In the November issue of Crosslight there was a letter claiming that the Bible spoke clearly against homosexuality.
Despite the fact that the practices spoken against are not the same as modern homosexual relationships, the Bible is not without error.
The Bible also speaks against women and the disabled. It endorses genocide, incest, and rape.
So even if we take the passages relating to homosexual acts as given, that does not mean we should obey them today.
Michael E. East
Throughout our church history, trust has been the deeply inherent principle in property ownership. Prior to Union, church properties were in the technical legal ownership of local Trustees, respected people who acted with the trust of their congregation and were personally accountable for their decisions.
When the UCA was formed, legal property ownership transferred to the Property Trust – a carefully chosen word to continue the principle of trust – while responsibility remained with parishes. Properties were never intended to become financial assets to be traded at will. Property purchases and sales took place after considerable processes, consultation and strategic analysis.
In what has happened in recent months, any hint of that trust has turned to dust.
Many congregations, UnitingCare organisations, etc. were suddenly forced to justify their existence, becoming victims for a situation over which they had absolutely no control. The driving forces of the Uof process were urgency and dollar return. Short term panic created hasty and poor property sale decisions, the impact of which will reverberate for decades.
In the case of the South Geelong property, this missionally strategic property which has been the base for UnitingCare Geelong for 20 years was targeted for sale purely on the basis of its potential dollar value. It sold by private sale weeks before the auction. The sale of this property was a terrible decision.
In these Special Circumstances, congregations were rendered powerless and are unable to negotiate alternatives that could have provided equal financial results but better outcomes for the people and our mission.
Any credibility the UCA had to speak on justice and ethics is now sadly in tatters. The Acacia College governance failure was replaced by another. The collateral damage from the Uof process is immense. UCA members have been dis-enfranchised and disillusioned. Forgiveness will no doubt eventually come but none of us should ever forget.
I was interested to see an advertisement in the December issue of synod e-newsletter for a Strategic Review Program Director. This position offers a valuable opportunity to use the gifts of modern management to help the church. However I was recently impressed by the call by Howard Wallace and John Bottomley, in their book Hope for Justice and Reconciliation, for a ‘bilingual approach’: “that is, to have the facility to engage with the predominant secular discourse of corporate governance but ensuring that reflecting God’s presence in contemporary circumstance is the foundation of the Church’s speech.”
Wallace and Bottomley are two of this synod’s teachers and prophets, and in their book they have created a way forward for the church. They use the eyes of Isaiah and the stories of Israel’s social collapse, exile and return to prompt today’s church to reimagine its relationship with God and its call by God.
They call upon the church to enter into ‘Deep Listening’ in a similar way to that of the Ngungikurungkurr aboriginal people of the Northern Territory; deep and respectful listening that builds community. They also call for a full understanding of confession and forgiveness, and a turning away from old structures of sin and evil embedded in modernity.
In view of the recent history of our own Uniting Church, it would not be far from the truth to say that we are in our own ‘exile’. I believe it would be timely for the whole church to reflect on Wallace and Bottomley’s provocative book at the same time as the strategic review of the synod’s management functions takes place. In this way the Uniting Church may be a church which really desires to respond to God’s call, and plans its future in harmony with this call.
Rev Richard Arnold
Unfortunately Dan Wootton’s attempt to mollify those Uniting Church members, like me, who are dismayed and embarrassed by events relating to the closure of Acacia College (Crosslight Nov 2103) takes the line that is precisely the opposite of what is required.
By asserting that no one person or group is to blame and that a very wide group of ‘individuals, committees and councils of the church’ contributed to what has happened, he appears to be setting up the conditions for the same thing to occur again in the future when any other substantial mission project is undertaken.
I would agree that all of us have a shared responsibility for formulating and owning the mission of the Uniting Church. However the delivery of the mission is quite a different matter.
Major projects (and certainly those with the ambition and scope of Acacia) require a fully-fledged professional management approach.
There needs to be a board of experienced people with a range of finance, human relations, administration and related skills. The board should have a chairperson with an even higher level of expertise, knowledge and experience to guide the project through all phases from conception to completion. [Ed: This has now been implemented for major projects.]
The project itself should be led on a day-to-day basis by a highly competent Chief Executive Officer who is answerable to the board and directly responsible for the delivery of the project as designed on time and within budget.
If the project succeeds, praise should rightly go to the board, CEO and the staff involved. On the other hand, if the project fails responsibility rests with the board, CEO and staff involved.
Ultimate responsibility for the activities of the Uniting Church within Victoria should rest with the Moderator. If measures such as these are not put in place, and we hide behind a rubric that says that everyone but no-one in particular is responsible, it is inevitable that there will be another calamity.
Glen Waverley VIC
Shirley Gunson (letters Dec) attributes the problems of the UCA to being too hierarchical and non-democratic. I would suggest the opposite is in fact the case. At the formation of the UCA the proposal of having bishops was overruled, even scorned by some, who argued that a ‘flat’ non-hierarchical structure in which everyone had equal participation was appropriate to the ethos of the newly formed church.
It was to be a system of interrelated committees.
Having been involved over many years in various UC committees, including Synod Standing Committee, I have often been dismayed by the way in which committees seemed oblivious of each other, and of the inevitable poor decision making which resulted.
Often task committees have come and gone without others knowing, and without any outcomes at all. Confusion is inherent in such a structure.
For example, I was a member of the committee formed to respond to the then proposed Gonski reforms. By the time they met it was too late to make a submission, so they decided to continue to formulate policy for future reform – and never met again.
The ultimate result of such a system is the predicament in which we now find ourselves and it surprises me that it hasn’t occurred sooner.
Unless the forthcoming Strategic Review is open to a completely new structure of the UC at all levels, one which I hope will be hierarchical and which will clearly delineate those responsible for decisions taken, I hold little hope for our future.
We are in imminent danger of being the first church to democratize ourselves out of existence.
I am struggling with the Christian message of love and respect for all people as that has not been my experience recently in my congregation. I suffered months of harassment and more recently vicious and sustained bullying, both verbal and non-verbal such as exclusion, isolation and withholding of information.
The result was extreme stress and I had to withdraw from the many roles I had previously held in the congregation. I attend worship occasionally but find it extremely difficult.
The most disappointing aspect of this situation is that despite all the policies and rhetoric issued in the name of the Uniting Church and the stated Zero Tolerance Policy, no-one was interested or able to help me – not the elders, the chairman of church council, the minister, visiting ministers, the three presbytery ministers – and I was even told that I had to “toughen up”.
Obviously it is too late to change my situation but I write in the hope that this will change for others.
The person who is bullied needs to be taken seriously by at least one other person to retain any semblance of self-respect, and it appears that those in positions of authority need training to effectively deal with bullying.
It has been a completely devastating time in my life and one from which it will take a long time to recover.
The June issue of Crosslight last year ran an article regarding the satisfaction of becoming involved in one or more of the many synod committees. Interesting interviews with one of the most experienced and one of the newest committee members made for absorbing reading.
The start of the new year would be a good time for people to consider how they can become involved in the decision making process of the wider church community. Readers who are interested in joining a committee, or just finding out more, can obtain this information.
I am chairperson of the Nominations Advisory Panel, a group whose role largely involves suggesting suitable people to populate the many committees in our synod.
The staff person providing administration support for the Panel is Clare Boyd-Macrae, and anyone interested in more information about committees is welcome to contact her on 9251 5210 or email@example.com
Chairperson, Nominations Advisory Panel
I read in Crosslight December issue that a new formation of the financial Committee within the UCA is to take charge of these matters.
Those appointed appear to have excellent financial and business acumen and will be able to decide the viability for future projects following the debacle over the closure of Acacia College and the management of the financial affairs.
However, we hope that the new Finance Committee and synod will consult all UCA churches, church councils and parishioners who all make up the church, if ever they consider projects such as we have seen that require large amounts of capital and carry a risk factor.
I’m sure that some parishioners, church councils and others have a good working knowledge, past skills etc that they would be able to draw on to contribute with good input and useful ideas.
Let us hope that if a project is considered for the future that it is started in a small moderate way and then continue as funds become available and the financial support is there to guarantee the finished product.
May God grant us the serenity to accept what has happened and it will be resolved eventually in the way it has been intended to happen.