37. ORDINATION AND COMMISSIONING QUESTIONS (UAICC)

Friday, 15 June 2012

That the Assembly resolve to

authorise the Assembly Standing Committee, on the advice of the Working Group on Worship, to

(a) include in the Charge to newly ordained ministers the requirement to work within the Covenant between the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and the Uniting Church, and

(b) add a new question to induction and commissioning services in which the respondent affirms the covenant between the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and the Uniting Church and the obligation to serve First and Second Peoples.

Rationale:

The Uniting Church was born with a dream of becoming a truly Indigenous Australian Church. Since Union in 1977 the Church has sought to engage with many social justice issues and bring to bear a theology and practice consistent with the witness of the Holy Spirit as it has sought to reflect on the Scriptures and Christian heritage in contemporary Australia.

In the last 30 years the Church has embraced a new relationship with the First Australians.  This has been expressed in the formation of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (1985), the signing of the Covenant with the Congress in 1994 and at the last Assembly (2009) adopting the new Preamble to the Constitution of the Uniting Church.

At the time of the Covenant being signed in 1994 it was hoped that congregations of the Uniting Church would catch the vision of a new relationship with Aboriginal people and this would be expressed in grass roots solidarity.  While a great deal of goodwill existed at that time and a lot effort put into sharing the vision and encouraging initiatives in congregations, the most substantial progress has been made in the Assembly with follow-on proposals adopted in Synods and Presbyteries.

This proposal seeks to do a number a number of things, including:

  1. To create a consciousness of the Covenant and the expectation that people of the Uniting Church will seek to live itThis consciousness would come through the question being asked regularly of people in set apart ministries as well as commissioning of Elders, Church Councillors, Leaders in various congregational activities, Board members of Uniting Church agencies and schools and many more.
  2. To generate a practical commitment to the Covenant by the people of the Uniting Church.  The very important reason for seeking to add another question to the services for ordination, inductions and other services is to challenge and enable the leaders of the Church to make a commitment to theThrough their leadership and faithfully seeking to work out this commitment along with others, the whole Church will be led into a commitment to the Covenant.
  3. To enable the Church to live out the great prayer of Jesus that we might be one in him (John 17) and to do so by the leading of the Holy Spirit that in the first Pentecost (Acts 2) brought people of diverse backgroundsIt is urgent in Australia that the Uniting Church gives practical expression to the Covenant so that the whole nation can see it is possible to live as one people and racism will be consigned to the past.

We are aware the Uniting Church has sought to reduce the number of questions asked of people in ordination and induction services.  We accept that in ordination services this matter is appropriately dealt with when included in the charge to newly ordained persons.  We are of the opinion the question should be included in the induction services as we believe it is important for the leaders of the Church to make a commitments at regular intervals to lead the whole Church into greater understanding and participation of the Covenant as a fundamental expression of what it is to be the Uniting Church in Australia, faithful to Jesus Christ who leads us in strange ways to renew the Church and whole of the world.

Definition of Terms used in this document have been taken from the Constitution of the Uniting Church and are:

Covenantal relationship is the relationship which exists between the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and the Assembly, which began in the invitation of the 1988 and response of 1994, in which both groups commit themselves to developing more just, inclusive and equal relationships in the Church that recognise the place of First Peoples, the difficult history of this nation since invasion, and the particular responsibility of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress for ministry with and among Aboriginal and Islander peoples.

First Peoples are the Aboriginal and Islander peoples of Australia who are the Indigenous peoples of this land.  These peoples are a diverse group with many languages and communal identities.

Second Peoples are all those peoples who have come after the First Peoples and who are beneficiaries in some way of the invasion and dispossession of the lands of the First Peoples.  Among Second Peoples within the Church are many whose racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, experience and expression of Christian Faith are not those originating in Western forms of thought and theological expression.