22. FRIENDSHIP IN THE PRESENCE OF DIFFERENCE: CHRISTIAN WITNESS IN MULTIFAITH AUSTRALIA (Relations with Other Faiths)

That the Assembly resolve to

1. note that “We are a Multicultural Church” (Assembly, 1985) that embraces cultural diversity as a gift from the Creator;

2. note that thelives in a multicultural and cross cultural society and therefore reaches out to people of different cultures and faiths (Living with a Neighbour who is Different : Christian Vocation  in  Multifaith  Australia, 9th Assembly 2000);

3. receive the paper Friendship in the Presence of Difference: Christian WitnessMultifaith Australia (Relations with other Faiths report appendix 1) as an update to the resource, Living with a Neighbour who is Different: Christian Vocation in Multifaith Australia, 9th Assembly 2000);

4. request the Working Group on Relations with other Faiths to develop resources associated with the paper; and

5. commend the paper Friendship in the Presence of Difference: Christian Witness in Multifaith Australia and the associated study resources to presbyteries and congregations for their use.

Rationale:

This paper is a follow up of the paper (theological resource) that was prepared by the Working Group on Doctrine and received by the 9th Assembly in 2000.

This updated resource is written with the changing global and in particular the changing Australian context in mind since the events of September 11th. This paper therefore seeks to offer a model of Christian witness that is expressed through friendship whereby the continual reconciliation and renewal of God’s world is made possible.

Also, it is written to encourage Uniting Church members and congregations to continue their work of developing neighbourly relations with people within our multicultural society who are shaped by other faiths. It finds its natural home within the consistent desire of the Uniting Church “to be a pilgrim people serving the reconciling and renewing purposes of God (BOUpara.3)

Friendship is described as human relationship marked by respect, empathy and care, a cluster of qualities that approximate to Christian love. Engagement in respectful and thoughtful inter-faith exploration and growing friendship is welcomed as part of the church’s desire to participate in the healing and renewal of a human family created and loved by God, but sadly bearing the marks of human violence, injustice and misunderstanding.

Engagement in such dialogue and developing friendship is built upon a fresh appreciation of the servant way of Jesus.

Friendship in the presence of difference is regarded as being a central Christian attitude and value. Engagement with those of other faiths is welcomed as a pathway on which we may rediscover the heart of the Christian way while also being enriched by wisdom others have to share. Distortions that have crept into Christian living and believing often become apparent in informed conversation with those who believe differently. Friendship in the presence of difference can be a significant doorway into the renewal of Christian discipleship and theology.

This paper makes reference to important issues of evangelism and pastoral care in a multifaith society and affirms that is our society is to be built upon firm and humane foundations. The wisdom of the different faiths needs to be welcomed and engaged with at all levels of society.

Every part of the church and every theological stream within the Uniting Church, together trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit, have a positive and thoughtful role to play in the promotion of friendship in the presence of difference.