12th Assembly 2009

Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry Q&A

1. Issue: Non-acceptance of Australian trained ministers into ethnic congregations. What steps are being taken to prepare candidates and congregations for this?

Brief background:
For many ministers from racial, cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds who train in Australia the act of undertaking training here is already a step away from the possibility of ministry within a ‘first generation’ congregation. Some are younger people who have already begun to connect into the more general and diverse Australian community life and cultural diversity. Some of the related but identifiable concerns linked with this include: wide differences in expectations of ministry in the ‘home’ culture and church tradition and in Australia; the nature of the training – liberal, western, and not connected clearly to the inseperables of language and culture. In addition the relationships between younger and older people within many cultures add significantly to the pressures on [mostly younger] ministers trained in Australia. It is almost impossible for a ‘young’ person to be in a leadership role that is perceived to be ‘over’ older leaders within a community group.

Some of the ministers from racial, cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds who trained in Australia deliberately choose not to seek ministry within congregations from the same background for reasons noted above. Others, after experience in a placement [or placements] where the community is not from their background, are taking up placements in mono-cultural congregations. But it is often the case that those communities seeking such a placement have already begun to recognise the need for such bridging gifts in order to more effectively minister to their own second generation younger people. Youth, young adults and families for whom the wider and more complex Australian context and cultural diversity and the English language is their everyday experience and place.

The journey is complex and as long as there are first-generation migrant communities solutions will always contain the kinds of responses noted above.

Increasingly conversations at the time of placements include reflection on the journey of a community into the life of the UCA. They provide opportunity to share with the community how a minister from that racial, cultural and language background who has trained in Australia can lead the people further on their journey into the UCA while respecting the nature, language, and faith expressions on their original community.

Some training colleges are further advanced than others in providing intentional [and required] exposure to and experience in other cultures and languages than the candidates own. However, that touches more closely with ministry in a multicultural church that re-entering into their original cultural and language community.

Regular conversations with mono-cultural communities about the Uniting Church, its ethos, understanding and practise of ministry and the vision of the Basis of Union are very important – though they are not used as often or as effectively and over sufficiently long periods of time in too many cases.
Work has recently begun to develop a ‘tool kit’ of resources for presbyteries to use in their relationships with and oversight of the diverse congregations and faith communities for whom they have oversight. These will include important questions to be asked of both congregations and fellowship groups and candidates/ministers, steps to building relationships, possible scenarios for conversation together, and substantial revisions of workshops to meet current need and build on growing experiences.

Overseas experiences seem to be indicating that where churches are growing as multicultural and cross-cultural churches, it is happening precisely in places where ministers from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, trained in the new home land, exercise ministry that reflects their own experience of everyday life and faith in that new homeland: multicultural and multifaith. So the difficulties of not returning to mono-cultural contexts, sits alongside God’s growing of new and diverse communities.

Could you please list which groups have national conference?

The Introduction to the Guidelines for National Conferences [Appendix A to the MCM report to the 12th Assembly] notes that there are 10 communities that have had National Conferences. The National Conferences themselves decide the frequency and place of their meetings.

  • Tongan - every year in June.
    Chinese - meets approximately every second year – last in 2008.
    Fijian – approximately every 18 months: next in Darwin in January 2010.
    Indonesian: approximately every 2 years: next in Melbourne in October 2009.
    Korean has not met in last few years as the establishment of the Korean Commission in NSW/ACT meets many of those aims for a significant number of congregations. They are discussing further the appropriate shape of future national gatherings that will not involve the smaller groups from other synods being overwhelmed by the large and structured NSW/ACT Commission.
    Filipino – every 2 years – most recent in June 2009.
    Niuean – meets every year in October.
    Samoan – every 2 years, last in 2008.
    Tamil – meets when their leadership calls, but works together in network on issues arising between eg. Sri Lanka.
    Vietnamese – most recent was a 2008 meeting of leaders shaping issues and specific ministry maters.


How do we hear from groups that do not have a National Conference?

MCM hears through growing networks via local ministry teams, presbytery and synod officers, and conversations with the National Director organised through some or all of those. Gatherings are also triggered by particular issues, or the importance of linking communities scattered across Australia.
MCM expects that the next groups to be gathered will be from Sudan. This will be more of a National gathering for communities from a region because “Sudanese” is complicated by the diversity of language and culture within those who are from this country a complexity disguised by the general use of the national title rather that the racial and cultural distinctions.

Questions answered by Rev. Tony Floyd, National Director Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry.