By Andrew Humphries
Synod 2023 has wrapped up after four fruitful days of discernment and discussion around matters of importance to Uniting Church members in Victoria and Tasmania.
Moderator Rev David Fotheringham brought the final day of the four-day gathering at Box Hill Town Hall to a close this afternoon, with Closing Eucharist and the commissioning of elected members.
Before that, members discussed remaining proposals, had an opportunity to make short speeches, and elected members of the Synod Standing Committee were announced.
A proposal carried on to today addressed the issue of climate change, and it was resolved that all parts of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, its members, institutions and councils be encouraged to aim for zero emissions by 2040 at the latest.
It was also resolved that a Synod Emissions Reduction Fund, to be administered by the Synod Climate Action Taskforce, be established and that the taskforce report back to the next ordinary Synod Meeting on progress made and what further steps need to be taken, including financial resources required.
Members elected to the Synod Standing Committee were Paul Chandler, Fiona Ensor, Cathie Halliwell, Anneke Oppewal, Cameron Shields and Lucas Taylor, while Synod members will be notified by email next week regarding who has been elected as National Assembly members.
Today’s morning session offered Synod members an opportunity to hear reports from Synod Ministries and Operations (Rev Dr Mark Lawrence), the Ministry and Mission Committee (Dr Paul Chandler), and the Property and Operations Committee (Rev Stan Clarke).
Reports were also presented by Uniting Vic.Tas, Uniting AgeWell and U Ethical representatives.
Members were also briefed by facilitation group convenor Rev Rachel Kronberger on some of the feedback from working groups around the Faithful Futures Project, which aims to guide Synod and Presbyteries over the next 10 to 15 years.
“Members considered the obstacles on the path for this Synod and we offer three of the obstacles that generated the most feedback,” Rachel said.
“These were decline, the changing face of chaplaincy, and discipleship, mission and evangelism.
“There was also a strong alignment with the Synod’s vision statement, and so to reflect on the path that we travel together we conclude with the affirmation Jesus said, ‘that I am the way’.”
Minutes of appreciation were offered today for Rev Ikani Vaitohi and Isabel Thomas Dobson.
Ikani was recognised for his service on the Ministry and Mission Committee as chairperson from June 2021 to June this year.
“Ikani’s keen commitment to and engagement with the committee’s areas of responsibility was clear to all committee members,” minute of appreciation proposer Isabel Thomas Dobson said.
“His enthusiasm, creativity, and commitment to encourage the committee to assist the Church to engage with the Gospel, the community and to recognise how the Church itself must embrace a different future brought energy and focus to the M&M meetings.”
Isabel was recognised for her service as Associate General Secretary from October 2013 through to her scheduled retirement in February next year.
“Isabel’s faithful and positive contribution to many parts of the Church has been profound, long lasting, and a wonderful expression of discipleship and commitment to Christ’s mission in the world,” minute of appreciation proposer Mark Lawrence said.
“All of the qualities that Isabel has brought to the Synod through her role as Associate General Secretary, and before that, as Moderator, including faithful and encouraging leadership; discerning observation; pastoral sensitivity; frank conversations; collaborator; history bearer; whole of Church perspectives; wise counsellor, shared discipleship; and so much more, have made a wonderful and deep contribution to the Synod and the wider Church.”
Recordings of most of today’s plenary sessions, including the feedback on the Faithful Futures Project, are available on the Synod 2023 YouTube channel.