There was a deeply perverse irony in July’s Crosslight. The page 3 headline declared the Acacia debt has now been repaid but page 8 heralded bold plans for a new synod office as part of the Wesley Lonsdale Street re-development.
This project was ‘hidden under a bushel’ as far as the majority of the Uniting Church members are concerned. The synod’s June 30 letter to church secretaries says that the developer was appointed after “extensive due diligence and ethical standards studies”. This presumably is speak for ‘This will not be Acacia Mark II’.
This project must have been well into the detailed planning stages throughout the entire diabolic Uniting our future period, possibly for some years.
Despite numerous suggestions late last year that the synod office should be sold and leased back to pay off the Acacia debt, this was rejected as being uneconomic and not an option that could be considered.
There was no indication that a new synod office was under serious consideration or the implications of this. The lack of transparency on this important issue in a time of financial crisis is most disappointing.
Consequently, congregations and mission agencies were forced to bear the full pain of the Acacia debt.
Among many other properties sold, the most strategically important UCA mission property in Geelong is now lost, closing and dis-membering the congregation and dis-locating UnitingCare Geelong.
It is icy cold comfort that property sale proceeds will sit as a $10million line on the synod’s bank statement. Can someone explain how this fits into any meaningful strategic understanding of our mission?
In the meantime, a recently renovated historic church now sits surrounded by a sea of used cars as a silent monument to a Christian denomination which lost its way. Sadly, dis-enchantment and collateral damage continues.
Ed’s note: A Questions and Answer document concerning the development of the Wesley Lonsdale site can be found on the website: www.victas.uca.org.au/wesley
Over 60 church people have put their names to an open letter calling church leaders and people to inject a new urgency as asylum seeker policies plumb new depths. The letter is an open-hearted appeal for a Christian response to people seeking asylum in Australia.
This is not new. For years church people (together with Australians of various convictions) have supported refugees. They have protested government refugee policies. They have been ignored by the government. Regrettably both major parties seem to share the same approach.
Here we face a serious situation. Politicians driving these policies also claim to be Christian.
What can Christians do? The church must pray for all involved. For people who have fled from their home. For politicians who make policy. For our Australian populace, many of whom are wary of boat people and so-called people smugglers. Most seriously, we must confess our own part in creating conditions which refuse to welcome strangers, and refuse to ‘do justice’.
We are also assisted by church teaching. John Calvin called Christians to resist tyrants and to disobey unjust laws.
In the twentieth century the German Confessing church declared against the Nazi regime. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a well-known member of that resistance. Martin Luther King was a leader in the non-violent civil disobedience movement in the USA. Faced with South African Apartheid, the World Council of Churches declared it to be a heresy and set up the Program to Combat Racism. Where do we stand? Is it time to engage in widespread and concerted disobedience?
Are we pressed to warn our brother and sisters in Christ that those who claim the name Christian, but draft these brutal policies, are removing themselves from the church and Christ’s gospel of grace? How will we be shaped by the call of Christ?
(retired Minister of the Word)
Former Convenor of the Assembly Working Group on Doctrine.
For a copy of the letter contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
At a recent service, our preacher posed the question: ‘What evidence of vision is there in the church today?’
Not too many positive answers surfaced but could be summed up as ‘maintaining the status quo’.
The above question was posed with our visionary forefathers in minds, how they were able to realise many of their visions through hard and prayerful work.
They have left us a rich legacy, but somehow our vision has become blurred. In many ways we have become a complying church, busy working, and adhering to processes, OHS, ethics and working with children regulations. Also the subject of a letter headed ‘Light bulb moment’ in July issue of Crosslight by Carmyl Winkler of Tallangatta.
Carmyl has expressed the concerns of many. Let us hope and pray that through the ‘Major Strategic Review’, now in progress, which I cannot divorce from the synod’s debt issue, we may become once more filled with the spirit’s power, with one accord, the Uniting Church confess its risen Lord.
Aart A Van’t Hof
The needs of marginalised refugees was highlighted at a World Refugee Day service at the Uniting Church in Ocean Grove and honoured the memory of local refugee Leo Seemanpillai.
Cathy Bond from the Queenscliff Rural Australians for Refugee group spoke about the tragic consequences of the current government’s strict policies on returning refugees to unsafe countries in relation to the suicide of a local refugee Leo Seemanpillai.
In correlation, Cathy gave a heartfelt plea on Q and A in a Geelong forum, stating the direct impact that the government had on failing to ensure Leo had a safe place of refuge in Australia.
In the forum and at the church, Cathy highlighted the human and realistic need for the government and the community to support people like Leo.
She said that despite knowing that he would be tortured on his return to Sri Lanka it was his understanding that all Tamil refugees would be returned to their country by our government.
While the day was organised by the church’s Justice and International Mission group, it was conducted by David Vincent.
As a community and a Uniting Church society we need to be treating these refugees as legitimate people in need of our protection and safety.
Ocean Grove, VIC
Some of our church members in the Port Phillip West Presbytery have an idea that unless they belong to the Presbytery’s Mission Shaped Ministry Program they will not receive ordained ministry leadership.
If this is the case it is really sad considering the pain and hardship Uniting our future and the sale of church property has caused many of our churches, along with those who have seen their partner churches suffer so much. Our presbytery though is a presbytery for the future, made up of all the churches in our borders. Everyone has a voice in our meetings if they are willing to be represented and attend.
It is so easy to look behind us into the past, referring to programs that didn’t work or the reams of paperwork that failed to realise our dreams. We need to remember the dreams the church holds are God’s dreams and Christ’s dreams for the whole world. This is why we continue to strive with all our will and purpose.
The Mission Shaped Ministry program is an initiative that has worked overseas under the ‘Fresh Expressions’ banner. The presbytery is hoping that Australia can be one of those success stories, not for ourselves, but for the people of our world who know or don’t know Jesus Christ or who find their world falling down around them without anywhere to turn.
It is right that people should be inspired to serve God in this world of great change and Australia is one of many places in the world that is changing so much. Together we can make this change, we can reach people in their own place however diverse and unusual that place may be. The Holy Spirit is our inspiration and guide who goes before us.
With community, togetherness and support from each other, God will help us achieve our goal. It is time we as the church stood side-by-side with our brothers and sisters in support and encouragement for the future. Please be part of this program and allow God’s dreams to come true where the whole world worship the one and only true God.
The Mission Shaped Ministry team and its supporters are available to you to help you work through ideas and initiatives. May God bless you all and encourage you in his mission in your area.
I am writing in response to the letter to the editor by Rajah Wilson in response to the news item ‘Writing a new story for Sri Lanka’. While I understand and respect the views expressed by the writer, I want to offer another perspective.
The writer says ‘In depth meaningful interaction can be achieved only if there is a climate of mutual trust between members of the Diaspora’. The reverse of that is also valid. In order to create mutual trust between the Diaspora there needs to be interaction between communities who have been estranged due to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
A safe place needs to be created where interaction can take place so that members of the diverse ethnic communities may meet and form relationships and build respect and trust. This will create a space where they can share and discuss their views, perspectives and their personal experiences; where they will be heard with respect and openness without being judged.
Justice is vital to peace. But if we start with issues of justice we land ourselves in a cauldron as each community believes they have been wronged by the other and we get nowhere trying to debate as to who wronged first.
The view expressed in the letter reflects a top-down model approach to the conflict. It is my personal opinion that we need to shift the focus from relying on the Government (political party in power) to bring about change. We need to move to a bottom-up model and work with the common people (laity) to change the mindset and to create greater awareness and understanding through building meaningful relationships.
When this happens people will influence political parties and the government to craft just policies towards a just and peaceful state. This path is a ‘long road’ and needs patience, diligence and commitment.
Rev Dev Anandarajan
Koornang Uniting Church