Letters – July 2014

Kevin McIntosh (June) is both confused and in joy about his experiences of baptism. In the first decade or so after the Second World War, baptism was a hot topic for discussion. We avidly read the works of Neville Clark, Stephen Winward, Alec Gilmore and George R. Beasley-Murray (all ecumenical and evangelical Baptists in Britain).  On the continent there were engaged in this discussion Oscar Cullmann and Kurt Aland and Joachim Jeremius, the last two of whom were so active that they wrote 10 books on the subject, five against the other in each case.

Karl Barth, wrote a book on the adult baptism side (The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism, 1945).  In the 1960s his son Markus – a NT scholar – told him that not a stone stood on a stone in his former book, so he set out to make amends.  The result, Church Dogmatics IV.4 (fragment), was completed before Karl Barth died. It includes 38 pages on baptism with the Holy Spirit and 174 pages on baptism with water. Barth was unashamedly an adult Baptist when it came to baptism. The book was published in 1969.

Moltmann was also an adult Baptist.  He wrote  The Church in the Power \of the Spirit (1977).

Geoffrey Wainwright, world Methodist leader, gathered representatives of all the church at Lima, Peru in 1981 and the statement which emerged on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) has been much agreed with.  Both infant baptism and adult baptism are thoroughly treated.  Wainwright has also written his own book on the subject entitled Christian Initiation.

Baptism still teases us but the teaching of the church is that it can be infant baptism or adult baptism.  Perhaps the answer is to do what the Greek Orthodox do and immerse a baby less than seven days after birth.

Rev Rowan Gill


At the church council meeting last night the OH&S manual was tabled along with a requirement for monthly/ bimonthly etc checks on paths, electrical cords, fire doors and the like, plus a yearly return to say we had complied with all this. In addition to this, the requirement that many of these had to be carried out by a qualified contractor was also noted.

Does the synod have any idea or concern about just what this means? We are not fools or immature adults. If something already put in place (at considerable expense) is no longer working properly, it will be fixed. Bringing in contractors to check on this costs money. The only suggestion we have had from the synod office is that churches cluster together to use one person. Possible perhaps when the next church is down the road. Far-fetched as a money-saving suggestion when the nearest church is many kilometres away.

The idea of all these checks reminds me of the national budget. It will hurt the vulnerable small churches considerably more than large churches which will spend exactly the same amount of money on these requirements.

The money given to the church is given in good faith to promote God’s kingdom. And as a church council we need to respond to this.
I cannot in all conscience suppose that paying a tradesman to check on doors and light globes fulfils this task.

This is not the Uniting Church that I know and love.

Carmyl Winkler
Tallangatta, VIC


Establishing Uniting Journeys (June) highlights for me whether we have learned anything from Acacia in terms of governance. Did the Commission for Mission board have a full business case and risk assessment done prior to endorsing this proposal? When did Ecclesiastical Tourism become a core mission of the Uniting Church?

Dr Stephen O’Kane


It’s good that questions around Uniting Journeys are being asked, sparking interest in how people within and beyond the Uniting Church can travel most responsibly. Chip Henriss offered some of the philosophical reasons why the CFM embarked on this project in his article: “… the Commission for Mission is in the business of making life a richer, deeper experience; whether that is a camping trip, working with other faiths and cultures or operating a restaurant for people in need through a UnitingCare agency”.

As to the questions of risk raised by Dr Stephen O’Kane, it was a risk mitigation mindset that prompted the particular design of Uniting Journeys. This is foremost a community and movement building activity. It uses a reputable commercial travel provider to conduct the business and technical activities associated with the travel undertaken. This separation of functions (Church involved in building community; travel business in managing the travel) was established when preliminary risk assessments highlighted the fact that operating as a ‘de facto’ tour operator (at any time the Church does this) is an unacceptable risk. The separation of function ensures that substantive financial or regulatory risk now sits with Jetaway Travel.

Adrian Pyle
Director: Relationships Innovation
Commission for Mission


I have had the opportunity over several years of speaking with a few Iraqis now living in Australia who were confident that things could never be as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein.  Well they were right of course, things are much, much worse.

And where does the blame lie?  With the coalition of the willing, including the USA, the UK and, of course Australia. Thousands of Australians marched against the Iraq war, but “the man of steel” went ahead in support of his great friend, George Dub-ya.

As a Christian, I was horrified that Bush claimed that God told him to invade Iraq, but it confirmed that the original justification of WMDs was indeed a furphy.  Presumably in his chat with God, the dropping of thousands of tonnes of bombs and the killing and maiming of nearly one million Iraqis and displacement of many times this number was also sanctioned.

Wonderful and historic cities such as Faluja and Basra were laid waste and the only winners were the armament suppliers and any country which would benefit from the destabilisation of the Arab world.  To date, no-one has been indicted for this terrible tragedy.

To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and surprise, surprise, we see that Muslim militants are sweeping through Iraq, determined to get rid of those who collaborated with the invaders in 2003.

The current insurgency by Islamic militants can surely be sheeted back to “Shock and Awe” and the subsequent gross mismanagement.

If the West goes in again will this be pouring petrol on the fire?

We must pray for reason and a respect for the sensibilities of the region. And our representatives in Canberra, many professing faith, must be clearly told of our concerns surrounding further military involvement.

If Iraq and the region is left to resolve what is now a terrible situation, it may hopefully be a repeat of Vietnam, which was brutalised, but has now taken a place of significance in Asia and the world.

Jim Aylmer
Mt Waverley, VIC


I read with interest the article under the above caption that appeared in your June 2014 newspaper.

While I applaud the efforts of the organisers and sponsors of the event for their hard work and noble ideals, I feel that their effort to bring the Sri Lankan Diaspora into meaningful interaction is somewhat premature. In-depth meaningful interaction can be achieved only if there is a climate of mutual trust between members of the Diaspora. I say so because I consider that the root cause of the drifting apart of the two major ethnic groups in the SL Diaspora is because of the conflict that is experienced back in our original home country.

Although the ethnic war came to a brutal end about five years ago, the unification of the two communities with justice and peace, and a resolution of the causes that gave rise to the war, have, unfortunately, not yet been satisfactorily addressed by the government of SL.

It is my opinion that, initially, every effort should be made by members of the SL Diaspora and other interested parties to promote peaceful reconciliation with justice and freedom in the home country. Once this goal is achieved, the differences felt amongst members of the SL Diaspora will automatically melt away and mutual trust and respect will be restored. Mingling together in one-off events might be useful but will not bring about a genuine healing of the wounds. I believe that a deep relationship, mutual trust and healing cannot be truly achieved unless it is preceded with peace and justice being restored in the home country.

Rajah Wilson
(Member of the Forest Hill Uniting Church, Victoria)


What a wonderful picture on the front of the June Crosslight of a child grasping the netting of a play-pen. This may not be the real truth of the picture. It may be as we are being led to believe a child held against its will and the will of its parents, yet there is no accompanying description that really tells its truth only the words, “It is images such as these that best convey the horror facing the 1023 children held in detention centres”.

The detention of human beings we know little about may be the only way of protecting our societies from radical sects and violent individuals.

Violent young men setting fire to their temporary homes because they can’t stay in a country they wish to stay does not convey confidence and empathy to their future as adoptive citizens. This is what Australia is faced with when opening its borders to people who are determined to get what they want at the expense of anyone who gets in their way. This is the life they have led in their homelands where they have had to fight to survive.

It is right for us to be concerned for the humanity of this situation, but it is also important that we use pictures and dialogue truthfully and not just to further our own political agendas.

The mothers of the kidnapped African schoolgirls would be wishing that their captors were detained and held so they can have their children back again.

Safekeeping of human life is so important for our freedom, how we go about it is a real dilemma. Being a Christian makes it even harder as we try to live in the light of Christ in a world that houses tremendous dangers for ourselves and our children. Congratulations to those who work amongst these vulnerable people and daily put up with all manner of ill-treatment and humiliation, yet still go forward in the confidence, hope and compassion of Christ.

Norman Warren
Strathmore Heights, VIC

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