12th Assembly 2009

More support for lay pastors

The introduction of the Ministry of Pastor was a key decision of the 11th Assembly in Brisbane. After three years and a lot of work, particularly by members of the Ministerial Education Commission (MEC), the new way of understanding lay ministry is being implemented across all the synods of the Uniting Church. Decisions made during the final full day of the 12th Assembly will support that process.

The MEC brought a proposal to increase its membership to include people involved in training lay leaders.
Craig Mitchell from MEC said key issue was that “when the MEC gathers to discuss these issues, there is not enough current understanding about what is happening in lay education across presbyteries.”

There was some concern expressed about the increased cost, but the Chair of MEC assured Assembly the cost would be minimal and the commission had a history of underspending its budget.

Once that worry was addressed, the proposal was passed by consensus.

Amelia Koh-Butler and Peter Mallen, both of whom are pastors, brought another proposal relating to the formation of a reference group to resource both the MEC and the Doctrine Working Group in relation to lay ministry, and to ensure the voice of those working on the ground was heard.

The Rev. Brian Carey, who is a mission planner for the Synod of Western Australia, said the proposal was exciting because, “We need to listen to people on the ground. This proposal is it comes from the people who are struggling with this.”

However, while there was overwhelming support for the idea of a network of lay pastors, many members expressed concern about the detail of how the group would be convened and how it would relate to the MEC.

One suggestion was that the chair of the MEC’s Ministry of Pastor Working Group convene the new body. Another option suggested was that something similar be put in place for each synod.

Assembly members agreed that the detail of the proposal was too difficult to work through at that time and referred the decision to the Assembly Standing Committee.