12th Assembly 2009

President launches ‘confronting book’

On the second day of the Uniting Church’s 12th Triennial Assembly, the President, the Rev. Alistair Macrae, launched a book he described as confronting but which offered a “perspective of hope”.

Following Christ in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land, written by the Rev. Dr Chris Budden, a member of the Assembly Standing Committee, raises issues at the heart of the Uniting Church's identity.

july16_am_buddenlaunch_27It considers what it means to follow Jesus when the primary shaping reality in Australia is dispossession of Indigenous peoples. It looks at owning history, facing the subtle shape of racism and seeing Indigenous peoples as part of the church and not simply a group the church must “deal with”.

Exploring the way theology reflects the social context of the theologian, the book asks what cultural agendas theology has served in a nation, like Australia, that came about through the invasion of Indigenous peoples.

Mr Macrae commended Dr Budden for a work that was built on listening to Aboriginal experience as well as forged in theological study.

“Rarely could there ever be a more timely publication,” said Mr Macrae. He recalled the 1987 National Christian Youth Conference at which Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke: “When white man came to South Africa they taught us to close our eyes and pray to God. When we opened our eyes they had taken our land.”

Mr Macrae said, “This is a confronting book but, as we know, the truth sets us free.”

Dr Budden described the book as “an attempt to explore what a contextual theological method might look like for a second peoples who understand the centrality of our colonial history, and how that might impact on the way we talk about God, the church, justice, and relationships.”

He said he wrote the book because he wanted to explore what it meant to be a Christian in Australia, taking seriously that the church lived on Aboriginal land and has been part of the invasion of the country. “As a second peoples, how do we speak of God, the church and justice in this country?”

He said he hoped the book would contribute to a better understanding of Australia and that it would assist the church in thinking about the interests and privileges it protected and in being a more just community.

Mr Macrae encouraged Assembly members to buy the book and to form groups to study and discuss it. Dr Budden went one step further, asking people to personally engage with the territory in the book.

Dr Budden, a Uniting Church minister in Newcastle, New South Wales, Associate Researcher in the Public and Contextual Theology Strategic Research Centre at Charles Sturt University and adjunct faculty member at the United Theological College, Sydney, dedicated the book to the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and his wife, Wendy.

Waiting for the launch to commence, Dr Budden said he was looking forward to the book, which had been in his soul for so long, being “out there”. He said, “I think it’s a really important conversation to have.”

Following Christ in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land will be on sale during Assembly at the Mediacom stall for the special price of $30.00 and available on the Assembly website thereafter.