July letters

There are many things about Melbourne that make it an attractive city to live in. The football (yes, I’m a tragic fan). The cute, quaint coffee shops in all sorts of corners and alleyways in the city. The myriad of cultures, religions and traditions where people mix together on the way to/ from school, work and as everyone goes about their business.
I’ve chosen to live in the south-eastern suburbs and, on a daily basis, I enjoy living in a suburb where all those different traditions mix frequently – in the coffee shops; in the supermarket; at places of worship; and at the train station.  Usually very harmoniously. But not today.

Today I was travelling home on a train and two young men decided to try to pull the hijabs off two women on the train; and (as if that wasn’t enough) attempted to do similar to a young Sikh man’s turban as they were exiting the train.
This is in my city – in my ‘corner’ of Melbourne – and it disgusted me!

Yet, in this quite revolting and senseless act, there were signs of hope that I probably wouldn’t have expected. Other passengers on the train stood up for the victims and let the lads know what they thought.

People alighted from the train at the station to talk to local police who just so happened to be sitting on the platform.
People were sharing their stories of dismay – and I confess I felt relieved. I was relieved that so many people thought this was a senseless act that couldn’t be ignored, just like me.

The men didn’t hurt the people, but they showed a total disrespect to them.
And there were signs of dismay – one of the two women commented: “We’re fine, it’s happened before and it’s OK, it’s really nothing to worry about.”

My heart sank even lower than it was – it’s actually happened to them before? All my thoughts since the incident have been “It’s really NOT okay”, not by a long shot!

I got off the train and turned around to see the train doors close behind me and all three victims and their friends accompanying them continue on their way towards their destination. I saw numerous fellow passengers talking with police and I saw the two perpetrators run from the station, giggling, without even being followed.

And five hours later I’m still sitting here thinking about it all … their vulnerability has stayed with me ever since.
I actually hope that we continue to think about it all for months to come.  This type of incident should never go un-noticed and should never stop disgusting us! (Written on the evening of 14 June.)

Jill Ruzbacky
Glen Waverley, VIC 3150

As a long-term critic of the UCA’s association with fee-paying schools, it gives me no pleasure to read of the incredible debt (surprisingly, not actually detailed in the Crosslight article) that the synod has incurred as the result of its decision to establish Acacia College.

The question must be asked, however: “What kind of due diligence was undertaken before the college was built?”, if indeed any due diligence was undertaken and, if so, how could the project become so financially unviable so quickly?

The current crisis, however, affords an opportunity for the UCA to reconsider its association with its ‘church schools’, to divest itself of any associated property and to relocate to parishes clerical personnel in such schools, e.g. chaplains, before focussing on the sale of church buildings and urging congregations to make economies.

The rationalisation that such cost-cutting moves will be “a good thing” in the long term does little to assuage a feeling of betrayal when congregations are urged to sell their church properties and amalgamate congregations to help meet such a monumental debt which was none of their making.

Nancye Read
Kings Meadows, TAS 7249

The 2013 Synod I imagine was a difficult time for many, especially for the moderator. I left the Synod meeting saddened and concerned. Yes, we have an enormous debt that has to be paid, however I question the way the synod’s leadership/management team handled the issue.

Firstly, the synod’s failure to apologise for the debt crisis was disheartening. Each time the idea was raised it was dismissed on the basis that the Acacia debt was a whole of church matter; that is, it was not just the synod’s responsibility as the debt evolved through the work of a congregation, a Presbytery, a school and synod committees.

I found this a disingenuous explanation.

Expenditure over a certain amount requires synod approval through its boards and committees. This would or should have happened with Acacia. Irrespective of the debt details, it occurred under the watch of the synod’s leadership/management team. An apology would have helped rebuild trust between the synod and the wider church, which surely is bewildered by the predicament and the synod’s resolution that now puts onto it the burden for addressing the debt.

Secondly, there were moments when I thought I was attending a corporate meeting, not a council of the church. We were told: “The loss of $38 million on Acacia is minor in relation to the Church’s net assets in Victoria and Tasmania.”

In whose language is the loss of $38 million dollars a minor issue? It certainly is not for many who regularly  contribute to the ministry of the church through their offerings and fundraising efforts, or for the hungry and homeless for whom the church has a Christ given responsibility.

The synod leadership/management team’s handling of the Acacia issue at the Synod meeting was over-managed, insular and defensive.
The 2013 Synod theme was “Wait, listen, trust: hope comes”.

I’m still waiting. I listened but trust was not encouraged; there were times when I could not put up either an orange, blue or yellow card during the meeting. And hope has not come as those who will lead us forward are essentially the same group on whose watch the debt crisis occurred.

At present many congregations are being encouraged to explore ‘fresh expressions’ of church – maybe the synod’s leadership/management team will take a similar pathway.

Jim Murray
St Albans/Caroline Springs,
VIC 3023

Michelle Stephens (June) asks some fundamental questions arising from the issue of Acacia College and the steps that the synod has taken so far. I wish to pursue some of them.

While letters from the moderator and general secretary were sent to churches as promptly as possible, the wider synod is still very much in the dark as to what is being proposed and what the implications are.

Knowing I am a member of BOMAR and also present at the Synod meeting, members of the Church Council at Trinity in Brighton – long term, faithful members of the church – have plied me with questions. “Who has resigned? Who has been sacked?” They look at me with astonishment when I say, noone.

I am asked: “Who is taking personal responsibility for this debacle?” I cannot give them a good answer. They also question the value to the church of having such a “bloated bureaucracy in 130 Little Collins Street”.

“At the rate the church is declining,” they say, “their jobs will be safe, but there will be nothing left to manage. The Ministers of the Word in Synod appointments should be out in a congregation where they are needed most.”

I am certain that these questions and comments in similar forms are being asked across the whole synod. They deserve good answers to assure the church that the governance procedures are being tightened and transformed. There also needs to be a solid justification of the value to the synod of all who work in the synod office.

I believe the Church will be helped by seeing the whole of the proposal which was agreed to by the Synod.

In it, as well as the declaration of ‘Special Circumstances’ there was also the section in which the Church is to be invited to contribute to a reduction of the debt from amongst its own resources. I look forward to the articulation of this opportunity to the Church so we may respond as the whole body of Christ to this issue.

But the trust of the members of the wider church has been fractured by the governance mistakes which have been made and until that is restored then the willingness of the wider church to contribute to the reduction of this debt will be severely limited.

Ian R. Cayzer
Trinity UCA, Brighton, VIC 3186

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