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theological, biblical and liturgical
richness that arises from the Uniting
Church‟s racial, cultural and linguistic
diversity within contemporary
multifaith Australia. It will foster
discipleship in the Uniting Church for
people of all ages. It will share the
Church‟s vision of hope and
transformation in the public forum.
Christian Uniting,
Discipleship and
Worship Working
Being part of Uniting Faith and
Discipleship puts Christian Unity,
Doctrine and Worship in touch with
UnitingJustice, Multicultural and Crosscultural Ministry, Formation, Education
and Discipleship, and Relations with
Other Faiths.
In October 2013 what was the Theology
and Discipleship unit of the Assembly
took on the extra component of
Christian Unity and became the
Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship
section of the Assembly. Its main
responsibility is to serve the three
working groups of Christian Unity,
Doctrine and Worship. The Operational
Guidelines for Theology and
Discipleship spoke of having a
relationship with Christian Unity. The
Mandate of the Christian Unity working
group in its Mission Statement said it is
“charged to encourage and resource the
UCA to pray, study and work towards
uniting Christians in faith, worship,
witness and ministry”. So there was
already an affinity between the three
working groups.
The National Consultant is to provide
theological leadership to the Assembly
and the church more generally in the
areas of Christian unity and ecumenism,
doctrine and worship. He co-ordinates
and resources the functions of the
working groups on Christian Unity,
Doctrine and Worship; and serves as
secretary to the Christian Unity and
Doctrine working groups.
Among the privileges of this expanded
role was the opportunity for the National
Consultant to participate in the World
Council of Churches Assembly in
Busan, South Korea in October 2013
and the Christian Conference of Asia in
Jakarta, Indonesia in May 2015, and be
a member of the Executive of the
National Council of Churches in
Having one National Consultant related
to the three working groups means
closer connections between them.
There is a member of the Christian Unity
working group who is also a member of
the Doctrine working group. Convenors‟
meetings put the convenors of each of
the working groups in touch with each
other. The Convenors of the Relations
with Other Faiths working group and the
Mission and Evangelism network are
also involved. The convenor of the new
Formation, Education and Discipleship
working group will be added.
The position description for the National
Consultant Christian Unity, Doctrine and
Worship says the basic purpose is “to
provide leadership and vision to the
Church in the areas of Christian unity,
worship, doctrine and ecclesiology
within the mandate of Uniting Faith and
Discipleship.” That mandate has the
Uniting Faith and Discipleship will
strive to witness to the wholeness of
the gospel and the Christian life by
affirming and modelling the interrelationship of scripture, mission,
justice, education and theology. It will
work in a way that helps the church
to celebrate and express the
Australian culture, like Western culture
generally, has been undergoing
significant changes. The current
characteristics of Australian society
were spoken about in the last Assembly
report. There I wrote about the
importance of thinking theologically,
living our faith and communication. We
need to do so in a context with the
following qualities.
Postmodern culture has moved from
and emphasis on reason to giving
priority to experience. The primary
sources of theological thinking are
Scripture, tradition, reason and
experience. The Enlightenment gave
priority to reason and our culture
continues to give weight to scientific
reasoning. However in other areas of life
it is not reason that is supreme but
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
B19 - 1
experience. People want to experience
life. Rational argument is less
convincing than a person‟s experience.
Mainstream churches such as the
Uniting Church have come out of a
background in which reason has been
primary. Helping people understand the
faith has been the emphasis. The Bible
has been approached with a desire to
have it make sense to our reason. The
shift to experience means that we need
to give greater attention to how people
might experience the reality of God,
know Jesus as Saviour and Lord in their
lives, and sense the presence and
guidance of the Spirit. While there is a
place for „head‟ knowledge, more
important for people is „heart‟
knowledge. Even in relation to doctrine,
a recent theological text by Kevin
Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine, is
approached from a perspective that is
not simply rational. In relation to
ecumenism, the Christian Unity working
group enables people to participate in
international ecumenical conferences
holding that it is by experiencing sharing
with people of other Christian traditions
that one‟s passion for ecumenism is
fostered. Worship also is not just a
cerebral event but needs to engage the
senses and assist people to experience
God. The sacrament of the Lord‟s
Supper is a primary means of grace and
so the Worship working group desires
that it be conducted regularly and well.
Related to this is that people are not
necessarily requiring a convincing
explanation of the Christian faith but are
open to mystery. If life and faith can be
fully explained this looks limiting for
there is a mystery about these that defy
rational explanation. While this desire
for mystery can lead to irrational
convictions and actions, from a Christian
perspective we can present God as the
mystery of the world. Theologian
Eberhard Jungel did this already in the
1980s. Theology always has to
recognise that it is partial and
provisional for God is greater than our
human capacity to speak of God. We
need to appreciate that religion taps into
depths that go beyond the rational, not
always in positive ways. We see this in
extremist groups that claim religious
motivation. The Christian community at
its best helps people to be touched by
the Holy Spirit rather than other spirits.
Our worship and discipleship training
can assist people to discern the spirits,
so that people are guided by the Spirit
of Jesus and not in contradiction to his
way of love, justice and non-violence.
We also need to enable people to
recognise that all life has a mysterious
dimension and we are not to
compartmentalise our lives to put
mystery and faith into one area marked
„private‟ or „religious‟. Our ecumenical
contact with other Christian traditions,
such as the Orthodox, Taize or Iona,
can help us to gain a greater
appreciation of mystery. Worship
planning can seek to foster a sense of
mystery through the use of music,
images and symbols. How worship is
conducted can convey not only
friendliness but also that we are
entering the presence of an awesome
Our culture has become dominated by
images more than words. Pictures and
videos convey in a way that is more
powerful than words alone. Mainstream
churches like ours have tended to be
wordy and limited the use of visuals.
This is changing. Yet it is not just a
matter of banners, digital projectors and
other visuals being used. Words
themselves can convey images when
they appeal to the imagination. Good
preaching has always recognised the
importance of illustrations and stories to
convey the message. It is not just a
matter of adding pictures and visuals but
of using images appropriately. The
Worship working group recommends
that when the sacraments of baptism
and the Lord‟s Supper are conducted
they be done so in a way that is clearly
visible. Most churches now use a loaf of
bread which is broken by the presider in
a visible way before the congregation.
The Christian Unity working group
points out that sharing in other
churches‟ worship can prompt ideas as
to how we might conduct our worship in
more visual ways. Doctrine is inevitably
dominated by words but these need to
be used in connection with the worship
and life of the congregation. Images can
stimulate theological reflection also. Our
theology is in fact based on the
revelation given in Jesus who is “the
image of the invisible God” (Colossians
1:15). So we should be familiar with the
importance of images and of our lives as
followers of Jesus conveying our faith
and not just our words. Words still have
B19 - 2
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
their place but we need to connect them
to images, appropriate images, the
primary one being Jesus Christ himself.
He is the centre of our faith. He is the
one we point people to beyond
ourselves and the church which always
fall short. Our confidence and hope is
not in words or ideas but in the
revelation given in the person of Jesus
and his message of the reign of God
which he embodied.
Each bi-lateral dialogue and
conversation develops a specific focus
and agenda. Currently there are active
bi-lateral dialogues with the following
• Anglican Church of Australia
• Lutheran Church of Australia
• Roman Catholic Church
• The Salvation Army
As well as promoting and managing
these dialogues, the Christian Unity
Working Group oversees Uniting Church
participation in ecumenical bodies,
especially international conferences. It
monitors the ecumenical implications of
Assembly decisions and Uniting Church
practices and assists the reception of
the fruits of ecumenical work within the
Uniting Church. Following the WCC
Assembly in Busan, South Korea, it has
promoted not only the important
document, “The Church Towards a
Common Vision” but also other
significant papers, namely “Together
towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in
Changing Landscapes,” “Christian
Witness in a Multi-Religious World” and
“An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace.”
ments or contact the National
Consultant: [email protected]
Rev Dr Chris Walker,
National Consultant Christian Unity,
Doctrine and Worship
Christian Unity Working
The Uniting Church is part of an
amazing web of relationships with other
churches through the World Council of
Churches, the World Communion of
Reformed Churches, the World
Methodist Council, the Christian
Conference of Asia and the Pacific
Conference of Churches.
Within Australia, the Uniting Church in
Australia is liked to 18 other Christian
denominations through our involvement
in and membership of the National
Council of Churches in Australia
(NCCA) and through the covenant
signed by member NCCA churches,
„Australian Churches Covenanting
The work of the Christian Unity working
group is to assist the President and
General Secretary in maintaining and
developing these ecumenical
relationships and in oversight of the
UCA teams which conduct the bi-lateral
dialogues and conversations between
the UCA and some of our partner
churches within Australia. The Christian
Unity Working Group relates to the
committees concerned with ecumenical
relations in each synod and reports on a
regular basis to the General Secretary
and to the Assembly. A major recent
focus has been the promotion of the
WCC convergence paper, “The Church:
Towards a Common Vision.” A draft
response from the Uniting Church is
before the Assembly and will be sent to
the WCC before the end of 2015.
The Christian Unity Working Group is
based in Melbourne. It currently meets
four times a year. There is also a two
day annual national conference in
Melbourne in October which brings
together those involved in the dialogues
and synod ecumenical representatives
along with the members of the Christian
Unity Working Group. Reports from
those involved in international
ecumenical conferences are also
received. Members of the working group
are appointed by the Assembly
Standing Committee after they have
submitted their curriculum vitae and
been considered by the Christian Unity
Working Group, taking into account
current members and the need for a
balance of people, experience and
skills. Expressions of interest are
Anglican: An agreed statement
“Weaving a New Cloth” was sent to the
two churches early in 2014 (See
Appendix A). It includes six basic
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
B19 - 3
theological affirmations and outlines
possible forms of cooperation through
local inter-church covenants across
Australia. In July 2014 it was accepted
by the Anglican General Synod, which
commended it to the Dioceses for their
further action and encouraged its use as
a framework for local agreements. In the
same month the Assembly Standing
Committee commended the statement
to the 14 Assembly „as the basis for
ecumenical cooperation with the
Anglican Church of Australia.‟ If the
Assembly adopts this recommendation,
it will be the first significant agreement
between the two churches at the
national level since 1985, when an
agreement was made on baptism. If
adopted, it will invite and encourage
new efforts by congregations to work
together in a wide range of ways in
many different contexts throughout the
UCA members of the Dialogue: Rev
Prof Chris Mostert (co-chairperson), Ms
Maureen Postma, Rev Margaret Blair
and Rev Martin Wright.
Lutheran: The Document, A Great
Prayer of Thanksgiving with
Commentary, was approved by the
Assembly in 2012 for use in UCA
congregations and as an educational
tool. The dialogue is now working
towards A Concordat for full communion
(Declaration of Mutual Recognition Point
6) and the LCA‟s College of Bishops
have given their approval to embark on
this journey. To this end the dialogue is
looking in depth at the various aspects
of the Eucharist – “Real Presence”,
“Incarnation”, “Fraction”, “Epiclesis”,
“Anamnesis” and identifying both points
of agreement and areas of further study.
Another discovery is that different
perceptions often complement each
other rather than become an obstacle to
the final goal of sharing around the
table. The dialogue has realised the
necessity of keeping a record of our
discussions and so have begun a paper
which tracks the discussion from each
meeting and will be used as part of the
introduction when we submit our work to
the churches.
UCA members of the Dialogue: Rev Dr
Anna Grant Henderson (cochairperson), Rev Denise Liersch, Rev
Paul Stephens, Rev Dr Craig Thompson
and Rev Dr Rob Gallacher (Rev Dr Julia
Pitman resigned)
Roman Catholic: This dialogue has
resumed. They are using a “Receptive
Ecumenism” approach, and topics will
evolve from their discussions
UCA members of the Dialogue: Rev
Bruce Johnson (co-chairperson), Rev Dr
David Rankin, Dr Janice Rees, Rev
David Busch, Rev Dr Paul Walton and
Rev Colleen Geyer (Mr Alan Demack
has resigned after 20 years)
Salvation Army: This dialogue is
working on providing a teaching
document on holiness and social justice.
They intend to speak with one voice.
The Baptist/UCA dialogue report on
“Church Membership” which has been
concluded was accepted as an example
of the kind of publication that might be
UCA members of the Dialogue: Rev Dr
Sandy Yule (co-chairperson), Rev Dr
Morag Logan, Rev Rosemary Carter
and Rev Dr Glen O‟Brien.
World Council of Churches. The major
event since the last CUWG report to the
Assembly was the WCC Assembly in
Busan, South Korea in October 2013.
This was an inspiring and enlivening
gathering that only happens once in 7
years. A number of Uniting Church
people attended. Gregor Henderson
assisted with the consensus decision
making procedures being used. Ms
Emily Evans was elected to the Central
Committee. She also attended a WCC
gender conference in Cyprus in
November 2014. There is discussion in
particular about “The Pilgrimage of
Justice and Peace” and how UCA
people can be involved in this.
Global Christian Forum. The Global
Christian Forum is an important new
ecumenical development as it involves
the WCC, Roman Catholic, Evangelical
and Pentecostal communities. Two
major projects are being taken up: a
global conversation on “Discrimination,
Persecution and Martyrdom” and “Call
to Mission, Perceptions of Proselytism.”
The Revd Dr. Robert Gribben has been
connected with the Global Christian
Forum, both through his involvement in
the World Methodist Council, and also
represents the UCA.
B19 - 4
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
World Communion of Reformed
Churches. The Revd Denise Liersch
attended two of their conferences in the
USA in 2014, the first on the meaning of
confessional documents in the life of the
church and the second on the meaning
of communion. A significant document is
the Lutheran-Reformed statement,
“Communion: On Being the Church.”
The WCRC office shifted in Jan 2014
from Geneva to Hannover, and the
position of General Secretary was
handed over in Aug 2014 from the Revd
Dr. Setri Nyomi (after 14 years) to the
Revd Chris Ferguson. The next General
Assembly will be held in June 2017 in
Erfurt, Germany.
World Methodist Council. The Revd Dr.
Robert Gribben is very involved as chair
of the Ecumenical Relations Committee.
Ms Anne Connan is President of the
World Federation of Methodist and
Uniting Church Women. The General
Secretary, Bishop Ivan Abraham, has
been enabled to travel more to
encourage member churches. He was in
Sydney in February 2013 to present the
2012 World Methodist Peace Award to
Ms Joy Balazo for her work through
UnitingWorld. World Evangelism is an
active committee and has a new
director, the Revd Dr. Kimberley
Reisman following the retirement of
long-time director, Revd Dr Eddie Fox.
The Ecumenical Relations committee
has finalised the report of the AnglicanMethodist dialogue, “Into All the World”
which was launched on 17 March, 2015.
The next World Methodist Council and
Conference will be held in Houston,
Texas in September 2016.
United and Uniting Churches: The Revd
Charity Majiza has been a member of
the continuation committee since the
previous international consultation of
these churches that was held in
Johannesburg, South Africa in 2008.
The committee met in Utrecht in the
Netherlands in September 2014. The
meeting was hosted by the Protestant
Church of the Netherlands (PCN) and
sponsored by World Council of
Churches‟ Faith and Order Commission.
Among other things they discussed the
visibility and contribution the United and
Uniting Churches can make in the WCC
and in Christian World Communions
(CWCs). Members of the committee
were invited to join in the celebrations of
the 10 Anniversary of the PCN where a
book, The Protestant Church in the
Netherlands: Church Unity in the 21
Century, Stories and Reflection was
launched. The next consultation will be
held in Chennai, India from 25
November to 2 December 2015 and it is
to be hosted by the Church of South
India. The theme is: “Living in Tents”
(Heb.11: 9): “The Pilgrimage of the
United and Uniting Churches”. This
consultation is held once in seven
Christian Conference of Asia. Ms Tess
Keam attended a consultation on
“Moving Beyond Conflict: Ensuring
Human Dignity and Security” in October
2014 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Ms Bridget
Ocean attended the 5 Asian
Conference of Theology Students in
October 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The CCA Assembly was held in May
2015 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Five Uniting
Church representatives attended
including Ms Sally Andrews as the youth
representative. Sally also attended the
Youth Pre Assembly event.
Pacific Conference of Churches. The
Pacific Conference of Churches met in
March 2013 in Honiara, Solomon
Islands. Six Uniting Church people
attended including the Revd Rronang
Garrawurra of the UAICC who made a
positive impression on the gathering.
The Uniting Church has been accepted
as a member of the PCC. UnitingWorld
takes the lead in managing the
relationship. The Revd Sef Carroll is
now the Church Partnerships, Pacific
person for UnitingWorld.
The NCCA Constitution states the
purpose is to “gather together in
pilgrimage those Churches and
Christian communities which confess
the Lord Jesus Christ as God and
Saviour according to the Scriptures and
commit themselves to deepen their
relationship with each other in order to
express more visibly the unity by Christ
for his church, and to work together
towards the fulfilment of their mission of
common witness, proclamation and
service.” It works with an explicit
awareness of the Australian context, in
particular its Aboriginal and Islander
heritage, multi-cultural experience, and
the current setting of its churches in a
post-Christian, multi-faith and secular
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
B19 - 5
environment within the Asia-Pacific
Rev Tara Curlewis served as the NCCA
General Secretary from April 2009 –
July 2014. Anglican Bishop Philip
Huggins served as interim General
Secretary until Sr Elizabeth Delaney, of
the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the
Order of St Benedict, accepted the call
to be NCCA General Secretary for the
next three years beginning in January
2015. The current NCCA President is
Rev Dr Mike Semmler from the Lutheran
Church. Prior to his death from cancer,
Catholic Bishop Michael Putney was
President. He was not only a national
but an international figure in ecumenical
matters. Rev Ken Sumner served as
National Director of National Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islanders Ecumenical
Council from May 2013 – December
2014. Rev Dr Cathy Thomson, Director
of Formation and Lecturer in Theology
at St Francis Theological College in
Brisbane, was elected chairperson of
the NCCA Faith and Unity Commission
in November 2013 for three years. The
Christian World Service Commission
changed its name to The Act for Peace
Commission in 2013. It conducts the
well-known Christmas Bowl appeal of
which the Uniting Church is the
strongest supporter. The Executive is in
the process of reviewing the priorities of
the NCCA.
Unity Working Group brings a Draft to
the Assembly for discussion and
acceptance. The document is provided
as document B - 26.
Ecumenical activities and discussions
continue to be shaped by current
realities, and it is heartening to
acknowledge continuing commitment to
finding ways to be „Christians together‟
in the 21 century.
How do we discern the way the Spirit is
working? The Global Christian Forum is
a positive and significant new
development. Local churches are
cooperating in specific ways.
International structures are working to
maintain their relevance to member
churches. For this we give thanks to
God as we journey together.
The annual National Conference
organised by the Christian Unity
Working Group is a valuable time, not
only to hear what is happening
ecumenically nationally and
internationally, but also to discuss
together issues of joy and concern as
we seek to live out the ecumenical
vision and foundation of the Uniting
Church within Australia and with our
overseas partners.
In some circles there is talk of multi-faith
relations being added to ecumenical
relations groups. The danger is that
ecumenical relations will be lost in the
larger task. The two are in fact distinct
tasks. The Assembly has a Relations
with Other Faiths working group.
The printing and dissemination of this
document has been the main focus of
the Christian Unity Working Group since
its release in late 2013. The document
has been promoted in presbyteries and
theological colleges by members of the
Working Group, Synod Ecumenical
personnel and the National Consultant.
Hard copies are available from the
Assembly office. The Christian Unity
and Doctrine Working Groups have
studied it carefully and there was a joint
conversation at the National
Conference. The UCA response to the 5
questions asked of the churches by the
WCC was prepared by the National
Consultant informed by these
discussions. The Rev Dr Sandy Yule
read drafts of the response and
provided comments, as have members
of the Christian Unity and Doctrine
Working Groups, and their
Corresponding members. The Christian
The Christian Unity Working Group
consists of the following people.
Ms Maureen Postma (Convenor), Rev
Dr Chris Walker (Secretary and National
Consultant), Rev. Terence Corkin (ex
officio), Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones, Mr
Gavin Faichney, Ms Joan McRae, Rev
Dr. Robert Gribben, Rev Margie Dahl,
Rev Charity Majiza, Rev Jason Kioa,
Rev Jacob Yang, Rev Dr. Morag Logan
and Rev Fie Marino.
During the triennium the Rev Susan
Malthouse, Ms Isabel Thomas-Dobson
and Rev Dr. Rob Gallacher resigned.
B19 - 6
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
Avril Hannah-Jones represents the
Christian Unity working group on the
Doctrine working group.
material, once approved by the
Standing Committee, is posted to the
Assembly Website. We do our best to
make it known that these resources are
readily available. The website has been
subject to a comprehensive review and
upgrade over recent time.
Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship
are linked through having a common
National Consultant.
There is also communication with other
Assembly bodies particularly
Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry,
Relations with Other Faiths,
UnitingWorld and UnitingJustice.
Corresponding Members:
Rev Andrew Tiver, Rev Dr. Chris
Mostert, Rev Rachel Kronberger, Ms
Isabel Thomas-Dobson, Rev Dr. D‟Arcy
Wood, Ms Judi Fisher and Rev Gay
Rev Dr Chris Walker
Secretary, Christian Unity Working Group
Ms Maureen Postma
Chairperson Christian Unity Working
Resources for the week of Prayer and
Fasting and the Vigil in Canberra (in
March 2014). We have also placed on
the website substantial prayer and
worship resources suitable for use by
and / or with First Peoples.
A Service of Recognition of a lay person
authorised to celebrate the sacraments.
A Service of Induction for a Defence
Force Chaplain.
A paper prepared by the Rev Rod
Horsfield (“Alive to Worship”) is
available both on the website and in
booklet form. It provides ideas about
how our worship can be contemporary
and creative as well as being consistent
with our UCA tradition and theology.
The Working Group has now produced
three educational DVD‟s:
A Guide to Worship for the People of
The Prayers of the People
Holy Communion
Hundreds of these DVD‟s have been
sent out free of charge on request and
have been very well received.
In addition, all our Ordination, Induction
and Commissioning Services have been
amended, in accordance with a decision
of the 13 Assembly, to include
reference to the Covenant made with
Congress and a commitment to work
with both First and Second Peoples.
A Calendar of Other
Commemorations is a valuable
resource for preaching, teaching and
the devotional life. Over the past couple
of years it has been significantly
expanded to include many helpful
articles and other resources. It is readily
accessible on the website.
Worship Working
Over the past three years the Working
Group on Worship has continued to
respond to requests for resources from
both the Assembly Standing Committee
and the wider church. It has also taken
a number of initiatives of its own. The
Working Group has worked closely with
other departments and agencies of the
church, especially with Uniting Justice
and the Working Group on Doctrine. It
has also met for conversation on
matters of common concern with the
Assembly Mission and Evangelism
Network and the Assembly Lay and
Leadership Educators Network. It
continues to be represented at meetings
of the Australian Consultation on Liturgy
(ACOL) and the Together in Song
Hymnbook Committee.
A major part of the Working Group‟s
energy is directed to the development of
new resources. Some of these
resources are liturgical and others are
educational. The greater part of this
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
B19 - 7
A key project of the Working Group
since the last Assembly has been the
organisation of Songwrite, an initiative
that gathers together songwriters and
musicians, along with experienced
mentors, to engage in the composition
of new songs for worship. The first of
these workshops was held in Canberra
in 2013 and was an outstanding
success. A second will be staged in
Adelaide in June 2015. The Working
Group sees this project as a very
effective way of gathering contemporary
music resources from within the life of
the Uniting Church that are of a high
standard, both musically and
Colloquium on the Teaching of
Worship in the Uniting Church
In Adelaide in early December, 2014,
the Working Group convened a
gathering of Theological College faculty,
teachers from Lay Education Centres,
and Synod and Presbytery staff involved
in lay education, to reflect on the
teaching of worship in the Uniting
Church. There was a significant
convergence of thinking in regard to the
challenges involved in educating
ministers, pastors, lay preachers and lay
worship leaders to prepare and lead
worship in our contemporary context in
a manner that is consistent with the
tradition and faith of the church.
We believe it is essential to clearly
identify the relevant competencies and
qualities required of those who lead
worship and for there to be a clear
commitment across the life of the church
to train and equip those entrusted with
this responsibility. We believe that our
ministers should understand that they
have a key role in this process and
therefore should be equipped to
undertake this task as part of their own
formation for ministry.
The current Working Group has
proposed, and the Standing Committee
has agreed, that the Working Group on
Worship be relocated to South Australia
following the 14 Assembly.
The Worship Working Group has
consisted of the following people.
David Pitman (Convenor), John Tainton
(Secretary), Chris Walker (National
Consultant), Jenny Tymms, Peter
Gador-Whyte, Josie Neuendorff, Craig
Mitchell, Sharon Kirk, David MacGregor,
Wendy Sargenat and Gewa Au
During triennium Garry Deverell and
David Kim resigned. Graham Vawser
joined the group in preparation for
becoming the new convenor.
Rev Dr David Pitman
Worship Working Group
Doctrine Working
The Assembly „has determining
responsibility for matters of doctrine‟
(Basis of Union, par 15e). The Working
Group on Doctrine therefore responds to
requests for work in particular areas
from the Assembly and Assembly
Standing Committee, and also initiates
discussion concerning church life and
Australia is a multi-cultural and multifaith society. This is both a great gift and
a great challenge to a church like the
Uniting Church in Australia. We can no
longer take for granted a privileged
position within civil society as a
mainstream Christian denomination.
Australia is also an increasingly
secularised society, in which people of
all faiths are now confronted by
aggressive atheism and the fears
caused by the actions of a few religious
fundamentalists. In this context it
remains vital for the Church to be clear
about who we are and what we believe.
It is the task of the Working Group on
Doctrine to facilitate that clarity.
As well as these external challenges,
the Uniting Church is also challenged
internally by a variety of theological
extremisms. On the one hand there are
those who espouse biblical literalism
and theological fundamentalism,
contrary to the way the faith of the one
holy catholic and apostolic church as
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Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
described in the Basis of Union. On the
other hand there are those who
espouse an extreme form of
'Progressive Christianity' that seeks to
discard core tenets of the Christian faith
including the Incarnation and the
doctrine of the Trinity. The Working
Group on Doctrine works to
contextualise the historic Christian faith
in contemporary Australia, making a
clear distinction between those matters
that are not of the substance of the faith
and those that are essential and must
be preserved.
The Working Group has taken up a
number of tasks:
Discussion Paper on Marriage
The Assembly requested the Working
Group to consult widely with the Church
before preparing a discussion paper on
the theology of marriage; and to explore
any implications for public covenants for
same-gender relationships. The Report
outlines the extensive consultation
process; a description of the approach
taken by the Working Group; a summary
of the key themes from the responses
received from approximately 438 groups
and individuals; and a mapping of the
further resourcing the Working Group
believes the Church needs to make
faithful and well-informed decisions in
this area. The Working Group was
grateful for the work of Rev Dr Rob Bos
at various stages of its task including
assisting in the development of the
consultation process, training facilitators
and assisting in early stages of
summarising responses and report
writing. The process was a salutary one
from the perspective of the Doctrine
Working Group. The theological
diversity within our Church has always
been evident. However the Working
Group was concerned about the number
of responses whose lack of theological
depth indicated a superficial
engagement with the biblical texts, or an
uncritical acceptance of contemporary
social norms as determinative. We hope
the Assembly will support the Doctrine
Working Group‟s desire to do further
work on this question in order to assist
the Church to approach these important
issues from the rich resources of our
biblical, theological and scholarly
heritage, and the lived experience of our
diverse community of faith.
The Preamble to the Constitution
The work of promoting the Preamble to
the Constitution of the Uniting Church
following its acceptance at the 12
Assembly in 2009 has continued to
occupy the Working Group. The task of
communicating the Preamble and its
implications for the Church was
challenging. In 2012 three members of
the Working Group visited Aboriginal
leaders in East Arnhem Land to receive
feedback on the Preamble and to listen
to them about how the Preamble might
be communicated throughout the
Congress. A first step was the
translation of the Preamble into three or
four of the main languages used in
Congress communities. This work is
underway and a „back translation‟ in
preparation for this work has been
completed. We are seeking to undertake
this work with sensitivity to cultural
methods of working and with the
assistance of the NRCC.
The Doctrine Working Group is also
working with the UAICC and the
Assembly Formation, Education and
Discipleship Unit to produce a study
resource for the Preamble with a view to
raising awareness of this important
document across the Church. It will be a
video based resource.
Further work on appropriate modes of
communication has yet to be done. The
decision of the 12th Assembly to include
the Preamble in the Constitution is an
important witness to the Australian
community of the Church‟s commitment
to recognition of and reconciliation with
the First Peoples. It is especially
important as Australia moves towards a
national referendum on Constitutional
Recognition possibly as early as 2017.
A Season of Teaching and Learning
Following a proposal from the Doctrine
Working Group, the 13 Assembly
resolved to have a „season of teaching
and learning‟ in 2014 and asked the
Working Group to recommend and
provide resources.
In addition to the ongoing work of the
Working Group in developing resources
for the church on matters of doctrine,
the Working Group pursued this remit by
hosting conferences, generating new
resources for group study and
recommending existing resources to the
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
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As part of the Season of Teaching and
Learning, the Doctrine Working Group
decided to hold two back-to-back
conferences on „The Basis of Union:
catalyst for Renewal‟ and „Preaching for
Transformation‟. It did this in conjunction
with UTC and Uniting Mission and
Education of the NSW/ACT Synod.
These were held in August 2014 which
was seminar week for the NSW/ACT
Synod. Over 65 people attended each
conference. The Basis of Union
conference was enriched by the
presence of two scholars from Nanjing
Union Theological Seminary and the
China Christian Council who actively
participated with the support of
UnitingWorld. Presentations and
opportunities for questions were
provided. Alistair Macrae led a panel
discussion of younger adults for one
stimulating session.
The main speaker for the preaching
conference „Preaching for
Transformation‟ was Reverend Dr Clay
Schmit, a Lutheran from the USA. He
led several engaging sessions. Electives
gave people the opportunity to choose
from a range of people and topics. The
conference concluded with a panel of
the speaker and elective leaders
responding to questions.
New Resources
The Doctrine Working Group produced
three group study resources which were
published by Mediacom and widely
promoted across the Church. These
were „Living the Christian Life‟ by Rod
Horsfield, „Christianity in the twenty-first
century‟ by Avril Hannah-Jones and
„Jesus Christ in the Basis of Union by
Geoff Thompson.‟ They are still
available from MediaCom.
Resource bibliography
A comprehensive list of existing
resources was developed, in
consultation with educators and with
MediaCom. This was widely promoted
across the church, including on the
MediaCom website.
Other publications
Doc.bytes were produced on
„Conversion‟ and „Worship. Further
Doc.bytes on „The Lord‟s Prayer‟ and
„Science and Faith‟ are in draft form at
the time of this report. Pamphlets were
produced on „Making up our Mind: Moral
discernment in the UCA‟ and „Alive to
God in worship‟. A paper was also
written on „The Uniting Church and the
Reformed and Evangelical Tradition.‟
The Doctrine Working Group works in
collaboration with other Working Groups
of the Assembly, most closely with the
Working Group on Worship, with whom
it shares the National Consultant, and
the Christian Unity Working Group, with
whom it shares both the National
Consultant and a Working Group
The pamphlet "Alive to God in Worship"
was approved by both the Worship
Working Group and the Doctrine
Working Group. The Doctrine Working
Group resourced the response of the
Christian Unity Working Group to the
World Council of Churches' text The
Church: Towards a Common Vision by
providing papers and jointly discussing
the response at the Christian Unity
Working Group national conference in
October 2014. The discussion paper on
marriage was distributed widely
throughout the Church.
This will include: on-going work on the
Preamble, expected referred work from
the Assembly and the ASC and the
continued provision of resources such
as Doc.bytes.
The Doctrine Working Group has
consisted of the following people.
Alistair Macrae (Convenor), Chris
Walker (Secretary and National
Consultant), Carolyn Thornley (ex
officio), Glenda Blakefield (ex officio),
Rod Horsfield, Avril Hannah-Jones,
Rachel Kronberger, Geoff Thompson,
Ann Perrin, Alan Robinson, Ben Myers
and John Hirt.
During the triennium Wes Campbell,
Ockert Myer, Chris Goringe and Lu
Senituli resigned.
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Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
I wish to thank Chris Walker for the way in
which he follows through his role with the
Doctrine, Worship and Christian Unity Working
Groups, plus his commitment to the Mission
and Evangelism Network. Chris has been an
invaluable member of all these groups.
The working groups on Doctrine and Worship
have benefitted from the leadership of their
convenors. Rev Alistair Macrae has provided
leadership to the Doctrine Working Group over
the last three years. He has been supported
by an active group of members from the
NSW/ACT Synod and in the past few years
more members from the Vic/Tas Synod. The
Working Group will relocate to Melbourne
following the Assembly.
Relations with Other Faiths Working Group
and in the future the Formation, Education and
Discipleship Convenor. This has been a
valuable time of hearing across the activities of
the various working groups but also in seeking
ways in which to work together.
We give thanks to God for all who dedicate
time to the Working Groups enabling robust
discussions and a diversity in thinking.
Rev Carolyn Thornley
Theology and Discipleship
Rev Dr David Pitman has been the Convenor
of the Worship Working Group for the last five
years. As this Working Group moves its
meeting base to South Australia, I thank David
and the members of the Working Group for
their work over the past triennium and David
for overseeing this move. Rev Dr Graham
Vawser is to be the new Convenor of the
Worship Working Group.
Rev Peter Armstrong has been the Convenor
of the Mission and Evangelism network with
Rev Dr Duncan Macleod as deputy. The
national Mission and Evangelism conference
held in Adelaide in March 2014 was very
significant. Rev Scott Guyatt is now the
Convenor and the network has been
transferred to link with Craig Mitchell and
Formation, Education and Discipleship.
Ms Maureen Postma, the Christian Unity
Working Group Chairperson, has worked with
Chris Walker in the Assembly Standing
Committee‟s decision to bring Christian Unity
under the umbrella of Theology and
Discipleship. This move has certainly made
sense in carrying the questions from the
dialogues and the work of Christian Unity more
closely into the forums of doctrine and
worship. I thank Maureen for her leadership.
Rev Dr Morag Logan will become the new
Chairperson of the Christian Unity Working
I thank the Working Groups and the Network
for both the projects and conferences they
have organised and also for the resources
they have provided to the Uniting Church as a
Twice a year I host a meeting of Convenors:
once face to face and once a teleconference.
We are joined by the Convenor of the
Reports to the Fourteenth Assembly – The Uniting Church in Australia
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Weaving a New Cloth
Anglican and Uniting Churches Working Together
This document proposes a framework for local cooperation between Anglican and
Uniting churches throughout Australia.
Local cooperation is the most promising avenue for ecumenism today, with growing
numbers of congregations working and worshipping together. Increasingly, it is here
that fruitful “ecumenical space” is to be found, in which different Christian communities
can walk together in the way of Christ, and each discover the gifts the other tradition
has to offer.i
The Joint Working Group offers this framework in the hope that it will assist both our
churches to encourage and support cooperation at the local level. In doing so, we build
upon the work of previous dialogues, trusting that the benefit of many years’
conversation will be more fully realized in time to come.
This document honours each church’s understanding of the relationship that can exist
between us, setting out what is possible, and what is not, within current constraints. At
present, this includes eucharistic hospitality but precludes formal intercommunion and
the mutual recognition of ordained ministries. It seems to us that this is a constructive
ecumenical step that can be taken now, in openness to whatever future directions might
emerge for conversation out of a strengthened experience of locally shared worship and
A Biblical Vision of Christian Unity
The unity of Christians is a gift from God before it is a task for the church. Our unity is in
Christ. He is our peace, creating in himself one new humanity across humankind’s
divisions, reconciling Jew and Gentile to God in one body through the cross (Eph. 2:1416). In Christ we are built together spiritually, across our differences, into a dwelling
place for God (2:22). This is a spiritual unity, grounded in the unity and mutual
indwelling of the Father and the Son and in the unity of believers with the Son and the
Father (John 17:20-21).
However, the unity of believers with each other, for which Jesus prays, a unity in
diversity, is also a visible unity. Moreover, not an end in itself, it is a missional unity.ii
The unity of Christians serves the mission of the triune God: that the world may believe
that the Father has sent the Son (John 17:21) and the Spirit (John 14:26). To fail to
make this unity visible and concrete is to dishonour the gift of God in Christ.
All Christian churches are called to give expression to this gift. Together with other
churches,iii our two churches have pledged, through the “Covenanting Together” process
of the National Council of Churches in Australia, “to explore such further steps as will be
necessary to make more clearly visible the unity of all Christian people in this country”.
The possibilities outlined in this document, approved by our two churches at national
level, are significant steps for Anglican and Uniting parishes and congregations to
consider taking together in their local worship, education and mission.
Theological Affirmations
Each of our churches stands in the continuity of the apostolic faith, as revealed in the Holy
Scriptures and set forth in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
Each of our churches is part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. Acknowledging
our failure to enact fully our calling, both our churches witness faithfully to the gospel and
seek to be more fully engaged in God’s mission in the world.
In each of our churches the Holy Spirit gives to the whole people of God gifts for the
upbuilding of the church and for its continuation in the mission of Jesus Christ.
The ordained ministry in both our churches is given by God as an instrument of grace,
notwithstanding our different understandings of it. By this ministry, the people of God are
called to faith, strengthened to witness to the gospel and empowered to serve in hope and
In each of our churches the word of God is faithfully preached and the sacraments of
baptism and holy communion are duly administered in accordance with each church’s
Personal, communal and collegial oversight (episcope) is exercised in both our churches,
albeit in different forms, to serve the church’s unity and its faithfulness to the gospel.
Forms of Cooperation
Local inter-church covenants across Australia give expression to the commitment of
church people to make visible the unity that we have in Christ.
Possibilities listed below are not sequential but have developed out of particular
circumstances—some out of ecumenical commitment, others because of changed
conditions. In all situations, consideration must be given to every aspect and
implication of cooperating arrangements and the different approvals and agreements
required for different levels of cooperation.
Hospitality can take many forms. Anglican and Uniting Church members are welcome
to attend services in each other’s churches. Eucharistic hospitality may be offered to
baptized and communicant members of each other’s churches. Hospitality can also
include the sharing of buildings, and shared activities are encouraged as common
witness and mission in local communities.
Shared Witness
A stronger visible expression of the unity we share as a gift from God is seen as we
deepen our relationships in shared worship, bible study and fellowship groups, and
these occasions give witness to the Christian faith we hold in common. Formal shared
events are more meaningful when planned by representatives of both church
Shared Ministry in Mission
In some circumstances, Anglican and Uniting churches decide to share resources to
better provide ministry and pastoral services. These resources may include staff or
volunteers, buildings or finances. Ministry may be for specific communities, e.g.
chaplaincies in schools or aged care, or for the wider community within a specific
geographic area.
The vision for such shared ministry may come from the local community, or the
missional imperative from the leadership of either church in a specific area. Where the
impetus comes from local congregations, plans for these shared ministries are
presented to the relevant Anglican Diocesan Bishop and the relevant Uniting Church
Joint Congregations
The establishment of a joint congregation, i.e. one congregation made up of members of
the two ecclesial traditions, requires the agreement of local councils of both churches’
parishioners and the approval of the appropriate governance within both the Anglican
and Uniting churches. Each of the original congregations retains its separate identity,
membership and links (spiritual, doctrinal, sacramental, liturgical and financial) to its
church, according to the provisions and degree of collaboration. They share resources
such as church buildings and ministries, and unite in local mission.
Agreement must be reached within the Anglican Parish Council and Uniting Church
Congregation and Church Council. Approval is also required from the relevant Anglican
Diocesan Bishop and the relevant Uniting Church Presbytery. Depending on
circumstances, approval of the relevant Property Trusts may also be required.
Planned Common Witness
In areas of new growth or rejuvenation it is possible for both churches to work together
to construct buildings for shared usage, common witness and ministry. Constitutional
issues of both churches must be addressed, but the witness of the unity we have in
Christ to the wider community presents opportunities and challenges which are
Arguably the most significant development in the last decade or so for ecumenism has
been the development of the concept of Receptive Ecumenism. At the heart of this
endeavour is the conviction that the primary ecumenical responsibility is to ask not
“What do the other traditions first need to learn from us?” but “What do we need to
learn from them?”. If our two churches were asking this question seriously and acting
upon it, then we would be moving in ways that would both deepen our authentic
respective identities and draw us into more intimate relationship.
The Joint Working Group offers “Weaving a New Cloth: Anglican and Uniting Churches
Working Together” for the prayerful consideration of our two churches. As a further
step on the journey, and building on the work already undertaken between our
respective churches, we remain convinced that the next steps outlined in this proposal
will offer tangible evidence of our commitment to the relational unity which is both the
desire and the command of our Lord (John 17:20-23). We commend the report to the
General Synod of the Anglican Church and the National Assembly of the Uniting Church.
Rt. Rev. John Parkes
for the Joint Working Group
Rev. Prof. Christiaan Mostert
For Further Information
Covenanting and
More Covenants and Agreements are listed in ‘When Churches Join’ (see below).
Shared Witness for ‘Week of Prayer for Christian
Unity’ resources
Shared Ministry
Joint Congregations and
(The search for St. Peter and Emmaus Church on the Anglican website leads to this UCA
Planned Ecumenical Witness (the website listed by both the Anglican
Diocese and the Uniting Presbytery)
Further Resources:
Anglican-Methodist International Commission for Unity In Mission
(AMICUM) Report, due to be made public in 2014. Access to this report will
be publicized in due course.
The Trinity Declaration and Code of Practice for Local Co-operation in
Victoria between the Anglican Church of Australia and the Uniting Church in
When Churches Join (a good summary of issues that arise as Christian
communities begin to discuss developing ecumenical cooperating
partnerships, plus listings of Covenants and Agreements).
The Gift of Each Other; Learning From Other Christians, a Parish
Workbook on Receptive Ecumenism, published by the New South Wales
Ecumenical Council, 2013.
Membership of the Joint Working Group
Rt. Rev. John Parkes (co-chair)
Helen Baddeley
Rt. Rev. Peter Danaher
Canon Dr. Colleen O’Reilly
Rev. Prof. Christiaan Mostert (co-chair)
Rev. Margaret Blair
Maureen Postma
Rev. Martin Wright
The recent encouraging development of “Receptive Ecumenism” is helpfully discussed in Gerard Kelly,
“A New Ecumenical Wave”, public lecture, National Council of Churches Forum, Canberra, 12 July 2010
The emphasis on the church’s unity as spiritual, visible and missional is borrowed from the ‘Biblical
Reflection’, Section 3 of the draft report of the Anglican-Methodist International Commission for Unity
in Mission (AMICUM), 2013.
The following Churches have signed the Future Pledge of the Covenanting Document: the Anglican
Church of Australia, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Assyrian
Church of the East, the Churches of Christ in Australia, the Congregational Federation of Australia, the
Coptic Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, the Indian Orthodox Church,
the Lutheran Church of Australia, the Mar Thoma Church, the Religious Society of Friends, the Roman
Catholic Church in Australia, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the
Syrian Orthodox Church, the Salvation Army and the Uniting Church in Australia.