July letters

Stand up for foreign aid

I commend those responsible for producing the very evocative front page and the words which went with it shown on Page 2. Also Penny’s editorial and especially the reference to refugees being called the number of the boat ID on which they came seeking asylum.

I found it hard to believe until I heard on the Q & A program last night (15 June) a former refugee stand up in the audience and say the same thing – for two years he was just a number; his boat’s ID number.

I don’t know how many people watched the program but certainly the audience would have been in the millions that heard this dreadful thing happening to people in our care on Nauru and Manus Island even today and elsewhere. Such as the Rohingyan child pictured on the June’s front page of Crosslight. All church members must do something to end this awful practice.

‘Doing something’ I hear you say. ‘What can I do?’

Well it’s time to stand up and campaign, write to your local member, join street protests, write to the paper but please do something and perhaps get angry about what’s happening in our society today. And I would implore you to pray.

Perhaps also you could lend your voice and say to our politicians I, too, support Australian Aid and do more to end extreme poverty around the world. Not cut our foreign aid budget by close to 50 per cent. We need to stand up against this.

I quote statistics from aid organisation, Tear Australia, which many, many, Australians support with donations and prayer.

In developing countries, the impact of cuts to the foreign aid budget mean:

1,426,796 babies could be born without a birth attendant.

2,237,280 children may not get to enrol in school.

3,775,052 children may not be vaccinated.

4,710,642 people may not get access to safe water.

21,994,521 people in emergency situations may go unassisted.

Bruce Rogers
Seaford, VIC


More scripture

It is interesting that there are so few articles or reviews on Scripture in Crosslight, which is fundamental to our faith.

I am sick and tired of hearing the Scripture for the day read in worship service and then hear the minister (he or she) give three or four points of his own, or mash up the Scripture, or always preach on the one point, eg. the love of God.

If we are secure in our history, we err.  As L J Hartley has said “The past is another country”.  If we were to be placed in the 4th, 12th or 18th centuries we would be completely in a foreign land.  As one writer has said, if we were parachuted into the early 19th century we would find the grammar of the people completely different and voices would be like a screech.

Gerhard Ebeling has said that “Church history is the history of the interpretation of Scripture”.  (The great Jaroslav Pelikan has elevated this to an art form in his magisterial five-volumed The Christian Tradition which begins before Jesus and ends with Vatican II.)

We must hack away at history to uncover Biblical interpretation of the past with empathy, imagination and patience.

Let us then rightly interpret Scripture and be on the breaking wave of a Great Tradition.  Then we will see the renewal of the Uniting Church.

Rev Rowan Gill
Altona, VIC


Regressive progressive?

It’s been interesting to read the letters in Crosslight of recent times as an outsider.

Before anyone in Vic/Tas would see ‘Progressive’ Christianity as the great white hope for the church they would do well to investigate some points of history.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced a German church that had embraced ‘Positive Christianity’.  Wesley and Whitefield brought renewal to the wider culture that was radical because the established church had ‘progressed’ in their understanding of Christianity. In both instances Jesus was simply an interesting man of history, not the living Lord of heaven.

This left the church anaemic and impotent in their cultures with raising money for charity its only purpose. Add to that the beliefs of the Sadducees and the Heretics of the early church and you come to understand that while ‘progressive’ Christianity has some modern novelties, it’s not new at all, it’s a regression in our revelation of God.

I believe in a wide and broad church, but one that reflects the breadth and depth of the God we know through Jesus. Without Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth, we stumble in the darkness.

Rev Paul Clark
Redcliffe Uniting Church Qld


MSR Review

The Lay Preachers Association had its annual conference and AGM last March.  One of the items in the program was a questionnaire sent out by the MSR seeking input (?) from the Lay preachers as to how to improve the UCA in its relationships with the community.

Lay Preachers are a resource available to the hierarchy because they visit and can relate to the various communities in which they serve.  Is that acknowledged?  Certainly not by the questionnaire which was sent round to a limited number of Lay Preachers and hardly acknowledged by the sparse replies received.

Apart from the fact that the questions were in the wrong order, the fourth question was:

  1. What needs to be “let go” or left behind to achieve a new direction?

I have been a Lay Preacher for five years and never once in all that time, have I had any form of encouragement or assessment or mentoring from any person in my presbytery. Not once.  All I have is my faith and my training from CTM.  I have had two assessments; both requested by me, from retired ministers, one in another presbytery. So what chance is there of synod paying any attention to what a Lay Preacher says?

We were not given the opportunity to seriously engage in the implications of this question but I have taken the liberty of asking around and many of us agree. Some do not and have their own strong opinions. According to the MSR website and the panel, an interim report was available late last year. So why are Lay Preachers only being asked now?

Stuck-in-the-mud synod staff saying “We don’t do it that way here,” is no longer acceptable and they must be made to see it and take their evangelical, ministerial, pastoral and caring and whatever other skills they may have out into a parish where those skills are needed.

Alexander Drysdale
Lay Preacher


It is obvious from the findings of the Major Strategic Review, of most concern to those who participated, was the lack of accountability within the bureaucracy of the Uniting Church.

In Crosslight, Rev Dr John G Flett of Pilgrim Theological College, points to anxiety as a major stumbling block on our journey. As a Church we are anxious, and consequently make poor decisions regarding our future.

Following the findings of the Review, perhaps it would be helpful to call an Extra Special meeting of Synod to specifically address some of the concerns raised.

So much has been said about financial mismanagement within the Vic UC, but I have seen little discussion of other aspects that have arisen within the report: bureaucracy, confusion and hierarchy. In fact, these are the very deficiencies that created our financial problems.

There is little doubt that members of the Church are anxious, and therefore hesitant to commit their energies to a perceived ‘sinking ship’. It would be reassuring if those holding leadership and decision making roles were given the opportunity to explain their progress with the necessary changes the Review highlighted.

These are some questions an open meeting could address:

Are the moderator, secretary and standing committee willing, or indeed able, to adapt to the changes MSR outlined?

What are the attitudes to the Review findings by clergy and lay preachers?

Has the lengthy and ineffective process of committee decision making been reviewed?

The MSR highlighted discipleship, encouragement of initiative, theological reflection, leadership development and wise stewardship for reassessment. Who should undertake this task?

Little seems to have changed at head office apart from financial management restructure. Entrenched and failed attitudes have been challenged – a change is vital to revitalisation of the UCA.

MSR outlined ten values, six of which are not held by our synod management team, a very real indictment of their leadership style. Re-evaluation is vitally necessary, not driven by anxiety, but reflective of the values identified by the Review.

A  special Synod meeting, rather than lengthy, unrepresentative committee meetings, would better address our  concerns.

Margaret Gambold,

Elder Kennon Memorial Church
Sassafras, VIC   



A glass half full

As one who attended both nights of the ‘Understanding Islam’ seminars held at the North Ringwood Uniting Church in March I was somewhat disappointed to read the two accounts of the events authored by Andrew Juma published in your April and May editions and the related letter submitted by synod’s Larry Marshall and published in June.

I believe their reporting would have been improved by a fairer dose of positivity including a word or two of commendation of the North Ringwood church for mounting and managing such a programme; also a word of appreciation of the scholarship, experience and good work of the presenters would not have gone amiss.

A point made by all speakers from early on was that probably the major block to more harmonious relations between Muslims and Christians was a lack of understanding on both sides of not only the other’s faith but also of their own. Understanding can only be expected to come out of study of origin and history combined with current experience. To their credit, North Ringwood endeavoured to address this problem by mounting the seminars.

Sadly, it was left to the main presenter Dr Bernie Power and the very capable `MC’ Rob. Latimer to provide your readers with a more accurate and positive impression of the programme in your June edition.

I wonder how many better qualified speakers Mr Marshall may have in the synod cupboard and why they have not been let loose on the general UCA membership? This might be a step toward the sort of open and (even) contentious discussion Rev. Dr Flett alludes to in his article published in your June edition (Pg 16).  I would like to think that Messrs Juma and Marshall might be moved to take up Mr. Latimer’s offer of reviewing the programme on `YouTube’, and perhaps on second glance seeing the glass at least half-full.

Dennis Litchfield
Mount Waverley, VIC


Grog Grog Grog

No one has yet convinced me that excessive alcohol consumption is not the root cause of the majority of our social ills.

The underlying cause as I see it is excessive advertising of alcohol which in some cases is less expensive than water.

Our newspapers and most aspects of the media keep encouraging the sale of alcohol for one reason and one reason alone and that being profit

What sort of culture are we establishing when  advertising of alcohol is so prominently displayed on the apparel of the Australian Test Cricket team as but one example?

Government can legislate in a similar way as they have done for tobacco, One click of a button can amend the word ‘Tobacco’ for ‘Alcohol’.

Primarily treat the cause! Prevention is better than cure. Let’s attack this concern and I am certain alcoholic consumption will be reduced. Let’s apply pressure to governments to legislate to reduce alcohol advertising.

What a great breakthrough this would be

I encourage all Crosslight readers to write to the newspapers and your government representative.

Let us make it happen.

Ron Roberts
Convener Social Justice Committee
Cranbourne Uniting Church


Sharing of the faith

The editorial in the May issue of Crosslight challenged us to respectfully and graciously breathe the love of Christ into the hollowness of contemporary culture.

May I suggest that this magazine publish a regular monthly column of what suburban and country churches are quietly doing, week by week, to carry out that mission. Instead of devoting a page to reviewing films like Testament to Youth or 12 Monkeys, which have very little relevance to Christianity or spirituality, that space be devoted to worship and outreach initiatives in parishes in Tasmania and Victoria.

Crosslight is an ideal clearing house to disseminate innovative and engaging liturgies and outreach programs which are being offered to local communities. These worship practices might include ideas for ‘messy church’, contemplative Christianity, fresh expressions of the faith or a re-invigorating of our heritage. Current outreach activities would be found to be equally diverse and imaginative, designed to meet the needs of local communities.

A call should go out to every church to send photos and a short description of what they have been doing to advance the gospel in their community. A lively and fruitful Spirit-inspired conversation might follow. We would thus bear witness to those in the public square who are longing for meaning and purpose in their lives, as well as  encouraging our fellow church members  who might  otherwise be  feeling isolated and unsupported.

Alan Ray
Mont Albert

Editor’s note: Thanks for your feedback Mr Ray. We hope you’re enjoying the new look back page, featuring photos sent to us from throughout the synod, as well as our monthly page profiling the work of congregations in their local communities.


Who or what is God?

John Bodycomb definitely prompted an interesting discussion with his letter asking who or what is God. I believe in the God of orthodoxy and I believe the orthodox faith can be a source of delight for Christians.

I believe in God the Holy Trinity. I understand that the formula ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ can cause difficulty for some who see the language as patriarchal. But the God to whom Trinitarian language points is far from patriarchal.

Through the doctrine of the Trinity, Christians say that we do not worship God as an isolated individual. We worship God as a community of mutuality, equality and love. If we are called to live in imitation of God, and God in Godself is a loving community of equals, our response is clear. Anything that promotes division, inequality and hatred is anathema to Christians who believe in the triune God.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. We have seen in the debate about asylum seekers in Australia how easy it is to dehumanise people when their faces are hidden. In the incarnation of Jesus Christ we see the face of God. God taking on human flesh has also shown us how important humanity is. Could we reject and abuse other human beings if we saw God in each and every one of them?

When we are baptised we become full members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. In the baptismal service the Apostles’ Creed is said to affirm the faith into which every Christian is baptised. We all say the Creed together in the language of its day in solidarity with everyone who has ever affirmed that faith. We are also baptised with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and so our baptism is recognised by other churches. Faith does not belong to the Uniting Church alone.

The Basis of Union makes it very clear that we are part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. Our God is the God worshipped by that church. Would we really want it any other way?

Rev. Dr Avril Hannah-Jones
Williamstown Uniting Church – Electra Street

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