April Letters

I read with incredulity and disbelief the letter ‘Who or what is God?’ in February Crosslight. The writer would seem to have no knowledge of the God of the Bible, something I find astonishing for someone who describes herself as a member of a Uniting Church congregation.

Far from reducing God to a warm, fuzzy feeling to make him more appealing, we should be doing the opposite. If we are authentic believers in the God of the Bible we should be making him known to those around us. Rather than seek the opinion of others to answer the question ‘Who or what is God’, why not go to his book and see what he says about himself?

The author’s response to the notion that ‘the word God is undefined or holds a fear or idea of nonsense for the younger generation…’ shows an ignorance of the real problem. The pervasiveness of the apparent ‘facts’ of evolution today causes many people to view the Bible’s account of history as fables.

If it could be so wrong as a record of history, the Bible is then, not surprisingly, regarded as unreliable or irrelevant to other areas of life. This is only exacerbated by churches and church leaders who fail to uphold the authority of the Bible by promoting such unbiblical thinking.

Bible-believing Christians are mandated to preach the gospel to a world living in spiritual darkness, upholding the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture. That means teaching that the Bible can indeed be trusted – right from the very first verse.

Andrew Lawrence
Church Council Member
Casterton Uniting Church

 

In his article ‘Development application lodged’, Nigel Tapp neglects to identify demolition of the historic Princess Mary Club as the central tenet of a plan to ‘restore and develop’ the Wesley Church site in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

Constructed in 1926, the Princess Mary Club was built through philanthropic donations. Although neglected for the past 30 years, it is a rare surviving example of a 1920s hostel which was created for young women coming to work and study in the city. It is a culturally and historically significant part of Melbourne’s heritage, which enabled greater inclusion of women in Victoria’s workforce.

The proposal, so glowingly described in Crosslight, is to demolish this remarkable icon of Melbourne’s history and construct a 33-level high-rise building, on a questionable 125-year leasehold arrangement which is also not mentioned by Mr Tapp. The original redevelopment plan on the site was rejected in 2011 by then Planning Minister, Justin Madden. The currently proposed development is 50 per cent higher than that previously rejected.

It is a travesty not lost on the broader community, that whilst proclaiming Christ crucified, the Uniting church publicly acts in disregard of the Gospel. (‘Residents slam church’s unforgivable deal’, The Age 24/9/2014). Alternative possibilities to develop the site could be sought. Indeed Melbourne residents’ groups and Fiona Patten MLC are working together to present a counter-proposal for the site which would save the long-neglected Princess Mary Club.

The Uniting Church has, it seems, lost its focus on mission and become institutionalised, with its chief concern self-maintenance. This has apparently led to naïve decisions justified by good intentions, but driven by financial expedience. Have we learned nothing from the Acacia College debacle?


Greta Bird
Carlton, VIC.

 

Like Norah Killip (Feb) I too am greatly disappointed by the decision to withdraw UCA Funds Diary in 2015, a decision hard to appreciate in the light of amounts invested by church members in the funds and the impossibility of obtaining any other diary with its handy format and useful information. Eagerly, through December, I had looked for its arrival in whatever bright colour chosen to follow last year’s delightful blue. Then I would enter into it church dates, family and other events, appointments, personal details, phone numbers etc. Then add the blue diary to the neat and colourful row of diaries dating back to 2000, once more regretting that those before that date are not UCA Funds diaries but a bulky and motley mix.

For not only were the diaries a handy reference tool while I wrote my autobiography, but I expect them to serve as such for my descendants or anyone else interested in our lives today, including church lives. (I have attended Mountview UC since 1960).

While church membership both shrinks and ages, a high proportion of us do not use electronic devices and never will. It seems a retrograde step to deprive us of such a useful tool, if this can possibly be avoided.

Is there not a struggling Australian printer who would welcome the work of producing the diary which could then be offered to all church members (not only Funds members) on a pre-ordered and prepaid basis? There is ample time to find out.

Joyce  Suto
Via email
 

The meaning of Lent and the call to ‘deny yourself and take up the cross’ (Luke 9:23) at first glance appears to takes on some rather militant, even jihadist-like, meaning. Especially when the next verse continues with words to this effect ‘he who saves his life will lose it and he loses his life for my sake, will save it’.

But the call to ‘deny yourself’ itself is interesting as it takes on many, apparently contradictory meanings. You can deny yourself your comfort zone, your ego or even the familiar. You can even deny yourself your fears and your insecurities. On a more spiritual note, you can even deny yourself your unbelief, I suppose.

It is a time to push the envelope, to turn yourself into the spaceship the USS Enterprise and explore the final frontier and go where you’ve never gone before.

How else can we know lack when we’ve never tasted deprivation? How else could we know hunger when we’ve always enjoyed abundance? At the risk of sounding like some proselytising ascetic, I believe that’s the only way for us to grow.

If we are computer systems, you can liken Lent as the time to renew your anti-virus subscription so that you can reboot to a repaired and fully functional you.

Kimmy Fam
Ballarat, VIC

 

Perhaps it is time for the Uniting Church, both individually and collectively, to take a leaf out of Mr Curly’s book. He, the duck and the teapot seem to have mastered the simple life, travelling light with a spotted handkerchief swag (‘Time to clear institutional clutter’, Moderator’s Reflection, Feb)!


Allan Gibson OAM
Cherrybrook, NSW

 


Once Philip (Jesus’ disciple) asked a question very like yours. Jesus replied that anyone seeing him had seen God!  And he went on to explain this. (John 14:8-11) Yours is a very good question.

When I was a little girl we had a favourite hymn which put US into the stories about Jesus so it was only a tiny step to picture God in our everyday scenes: coming to visit, down on the beach, comforting when we were afraid or sad, listening and talking with us…

A few years later we read in the Old Testament about the LIVING God whose exploits lay behind the history of Israel, with snippets like Joshua 2:8-14 and a brave woman explaining her very dangerous behaviour .(For  what subsequently happened see Matthew 1:5!)

Today our group of elderly widows was discussing how all of us are aware of not living alone because a Living God is implicit in the words of Jesus that his father and he would make their home with anyone who loves him. That is very exciting – and real!

Margaret Turnbull
Altona Meadows, VIC.

 

Congratulations to those responsible for the front page of the March edition of Crosslight. This proves it once again the truth of the old saying a picture paints a thousand words.
One of the many strengths of the Uniting Church is its emphasis on social justice. In the February edition there was a letter expressing the dismay of the reader of the Australian Government’s cuts to the foreign aid budget. The letter pointed out the huge cut – $3.7 billion – has made Australia one of the least generous aid donors in the world.

Elsewhere in Crosslight we read how these cruel cuts will kill, disable or shorten the lives of more people than any acts of terrorism in our region. One of the agencies whose work will have to be scaled back is the Vanuatu Prevention of Blindness Project. I am old enough to recall how many Presbyterian Missionaries, including the Patons, devoted their lives to helping the lives of the people of The New Hebrides (as it was known then).

Imagine how the Rev McLeod, who died recently after a lifetime of service to the people of Vanuatu, would have felt about this decision to hugely cut foreign aid. He would have been appalled and so should all members of the Uniting Church.

And again in the March edition of Crosslight, we have more evidence of social injustice highlighted by the front page.

The demonising of Professor Gillian Triggs is outrageous and would have not been tolerated by past generations.

I hate to single out the Abbott Government, but in the 18 months they have been in office there have been 39 asylum seeker deaths, including five in custody. Of these, three were suicides, with one person self- immolating and two dying from injuries sustained in the offshore camps. And the Labor Party deserve most of the blame in setting up these off shore detention camps in the first place.
I urge all Uniting Church members to seek an end to deaths in custody and an end to keeping children in detention which has resulted, in the words of the children  which I quote again: “ I am  12 years old and my life is really bad and deth  I leave in a jail. Why I have a bad life. I like to stay in the room for ever when I go because if I stay in room no eat or drink. I will die. Better I kill myself”.

Bruce Rogers,
Seaford, VIC

 

As I have been fondly imagining that The Uniting Church is about truth and absolute honesty, I read your editorial with more than a trace of dismay and, in particular, your observation “that the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has been vilified by our prime minister”. I submit that this a gross distortion of the facts of the matter.

Rather than try to outline the REAL facts, I would ask you to listen to and review the following editorial piece and interview several days ago on Radio 2GB.
But wait! I almost hear you gasp! “That’s that awful shock-jock Alan Jones isn’t it? And with a renegade from the Fairfax stable, Paul Sheehan.”

Well might you not want to listen, but in the search for truth, you must surely do so even though perhaps reluctantly; but if you truly consider Pontius Pilate’s profound question in John 18:38, you will do so.

And, after doing so, I believe you owe our Prime Minister a sincere apology for the slur on him.

Michael Spencer
Burwood, VIC

 

Well said, Leigh Pope (March). I agree wholeheartedly that, “Yes it is about time for a broad discussion about what we really believe”. In the light of present-day knowledge and progressive social attitudes, I am convinced that what we really believe is not as represented in creedal statements, or that the Basis of Union is a once only statement to which the Uniting Church is tied for eternity.

The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania is presently undertaking a period of reflection with regard to practice and mission. I believe that unless we know as a church what it is that we do believe, the rest is dressing. From belief flows action and mission.

I am cognisant of the fact that the Assembly is charged with the authority to seek change with respect to matters theological. This does not prevent discussion of such matters by any Council of the Church – it is certainly within the province of the synod to initiate an examination of such matters, and/or by remit, to presbyteries and congregations.

A sub-committee for this purpose would be appropriate during a time of reflection by the synod upon the future practice, organisation and mission.

What we believe is the rock upon which we stand. What we believe is the essence of who we are and of our relevance, as followers of Jesus, to the society in which we live.

Leigh Popes’ suggestion that “a selection of JS Spong should be in the library of every congregation” would be a step in the right direction.

Rev Bill Perry
Via email

 

Perhaps it is time for the Uniting Church, both individually and collectively, to take a leaf out of Mr Curly’s book. He, the duck and the teapot seem to have mastered the simple life, travelling light with a spotted handkerchief swag (‘Time to clear institutional clutter’, Moderator’s Reflection, Feb)!

Allan Gibson OAM

Cherrybrook| NSW

 

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