By Colleen Geyer
Leadership and Theology Symposium, Adelaide, February 2020
The Uniting Church was built on an innovative and forward-looking idea, though built in a particular time and context. Still only a young church, it has grown and become more than could have been imagined at its birth and faced many challenges along the way. As we look to the future what type of leaders do we need and what challenges will they face? Can we as the Uniting Church be bold enough to listen to our history, step away from what has always been, be open to where God is leading us and step aside for the leaders who will take us there?
An increasing number of congregations and agencies marked the Uniting Church’s Day of Mourning in January.
Since 2019, the Church has asked its members to set aside a day to lament and acknowledge the ongoing impacts of invasion and colonisation on Australia’s First Peoples. People gathered for worship in a variety of ways on Sunday 19 January 2020 and in the week leading up to 26 January.
I recently attended the annual Refugee Alternatives Conference in my capacity as Chairperson of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.
Hosted by the Refugee Council of Australia, the event gathers advocates and organisations supporting refugees together with people with the lived experience of seeking asylum. The two-day program facilitates conversation about how Australia can do better in providing refuge and safety in our nation.
It was great to be there as part of the Uniting Church. Creating a more welcoming community and better outcomes for refugees is an important part of our vision for a just Australia.
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Dr Deidre Palmer has expressed heartfelt thanks to overseas partner churches for their extraordinary compassionate response to the recent bushfire crisis.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and compassion from churches all around the world, who’ve kept us in their prayers right through the bushfire crisis,” said Dr Palmer.
“Created in the Image of God – Who am I?” was the theme for the 2020 Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) Fijian National Conference (FNC).
We want to share with you the profound and powerful exchange we witnessed, where First and Second Peoples honour and respect each other’s understanding of country or vanua (land). Indeed of our connectedness in creation.
Leaders of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), the Uniting Church and UnitingCare Australia have described as a lamentable failure today’s revelation that Australia will not meet most of its Closing the Gap targets, while at the same welcoming the Federal Government’s promise of a more inclusive approach to First Peoples’ issues.
The President of the Uniting Church Dr Deidre Palmer has joined UAICC National President Rev. Garry Dronfield and UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little in lamenting today’s Closing the Gap report as “a serious humanitarian crisis”.
The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison launched the 12th annual Closing the Gap report in Federal Parliament today. In his address to the Parliament, Mr Morrison made clear that five of the seven Closing the Gap targets were not on track nor would they be met in the expected time frame.
More than 300 Fijian members of the UCA gathered together in joyful fellowship for the Uniting Church’s 2020 Fiji National Conference (FNC) from 6-10 February in Adelaide.
Delegates from across Australia travelled to the conference held at Brougham Place Uniting Church and Lincoln College, bringing together those who identify with Fijian culture in the Uniting Church to celebrate their culture and nourish their faith.
Over four days, participants were invited to unpack the theme, “Created in the Image of God, who am I?”
Special guests President of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma Rev. Dr Epineri Vakadewalosa and his wife Titilia attended the whole conference along with UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer.
The message via the Chinese messaging app WeChat arrived in Rev Dr Ji Zhang’s inbox on 29 January.
“Ji, may I ask whether you can purchase N95 masks? The China Christian Council and Three Self Patriotic Movement are in need. If you can purchase that item, please help us to obtain 3000 masks and send me the invoice. I will send you the money.”
It’s been a disturbing start to 2020. Bushfires across all states and territories have taken a devastating toll - 34 human lives, almost 6000 buildings and, according to some ecologists, more than one billion native animals. Many Australians have endured weeks of choking smoke and fear, and fires are still burning in many places. We’ll be counting the costs, physical, material, environmental and spiritual for years to come.
Amid this unprecedented crisis Uniting Church members have stood up - disaster chaplains, Defence Force chaplains, local ministers and congregation members. There are many powerful stories of Christian community and compassion for neighbours in their hours of need.
Late last year, we gathered to honour the life and mourn the passing of the Rev. Sealin Roger Garlett AM in the Kellerberrin Memorial Town Hall on the sovereign lands of the Ballardong Wadjuk Nyungar People, in Western Australia’s wheat belt.
The Uniting Church believes the latest version of the Federal Government's Religious Freedom Bills won't adequately balance the human rights of all Australians.
In a submission on the Religious Freedom Bills – Second Exposure Drafts, the Church said it could not support “blanket provisions that would permit statements and actions that demean and unjustly diminish the rights of others on religious grounds”.
“People should be able to enjoy their right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief – however, the manifestation or expression of their religion and beliefs should not harm or demean others, nor should it automatically be privileged over other rights,” said the Church.