Synod 2017: Old endings and new beginnings

Almost 300 Synod members packed Box Hill Town Hall throughout the past five days to discern and discuss the future of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania.

Rev Dr Robyn Whitaker set the tone for the 13th Synod meeting at the opening worship at St Michael’s Uniting Church. She urged Synod members to “wrestle with God and one another…in our very non-combative UCA way of holding up coloured cards.”

The big news that emerged from this year’s Synod was the announcement of the moderator-elect.

In a Synod-first, the announcement was live streamed on Facebook.

Rev Denise Liersch, minister at The Avenue Uniting Church in Blackburn, was chosen as the moderator-elect. She will be installed at the opening worship service of the 2019 Synod, where she will replace the current moderator Rev Sharon Hollis.

The Synod received visitors from Assembly with the President, Stuart McMillan, Assembly general secretary Colleen Geyer and president-elect Dr Deidre Palmer all in attendance.

In preparation for the 15th Assembly next July, Synod members were asked to partake in working group discussions on the Uniting Church’s position on marriage and recognising sovereignty of the First Peoples in Australia.

The synod’s conversations attracted the attention of the ABC, who ran a Lateline story on how faith communities can have respectful discussions on same-gender marriage.

The sessions in the main hall were dominated by the amendments to the Synod Standing Committee by-laws and a suite of proposals from the Presbytery Transition Team. After days of deliberations and revisions, the synod reached consensus on presbytery funding.

The Synod also adopted a proposal acknowledging family violence in Church communities and rejected any theology used to legitimate family violence.

Another significant resolution at Synod 2017 was the passing of a proposal calling on the Victorian and Tasmanian governments to support the development of Medically Supervised Injecting Centres (MSIC).

The Creative Design Team introduced a number of new initiatives to this year’s Synod.

Daily vox pops, filmed and edited by the Communications unit, were shown throughout the meeting. The vox pops gave a voice to Synod attendees who might otherwise find it difficult to speak in the main hall.

The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ session allowed Synod members to receive in-depth reports from Uniting Church agencies and bodies they are interested in.

An evening storytelling program on sustainable leadership and generational change was also warmly received by Synod members.

The Synod farewelled a number of long-serving staff and board members whose roles will conclude as a result of Synod restructure.

The Property Board, Board of Mission and Resourcing, the Centre of Theology and Ministry board and Commission for Mission board will wound up in 30 November. The Finance Committee, the Risk Management Committee and the Audit Committee will change their terms of reference.

In the closing Eucharist, Uniting AgeWell’s director of mission Rev John Broughton reminded Synod members that “new beginnings are affected by old endings” and that as Synod 2017 drew to a close, a new door opens for the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania.

“For a Synod that ended well – we thank God,” Mr Broughton said.

The next Synod will take place in May 2019, but before then Melbourne will host the 15th Assembly on 8-14 July next year.

Want more Synod 2017 stories? Go to our dedicated Synod 2017 website. 


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