October letters

Church council members of Pomonal Uniting Church are struggling with the massive amounts of communications we receive via email, particularly from the synod office.

While we appreciate that we need to be kept informed, we are finding expectations to print and disseminate information to our members overwhelming. It seems that the Uniting Church is reducing its carbon footprint and we as congregations must enlarge ours. Often printing must be done that has lots of colour – is there any reason why we cannot have the option of printing in a simpler printable form?  Most of us have access to computers and tablets but when there is a lot of information to absorb often it is easier to read documents on paper.

Then there is the issue of those who do not have and do not wish to have access to the internet and email – we must print off documents to keep them informed and involved.  Sometimes this means we need to make a decision about what is relevant for our congregation or what may be of particular interest to certain members, and this is a big responsibility in itself.

We would be interested to hear how other church councils cope with these demands, and how they manage to keep their congregations informed.

Jennie Mackley
Pomonal Uniting Church


During the second week of September (2014), Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with the support of the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, made a decision to enter another Iraq war to support the US and its allies.

In 2003, the US and its allies (mainly 4 English speaking Christian countries: US, UK, Australia and Canada) invaded Iraq premised on a lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

During the following nine years, the US dropped 500,000 tonnes of bombs on Iraq, killed over a million Iraqis, created five million refugees and laid that country to waste. Half a million Iraqi children died of malnutrition and hunger during the war. Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, in a TV interview stated those deaths were justifiable in the context of Iraqi people gaining freedom. Later on, the former US vice president Dick Cheney admitted the invasion of Iraq was all about oil.

Cheney’s company Halliburton made a profit of $40 billion war profits from the Iraq war. At the height of the Iraq war, the US and its allies had a fighting force of 500,000 personnel and thousands of war planes and achieved very little except creating Islamic State (IS). The IS grew out of the mess the west has created in Iraq.

During the second round, the coalition forces intend to continue the air war dropping more bombs on Iraq. Every bomb will kill a few hundred Iraqis and create a thousand new recruits for IS. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says that it will be impossible to destroy Islamic State.  In that case what is the point in fighting them? The Middle East wars have already hurt race relations in Australia from the continuous demonisation, marginalisation and vilification of the Australian Muslims in the mainstream news media. This is harmful to the Australian society.

It is time Christians of this nation oppose this immoral war. Write to your local MPs in two or three sentences that you disapprove of the war. Write to newspapers about your opposition to the war. Let all pulpits in this nation condemn this war. Raising objection to the war is our democratic right and our duty as Christians.

Dr Bill Mathew
Parkville, VIC


As we know, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians from the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac ethnic group have been forced to flee from Islamic State militants (also known as ISIS or IS). In the cities of Mosul and Qiraqosh, IS painted the Arabic letter N (for Nazarene), followed by the words ‘Property of the Islamic State’ on houses where Christians lived and the expelled Christians are now struggling to survive in refugee camps. Similarly, the non-Muslim Yazidis have been massacred or displaced in Iraq by IS in what is, in intention, genocide.

The Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Christians have had a long history (over a thousand years) living on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq – all this is now being lost as ancient churches are desecrated, irreplaceable antiquities destroyed, and the indigenous Iraqis killed, enslaved, or forced to flee by IS.

The Assyrians and the Yazidis are calling for a safe haven on the Nineveh plain, protected by UN forces – something that is mandated by the slogans ‘responsibility to protect’ and ‘never again’.  Act for Peace has an appeal for food and shelter for these displaced people, who, according to UN figures now number over one million.

The Assyrian Church in Melbourne is having a walkathon on 26 Oct to raise funds for Assyrian Christian refugees/IDPS – see https://www.facebook.com/melbourne.aceya. It would be good to support this church in its time of grief and loss.

Esther Anderson
Surrey Hills, VIC 


Further to my letter in the September Crosslight, I note that the percentage of space or time devoted to worship matters in the Uniting Church in Australia is not equally balanced with other concerns. For example, in that issue of Crosslight there are approximately five pages out of 24 devoted to spiritual/biblical/theological topics. The rest of the magazine deals with issues relating to the social or political implications of the Gospel, or administrative issues. Consider also the small percentage of agenda items in church council, presbytery or Synod relating to spiritual oversight.

Whether one holds progressive, neo-conservative  or evangelical views, we can all draw inspiration from  growth spurts in Church history – the Wesley Revival, the Oxford Movement, the Great Awakening or Billy Graham-style altar calls. In each of these, there was a turning away from complacency and secular pre-occupations to rekindle the Pentecostal zeal through prayer, liturgy, repentance or preaching. Outreach activities were inspired by those devotional practices.

Why is there phenomenal expansion in the church in Africa or China? A similar growth is occurring here among those ethnic groups. How can we recapture and promulgate that same yearning for the essential message? What needs to go, or what needs to be added, to our devotional life to achieve a similar fervour?

There seems to be a seeking for the spiritual – however that may be defined – among many Australians today. What should our missiology be? Do we prayerfully await an answer, or what pro-active steps do we take? The answers would doubtless occupy countless theology lectures or DD theses; but what can we, sitting in the pews, do now?

My rather simplistic layman’s answer is that we should not be ashamed to be different, if necessary, from the rest of society. We should not always conform or seek to be ‘relevant’.  Romans 12:2 springs to mind. Spirituality precedes, motivates and sustains our social action.

Alan Ray
Mont Albert, VIC


Please let me congratulate Penny Mulvey for the excellent and compassionate words in the latest edition of Crosslight. I was one of thousands who marched in Melbourne to protest the Abbott government’s inhumane policy towards asylum seekers and refugees. The rally heard an excellent address by our past moderator on this important matter.

Sad to say the reporting of this rally in the Monday papers received only a small amount of space, especially in the Herald Sun and the other Murdoch paper.
I am currently reading Greg Combet’s  book The Fights of My Life, co-written with Mark Davis.

Mr Combet quotes a well-respected economist from the past, Ted Wheelwright, who said that it is institutions – governments, corporations and unions (he could have added the churches) – that fundamentally shape the economy.  Mr Combet goes on to say it is institutional forces that decide who wins and who loses.

If he is correct, it behoves the Uniting Church and others like the Anglican Church to stand up and fight for justice and compassion for refugees. Many other institutions like the Murdoch Press and the Abbott government will have a different point of view. The power of the press is enormous and has a very large say which party should win the next election, the policy on ‘illegals’, the policy on world conflicts and so on, by the coverage and spin they put on the issue.
The church also has the power to influence opinion and I say again to Penny Mulvey thanks for your contribution to the debate.

Bruce Rogers
Seaford, VIC


In ‘Christ is our strategy’ (September Crosslight), Rowan Gill notes growing readiness among followers of Jesus to engage in dialogue with members of other world religions. He seems to equate this with apostasy (falling away from faith), and presses for recovering the emphasis on ‘the person and work of Christ’.

A growing number of church people certainly appear to be letting go the religion about Jesus (commonly called ‘christology’) and embracing the religion of Jesus – in what Lorraine Parkinson calls ‘the teachings the church forgot’! (See Parkinson, The World According to Jesus: His Blueprint for the Best Possible World).

As they step back from traditional christology, which is exclusivist, at the same time they affirm the ‘versatility’ of the Divine. They find that God is more versatile than to have limited God’s self-expression to one particular religion, and that they can honour other faiths as vehicles of divine truth.
This is not to say every religion is as good as the next. All are flawed, partial and needing constant reform. My former tradition loved to sing “We limit not the truth of God to our poor reach of mind” and then bellow the refrain, “The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth.”
Do we believe that?  I hope so.

John Bodycomb
Doncaster, VIC

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One Response to “October letters”

  1. the six comments as at 5/10 could be used as a basis to formulate the “M Strategy” solution discussions of Sep..
    very thought provoking on the strengths and weaknesses facing the UCA.
    the Q is are Crosslight ,and more importantly the Moderator/Synod, prepared to accept a discussion via a daytime conference to look at a way forward.
    meanwhile I’ll give these comments more thought before more comment.