12th Assembly 2009

Congress representation at Assembly to increase

The number of Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress representatives at Assembly will increase from six to 16 following an Assembly decision on July 19.

The Uniting Church’s 12th Assembly, meeting in Sydney from July 15 to 21, received a proposal from its Standing Committee to change regulations regarding the membership of future Assemblies.

Standing Committee said that as the nature of Assembly had changed, due to the reduction in the number of presbyteries and given the evolution of life of the Assembly since union, it had been necessary to grant a number of permissions to councils to allow the appropriate kind of representation to occur.

Questions were asked about the breakdown of ministerial and lay representation and the definition thereof but discussion centred on how the process might be refined to better ensure fair representation of young people, Congress members, and multicultural/cross-cultural church members.

Rev. Ken Sumner, the National Chairperson of the Congress, requested consideration of the number of participants sent by Congress. Congress representatives then presented an amendment requesting that Congress’ Assembly representation be increased from six to 16.

Ken Sumner, Roberta Stanley (National Vice-Chairperson of Congress) and the Rev. Shayne Blackman (National Administrator of Congress) spoke to the proposal.

They argued the importance of ensuring that indigenous women, youth and elders — all currently under-represented — be given the opportunity to make the “wisdom, knowledge and ministry experience” of Aboriginal Christians available to the Assembly. They said the increase would also enable “young folk” from Aboriginal communities to better understand the processes of the church.

A lengthy discussion ensued with various issues raised on the floor, including concern about the balance of ministerial and lay representation of Aboriginal members and the increased cost of additional Assembly membership.

Ex-President, the Rev. Gregor Henderson, who began by affirming his support for another ten Congress representatives, offered an alternative in an attempt to address the matter of cost.

Posing the question of whether or not the Uniting Church was a covenanting church, Mr Henderson suggested that synods be required to select no fewer than two members from the Congress in their total number of representatives. That option received support but was ultimately rejected.

After continuing discussion it was finally decided that the number of Congress representatives would increase from six to 16, including no more than eight ministers.

Discussion was to continue on other aspects of the proposal to change regulations concerning Assembly membership.