June Letters

Walking for justice

I read the article in the May issue of Crosslight, and while I was delighted at the size of the response, and the leading of the UCA contingent by President Andrew Dutney and Moderator Dan Wootton, there are some things I find disturbing.

It will not be enough to remove the punitive detention measures and ‘turning back the boats’ policies currently in place, without putting in place other measures to stop the process of ‘People Smuggling’. It should be noted that the present government’s approach, however harsh, is certainly doing that.

My own preferred solution would be to send safe and free Australian ships to a recognised port, say Singapore, to collect refugees and bring them to Australia for processing.

Sure, we’d probably get tens of thousands of people turning up for the ride, but at least none of them would drown.

I listened to an African woman on ABC radio recently talking about the equivalent situation in Europe. Many of the boat people arriving in Italy and Spain are economic refugees, not refugees from persecution. The lady in question was very angry, not with European governments, but with African ones. She said the message needed to get through to would-be immigrants that the life in Europe would be no better, and possibly worse, than that in their home country (slavery, exploitation, unemployment).

Australia cannot support a flow of hundreds of thousands of economic refugees. Such people would need to be returned to their country of origin, as happens at present.

The only practicable way forward is to work out a regional solution. Our neighbouring countries, and in particular Indonesia, are as distressed as we at the cost in lives and money of people smuggling. We need to work together.

Consideration to the safety of refugees and stamping out the inhumane practice of extorting large sums of money to pack huge numbers of people into unsafe boats must be an essential part of any solution. We need to support those political parties that have the will to work for a humane solution to the problem.

Barrie Robinson
Swan Bay, TAS.

 

I was deeply moved in May by the willingness of fishermen in Aceh, Indonesia, to rescue and support refugee boat people stranded near their shores.
These fishermen showed government leaders and all people around the world the humane and decent way to respond to children, women and men fleeing genocide, war, hunger and terror.

Their actions reminded me of the teaching of Jesus in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

When challenged by a lawyer asking him who exactly was his neighbour, Jesus responded with his now famous parable and concluded by asking the lawyer, ‘Who acted like a neighbour to the person in need?’

As I witnessed the welcome and support shown by the Aceh fishermen to the boat people in desperate need of care, I couldn’t help but think that here was a beautiful contemporary example of what Jesus was seeking to teach.

I was also left feeling deeply saddened, angry and embarrassed that the two largest political parties in Australia have no desire to show this kind of neighbourly mercy to asylum seekers and refugees in our region facing similar crisis situations as those who were shown compassion by the fishermen in Aceh.

Rev Robert Van Zetten
Highton VIC

 

Time to act for a safe climate future

By mid-year we have a window of opportunity to tell our government we want it to act fairly to keep our climate safe.

This December almost 200 countries will meet in Paris to try to avoid catastrophic climate change.

According to 97 per cent of the world’s climate scientists, humans are causing climate change. Effective action to maintain a safe climate is necessary now.

Our government said that mid-year it would announce our target for greenhouse gas emissions cuts, which Australia will bring to Paris. The Climate Change Authority recommends Australia cut GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025.
Australia’s actions are important because we are the world’s second biggest coal exporter and the world’s 13th biggest GHG emitter, says the CCA.

To have a reasonable chance of a safe climate, 80 per cent of global fossil fuel reserves must stay underground, say experts such as the Climate Council.

Renewable Energy could supply the world’s electricity by 2050 or earlier according to the WWF and other experts. Technology to store the sun’s energy for electricity night and day is being used in several countries including the U.S.
Yet now globally, renewable energy supplies only about 20 per cent of electricity.

We can:
• visit, call or write to MPs by mid-year deadline for Australia to submit its target, and demand at least the CCA target of 30 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025 http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members
• buy solar panels and hot water systems or 100 per cent green power.
• Divest our fossil fuel shares http://gofossilfree.org

Marguerite Marshall
UCA member trained to give free presentations Solutions to Climate Change by Al Gore (managed in Australia by the Australian Conservation Foundation). margueritemarshall@bigpond.com

 

Fostering understanding

I work as Project manager for Uniting Through Faiths in the Uniting Church Synod. Our mission is to encourage honest and open dialogue about our various spiritual journeys in this multi- cultural and multi-faith community in which we all live. Interfaith dialogue can help us to make sense of and celebrate our great religious diversity. This dialogue must be premised on deep and respectful listening to others, engaging both the heart and mind.

Therefore I was very interested, and a little concerned, to learn that in the current heated environment the Understanding Islam seminars in North Ringwood UC opened without a single Muslim spokesperson present. This would be akin to another faith group organising a forum on ‘Understanding Christianity’ without inviting a single Christian to speak about their precious faith. This is not respectful and it is not a dialogue. It allows contentious interpretations and statements about another faith to be made without any balance or challenge.

I was extremely pleased therefore to read the second report by Andrew Juma and know that two Muslim speakers had been invited (albeit belatedly) to North Ringwood in week two. As Sheik Ali Dirani said, “religious intolerance stems from a lack of understanding and personal prejudice”.

If UCA communities do have questions about Islam and would like to organise an honest, respectful dialogue with women and men of this faith then please contact us at Uniting Through Faiths. We have many wonderful friends across the small but diverse Muslim community in Melbourne.

Larry Marshall
Project Manager – Uniting Through Faiths
Commission for Mission

 

What Next?

Thank you for your article, Dev (‘On being intercultural’ by Rev Devanandan Anandarajan). I agree that we need to actively encourage and develop leaders within the church who reflect the diversity of the wider community. I’d be interested to hear about effective strategies for doing this. Too often the ‘Uniting Church’ brand is associated with middle class, white, Anglo-Celtic (and elderly) culture and values, many people from other cultural backgrounds wouldn’t think to walk through our church doors.

Justine Wall
Via email

 

No conspiracy

The article ‘It’s a conspiracy’(May) inadequately describes the Church as a ‘conspiracy’; which in itself smacks of a real conspiracy aimed at appeasing a society which ridicules and rejects the very being who creates the Community of Church, namely Jesus Christ.

The facts are that we are members of the Church community through baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and our place in this community is sustained by participation in worship of the Triune God, (particularly in Holy Communion) and by serving others in Christ’s name.

The Church is the Body of Christ in the world. It is not a conspiracy.

Why should the Synod of Victoria try to find fudging words and concepts to describe who we are or what we think of ourselves or how the church will be sustainable into the future? Is it not enough for us to live each day trusting that the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with us?

It is worrisome to think that some of our members may seek to find their ‘identity and humanity’ in any community to which we may belong, by ‘breathing in and breathing out love’ and neglect our primary commitment to acknowledge and proclaim Jesus Christ who alone creates and sustains His Church in His World. We love because He first loved us.

Rev George Grimmett,
Glen Waverley VIC.

 

MSR panel

There has to be transparent spiritual leadership with a genuine commitment to restore the Church and its mission, a belief and faith in God and his Son. It must not be top heavy and riddled with waffle. It should be trying to understand what is going on in the community and if they expect lay preachers and pastors to help then they must contribute.

The only way the UCA is going to survive as an organisation is to change the ‘management’ so that every secular aspect of the church business is handled by qualified personnel. We don’t need committees creating reports. It is fine to state that “Steady as you go” (in other words stagnation) is not an option. The Synod is quite right. It is not an option. But Synod appears to have little or no idea as to what to do about it. This has to be corrected, not today or tomorrow but yesterday! We need pro-active decision makers.

How do we grow the church in our present culture? We have to be like a river, lively and energetic in its youth but, as it ages and gets nearer the sea, it calms down but still moves inexorably on. Joining it as it flows are other lively tributaries called Renewed Commitment, Freedom of Association, Relevance to today, Youth involvement, Co-operation with other churches, Schools Access, etc., which alter the flow, and perhaps even the direction of the original river, but still move on to the same destination. We have to welcome these rivers to refresh us. We have to absorb and be changed by these new ideas without altering our end result. Getting to the sea of Jesus’ eternal kingdom.

This is a wake-up call to Synod. Synod has to say, not that “change starts here in Synod with you. No! Change starts here in Synod with us.”

Yours in Jesus within whose love and Grace I walk and have my being.

Alexander Drysdale
Lay Preacher
Lyndhurst, VIC

Church for the people

The final paragraph of the Moderator’s reflection (May 2015) brought a real sense of joy and encouragement to my heart. Here was someone who has fittingly expressed not only my fears but that of many others for the future of the Uniting Church and not so far distant at that.

The Church is not buildings and property,
it is not financial and business affairs and management,
it is not synods, presbyteries, parishes,
it is not committees, programs …
The Church is ‘People’. People who know and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

The editorial ‘Challenge for the Church’ in the same issue of Crosslight asks ‘what kind of culture do we long for?’ Again it relates to ‘People’.

People – human beings – regardless of age, race, sex, religion, wherever they may live: cities, large towns, remote rural…

Many carry heavy burdens which cannot be relieved with government and other assistance. They just need someone, someone who cares enough to listen. Most are not in the churches although many do sit in our pews.

These people are in shopping centres, waiting rooms, at the gym, in a caravan park, farms, the schools – the list is endless. Listen to their troubles although we may not be able to help but they have been heard and known empathy. In the gospels we find Jesus where the people were.

Years ago I was told at a Christian counselling course we do not have to seek people – God brings them to us – He opens the way.

Is this the way for the church of the future?

Connie Carlyle
Corryong, VIC

 

Walking down the road

Later this month the Uniting Church will mark its 38th anniversary. In June 1977 the Sydney Town Hall was packed with those who witnessed the birth of the infant denomination. The world was very different then and in an Australian context church membership and attendance was relatively high. Yet as we reflect over these past 38 years, the events that have marked the mileposts on the Uniting Church’s journey thus far have, in many ways, contributed to and shaped the church we see today.

Space does not permit the cataloguing of these events and each of us can easily recall those which at the time, and even now, have determined both our individual and corporate lives. Those 38 years have seen many of the people who witnessed the inauguration of the Uniting Church leave us we journeyed. Whilst new members have joined us within the various faith communities in our fellowship, our journey now brings us to the crossroads. The signposts are confusing, we are faced with decisions, some hard and difficult to accept. The surrounding topography of life is very different, even strange, certainly nothing like the location we left at the start. So too the landscape. The familiar landmarks we left behind have given way to the new. The shingles outside the buildings continually remind us of the new world of compliance, regulation, social change, community attitudes amongst many more. All these raise doubts in our minds, what should we do?

Yet despite these distractions on what now may seem like a road to nowhere, we are part of a group with a clear purpose based on a faith that has seen the test of time. As I journey with the fellow members of the Uniting Church, I sing the words of Robin Mann’s ‘Walking down the road’: “Oh, stay by my side, Jesus, you be my guide/don’t you know how I trust in you/Show me where I should call, pick me up when I fall/as I’m walkin’ down the road with you”.

Allan Gibson OAM
Cherrybrook NSW

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