The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) is governed by a range of non-hierarchical and inter-related councils which each have responsibility for various functions and roles within the church.
These begin at the local, or congregational level, then go to the regional (Presbytery) and state (Synod) bodies to the national council (Assembly). The UCA is made up of all the synods, presbyteries and congregations of the UCA.
Every congregation belongs to a presbytery, and all presbyteries belong to a synod, which are generally state based. Each synod is made up of a different number of presbyteries. Most synods have multiple presbyteries, and these are generally geographically based.
The role of each council of the church is described in the UCA’s Constitution, and explained in the Regulations. Briefly:
The Congregation is the local expression of the church who worship, witness and serve as a fellowship of the Spirit in Christ, meeting together regularly to hear God’s Word and celebrate the sacraments, to build one another up in love and service to the world.
The Presbytery exercises oversight of the life and mission of the congregations in the area committed to it, and shall stimulate and encourage congregations to participate in the life and mission of the wider church. The Presbytery has some responsibility for the selection of candidates and placement and pastoral oversight of ministers in the congregations in its bounds. Ministers and lay representatives of each congregation form the Presbytery.
The Synod has general oversight, direction and administration of the Church’s worship, witness and service within its bounds. It exercises executive, administrative, pastoral and disciplinary functions over the Presbyteries within its bounds. Ministers and lay representatives from each Presbytery form the Synod in session. For more information about the Synod see: Roles & Responsibilities of Synod.
The Assembly has determining responsibility in matters of doctrine, worship, government and discipline, including the promotion of the Church’s mission, the establishment of standards for theological education, and is empowered to make final decisions on all matters committed to it by the Constitution of the UCA. Membership of the Assembly representatives of each Presbytery and Synod.
The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress (UAICC)
The UAICC is made up of Aboriginal and Islander Christians from all over Australia who have come together to form a National Congress, the result of a vision developed through a series of gatherings in the early 1980’s. The Congress was granted by the Assembly in 1985, authority to make decisions in all matters relating to ministry with Aboriginal and Islander peoples.
At the meeting of the Presbytery and Synod in November 2018, the decision was made to restructure from one presbytery and one Synod in South Australia, to multiple presbyteries and one synod.
There are 3 Presbyteries:
Synod Standing Committee
The Synod Standing Committee is empowered to act on behalf of the Synod between meetings of the Synod in respect of any of the responsibilities of the Synod except such as the Synod may determine. Members of Synod Standing Committee are elected at the meeting of the Synod for a 2 year term