27. EVALUATION OF COVENANTING PROCESS PROCESS (Presbytery / Synod of South Australia)

That the Assembly resolve to

1. request the Standing Committee to appoint a Task Group to evaluate the progress made in the Covenanting process by Assembly, Synods, Presbyteries, Agencies and Congregations since the renewal of the Covenant at the last Assembly; and

2. request the Task Group to bring a report and any recommendations to the 14th Assembly.

Rationale:

In 1994 the Assembly and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) signed a Covenant to work together. At that Assembly, the church called on Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations to consider transferring property and other assets to the Congress.  At the 2009 Assembly, the Covenant was renewed and re-affirmed.

It is timely, three years later, to formally evaluate whether the reaffirmation of the Covenant by the national council of the Church, and the changed preamble to the Constitution has had any impact in councils of the Church. Have these four councils implemented changes to their practices in relation to the UAICC and Aboriginal ministry and mission consistent with the Covenant agreement?

The Assembly could establish a task group of persons experienced in evaluation processes, and set out guidelines for their task, including examples of outcomes that form the criteria by which councils’ actions could be evaluated. For example, some outcomes that could be included in the criteria could be:

  • the extent of engagement with Aboriginal communities in relation to services for Aboriginal people;
  • the proportion of congregations in each Synod which have formally engaged in the covenanting process with Congress Congregations and Faith Communities;
  • the proportion of congregations in each Synod which have celebrated Reconciliation Sunday in special worship services;
  • the requirement by Synods of a covenanting impact statement before approving missional, property and ministry initiatives for funding;
  • the proportion of councils and other authorities which acknowledge country in their formal events;
  • the degree to which the transfer of property and assets to Congress has kept pace with at least the annual increase in CPI;
  • the degree to which Aboriginal people are employed by congregations, agencies and other Councils of the Church;
  • the inclusion of cross-cultural education in the preparation of candidates and other church leaders;
  • action taken by Councils in solidarity with Aboriginal people in relation to local, state and national issues faced by Aboriginal people in working with equity and justice (see the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples);
  • the use by Congregations of worship resources produced by Aboriginal artists and organisations;
  • the degree to which the Church’s resources are directed towards areas of critical need experienced by Aboriginal people;
  • the lobbying activities of the Church’s Councils in relation to state and national governments for equity and justice for Aboriginal people, especially in relation to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, already endorsed by the Australian Government.

It is important that the Covenant Agreement not be just words on paper. This agreement needs to have an impact on the actions of the Councils of the Church to implement the Covenant and build partnership relationships with the UAICC in its ministry and mission among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are striving for equal outcomes with non-Aboriginal Australians. The Uniting Church Basis of Union and Statements to the Nation made by Assembly all make strong statements that the UCA works for justice for the marginalised and oppressed of this world. There is a wealth of evidence that Aboriginal people in Australia are amongst the poorest and most marginalised people and governments have committed themselves to closing the poverty, health and education gaps. The Uniting Church has also committed itself to close these gaps. This proposal, if implemented, would provide concrete evidence that the Church is acting on that commitment and on its Covenant with the UAICC.