42. ONE BODY, MANY MEMBERS – LIVING FAITH AND LIFE CROSS CULTURALLY (Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry)

Friday, 15 June 2012

That the Assembly resolve to:

1.         adopt the Statement, “One Body, many members - Living faith and life cross-culturally” (Appendix A to the Report of Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry)

2.         commit its Officers, Staff, Agencies, Task Groups, and Committees, and calls upon all members and leaders, Councils and Agencies of the Uniting Church in Australia to live out our common faith and life cross-culturally by using the characteristics outlined in the document “One Body, many members – Living faith and life cross-culturally” as benchmarks to shape the whole life of the UCA in:

(a)     acts of public worship, witness and service in multicultural, multiracial and multifaith Australia;

(b)     celebrating and using God’s gifts of theological, biblical and liturgical richness that arises from our cultural and linguistic diversity;

(c)     intentionally seeking ways to represent the genuine cultural and linguistic diversity of the church and not particular cultural or language groups in elections for and appointments to Councils, Task Groups and Committees;

(d)     using culturally sensitive, inclusive and equitable procedures for the recognition of calling, determination of placement and standing of those in designated ministries of the Uniting Church in Australia;

(e)     continuing to support the development and dissemination of multilingual resources in first languages and thought forms for use throughout the UCA, including Church signs;

(f)      continuing to engage in effective prophetic advocacy and public policy development on the issues of racial, social, economic and environmental justice;

(g)     expanding curriculum development and educational programs to include awareness and knowledge concerning the diversity of cultural heritages, theological and biblical traditions and insights, teaching and learning styles, and in-language assessment of our multicultural and multiracial world: for discipleship education and training, formation of candidates for specified ministries, in-service/continuing education programs for leaders, ministers and elders;

(h)     encouraging ministers and leaders in the UCA to acquire a second language and to participate in immersion experiences in another culture/language community in order to make their ministry gifts and leadership available more widely and equitably across the UCA.

(i)      exploring, developing, supporting and implementing culturally and contextually appropriate strategies concerning evangelism and resourcing for new church establishment, development and ministry support in racially, culturally and linguistically diverse communities;

(j)      planning and implementing strategies to help ensure and promote a faithful, equitable and just stewardship and sharing of the financial and property resources of the UCA for the empowerment of all local congregations and faith communities;

(k)     the racial, cultural and linguistic diversity of the writers, content of articles and photo and other images used in UCA publications and publicity materials; and

3.         urges the whole church to accept an ethic of accountability in our relationships with each other in all settings of the UCA in these matters by reporting progress and areas of difficulty in regular reporting to one another.

Rationale:

The 1985 Declaration “The Uniting Church is a Multicultural Church. In 1985, the UCA Assembly claimed its identity in Christ as ‘a multicultural church’ and made a formal declaration to that effect: “The Uniting Church is a Multicultural Church.

Paragraphs 5 to 9 of “The Uniting Church is a Multicultural Church” included some key and far reaching actions/characteristics that spoke of how such a church would look and the breadth of change that living into and out of such a declaration would bring.

Further action by the Assembly

As a result of this Declaration and in trying to respond to what flows from it, meetings of the Assembly over the next 2 decades produced a number of reports, policy documents, workshops, courses and other resources:

  • Assisting the UCA to understand the implications of this decision for our life together, our worship and expressions of our faith, our use of the richness and diversity of God-given gifts
  • Embedding this identity and its implications and opportunities for change and renewal into the web and fabric of our life and identity, theology and understanding and use of Scripture as the Uniting Church in Australia
  • Equipping members and leaders in exercising their ministries and leadership in the most inclusive, effective, respectful and enriching ways for living our the Gospel of grace and the hospitality of God for all peoples

In 2006, the 11th Assembly received a report on progress on this journey. It noted significant progress and major difficulties in the ways in which the UCA was living out the 1985 declaration. It also adopted a statement which models the style of corporate life that characterises a multicultural church using biblical stories, images and mandates: A Church for all God’s people.

With all the progress that has been made, what is still missing?

What continues to be missing in the time since 1985 has been a framework that illustrates and shapes the character and structure of such a multicultural church, living its faith cross-culturally. This reality was named clearly in that original Declaration and in the ‘characteristics’ for the UCA’s life and ethos that flow from it and are named so clearly in it.

This proposal is offered as a means by which those commitments included in the 1985 Declaration can be given a formative place within our everyday life and witness in order to assist us to move forward deliberately in every aspect of our diverse and often chaotic life together, under the wise guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in the spirit of the Basis of Union.

For example:

  • Para #1: … open to constant reformand wider union
  • Para #2: … witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural, economic, national and racial boundaries
  • Para #3: … the gift of the H/S to all people as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation
  • Para #4: … a church gathered in Christ’s own strange way, constituted, ruled and renewed…
  • Para #13: … all members endowed with gifts, no gift without corresponding service, all ministries have a part in the ministry of Christ, provision for the exercise of those gifts bestowed by God and ordering of the church’s life in … response to God’s call to enter more fully into mission…
  • Para’s #17 and #18: … constant review and revision of law …in order that it [the UCA] may better serve the Gospel … so that its life may increasingly be directed to the service of God and humanity, and its worship to a true and faithful setting forth of, and response to, the Gospel of Christ … All because we are on a journey of God’s choosing and therefore we pray … that, through the gift of the Spirit, God will constantly correct that which is erroneous in its life, will bring it into deeper unity with other Churches, and will use its worship, witness and service to God’s eternal glory …