12th Assembly 2009

Uniting Church to take stock

The 12th Assembly has agreed to spend the next three years in conversation about “what kind of church we need to be in the Australian context”.

After community group discussions indicated a rejection of a proposal to undertake a review of the Uniting Church Constitution, the Assembly facilitation group brought a new proposal that saw the focus shift away from re-writing church law towards an extensive discussion about “what sort of church God is calling us to be ... in the current Australian context”.

The rationale for the decision was recognition that the Uniting Church’s current Constitution and Regulations reflect the Australian context of the 1970s and that society has changed.

It was felt that a number of the assumptions about the church and the community it operated in were no longer valid. That often created difficulties for people trying to operate within the current guidelines.

Assembly members were overwhelmingly against the initial proposal that the church spend the next six years discussing the Constitution.

The Rev. Gregor Henderson, ex-President of the Uniting Church, said he thought it was a good thing for the church to be thinking about, “what sort of church God is calling us to be”.

He reminded people that the process needed to be focused on God. “We don’t make the determination, we’re seeking God’s discernment,” he said.

The Rev. Dr Elizabeth Nolan from the Presbytery of Western Victoria raised a word of warning, saying her community group had been concerned that the church shouldn’t get distracted by “naval gazing”.

She questioned whether the church needed to spend a lot of time, money and energy figuring out “who we are, when we understand whose we are”.

Assembly decided, by consensus, to pass the proposal, requesting the Assembly Standing Committee to facilitate a conversation over the next three years about the “core and essential marks of the Uniting Church” and what could be changed.