Christian Unity Working Group

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

1. INTRODUCTION

The ecumenical dimensions of church life continue to be marked by fresh initiatives as well as decay. Traditional ecumenical institutions are undergoing renovations and there are fresh and encouraging expressions of the ecumenical impulse such as the Global Christian Forum, which is now bringing together representatives from the full spectrum of Christian churches for personal encounter and conversation. The UCA is actively involved in these international developments and in the promotion of Christian Unity within Australia.

The CUWG is charged by the Assembly to encourage and resource the UCA to pray, study and work

a) towards the goal of the Christian Unity of the churches, 
b) towards uniting Christians in faith, worship, witness and ministry.

 The objectives of the CUWG fall into three areas:

  • Promoting and managing dialogues with other churches in Australia
  • Overseeing Uniting Church participation in ecumenical bodies
  • Assisting reception of the fruits of ecumenical work within the UCA and monitoring the ecumenical implications of Assembly decisions and UCA practices

Christian unity is ultimately a gift of God, though not divorced from our human efforts. Our commitment to Christian unity is a central part of our commitment to Christ. We belong together because Christ has called us and given us each other as companions. Our continuing challenge is to find ways to make our unity in Christ visible and effective.

The CUWG sees value in working with the shift in focus of ecumenical work from the explicit goal of ‘organic unity’ towards more proximate goals such as ‘visible unity’, ‘spiritual unity’, ‘koinonia’, ‘shared mission’ and ‘deeper fellowship’. We believe that the general programme of ‘receptive ecumenism’ indicates what can be achieved in these areas today. We believe that these proximate goals are important because they challenge us to do what we can do now for enhancing Christian unity. We would nevertheless want to stress that the goal of organic unity - at least as it impacts upon the possibility of shared eucharistic fellowship - remains a most important challenge for all churches. Our dialogues are developed on the basis of specific, stated goals which are drawn from a list ranging from expressing friendship to seeking organic union.

2. DIALOGUES

The UCA is currently in active dialogue with five other churches in Australia. These churches are the Anglican Church of Australia, the Baptist Union of Australia, the Lutheran Church of Australia, the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army. These dialogues are meeting regularly with clearly formulated aims, with the exception of the dialogue with the Salvation Army, which is in the process of being refreshed to include the Eastern Region as well as the Southern Region. This Dialogue is exploring the themes of ‘Holiness and Social Justice’.

The main achievement since the last Assembly has been the acceptance by the Lutheran Church of Australia of a revised Declaration of Mutual Recognition (with caveats concerning the full exchange of ordained ministries). The UCA Standing Committee has approved this revised Declaration (which is not substantially different from that adopted by the assembly in 2000) and the associated documentation and protocols. We therefore draw the attention of Assembly members to the agreed version of this revised Declaration and protocols which can be found on the Christian Unity pages of the Assembly website at: [assembly.uca.org.au/unity/dialogues]. The download file is entitled: ’Lutheran Church and UCA dialogue documents.pdf’. We are now encouraged to work with the Lutheran Church in developing further sharing nationally, regionally and through local projects on the basis of these agreements. The Dialogue has most recently been studying issues associated with the various forms of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in the eucharist.

The Roman Catholic/UCA Dialogue, based in Brisbane, is now working on the topic ‘The Church in the Public Square’. A Study Guide to the earlier report, ‘The Mission of the Church’ (2008) is available for use by interested groups.

The Anglican/UCA Dialogue produced a proposed ‘Covenant of Association’ which has been accepted by the ASC. It is under consideration by Anglican Dioceses and by their Doctrine and Ecumenical Affairs Commissions. There are ongoing discussions as to the way forward in this important relationship.

The Baptist/UCA Dialogue is about to produce a statement on ‘Church Membership’ which is presented for study by both churches.

3. ECUMENICAL BODIES

The UCA continues to play an active part in all ecumenical bodies of which we are a member church. We are represented quite fully in the governance of these bodies as detailed below. This has been achieved through our long term commitment to full participation in these bodies and through the dedicated efforts of those who have represented the UCA at Assemblies and other ecumenical meetings. The participation of our representatives is supported by the UCA through the Ecumenical Travel Fund. Our representatives report regularly to the CUWG. We deeply appreciate the willingness of our representatives to undertake this work.

4. WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

The CUWG notes that the UCA continues to be represented by:

  • The Rev. Gregor Henderson on the WCC Central Committee.
  • The Rev. Elenie Poulos on the WCC Churches Commission on International Affairs.
  • Ms. Aimee Kent on the WCC Education and Ecumenical Formation Commission.
  • The Rev. Dr. Richard Treloar (through co-operative arrangement with the Anglican Church of Australia) on the Faith and Order Standing Commission and expresses its thanks to Richard for his full reports from their meetings.
  • The Rev. Charity Majiza on the Continuation Committee of the United/Uniting Churches which is co-ordinated by the Faith and Order Commission Secretariat.
  • The Rev. Dr. Sandy Yule in the meetings of WCC Ecumenical Officers.

The CUWG notes:

  • The participation of the Rev. Dr. Chris Walker and the Rev. Terence Corkin (and also the Rev. Tara Curlewis representing the NCCA) in the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (Kingston, Jamaica, May, 2011).
  • The invitation to the Rev. Andy Tiver to participate in a Pre-Assembly consultation of the WCC Council for World Mission and Evangelism in the Philippines in March 2012.

The CUWG:

  • Prepared the UCA response (with the leading assistance of UnitingJustice) to the WCC documents ‘Eco-justice and Ecological Debt’ and the ‘Ecumenical Call to Just Peace’ (from the IEPC) .
  • Prepared the UCA response to the WCC Governance Review. 
  • Distributes electronically the regular media releases from the WCC Communications Unit.

5. CHRISTIAN CONFERENCE OF ASIA

The CUWG notes that:

  • The UCA was represented at the 2010 CCA Assembly by the President, the Rev. Alistair Macrae (as a member of the NCCA Delegation) and by the Rev. Terence Corkin and Ms. Tess Keam and that other UCA members present included the Rev. Tara Curlewis, the Rev. John Barr, the Rev. Dr. Sandy Yule, the Rev. Margie Dahl, Mr. Charlie Ocampo (CCA Staff) and the Rev. Andy Tiver.
  • The UCA is represented by Ms. Tess Keam on the CCA Justice and International Development Committee.

The CUWG notes:

  • the work of the Rev. Professor James Haire as CCA Executive member (2005-10),
  • The work of Mr. Charlie Ocampo as a CCA staff member.
  • The work of Mr. James Ellis as an assisted volunteer with the CCA Assembly Preparation committee (2009-10).
  • The visit to Australia by the CCA Associate General Secretary, Mr. Rienze Perera, in September 2010.
  • The participation of the Rev. Dr. Sandy Yule in the first meeting of CCA/WCC Asian member church Ecumenical Officers in June/July 2009.

6. WORLD ALLIANCE OF REFORMED CHURCHES/WORLD COMMUNION OF REFORMED CHURCHES

The CUWG notes:

  • With thanksgiving the formation of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) from the WARC and the Reformed Ecumenical Council at the Uniting General Council meeting in 2010.
  • That we were represented at the Uniting General Council by the Rev. Alistair Macrae, the Rev. Terence Corkin, the Rev. Kerry Enright, the Rev. Charity Majiza. the Rev. Professor James Haire and Ms. Robyn Goodwin, as well as Ms Judi Fisher (ex officio).
  • That the UCA is represented at the WCRC Executive by Ms. Robyn Goodwin (co-opted youth advisor).
  • The work of Ms. Judi Fisher as WARC Executive member and Pacific Vice President, as well as Moderator of the Communications Network of the WARC .
  • The work of Dr. Jill Tabart and the Rev. Terence Corkin in introducing consensus decision-making to the WCRC.
  • The need to develop, with the assistance of Mr. Bruce Mullan (UnitingWorld), UCA input to an appropriate form of organization for the participation of the member churches of the WCRC in the Pacific region of which we are a part.

7. WORLD METHODIST COUNCIL

The CUWG:

  • Notes that the UCA continues to be represented by the Rev. Professor Emeritus Robert Gribben as Chair of the Standing Committee on Ecumenical Relationships of the WMC.
  • Welcomes the election of Ms. Ann Connan as President of the World Federation of Methodist and United Church Women.
  • Notes that the UCA was represented by the Rev. Professor Emeritus Robert Gribben (VicTas, Head of delegation), Mrs. Ann Connan, (VicTas), the Rev. Lyn Burden (Queensland), the Rev. Steve Francis (WA), the Rev. Keith Garner (NSW), the Rev. Jason Kioa, (VicTas, member of CUWG), the Rev. Sang Taek Lee (NSW), the Rev. Ian Price (SA), Mr. Rohan Pryor (VicTas, Pastor), Ms. Isabel Thomas Dobson (VicTas, Moderator) and the Rev. Dr. Chris Walker (Assembly, National Director, Theology and Discipleship), at the Durban meeting of the World Methodist Council in August 2011 and with other UCA members in the WMC Conference on the theme ‘Jesus Christ: For the Healing of the Nations’.
  • Notes the presence of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia (as well as the Chinese Methodist Church in Australia) at the WMC meeting in Durban.
  • Continues to give thanks for the conversation with the Chinese Methodist Church in Australia exploring mission co-operation on the basis of our common membership in the WMC.
  • Welcomes the recommendation of the WMC delegates from the UCA for an ongoing body within the UCA for refreshing this relationship.

8. NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN AUSTRALIA

The CUWG notes:

  • The work of the Rev. Tara Curlewis as the NCCA General Secretary (from April 2009).
  • The election of the Rev. Seferosa Carroll and Ms. Robyn Goodwin to the NCCA Executive at the NCCA Forum in 2010.
  • The work of Ms. Aimee Kent as a member of the NCCA Executive Committee (2007-10).
  • The continuing need for reception within our churches of the document ‘Australian Churches Covenanting Together’ which all NCCA member churches have signed.
  • The continuing importance of the existing agreements for the mutual recognition of each other’s baptism by a number of churches, as a basis for further recognition, and urges all congregations to use the Baptism Certificate that names the churches and identifies the formula agreed with those churches with which we share mutual recognition of baptism.
  • The ‘Safe as Churches’ project (dealing with the overcoming of sexual and other forms of abuse within the life of the churches) sponsored by the NCCA.
  • The development of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine/Israel and the participation in this progamme by Ms. Aimee Kent and Ms. Rebekah Christensen.
  • The continuing work of the National Aboriginal and Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) and welcomes Ms. Kerry Charlton as the incoming National Director of NATSIEC.
  • The continuing work of the Faith and Unity Commission and the Christian World Service Commission (Act for Peace)..
  • The advocacy of the NCCA for the inclusion in the national guidelines for emergency response and recovery of the recognition and accreditation of church representatives as chaplains.

9. GLOBAL CHRISTIAN FORUM

The CUWG notes:

  • The work of the Rev. Professor Emeritus Robert Gribben on the Global Christian Forum Committee, representing both the UCA and the WMC.
  • The Asian regional meeting of the Global Christian Forum in Seoul, Korea (November 2010).
  • The second fully international meeting of the Global Christian Forum in Manado, Indonesia (October, 2011).

10. PACIFIC CONFERENCE OF CHURCHES

The CUWG:

  • Endorses our application for membership in the PCC and looks forward to working with UnitingWorld in the oversight of our participation in the PCC should we be accepted as a member.

11. ECUMENICAL CONCERNS

We note that the two specific ecumenical concerns that were identified in our report to the last meeting of the Assembly continue to require our urgent attention. The first concern was the seriousness of our lack of success in achieving full mutual recognition of ordained ministry with our partner churches. The second concern was the need for the development of fresh ecumenical leadership among our own people. We are also concerned to note the deepening difficulties experienced by traditional ecumenical bodies in terms of financial and organizational support from member churches as well as confidence in their raison d’etre.

12. MINISTRY

The mutual recognition of ordained ministry remains one of the most intractable areas of discussion with other churches. This is an area in which our ministry practices are as important as our official teaching concerning ministry. In particular, Anglican concerns about our authorization of lay people to celebrate the eucharist have been unfortunately influential in slowing the progress in our dialogue with them. In 2007, the Trilateral dialogue (Anglican/Lutheran/UCA) formulated its responses to the four questions addressed to it and posed questions of its own to each of the participating churches concerning the exercise of episkope, personal and corporate. The CUWG is seeking to precipitate more work by the Assembly on our theory as well as our practices in this area. so that we can make a coherent response to these questions. We note that there continues to be a degree of confusion created by our use of the term ‘ministry’ for the Christian work of all the people of God as well as for the specific pastoral leadership within the life of the church which has traditionally been exercised by those ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. We are grateful for the co-operation of the Doctrine Working Group in reviewing these issues.

13. ECUMENICAL FORMATION

The CUWG continues to seek ways of involving younger people in ecumenical formation. We have welcomed younger members of the CUWG in the last few years and we have a small budget item to assist younger people to participate in ecumenical conferences and other opportunities for ecumenical formation. We call the attention of the Assembly to the importance of ongoing ecumenical formation for our emerging leaders.

The CUWG commends the work of the Centre for Ecumenical Studies (based in CharlesSturtUniversity and the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra). The Centre for Ecumenical Studies offers regular intensive units in different capital cities under the course title ‘Beyond Division: An Introduction to Ecumenical Studies’. In 2012 the Centre plans to run a course involving Dr Paul Murray, in both Perth and Adelaide. Assembly members are encouraged to recognize this formal study as one important aspect of ecumenical formation for our future ecumenical leaders.

14. CONCILIAR ECUMENISM

NSW Churches Together has come into a critical time with the withdrawal of the Roman Catholic and other churches from membership. This is only one of the more obvious challenges to the renovation that is needed for ecumenical bodies at all levels from the global to the local. The CUWG is grateful for the fact that the UCA has maintained a well-respected level of financial and other support for ecumenical bodies. We believe that there is need for significant refreshing of aims and methods of work in all ecumenical bodies. We also believe that if the present set of ecumenical bodies did not exist, we would be needing to reinvent them. We therefore welcome the reviews and restructuring that is presently occurring, but want this to be understood as an ongoing need as the missional and ecclesial situation of world and church changes.

15. CUWG MEMBERSHIP AND RELATIONSHIPS

The Christian Unity Working Group (CUWG) is located within the General Secretariat and maintains an office in Melbourne, staffed by a CUWG Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Sandy Yule (half-time).. The General Secretary is ex officio a member of the CUWG and the CUWG reports to the Assembly Standing Committee through the General Secretary.

Since the last Assembly in July 2009, Ms. Maureen Postma has been the CUWG Chair. The CUWG has met in most months since the last Assembly. It holds a national conference annually. It relates to synod Ecumenical Relations Committees (where these exist) and currently has oversight of UCA representation on national and international ecumenical bodies and five national bi-lateral dialogue teams. From 2005 until 2011, the CUWG has been represented on the Doctrine Working Group by the Rev. Rodney Horsfield and will be represented by the Rev. Dr. Avril Hannah-Jones from 2012. The CUWG is in regular communication with other Assembly bodies, particularly Theology and Discipleship, Multicultural Ministries, Relations with Other Faiths Working Group, UnitingWorld and UnitingJustice.

Members of the CUWG appointed by the Assembly Standing Committee after the Twelfth Assembly were: Rev. Rodney Horsfield (Former Vic/Tas Synod Moderator, former CUWG Chair and Secretary to the Doctrine WG), Rev. Lynden Broadstock (Chair, UCA/Salvation Army Dialogue, formerly minister in a joint UCA/Churches of Christ congregation), Rev. Margie Dahl (UCA VCC representative), Mr. Gavin Faichney (Member VCC Executive), Rev. Dr. Avril Hannah-Jones (UCA VCC representative,),  Rev. Jason Kioa (Former Vic/Tas Synod Moderator), Rev. Gay Loftus (Assembly member, Deacon), Rev. Charity Majiza (Former General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches), Ms. Joan McRae (Chair, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania ERC, Member VCC Executive), and Rev. Susan Malthouse (UCA VCC representative). The Rev. Rodney Horsfield and the Rev. Lynden Broadstock have resigned from the CUWG due to pressure of other commitments. The CUWG also includes co-opted members: Rev. Dr. Rob Gallacher, Rev. Professor Robert Gribben, Rev. Rachel Kronberger, Rev. Dr. Morag Logan, Rev. Professor Chris Mostert, Ms. Isabel Thomas Dobson, Ms. Judi Fisher, Rev. Andy Tiver and Rev. Dr. D’Arcy Wood.

The CUWG is pleased to renominate Ms. Maureen Postma as CUWG Chair for the period 2012-15. She has served as General Secretary of the Victorian Council of Churches (2001-09) as well as Deputy Chair of the CUWG (2004-09).

Rev Dr Sandy Yule
Secretary


 

APPENDIX A

CHRISTIAN UNITY WORKING GROUP
MANDATE

Responsible to:   The Assembly
Reporting arrangements: The Assembly and the Standing Committee
Mission statement:

In seeking to enter more deeply into the life and witness of the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church, the UCA is committed to journeying towards the promised goal of the unity of all God's people (The Basis Of Union paragraphs 2,3, and 18). To this end, and ‘so the world may believe’ (John 17), the Christian Unity Working Group is charged to encourage and resource the UCA to pray, study and work

a) towards the goal of the Christian Unity of the churches,

b) towards uniting Christians in faith, worship, witness and ministry.

Mandate:

1.      Support Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations in expanding and deepening their understanding of the koinonia to which Christ calls his people, both in places where cooperative work is developing and in places where renewed ecumenical vision is required.

2.      Encourage and support Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations as they nurture local initiatives towards Christian unity and mutual relationships with equivalent councils of partner churches.

3.       Build and strengthen inter-church relationships both bi-laterally and multi-laterally, in Australia and internationally by:

  • developing the potential for further Church unions;
  • reaching ecumenical agreements with other churches;
  • initiating and maintaining bi-lateral dialogues and facilitating the implementing of their reports.

4.      Develop relationships with other churches, ecumenical bodies and our two related Christian World Communions, and disseminate throughout the Church the concerns, progress and achievements of the world wide ecumenical movement. (The ecumenical bodies include the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches, and the 2 related Christian World Communions are the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the World Methodist Council).

5.      Engage the church in relating the 4ecumenical vision to new patterns of church life by promoting biblical study and theological exploration, and by disseminating throughout the church the fruits of the world-wide ecumenical movement, with special adherence to the Lund Principle – ‘that the churches should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately’.

General:  

 The responsibilities include:

  • focusing the activities of the agency on the vision of the Assembly as a whole;
  • advising the Assembly and/or the Standing Committee on policy matters within their area of responsibility;
  • making policy decisions where the Assembly or the Standing Committee has delegated authority for certain policy areas, either through the agency mandate or by resolution;
  • assisting the Christian Unity Secretary in the implementation of policies determined by the Assembly and/or the Standing Committee;
  • providing advice to the President and General Secretary on ecumenical issues and relationships;
  • participating in cross-agency projects and teams established by the Assembly.
Membership:

Chairperson (appointed by Assembly);
Christian Unity Secretary;
Ten persons appointed by Standing Committee

Approved by Assembly Standing Committee, March 2006