Church leads the way

penny mulveyPENNY MULVEY

The ABC is once again inviting Australian voters to participate in the online civic engagement tool, Vote Compass, in the lead up to the July federal election.

Participants are invited to rate from A to E (A being ‘strongly disagree’ and E being ‘strongly agree’), their responses to 30 policy propositions unnamed political scientists have determined are relevant to the federal election campaign.

The third statement of the survey relates to constitutional reform: “The Australian constitution should recognise Indigenous people as Australia’s first inhabitants.”

Uniting Church members would applaud such a profound amendment to the Australian Constitution.

This Church was the first in Australia to constitutionally acknowledge Aboriginal and Islander people as the First Peoples of this land.

The preamble to the Uniting Church constitution was passed by the 12th Assembly in 2009. An extensive period of consultation across the length and breadth of Australia followed, seeking endorsement of synods and presbyteries, as required for constitutional change.

It is a document worthy of reading and re-reading. It acknowledges the colonising churches’ complicity in the many injustices inflicted on Australia’s First Peoples. The preamble makes clear that God was present and in relationship with the First Peoples long before the colonisers arrived.

It states: “The First Peoples had already encountered the Creator God before the arrival of the colonisers; the Spirit was already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony. The same love and grace that was finally and fully revealed in Jesus Christ sustained the First Peoples and gave them particular insights into God’s ways.”

The Uniting Church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress are committed to a covenanting relationship which fosters just, inclusive and equal relationships, recognising the place of First Peoples in Australia.

While the Church will repeatedly slip up, fall back into old habits of assuming the dominant voice, the covenental relationship is, according to the preamble, “a foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation”.

The Revised Preamble expressly acknowledges failures inflicted against Indigenous Australians. However, the Preamble also brings healing and celebration. The Uniting Church is leading the way. Revisit the Preamble, reflect on its words, and consider engaging with friends and family.

Together, God, the Uniting Church and the UAICC could set an example to change a nation.

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