I write this letter concerning the Uniting Church withdrawing its support for ACCESS Ministries. You published my letter following Synod last year and in that letter I stated “it begs the question have we had the appropriate people negotiating”. It turns out we definitely have NOT had the right people negotiating with ACCESS Ministries. (This includes the members of the standing committee and Church leaders). To gain an unbiased opinion on this matter, go to the www.victas.uca.org.au website and read the script under the moderator’s video. Then go to the www.accessministries.org.au (about us – news) website and read the response to the Uniting Church dated 9/3/2015.
It will leave you wondering why does the Uniting Church wish to withdraw its support for ACCESS Ministries? It will also give you great concerns about who is, and who isn’t, having a say in the Uniting Church.
St Andrews Uniting Church Bendigo
Response to ‘Called to Our Diversity’
Rev Prof Andrew Dutney has made a serious case for an evolving Uniting Church with a re-emphasis on reconciliation in the July Crosslight.
Nevertheless, there are assumptions in his writing which seem to me misconceived.
Jesus is recorded at least six times in the New Testament as saying the condition for entering eternal life – the whole point of salvation, after all – is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.
The Basis of Union replaces this statement of Jesus with a statement of Paul about reconciliation, thereby dividing of the Uniting Church from all other denominations at the point of defining the highest priority for church members. If this divergence is because we think we know more of God’s purposes than Jesus, we had better retrace our ways, and quickly.
Dr Flett’s article in the June Crosslight diagnosed a strong sense of insecurity in the Uniting Church leading to multiple anxieties. There will be those who think it naïve to attribute anxieties to poor theology, but the teachings of Jesus about foundations lead me to this very conclusion.
The issue concerning Paul’s statement about reconciliation is that it simply won’t bear the theological weight we want to put on it – as Dr Parkinson points out in her July Crosslight article. We are using sand instead of rock at a central foundational point.
If we stick to our knitting and, to mix metaphors, cultivate the ground we have inherited, we will be less presumptuous, better informed and more secure in our faith. I sometimes think that our present neglect of Charles Wesley’s hymns is because we can no longer believe them. We have sacrificed our Reformation heritage – our birthright – for that modern heresy:
we need to feel we can make a difference.
New Town 7008
Threat to freedom of speech
I think that we should be very thankful that in Australia we have the privilege of being able to write ‘Letters to the Editor’ and enquiries and complaints to our MPs.
The ability to watch TV programs like Four Corners and Q & A on ABC channel 2, not to mention others, such as Mad as Hell (Shaun Micallef), should be safeguarded.
We need to have satire and questioning debate, as well as informative material.
I am fearful that, in this country, these freedoms are under threat. After all, we have just celebrated 800 years since the “Magna Carta”.
This should have made us think that our long- held freedoms are very precious, especially freedom of speech.
In Nauru, anyone being critical of the government is liable to lose his position and have his visa confiscated.
In early 2014, a registered magistrate and Supreme Court registrar, Peter Law, was fired and deported.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames then had his visa cancelled by Nauru’s president .
Another man, an MP, now has no visa and cannot re-join his family here.
Our Church wanted to send school supplies to Nauru, but was told that blank exercise books were the only ones that were acceptable – no printed matter from Australia.
Recent worrying developments in our country make me afraid that we might see assaults on our freedom, such as these in Nauru and in a number of other countries around the world.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
The July editorial, entitled ‘Timeless Beauty’ describes how the editor was “taken to a place of worship and awe and into contemplation and prayer”, as she visited the great cathedrals of Europe. Can we too experience our own antipodean places of worship and awe? Rather than seek to use a modern utilitarian hall on the grounds of cost of repairs to heritage buildings, we should celebrate our patrimony of recognisable sanctuaries.
My own church is a century-old arts and crafts style Methodist chapel. With liturgical banners, woodcarvings, ceramics and the existing stain glass windows, in the words of the editorial, it encourages worship of the Almighty as the logical and necessary response. All these are not essential to the praise of God, but they are extremely helpful. A palimpsest of architectural modifications to the interior reflects the changing devotional practices over the last century.
It is not idolatry to want to conserve an edifice which evokes thoughts of the transcendent. People passing such buildings see the church as a visible part of the fabric of society, even though they may not have entered its doors for some time. A witness in stone and testimony to the fervour of our ancestors, ecclesiastical interiors are an opportunity to showcase the faith when the public attends for concerts or services, even if only on special occasions.
How ironic that it is often the secular authorities in their town planning regimes which classify the exterior of such structures with heritage overlays. To them, the building has merit. Many property committees may grumble about the cost of repairing the slate roof or re-wiring the building, but we should be aware of the value of a broader spiritual audit of what has been bequeathed to us by our forebears.
Let us enjoy the visual theology of great churches overseas, but let us also appreciate what we have here beside us.
Seeking the Truth.
Learning the original Greek and Hebrew languages is very important for ministers of religion so that they can accurately assist people to understand the deep meanings of often misunderstood teachings in the modern translations, not to just put their personal belief into modern jargon of the street.
For example, the vestment stole is a symbol of the towel Jesus used to wash the disciples’ feet not a show-pony yoke to Jesus. The ‘easy yoke’ was made BY Jesus (a carpenter) for us to be yoked to another equally faithful Worker for Him. If unequally yoked, the stronger would pull the weaker away from the straight and narrow way.
The oxen were sterile as ‘in Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek’ and in Heaven there is no marriage bond even though it is ‘acceptable in all’ so we humans cannot judge a union that is ordained by God when there are many physical and mental graduations between the average male and female psyche.
Being yoked to another equal is to work ‘shoulder to shoulder’, ‘in step’, ‘seeing eye to eye’, and able to be directed even by a small child in the field away from adult supervision. Drawing water, the oxen go uphill all the way to the well (free from ground water overflow and contamination) and back down the easy ramp when pulling the heavy leather water bag up from the well.
Even the translations of the Lord’s Prayer from Greek is more similar to the old 18th century hymn writer Williams who wrote ‘Bread of Heaven, feed me now and evermore’ a prayer, not for daily earthly bread but what Jesus promised – the Heavenly ‘Bread of the Spirit’ to feed us now and evermore.
Then to have us joyfully and thankfully seek His ‘guidance’ not just a passive blanket of ‘Blessing’ which may not need our active desire and acceptance. “Let not your heart be troubled, be of good cheer ” etc. We are so ‘Lucky’ that God ‘gambled’ His Son’s life to bring us safe Home to the Heavenly Fold.
R J Horton