated its 100th anniversary and the 13th Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to the people of remote Australia in 2012, the ministry found itself under severe financial threat due to the high costs associated with the delivery of aged care services in remote areas.
The major financial burden caused by sanctions, and the need to spend significant amounts of money to rectify major deficiencies in systems and services, took a great toll on Frontier Services, and particularly its people. It was recognised that Frontier Services’ commitment to filling a need in remote Australia was the catalyst for the difficulties. As a growing number of small aged care service operators proved unable to fulfil demanding accreditation standards, Frontier Services increased the number of aged care services it operated by about threefold.
Past president of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, told the Assembly that Frontier Services never planned to increase its operations. Continue Reading
On 12 July, Stuart McMillan was installed as the new president of the Uniting Church in Australia at the 14th Triennial Assembly. Matt Pulford interviewed him recently and shares Stuart’s journey with Revive.
Six weeks after being interviewed in Sydney for an accountant position at the Uniting Church in Australia’s (UCA) Northern Synod, Stuart McMillan found himself standing alone with his swag on the edge of a dirt airstrip at Ramingining, 560 km east of Darwin. No one got the message that he was coming. No one knew who he was, and more practically, no one was there to pick him up. So he hitched a ride into the community with some locals.
The year was 1982. Stuart McMillan was 27 years old. He and his wife Ros, a behavioural scientist, had made the big decision to leave their comfortable community in Sydney’s suburban northwest to move to Darwin with their young family. For some time, Stuart and Ros had known that they wanted to do something in their lives that would make a difference in the world and to live out the values of their shared Christian faith.
Stuart remembers feeling a deep concern for Australia’s First Peoples from the time he was in primary school in the 1960s. By the early 1980s Stuart and Ros were active in social justice issues at the Chester St Congregational Church in Epping, and keenly followed news about Aboriginal land rights that would filter through from Darwin via Rev Jim Downing, a local minister there. From time to time Jim would send telegrams to his friends down south, urging them to advocate for various Aboriginal causes to their local Members of Parliament. After consideration and discernment, Stuart and Ros’s opportunity came when they spotted the Northern Synod’s job ad in the newspaper one Saturday. Six weeks later, as he stepped off that deserted airstrip in the middle of Arnhem Land, Stuart McMillan began to live out his lifelong passion, and form his personal covenant – to use the modern UCA expression – with the First Peoples of Australia.Continue Reading
The 14th Triennial Assembly Meeting was held from Sunday 12–Saturday 18 July. It brought together Uniting Church members from around Australia to discern the will of God and the direction of the church for the next three years. Nigel Tapp reports.
There are those within the Uniting Church who would deride the triennial Assembly gathering as a bit of talkfest. And yes, there is a lot of talking over the six days as the members deal with a range of issues, both of a social nature and also how the church does church and how it engages with its congregations, synods, councils and one another. But, much is achieved and some of those truly special – or most powerful – moments actually come in silence before God.
Such was the story of the 14th Triennial Assembly in Perth last month. The gathering tackled weighty subjects such as same gender marriage, the role of elders within the Uniting Church, church governance, Federal Government cuts to overseas aid, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the treatment of those seeking asylum and Federal and State Government policies aimed at closing remote Aboriginal communities.Continue Reading