Letters to the editor – December 2017

Dying with dignity

During the debate on Voluntary Assisted Dying, I have been waiting for a church to come out and say: “Death is not necessarily a bad thing. It does not have to feared and prevented at all costs.”

In April 2013, I spent four days in ICU with acute renal failure. I was told that, if I had not gone in, I would most likely have died during the night. I thought, “You can’t get lower than this. [My husband] Barry is steadily dying and you are very close to dying yourself.  But you believe in a loving God so whatever happens it will all work out in the end”.

A great peace came over me and remained with me during my time in ICU. I was resuscitated at least once and, at one stage, I saw a vision of my parents smiling at me.  I believe I came very close to dying and it was not a fearful experience.

While the church is quite correct in applying the concept of the sanctity of life to situations such as war and widespread famine and poverty, I do not believe that the God of Love would want it applied to people who are living lives of suffering to which there is no possible end but death.

In 2012 my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer in association with a heart problem. In February 2013, he was diagnosed with a large number of small secondary brain cancers.

He deteriorated quickly and the erudite university professor quickly became a frightened small boy who did not know where he was or what was going on. In the early stages, when he had some understanding of what was happening to him, he used to say he had “holes in his brain” because he could not remember things and he hated it.  He cried a lot.

In the last month, he developed a bad case of gangrene in one foot. He died in late June and his last days were very difficult to witness.

As a Christian, I believe that there is some form of existence after death and that it is a positive one. Isn’t that what the Resurrection is about?

My father was a hard-nosed journalist, who spent 27 years as the editor of a big city newspaper, travelled extensively and, in his retirement, chaired the committee that set up Griffith University. When he died at the age of 95, he left a note on his desk that said, “I have lived a full life. I have gone to the Great Adventure.”

Finally, I would like to mention quality of life. I was blessed to get a kidney transplant in 2015 but had a difficult recovery period.

I am not afraid to die but I know how dreadful it is to live continually in survival mode, where all your energy goes to just staying alive, and I am fearful of this happening again.

Felicity Fallon
Burwood Uniting Church

Helplines:
Lifeline P: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue P: 1300 22 4636

 

Marriage: a suggested way forward

Now that civil marriage law in Australia will change, the Uniting Church needs to think about its response.

My suggestion is that the UCA National Assembly in 2018 commits to a three-year period of discernment ready to make a decision on marriage at the 2021 National Assembly.

In the first two years of the discernment period UCA leadership could offer study groups (perhaps bi-monthly) where interested people have the opportunity to study the scriptures and dialogue respectfully guided by the question: “What is God’s intended design for marriage?” In the final year, interested groups could consider possible marriage proposals for the 2021 National Assembly and provide feedback before the proposals are put to the whole Assembly.

I am picturing a three-year period of respectful listening and dialogue where people who might currently have different views come together to seek God’s will for marriage and try to find consensus on how the Uniting Church might respond to this issue.

I acknowledge that the Uniting Church has provided some forums already for the discussion of marriage. In our church we have been offered two opportunities (a marriage discussion group in 2014 based upon UCA papers that were circulated in 2014 and another marriage forum led by Professor William Loader in 2017).

I found these interesting but not sufficient to help me fully discern God’s will on this issue. Indeed, they highlighted the diversity of views on marriage and this division was reinforced by the letters and online conversations in the September 2017 edition of Crosslight.

I believe that we need a process that includes all who want to participate as we continue our discernment of God’s will for marriage and our endeavour to show God’s love to all people whatever decision is made about marriage.

Greg James

Member of Pilgrim Uniting Church
Launceston, Tasmania

Image problem

I found the picture [an image of a young Rohingya man carrying his elderly parents] accompanying the moderator’s column in the November edition extremely distressing, particularly as it occupied more than half the page. I am a person of mature years and unfortunately accustomed to seeing such material.

I believe such a photograph is not suitable for a publication to which older people and children may have access. In addition to any distress, it also induces a sense of helplessness in the face of the many crises of which this is but one.

Our commercial media constantly invades our homes with traumatic visuals from around the world illustrating the abuse perpetrated by mankind to the extent that unfortunately the impact is lost or as the Bible would say ‘our hearts are hardened’.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide feedback.

Andrew Whiteley
via email

 

Importance of ecumenism

The Ecumenical Relations Committee of the synod was heartened to see Nigel Tapp’s double-page spread on ecumenism (Crosslight, November).

We appreciate the fact that many significant contributors in the UCA ecumenical scene were consulted. It is noted that people’s enthusiasm for the ecumenical venture varies according to the particular level of involvement/experience they have, which is understandable.

This article rounded off a trio of stories highlighting the necessity for ongoing ecumenical conversations.

The first was the launch by the moderator and the Archbishop of Melbourne in August of Weaving a New Cloth, the Anglican-Uniting national agreement on working together.

The second was the successful ecumenical panel at Synod in September on the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation. It was extremely encouraging for us as a committee to see a ‘full house’ at the lunchtime forum, to hear Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Uniting Church reflections on the anniversary.  Our only regret was that there was not enough time for discussion.

Ecumenism is an important element of the life of the Christian Church and the Uniting Church in particular.

Unless it specifically appears in the job description of particular people then no one is actually responsible to do the work of ecumenism. This is an issue, we feel, at both assembly and presbytery levels, with new models of staffing in both.

We have written to our presbyteries regarding this, and the Christian Unity Working Group has raised the matter at assembly level.

Rev Peter Weeks
Chairperson
Ecumenical Relations Committee

 

As a committed and involved ecumenist, I was heartened and encouraged by Nigel Tapp’s feature article ‘Let’s get Ecumenical’ in the November Crosslight.

That the Basis of Union of our Uniting Church in Australia stresses the continuing vision of, and search for, unity is a significant feature of our church. We need to support ecumenical ventures in our Christian witness.

As we prepare and implement any vision we have for our witness, we should also consider the ecumenical question as endorsed by the UCA assembly for all our agendas.

In 1998 the UCA Synod of Victoria and Tasmania resolved to encourage congregations, presbyteries and committees to consider prayerfully: ‘Who are our partners?’ and ‘Can this be done ecumenically?’

The document Weaving A New Cloth suggests a number of strategies by which Anglican and Uniting congregations could work more closely together.

One possibility might be to consider how God’s mission for his church might be cooperatively implemented – locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. Opportunities for God’s mission exist at each of these levels.

Remember, it was mission work that first brought the churches from different western protestant traditions together at the Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910.

Finally the UCA declares in the Basis of Union: “… her desire to enter more deeply into the faith and mission of the Church in Australia, by working together and seeking union with other Churches.”

Our challenge in this 21st century is to keep the ecumenical spirit and action that we, as the UCA, inherited with our foundational principles. Whilst ‘organic unity’ may no longer be the way forward, cooperative mission and seeking to learn from each other provide means by which the ecumenical spirit may endure.

Gavin Faichney
St Luke’s UC

 

Electronic Good News

So often we read depressing news in Crosslight of churches closing after very many years. It is sometimes said that recognisable church architecture is an inspiration to the community and a Christian witness to the world in bricks and stone.

Are our buildings, however, a relic of denominational pride, from an age where many parishioners walked to their local place of worship? Should we be promoting the Gospel in a 21st century manner?

Perhaps it is time to record the positive news of our witness to Christ’s message through electronic media.

Many congregations now have websites in which they reproduce their ministers’ sermons or publicise their outreach activities. These are easy to navigate and contain photos of the vibrant life of that faith group. They provide a safe window into what goes on inside our communities for those who are enquiring about our practices. A computer-savvy generation can easily ascertain service times, special events and seek a faith community in which they would feel comfortable.

Other congregations have produced PowerPoint presentations, which can be played on church recording systems. These are modern wayside pulpits, portable on memory sticks to any venue, proclaiming the life, faith and relevance of the Christian message. In that way we promote news of a Gospel alive in the community.

Alan Ray
Mont Albert, VIC

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