The Synod Standing Committee recently made the decision to withdraw as a Supporting Church of ACCESS Ministries.
The decision, made at the Standing Committee’s 24 June meeting, comes after more than three years of consultation with groups including ACCESS Ministries, the Department of Education and Training and Uniting Church religious instructors.
The Christian Religious Education Task Group, on behalf of the synod, engaged over 2012-2014 with ACCESS Ministries to consider the contemporary context of SRI and the Church’s ongoing involvement with ACCESS.
The Synod meeting in September 2014 subsequently resolved to withdraw support if there was not an adequate response to its requests of ACCESS Ministries.
The Synod requested five specific responses from ACCESS by 31 May 2015. These request involved governance, communication and the UCA’s ability to be involved in SRI material.
The Standing Committee evaluated the responses and resolved that they did not adequately address the issues raised by the Synod.
In announcing the decision moderator Dan Wootton acknowledged the faithful work of Church members associated with ACCESS Ministries.
“The decision is a significant one and the Standing Committee has given thanks to God for the many UCA members who have served as members, on the Council and on the Board of ACCESS Ministries,” he said.
“Acknowledgement has also been made of the foundational relationship established by predecessors of the UCA in guiding the development of ACCESS Ministries over many decades.”
The moderator also encouraged individuals or congregations who wish to continue supporting ACCESS to do so.
“Your ministry is valuable,” he said.
“The decision of the Standing Committee does not affect those who choose to contribute to local Special Religious Instruction programs.”
The Uniting Church has raised the possibility of discussions with ACCESS regarding establishing a Memorandum of Understanding (or similar), given that a number of Uniting Church members and congregations are likely to continue to be involved with ACCESS.
Should ACCESS follow up on this possibility, the Standing Committee has authorised the moderator and general secretary to appoint a task group to undertake this work.
The September 2014 Synod resolved to consider the UCA’s involvement in chaplaincy in state schools. The Standing Committee has appointed a task group to undertake this work, which will report to the 2016 Synod.
In acknowledging the decision ACCESS CEO Dawn Penney thanks the Synod Standing Committee for working through the issues of concern with honest dialogue.
“While we acknowledge that the nature of the relationship with the UCA will now change, we are confident that individual UCA members and many local UCA congregations will continue to engage in supporting both the delivery of SRI and Chaplaincy programs to hundreds of Victorian schools,” she said.
“The comments recorded by Moderator Dan Wootton encourage this.”
For more information on the ACCESS Ministries decision, click here.