I am sorely troubled by our Church’s financial crisis at this time. I am troubled because I was involved; and at the outset I would wish to apologise for my personal role as a member of three previous Standing Committees. I however, do want to look forward. A debt has to be repaid – but now with some time to reflect, I am troubled as to the process the former Standing Committee, and the Synod itself has chosen.
The rubber is beginning to hit the road. Actual sale properties are beginning to be talked about. The “invitational message” to contribute is being spruiked. However, I see this message lacks any gleam of hope, or that we in the Uniting Church will be better or different for this rather painful experience. At the end of the day, will we actually get the money? I now imagine a different scenario. The church draws on its un-earmarked reserves (mercifully with a little bit of time before it has to do so).
This places immediate, urgent and critical pressure on the Church to restructure; be a church for the current times. Death comes to what we may have known. The agreed strategic review moves to being front and centre. There is energy over this (and no doubt grieving too.) Resurrection is however, discerned.
And yes, we are in time (the speed of the proposed process is frightening) invited to participate in this journey with our under-utilised assets. Yes, those reserves of the synod will need to be replenished, but people will now be contributing to a known, new look, mission focused church.
Ironically we have been given the opportunity to do some radical rethinking about being church, which is a good thing. The sad reality though is that by structuring “special circumstances” as just a debt and a “passive” reserve replenishment exercise, we may miss that opportunity.
Church of All Nations
Carlton, VIC 3053
I was disappointed to read your editorial comment in July’s Crosslight on a number of counts. I don’t disagree that politics can be “grubby”, but to imply that all your readers will share your opinion about the change in the ALP’s leadership and thus in prime ministers is inappropriate. I suspect that opinions about whether or not the grubbiness is contained solely in Kevin Rudd’s or his supporters’ actions will vary considerably, even among Uniting Church members.
Then, to couple this with your implied criticism of Jim Murray and Ian Cayzer, because they dared to question the official Senior Leadership Team’s line that “the whole church” is responsible for the Acacia debacle, is just not acceptable. You manage, without directly saying it, to imply that Jim and Ian are somehow not “proper” Uniting Church people, because they don’t accept the attempt of the Senior
Leadership Team and the previous Standing Committee to claim that it was all the fault of a system/structure problem! Belonging to the Uniting Church, “on the way together”, does not mean that members cannot draw different conclusions from that of the official “line” which apparently it is the Communications Unit’s task to promulgate.
I would hope that the official communication processes would not feed the growing distrust of the Synod leadership or any lack of willingness to cooperate amongst many members of the Church. Regardless of the consultant’s report regarding what went wrong with the Acacia debacle and why, the full text of which has not been released to the church generally, there are and will continue to be different, and I would suggest, valid views as to the lines of responsibility and accountability in this matter.
Robert W. Renton
Hoppers Crossing, VIC 3029
Wherever we go alcohol advertising is in our face. We cannot get away from it. It is on television. We hear it on radio. It is on the internet. It is in the newspapers. It is on billboards. It is on the apparel of sporting identities. It is everywhere and we can’t seem to escape from it. What is even worse, it is creating a culture that whatever we do alcohol seems to be necessary. Surely it is time to legislate to restrict and lessen this advertising. It has been done with tobacco and surely it is now time to do much the same for alcohol. This will, in some small way, help to change the culture that now seems to exist. It can be done. So let’s ‘Just do it’.
Cranbourne, VIC 3977
The letters attempting to rebut my May Crosslight letter are a farrago of assertions based on third-hand, often politically-motivated opinions, assumptions about scientific evidence, marketing ploys, actionable statements and personal advocacies unrelated to whether a “carbon tax” might “care for the poorest in society.” The letters repeat environmental advocacy agendas, concerns about “runaway material consumption” and pseudo-scientific climate assertions rather than addressing the key point made in my letter.
To repeat, the aim of carbon taxes is to reduce energy use by making it more expensive.
So-called “clean energy” is and will continue to be far more expensive, adversely affects the poor who can’t afford solar panels but must subsidise those who can and diverts scarce resources from remedying real and urgent problems facing the poor in Australia and overseas.
The world’s poor have the most to lose if denied access to cheap fossil fuel energy which has enhanced human living standards worldwide.
The letters assert their beliefs are supported by statements, reports and books from third parties with personal agendas, not necessarily associated with scientific or economic expertise.
Mr Cameron could study Figure 1. “Estimate of the Earth’s annual and global mean energy balance” on page 96 of the 2007 IPCC AR4 report to understand how the greenhouse hypothesis purports to provide twice as much energy as the sun.
The greenhouse hypothesis has never been proven to be a fact – advocates merely assert that if A and B change in step then A must cause B, forgetting that C might change both A and B. Although CO2 increased by one-third over the last 17 years, the climate hasn’t warmed.
Greenhouse advocacy is based on over-simplified scientific assumptions. Anyone seeking to understand the uncertainties of contemporary climate science could visit the website http://www.appinsys.com/globalwarming/SixtyYearCycle.htm
While many third-hand assertions about “extreme weather events” have been publicised, the evidence is consistent with my original letter.
Warrandyte, VIC 3133
We refer to the letter in the July edition of Crosslight from Rev Ian R Cayzer titled “Questions remain”. Rev Cayzer refers to questions from church members about the “bloated bureaucracy on 130 Little Collins Street”. The Board of Mission and Resourcing (BOMAR) is the council of the Church that has been tasked to oversee the Mission Support Fund Budget, which funds the cost of the majority of the staff costs at 130 Little Collins Street.
Each year, the executive directors of Support Services, Commission for Mission and Centre for Theology and Ministry present the staffing budgets to BOMAR. BOMAR reviews these budgets and recommends changes to the budget, as it deems appropriate. Once BOMAR is satisfied with the budget, it presents it to the Standing Committee for approval.
Therefore, as a member of BOMAR, Mr Cayzer is well-qualified to deal with comments from church members about staff numbers.
In this context it is worth noting that as a result of the financial stresses encountered from the Global Financial Crisis, a review of staff numbers at 130 Little Collins Street was completed in 2007, resulting in a number of redundancies. This was an unfortunate but necessary process.
There are also some general principles that apply to our employee remuneration and benefits. Synod staff are generally paid less than a commercial equivalent position although their qualifications and experience is on par. Many choose to work for the Church out of a strong sense of call. Some areas, such as UCA Funds Management, also have benchmarks in place to measure the efficiency of their service delivery.
The circumstances leading up to the Synod financial sustainability resolutions as well as their implementation have significantly increased the workload of many of our staff. While a few new specialist roles have necessarily been created, most of this additional workload has been absorbed into our current duties. At this point in time, the decline in Church members is having no visible impact on that workload.
This is not to say that synod is running a lean and mean administration. We develop services and manage people within the Ethos of the Uniting Church. Our workplace values include: inclusion, shared leadership, respect and wise stewardship – we resource the synod with these values in mind.
It is also worth mentioning that the Synod has authorised a Church-wide strategic review. It would be expected that this strategic review may well determine what services are required by the wider Church and appropriate adjustments will be made to staff numbers.
Executive Director Administration and Finance and
Executive Director UCA Funds Management
A response to Ian Cayzer’s and Jim Murray’s letters is necessary. It took an Australian leader over 200 years to apologise to the Indigenous people of Australia, so is it any surprise that, as there was no one person responsible for the Acacia College fiasco, UCA members did not receive an apology from those that we had placed in positions of trust?
Instead committees will vote to sell properties where, in all honesty, every missional aspect could not possibly be considered given the short time frame. As a lay person I see a cumbersome synod administration, an unsustainable hierarchy of presbytery ministers, a continuation of spending for BOMAR applications, when a moratorium on funding could be used towards the payment of the end of year debt.
God has promised that if we confess our mistakes and humble ourselves he will heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14 ). If we released presbytery ministers and synod workers to put Acts 2:31-47 into action in communities, ministering to those who are seeking and those who are new Christians hungry to know more about the saving grace of Jesus Christ and prayed for more people to have a Damascus experience, our communities would grow.
If we followed the initiative of Western Australia and moved to one Victorian Presbytery to deal with the necessary administrative and legal obligations we would free up many resources and money to pay off the debt.
It was clear at the last Synod that we all want to hear what others think, we want confession, and forgiveness for our mistakes as a synod, and we want God to have the glory. Wise stewards take responsibility for crucial decisions. Amalgamate to one Presbytery and resume yearly Synod meetings for wider participation in decision-making.
Cranbourne East, VIC 3977