12th Assembly 2009

Redundant rules reformed

The Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia is streamlining its constitution and regulations.

In the Thursday morning session, the Assembly meeting in Sydney considered four proposals brought by working groups of the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC).

While such decisions often pass without controversy, they can be important for the life of local churches.

One such discussion related to proposal 24, on the process of electing elders. The change to regulation 3.1.14 reflects common local practice where congregations agree to require a higher threshold than 50 per cent plus one to elect a church elder.

The new regulation means congregations can set their own level, as long as they do so before nominations.  This eliminates concerns that a level might be set higher to block a particular nominee.

Proposals 19 and 20 related to membership of the ASC, which has been altered to allow only five members of each synod, rather than the previous six. This will allow more even representation across the life of the church.

The ASC can now co-opt up to four members if they feel additional expertise or experience is needed. ASC membership must still comply with the rule of not having more ordained than lay members. 

The regulations will be changed to allow the ASC to appoint a chairperson of the audit and finance committee who is not an Assembly member.

Assembly General Secretary the Rev. Terence Corkin said the change was needed because “the standards in audit and finance skills are very high”. Such a person was not currently available from within the Assembly.

The Assembly also passed by consensus a proposal to allow the ASC to review the whole of the regulations to simplify the language and remove parts that are overly prescriptive.

Mr Corkin said the ASC was not asking permission to add new regulations but was “looking for a more helpful way of expressing the regulations that are already in place.”