In the last three years, the Committee has received about 15 applications each year from ordained Ministers applying to become Ministers of the Word or Deacons in the Uniting Church. Of these, about two thirds were ministers from overseas churches, mainly from churches in the Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational or United/Uniting traditions. The other third were ministers from other denominations in Australia. The committee also considers former Uniting Church ministers who had resigned, and later seek readmission.
The responsibilities of the Committee are defined in Regulations 2.3.5 and 2.3.8. There is a clear division of responsibility between the Assembly Committee and each Synod’s Reception Committee. The application comes through the Synod. The Assembly Committee must determine three matters. First, whether the minister requires further education to be equipped to reach the standard of education of Uniting Church ministers, and to be equipped for ministry in the Uniting Church context. Second, whether the minister has been ordained in a manner that the Uniting Church accepts. Third, whether the Minister is in good standing with their current denomination, or was at the time of their last contact with it. It considers documentation that the minister submits, and makes inquiries about matters like the academic standards of institutions where the minister has studied. It does not meet the minister in person.
The responsibility of the Synod Committee is to meet the Minister in person, and to determine the suitability of that minister for a placement in that Synod. The Synod Committee may require further study or other conditions before acceptance.
In most cases, the Committee can complete its work without unreasonable delay. In a few cases, inquiries have become protracted. Such delays are commonly caused by the lack of a certified transcript of the minister’s studies. Problems can also arise due to difficulty in obtaining independent comment on an the standing of an overseas educational institution, and difficulty in establishing the manner of ordination of some overseas churches. The Committee is unhappy when such delays occur, but is aware of the importance of doing its work well for the good of the whole church, and especially of placements where the person may minister. Shortly before the 2009 Assembly, the Committee wrote to the General Secretary pointing out that the process of receiving ministers had not been reviewed since the Committee was set up in the years following Union, and pointing out some of the issues that needed to be addressed. One of these was the process of secondment from another denomination, which was not defined well. In some cases, ministers on secondment moved to a second and third placement without ever being received as ministers of the Uniting Church.
In response, the Standing Committee set up a process of review, and the report is before the Assembly for its consideration. We thank the review committee for its work. The main effect of the review, if accepted, is that Synods will decide the study and other requirements for the minister applying, and the Assembly Committee will be a reference point to ensure uniform standards, and to give advice in unusual circumstances. It will also sign off at the end of the process.
The review and draft regulations will also have the effect that Ministers whose ordination is not recognised by the Uniting Church, including Salvation Army, Pentecostalist and some Church of Christ ministers, will not be considered by the Reception process. They will need to candidate, with the College taking account of previous study. Up till now, such ministers have been considered by the reception process, and have then been ordained by the receiving Presbytery.
The Committee thanks former members Sheila Bellamy and Apwey Ting. Sheila Bellamy has brought academic expertise in assessing qualifications. Apwey Ting has provided a valuable cross-cultural perspective for many years. Both have made an important conribution to the Committee's work. The Committee has been glad to welcome Janet Munro, Swee Ann Koh and David Symington into its membership.
Rev Dr Douglas Miller
RECEPTION OF MINISTERS COMMITTEE
|Responsible to:||The Standing Committee|
|Reporting arrangements:||The Standing Committee|
|Mission statement:||To fulfil the Assembly’s responsibilities in relation to the reception of ministers from other denominations as stated in Constitution clause 38(a) and Regulation 2.5.1.|
|Mandate: [Regulation 2.5.1(c)]||
The responsibilities of every agency include:
|Power to appoint:||
To establish working groups for special tasks related specifically to the mandate.
To make recommendations to the Standing Committee to establish other working groups for special tasks related to but not part of the mandate.
|Membership of the Reference Committee:||
A chairperson and up to 10 members from within one Synod area, appointed by the Standing Committee;
Power to co-opt up to two additional persons to ensure appropriate competencies, representation and development of new leadership.
Approved by Standing Committee November 1999