Thursday, 21 June 2018

Hearts on Fire for Treaty

The 14th President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has urged Church members to address the “unfinished business” of sovereignty and treaty for First Peoples in his final national message.

“I started my Presidency with the Yolŋu words Bala limurr roŋyirr ŋorraŋgitjlil  - ‘Let us return to the white ashes of the fire’,” said Mr McMillan.

“It was a call to reflect on the way all the people of God, First and Second Peoples have been sustained by the Holy Spirit in their own way.”

“I continue to invite Church members to consider what it would mean for the practices of our Church to honour First Peoples as sovereign in this land and what it means to stand with them in their pursuit of just terms treaties.

“The conversation continues and the movement for Treaty is stirring again as the ashes of my time are cooling.

“I pray that the Holy Spirit will rekindle the embers of the work done by both First and Second Peoples over the last three years so that we can together strive to achieve a more just church and nation.”

The theme Mr McMillan chose for his triennium as President was Hearts on Fire.

A proposal to the Fifteenth Assembly in July will ask the Uniting Church to affirm that the First Peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal and Islander Peoples, are sovereign peoples in this land.

Mr McMillan said it had been a joyful, challenging and inspiring three years as President.

“I thank God for the great blessing of serving the Church in this role,” he said.

In his message to coincide with the Uniting Church’s 41st Anniversary on 22 June, the President also honoured Church women and men who had stood together with First Peoples in their struggles for their rights, the UCA’s international church partners and emerging young leaders in the Uniting Church.

“The love of Christ shared in all these relationships, these fellowships of reconciliation, is life-giving.”

Quoting from Hebrews 10:24 Mr McMillan urged Uniting Church members to fellowship wherever they may be.

“Beloved, let us continue to ‘consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, but encouraging one another’.”

“In your place you are Church, you are called to be a fellowship of reconciliation to shine the love and light of Jesus in your communities. I have been deeply blessed to share with many of you the ways in which you have been led to do this.”


 UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA ANNIVERSARY MESSAGE TRANSCRIPT

President Stuart McMillan: Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This month marks the 41st anniversary of our uniquely Australian Church.

Next month my term as the 14th President will end and Dr Deidre Palmer will be installed as President.

It’s been a joyful, challenging and inspiring three years and I thank God for the great blessing of serving the Church in this role.

I’m thinking though about unfinished business…

I started my Presidency with the Yolgnu words

“Bala limurr roŋyirr ŋorraŋgitjlil”

“Let us return to the white ashes of the fire”…

It was a call to reflect on the way all of God’s people, First and Second Peoples have been sustained by the Holy Spirit in their own way.

I continue to invite Church members to consider what it would mean for the practices of our Church to honour First Peoples as sovereign in this land and what it means to stand with them in their pursuit of “just terms” treaties.

The conversation continues and the movement for Treaty is stirring again as the ashes of my time are cooling.

Like the ashes of the fires from the gathering of the First Nation leaders at Uluru in May 2017, the passion from the Statement from the Heart was not grown cold.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will rekindle the embers of the work done by First and Second Peoples over the last three years so that we can together strive to achieve a more just church and nation.

Our commitment to be a fellowship of reconciliation has been a constant in our life since Union.

Recently I was in Buderim Queensland, firstly, to honour a retired minister and missionary the Rev. Peter O’Connor who served with distinction the Church and the people of Warruwi, Goulburn Island in Western Arnhem Land.

Peter along with so many other faithful women and men stood together with First People in their struggle against the colonising powers, and for their rights as Indigenous people of this land.

They’ve shown the way for us and now within the Covenant we have with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress we honour First Peoples as sovereign in this land and stand with them in their pursuit of “just terms” treaties.

This business is unfinished.

In Queensland, I was able to connect with the national leaders from each state who work with children, youth and young adults in our Church.

I’ve been privileged to spend time in community with many of these younger people at National Young Adult Leadership Conferences, Yuróra/National Christian youth events, and National Conferences of the large migrant ethnic communities within our Church.

I’ve been deeply touched by their passion to be a fellowship of reconciliation, and truly an intercultural community. These members of our Church have “hearts on fire”, for the gospel and for their generations. They are passionate about justice and Jesus.

Friends, we need to invest in them, commit to walking with them and recognise the importance of their voice and leadership.

Repeatedly, in this past three years, our sisters and brothers in our international partner churches have said how much they value the relationship, the fellowship of reconciliation they have with us.

I have said of my time in the Middle East last year the declaration of the Church Orthodox, Catholic, and

Protestant in Lebanon is a word for us all.

They say: “We practise a theology of impact”.

Our friends in the Pacific ask us to pray with them and act with them because of the devastating and increasing effects of climate change upon their communities.

In Asia our partners are focussed on health and wholeness. The love of Christ in all these relationships, these fellowships of reconciliation, is life-giving.

Finally, in your place you are Church, you are called to be a fellowship of reconciliation to shine the love and light of Jesus in your communities.

I have been deeply blessed to share with many of you the ways in which you have been led to do this. So beloved, “let us continue to consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, but encouraging one another.”

I offer this blessing, in the words of Aunty Betty Pike: “May you hold the warmth of the campfire in your heart, and may the Creator Spirit always walk with you”.