This week's news and notices from congregations, the SA Presbytery and Synod, and the wider Uniting Church.
15th Assembly Meeting Update
Posted in News
The 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia opened at 1.30pm on 8 July (Day 1) at Box Hill Town Hall in Melbourne. Members gathered for an impressive Welcome to Country by Aunty Georgina Nicholson on the lawns in front of the stately Town Hall. Aunty Georgina also acknowledged that Assembly coincides with NAIDOC Week, stating her personal heritage of strong and resilient Indigenous women made this year’s Naidoc Week theme “Because of Her, We Can!” especially significant.
That evening, our former South Australian Moderator received the symbols of ministry from outgoing President, Stuart McMillan in a moving service at St Michael's Uniting Church in the heart of Melbourne. The new President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Dr Deidre Palmer was installed and preached a message on John 4 - Jesus and the Woman of Samaria. Read the full sermon from Deidre here.
On Monday morning (Day 2), outgoing President, Stuart McMillan delivered his parting address. He challenged members of the 15th Assembly to take up the words in the first paragraph of the Basis of Union and be a church to the whole world beyond Asia, the Pacific and Africa. “My heart burns brightly for the relationship we have in this culturally diverse community we call the Uniting Church,” Mr McMillan said. Read the coverage of his address here.
Monday also saw the Assembly adopt a statement that commits the Uniting Church to repudiate all teaching and theologies that justify domestic violence. There were many testimonies shared from those affected by violent acts. It was acknowledged that many areas of the Church are working to combat domestic violence, however some members shared strong statements of affirmation that the Church needs to be doing more in this area.
Tuesday (Day 3) Stuart McMillan brought Standing Committee Proposal 29 to the floor of Assembly: “To affirm that the First Peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal and Islander Peoples, are sovereign peoples in this land.” This proposal was referred to working groups for discussion.
Also on Tuesday, Rev John Cox, Executive Officer of the National Task Group, brought a sobering message to the Assembly on the work he has undertaken on behalf of the Uniting Church in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. “The church has lost the community’s trust and restoring it is the most urgent task if the gospel is to be preached and listened to,” Rev. Cox said in delivering the Task Group’s report to Assembly.
Rev Cox shared one of the ways the UCA has responded to the Royal Commission is to adopt a National Child Safe Policy Framework. The Task Group is consulting with Synods to establish a Safe Church Unit to carry on the work of engaging with the Commission’s findings and recommendations. Another area of ongoing work for the Task Group is to establish a set of Professional Standards for ministry agents, which flows directly from the Code of Ethics. John also reported that, after extensive work and collaboration, the Uniting Church opted into the National Redress Scheme on the 4th of June 2018.
The candidates for President-elect were also introduced on Day 3 of Assembly and can be viewed here. A vote today (Day 4) resulted in two nominees being presented as candidates, Rev Dr Apwee Ting and Rev Sharon Hollis. The results of the vote will be shared tomorrow at 10am.
The evening session of Day 3 was set aside to hear further information consideration of proposals on marriage and same-gender relationships. This was in response to requests from Community Working Groups. Assembly members then had the opportunity to make two-minute statements in response to the information, proposals, or anything else. The matter will be revisited later in the meeting.
Today (Day 4) of Assembly, six moderators and Stuart McMillan provided a report on the Uniting Church's 40th anniversary celebrations. Our own Moderator, Rev Sue Ellis provided a comprehensive overview of last year’s Presbytery and Synod celebrations.
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