12th Assembly 2009

Ecumenical voice of positivity

Throughout the 12th Assembly meeting there has been a distinct sense of inclusion and readiness to listen and learn from others.

This openness was echoed by Sister Elizabeth Delaney of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, who was one of four ecumenical guests of the Assembly meeting.

As the executive secretary for the Bishops Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Relations, Sr Delaney was honoured to be a non-voting member of the Assembly as were Major Paul Kinder (Salvation Army), Father Shenouda Mansour (Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney) and Bishop Albert Chew (Chinese Methodist Church in Australia).

Sr Delaney chose to experience the whole Assembly meeting while both Major Kinder and Father Mansour stayed for most of the meeting, a huge commitment for a week-long event.

The sense of welcome overwhelmed Sr Delaney.

“I have been delighted to be here, but more than just being here, being a part of it,” she said.

“On the first day I sat in the balcony thinking that was the place where I belonged, but then I was told that I was very welcome to be part of it, to sit on the table.

She said she deliberately came for the whole meeting to express the support of the Catholic Church for the Uniting Church.

She was particularly moved by the consensus model of meeting with the attempt to get the whole Assembly body to agree on issues through a process of discussion.

“I think it is wonderful,” she said.

“I find the continual movement to prayer is very important. The President has been superb in voicing the prayer of the whole group.

“I’ve appreciated the truth, honesty and love with which I think people are speaking.

“People are speaking with great integrity. That has been a powerful witness.”

She said she was quite moved by the ritual of handing on between presidents.

“The past president passed his stole and cross to the new president. I think that was rather wonderful.”

Sr Delaney enjoyed the inclusiveness of the Assembly meeting.

“From the instillation of the president, the multicultural focus, the involvement of Aboriginal people, but also the involvement of the ecumenical and interfaith guests … it didn’t in any way feel like a nominal thing, it was integral to us.

“The fact that I can be present on the floor is, to me, mindboggling.

“It just speaks so loudly of the openness of the Uniting Church and its leadership.”