12th Assembly 2009

Church property freed for mission

The 12th Assembly has created a new class of Uniting Church property called “available for alternative missional use”.

This follows calls from several synods and presbyteries wanting disused or underutilised buildings to be available for other than traditional congregational purposes.

Alternative uses were listed as including:

- new congregations, faith communities or worship gatherings;
- growing or migrant congregations with inadequate property resources;
- approved strategic mission initiatives such as leadership; and
- such other mission priorities as the synod determines.

The proposal reflects changing mission contexts resulting from such demographic shifts as new suburban developments and changing patterns of urban and suburban living.

Underlying the proposal is the theological proposition that all church property is a gift and trust from God, intended for use by God’s people for the purpose of God’s mission.

One aim of the proposal is to encourage congregations to seek fresh ways in which they may participate in the mission of God, either in their local context or in other contexts across their presbytery.

The proposal was presented to the Assembly as a stimulus to congregations to re-engage in mission with urgency and intentionality.

It was to offer presbyteries “a nuanced tool for enabling new life by being able to reallocate property resources proportionately to more missional parts of an existing congregation or to forge new relationships with recognised groups from beyond the congregation, rather than simply disbanding such a congregation.”

It authorises presbyteries to make decisions on alternative building usage. But it requires the presbytery to take account of the rights of the local congregation in any changed application of a property.

Specifically, the proposal ensures “that appropriate arrangements for the care of the congregation, its members and life and mission are attended to”.
And, further, it says that “the affected congregation may participate in the process of investing the resources for which they were previously responsible into a new mission.”

A congregation affected has the right to appeal to the synod against all or part of a decision by a Presbytery based on the process only.

The proposal was passed by agreement on last day of the Assembly, meeting at the University of New South Wales, July 15-21.