We, the people of St Columbas have been chosen.
Our church, our halls, our kindergarten, our tennis courts and our manse are to be sold to pay off your debt.
“It’s unjust! You should fight. Stage a sit in! Rev up the media! Get up a petition!” our wider community tells us.
But we choose to accept
Not because we think we wouldn’t win.
But because, in the unlikely event that we did win our burden of grief and anger would fall on someone else.
The debt must be paid.
We did not want to be chosen but by choosing to accept in a very real sense we are giving our life for you.
Please don’t waste it.

Rosalind Kentwell
For the People of St Columbas


David Stannard (October) either deliberately distorts or wholly misunderstands my letter from the September edition of Crosslight. He also appears to have not grasped the nature of the report by PPB Advisory.
Firstly, the PPB Advisory report was not ‘about’ the conduct of synod staff in relation to Acacia College. Rather, it was an assessment of all the UCA councils and committees which were involved in the management of that project. Councils and committees, it need hardly be said, that were in many instances populated by people who are not synod staff.
Secondly, the point of my letter (and the conversation with the synod employee which Mr Stannard quotes out of context) was to argue that instead of vilifying the staff at the synod office, we would be better served by acknowledging the many areas of pain and distress that now exist within our church, and by ministering to one another in our shared trauma.
The sooner we realise that the ‘culpability’ for Acacia College extends across the whole church, and the sooner we abandon the witch-hunt that is determined to have its sacrificial scapegoat, the sooner we will begin the process of healing that we all desperately need.

Rev Brendan Byrne
Mitcham, VIC 3132


As a proud member of the Uniting Church family (since it was formed in 1977) I am very disappointed by the ill-informed, knee-jerk reactions of a few vocal members of our Church to the decision of the 2013 Synod to divest property to pay back debt.
If only these negative, emotionally charged members of our Church would step back, and get things into the right perspective, all this stone-throwing would not be necessary.
I personally believe the learnings from the Acacia College closure will do the Church a service, bringing it into the real commercial world of today, and out of the horse-and-buggy days, when committees of well-intentioned members of the Church were able to administer their own little kingdoms.
These days things have become very complex, with the need to consult with people (not necessarily members of the Church family) who have specialised in the particular business venture, or mission of the Church.
When one considers that $55 million is only 1 per cent of the total value of Church properties, it is a very minimal adjustment to a not-for profit business, which is asset rich but cash flow poor. Why not give our Church the opportunity to learn from its mistakes of the past, and allow it to move forward as the pilgrim Uniting Church as set out in our Basis of Union 36 years ago?
After all, to this point in time it appears everyone in authority within the Church has acted in good faith, in this instance.  That said, my prayers are with congregations who will have to move as a result of the divestment.
And may God receive the Glory for all the successful achievements of the Church.

Gary Shaw 
Ballan, VIC 3342


The August issue carried a review by Emmet O’Cuana of my book In God They Trust?  which is a study of the religious beliefs of Australia’s prime ministers since Federation. While describing the premise as “fascinating”, Mr O’Cuana was uncomplimentary. He dismissed my book (ungrammatically) as “a slim tome content to make personal assertions in place of genuine analysis”.

Yet the book is 288 pages long (nearly 100,000 words). Most of it is solidly factual, based on scores of primary and secondary sources. Contrary to Mr O’Cuana’s insinuations, I rely wherever possible on the personal testimony of the 23 prime ministers themselves – including most of those who are now dead. Written records of their beliefs survive in many cases, and, where they do not, I am careful explicitly to say so.

Any book reviewer is entitled to his opinions. But Mr O’Cuana’s review contained numerous misstatements and non sequitors (sic). His erroneous reference to Ben Chifley as “Joseph Chifley” was especially telling. Even so, I fear that some prospective readers may have been dissuaded. That troubles me, because I have great admiration for the Uniting Church and its precursor bodies in Australia.

Several notable prime ministers whose lives I examine – Fisher (Presbyterian), Cook (Methodist), Menzies (Presbyterian/Methodist), Hawke (Congregationalist) and Howard (Methodism) – were steeped in the non-conformist tradition. In relation to Hawke, Harold Holt, and Julia Gillard, Mr O’Cuana grotesquely distorted certain of my arguments. Space does not permit a detailed refutation.

Most bizarrely of all, Mr O’Cuana asserted that the book’s cover image – of New Parliament House in Canberra – “smacks of paranoia towards state power”. I hold no such attitude. To the contrary, I contend that, overall, Australia has been well-served by its prime ministers – both believers and unbelievers alike. I argue in favour of the (Christianly) exercise of state power.

Roy Williams
St Ives, NSW 2075


I fail to see how 100 plus theologians in preparing the NIV Bible could all get it so wrong! Am I to understand Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable”, does not refer to homosexuality? Leviticus 18:22 is equally explicit, as are several passages in the NT, e.g. Romans 1. No amount of mental gymnastics could result in saying the Bible is “completely silent” about sexual relationships of the same gender.

I saw no reference in the debate on the effect of same-sex marriage on children. Nobody who cares about the welfare of children could deliberately force a child to grow up without a biological mother and father. This is tantamount to child abuse. What did Jesus say about putting a stumbling block in the way of one of his innocents?

Let’s hope that common sense and God’s pattern of marriage, Genesis 2:24, will prevail – for the good of our families, community, and social fabric.

Beverley Horton
Birchip, VIC 3483


PS Clarke’s letter ‘Climate Debate’ in the August Crosslight brings up a typical problem that I have seen over the years – that of statements of fact not supported by scientific data. The only official source of scientific weather data is held by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) which is an agency of the UN.

This, once analysed, proves that PS Clarke’s assertion that “Although CO2 increased by one-third over the last 17 years the climate hasn’t warmed” is simply wrong. The climate has warmed in those 17 years, some of which were amongst the warmest on record.

One wonders where the writer’s information came from; it certainly was not from any official source.

We often hear statements on the climate. The only people qualified to comment credibly on scientifically collected data are professional climate scientists. Of this group, about 97 per cent support the notion of man-made climate change.

Many who comment are not professional climate scientists and it is ludicrous to believe that their statements contradicting these scientists are credible. Many have no scientific background at all and turn what is a question of science into politics, something extremely different in nature.
They are often strong in opinion in the media but very weak on evidence to support their claims. They can be safely ignored on this subject.

Rob Stevens
Glenthompson, VIC 3293


The question in Cambodia in 1992 was how to provide Christian ministry once religious freedom had been granted. It took 10 years to realise that pastors needed jobs to support themselves while lay members needed to be more involved. Big churches today may have a non-salaried pastor but support other staff. These churches are self-supporting, needing no foreign aid, involved in communities, expanding, and seeing themselves blessed in serving God.

Is this a vision not ideally suited to the Uniting Church situation today? It is an improvement on the ‘Home Missionary’ situation in New Zealand years ago, but not beyond the capacity of good regulations and vision.

Margaret Turnbull
Altona Meadows, VIC 3028


There is an edict which says that in order to predict the future we must understand the past – or words to that effect.

Sadly, this philosophy is rarely invoked and the ‘War on Terror’ is one such example. A ‘simple’ war on terror would be reprehensible, but the Coalition of the Willing, western Christian countries, started something in 2001 which is having dire consequences for the primarily Muslim communities of the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And do we think this will stamp out terrorism? Is it logical to say, “If you do not believe in peace and the brotherhood of man, we will bomb you to extinction”?

And now there is the civil war in Syria where the two/many factions are being supplied with arms by powerful countries which really should be cited for war crimes.

They would have profited from the words of Erasmus (1466-1536), a Dutch humanist and theologian who, as a Hebrew prophet might have done, wrote:

“There is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more deeply tenacious, more loathsome, than war. Whoever heard of a hundred thousand animals rushing together to butcher each other, as men do everywhere?”

A declaration of war ensures that “All the affairs of the state are at the mercy of the appetites of a few.” Nothing has changed over the last 500 years except the weapons of war have become all the more destructive.

Let the Uniting Church be remembered not for the property sell-off, but for speaking out about this destructive and divisive war. If we stay silent it is assumed we agree and this will forever be a blight on our humanity and our Christian beliefs.

Jim Aylmer
Mt Waverley, VIC 3149

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