Letters to the editor – August 2018

Cruellest cuts

The Federal Government’s preoccupation with tax cuts is extremely worrying.

Most Australians are well aware that our public schools, hospitals, aged care, mental health and addiction rehabilitation facilities all desperately need greater government funding. 

Many of the most vulnerable in our community are dependent on Newstart unemployment allowance and parenting payments are well below the poverty line.

Taxes therefore need to be increased for there to be proper expenditure on essential services.

I believe that those of us with ongoing, properly paid employment, along with the vast majority of businesses, corporations and multinationals, are in a position to pay additional tax and play our fair part in the building of a more caring society.

Rev Robert Van Zetten
Highton, VIC

Counter argument

I spent my working life, some 47 years, in the employ of three of the four major Australian banking groups and it pains me to hear and read many of the matters currently before the banking Royal Commission (“Bank tellers”, July). However, it is unfortunate the two-word heading was used over the report relating to UCA Funds Management’s expressed concerns as shareholders to the CEOs of those banks.

During my career I was a bank teller as part of progression through the ranks. In those days trust and honesty were the hallmarks of most bank employees who were part of local communities. Along with others, these employees contributed to the social fabric of the nation, holding positions with and participating in the activities of community organisations including the Christian church. They behaved in an ethical and moral way, gaining the respect of customers and those communities. Admittedly there were a relative few who erred and paid a very heavy price, usually dismissal and in some cases, a custodial sentence.

The observation by UC minister John Bottomley as to whether bad behaviour in banks is “individualist in nature or reflecting unaddressed societal and perhaps even theological problems”, is interesting. However, it is worth observing that two institutions within our society, the church (in its broader context) and our financial institutions have both been subject to royal commissions.

I make no excuse for the reported and disclosed behaviour of banks and individuals. However, it would be wise to let the Royal Commission run its course, await its recommendations, viewed against the actions both of the industry and its individual players. In the meantime, as members of the Uniting Church, we need to ensure that our concerns around the conduct of other societal institutions does not blind us from ensuring we too get our house in order.

My career took me to many places – NSW country and metropolitan. Papua New Guinea, Tasmania and South Australia. All three employers provided training, equipping me to serve the community beyond the teller’s counter. It was early in my working life at the Barraba (NSW) branch of the Bank of New South Wales that I saw hanging in the manager’s office the framed sign “Old Bank Managers never die, they just lose interest”. I for one have not lost interest in ensuring honesty and trust is restored.

Allan Gibson OAM
Cherrybrook NSW

(Disclosure: the writer hold shares in three listed financial institutions)

Decisive action

The last sentence in Greg James’ letter (July) is all that counts. We are all children of God as well as human beings and sinners and we wade through the detritus of life ever holding his hand and being guided by him in the path of grace he created for us.

What Mr James is suggesting in his letter is exactly the same as the MSR Review which was so important a few years ago. The status quo then was declared unacceptable and what we got was a mishmash of all sorts of decisions that have led the church nowhere except to confirm that the status quo is up and running as before. To delay a conversation as Mr James is suggesting is to maintain this status quo in that nobody is prepared to make any changes without considerable delays for discernment.

We need people who are prepared to make decisions NOW and not in three years time when there may be some letters between parties and no common decision reached. If your minister believes in one aspect of the report and he is standing by that decision then you should agree with him or her. If you don’t like it then move to another congregation who thinks like you do and worship there.

Your worship is acceptable to God because it is offered freely and willingly. You don’t have to agree with what someone has told you because when you leave there will be another to come and to take your place and their worship will also be acceptable.

Mr James has no right to attempt to postpone Assembly decisions. Just worship God, ‘who-is-all-there-is.’ Let all those others talk till the cows come home and you will still be worshipping the same God. Your God, the Father of your Saviour. What else matters?  We just need to move out of this stagnant morass we are sinking in.

Alexander Drysdale
Lyndhurst, VIC


Fundamental truths

Neil Cameron in ‘Genesis of doubt’ (Crosslight, July), draws the conclusion that fundamentalist beliefs are the reason why our churches are empty.

I believe that there are strong arguments for claiming that the opposite is true.

The great revivals of the 19th and 20th centuries were the result of preachers proclaiming that God had spoken through the Scriptures, and that those Scriptures spelled out clearly God’s plan of redemption for human kind.

Churches were overflowing and many thousands of people’s lives were dramatically changed as a result.

For the last 20 years in Crosslight, With Love to the World and from our pulpits, the Bible has often been doubted, downplayed, questioned and ignored.

Fundamentalist beliefs have been decried and often the Scriptures have been denied or treated as irrelevant. If fundamentalism was the problem, how is it that many Uniting Churches have been decimated during this period?

Surely by now our churches should be overflowing.

Science is quoted as the reason for doubting the Bible.

But surely, science is a work in progress.

Its findings should be classified as provisional. When I was young, scientists thought that the atom was the smallest particle there was. But now, we find that there are large numbers of sub particles in every atom. And it would seem, there could well be more to discover. In almost every branch of science, new discoveries are regularly made which contradict or amend earlier ones. Do we really want to base our theology on science?

And if the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection and the atonement are all eliminated from the Gospel, what is left?

The Gospel according to human wisdom?  Help!

Noel Lodge
Lilydale, VIC

Generation gaps

Within the Uniting Church, much effort is being put into assisting youth to understand the heritage of faith as found in the Gospel message that Jesus is the Christ, now as at the beginning. Special activities appealing to youth are offered not so much as an inducement, but to establish a sense of belonging.

It might be said that the older members of a congregations have had time to appreciate and give thanks for grace and enlightenment. If only that was a reality, then that would be fine. Unfortunately, it is too easy to become a habitual Christian going through the motions of worship and even sharing in activities together.

The gap between youth and the older members of a congregation is significant. However, maybe that which is overlooked are the middle group of people between the ages of 40 to 55 years of age.

At this stage people are often in their employment enjoying the best years of their lives. Often both husband and wife are working and have teenagers to educate. Come weekends and both parents desire time out to recuperate.

This is by far the biggest generational gap in any congregation. The question is: how do we restore balance between generations?  To be a community of faith there is a need for unity. This doesn’t mean everybody being together at worship at the same time. Rather it is a matter of devoting a more equitable effort towards meeting the needs of all groups.

In some ways too much emphasis can be put on the word ‘age’.  We are all different with our own personalities and gifts. It is better that we learn to accept one another and not put labels on ourselves as if we were goods for sale.

The words “To love one another as I have loved you” need to be uppermost in our mind. Genuine friendship and hospitality need to take place.

To speak of renewal is a challenge to all of us at every stage of life. Let us work together and break the deadlock of intergenerational differences. Faith can move mountains.

Alan English
Shepparton, VIC

Wrong confession

I was recently given a copy of a church service to peruse. After reading it, I just felt complete dismay.

This service, like all our weekly services, included a Prayer of Confession in which the congregation, was asked to confess things that were simply not true. What was written is opposite from the way I live, speak and act, and then at the end I am to ask for mercy.

I would feel that the majority, if not all, who worship with me live their lives the best way they can and yet are constantly asked to ‘confess’ their sins in order to receive forgiveness. Like most people, any ‘sin’ I commit is not done deliberately but unknowingly.

When I joined the Church over 70 years ago I did so because I believed there was a God who loved me unconditionally and accepted me as I was.

I still believe that; yet every week I am made to feel guilty for what I’ve supposedly done. What does this practice do for people who feel inadequate or inferior? Certainly nothing to encourage them but would make them feel constantly under ‘God’s thumb’, and need to be kept in their place.

This is not what the church should be about – it needs to encourage and proclaim God’s love that makes us feel of worth and is freely given without conditions such as confession that makes us feel like ‘naughty little kids’.

The archaic Nicene Creed was also used in this service, and I ask why is it being recited at all?

We are asked to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and strength and yet nowhere does it say to leave our intellect at the church door. This was an appropriate document when it was written and reflected people’s understanding of God at that time, but surely we’ve moved on. We now understand that the Bible is not a book of facts, we have accepted gay people, divorcees, and all people who care to join us. Our pews are devoid of younger people and part of that is because we’re living in the past with ancient creeds, dogmas and habits that are not even questioned.

Even our hymn books have very few appropriate modern hymns, most of them do not portray an understanding of God suitable for our time.

It’s about time we brought the Christian Church into this century, and ‘get with it’, so that thinking people will see Christianity for what it really is, and not stay stuck in the past.

(Mrs) Kim Searle
Burnie, TAS

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