UnitingWorld

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

1. PURPOSE AND OUTLINE

1.1 The purpose of this Report is to enable members of the Assembly, collaboratively, to discern whether the UnitingWorld’s direction and operation are appropriately responsive to the call of God on the UnitingChurch at this time.  If any part of this report is unclear or suggests further questions, Assembly members are encouraged to visit the UnitingWorld website in the first instance (www.unitingworld.org.au) or to email questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1.2 The Report:

  1. Outlines the Biblical and theological underpinning for the Agency
  2. Identifies major changes since the Assembly last met
  3. Describes major challenges the Agency faces
  4. Identifies major issues with which the Agency is grappling
  5. Outlines directions and intentions for the three years (2012 – 2014)

2. BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL UNDERPINNING

2.1 Over the last three years, the Biblical and theological underpinning for the Agency’s work has been re-articulated in a variety of ways.  The Agency is grateful for the work of the Assembly Doctrine Working Group and the Rev. Dr Chris Walker, the Assembly Director for Theology and Discipleship, who, in 2010, produced a paper ‘Towards a Theology Relating to Mission’.  This paper outlines the theological framework UnitingWorld applies.  The Agency has also been helped by a statement from the World Council of Churches, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and World Evangelical Alliance, ‘Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct’.  It has incorporated both of these statements into its policies.

2.2 The Relief and Development National Committee has adopted a statement outlining its Rights-based approach to development. 

2.3 The Agency seeks to keep engaging with the broader community of churches and communities engaged in international partnerships, and to draw on the perspectives of international partners.  It is assisted by a renewed interest in missiology and particularly by lively discussion about the Trinitarian nature of God in relation to mission.  As an overseas mission agency, it is conscious of the colonial history of mission, a dynamic with which it continues to grapple.

2.4 UnitingWorld seeks to keep putting before the Church the need for every part of the Church to live out its catholic and international identity and for the Church to rediscover the wealth of life offered by partners.

3. GOVERNANCE CHANGE

3.1 The Agency has two Units, one relating to relief and development, and the other entitled Church Connections that includes programmes of solidarity with international partners, advocacy and support for church ministry.  This latter unit also includes the placement of UnitingChurch people with partners, and the hosting of partners in Australia.

3.2 The Relief and Development Unit has had its own governing body in the form of a National Committee since 2000, with members appointed by the Assembly Standing Committee.  Members have a range of necessary skills and there is a data-base of prospective members.  The National Committee operates as a classic governance body adopting three-year strategic plans, approving annual business plans, monitoring achievement, establishing budgets, ensuring compliance, setting policies and contributing to the review of the National Director.  It does not employ or manage the Director or adopt the budget, tasks that rest with the Assembly Standing Committee and the Assembly General Secretary.  It produces an Annual Report available on the UnitingWorld website.

3.3 Since the Assembly restructuring in 1998, a Reference Committee appointed by the ASC has provided advice to the ASC and the National Director.  In November 2011, in response to a proposal from the Reference Committee, the ASC decided to change UnitingWorld’s governance arrangements to enable the part of the Agency that does not relate to relief and development to have a National Committee.  The reasons were that the Agency had gradually grown and needed oversight by people with particular skills, the issues with which the Agency was dealing were becoming more complex and the National Director was increasingly drawn into making decisions that were of a governance nature and with the strength of support given to the Relief and Development Unit, the Church Connections part of the Agency was not experiencing similar encouragement.

3.4 Nominations for initial members of the Church Connections National Committee were submitted to the March 2012 ASC meeting with the expectation that the new Committee would begin operating in May 2012.

3.5 With these changes, the Agency has a robust governance structure.  The need for two National Committees has arisen because relief and development is seen as having discrete purposes and ways of operating.  The Relief and Development Unit has full AusAID accreditation and the ACFID Code of Conduct with which the Unit must comply to retain accreditation requires a distinct governance structure for relief and development.  All involved in making the new arrangements, including the existing National Committee, are resolved to work for as much integration of approach as possible.

3.6 The Agency expresses appreciation to those who have served on National Committees over the last three years.  UnitingWorld could not have achieved what it did without their thoughtful and insightful contributions.

4. OTHER CHANGES

4.1 The Agency has steadily grown over the last three years:

  • Funds raised for Relief and Development from donors, apart from AusAID, have grown 10% each year;
  • In 2009, 15 people were placed overseas as part of our Experience Programme.  In 2011, over 100 people were placed, with up to 70 people serving overseas at any one time;
  • Relief and Development Programmes have expanded in the Pacific and particularly with the United Church of Papua New Guinea; currently the Relief and Development Unit manages 36 programs and projects across 23 partner organisations in 15 countries.
  • New Church Solidarity Projects have started in Asia, the Pacific and Africa;
  • UnitingWorld has organised for over 20 groups of people to travel to partners;
  • Staff numbers have increased from 14 in 2009 to 20 in 2012;
  • A steadily increasing number of congregations and presbyteries have developed international partnerships through UnitingWorld;
  • The Development Education/Awareness Programme, mainly involving Uniting Church Schools, now has a full-time staff person who has engaged with an increasing number of Uniting Church Schools, facilitating international partnerships;
  • Lent Event, a discipleship programme initiated by West Epping Congregation in Sydney, has been integrated into UnitingWorld.

4.2 UnitingWorld has actively engaged with the networks Micah Challenge and Make Poverty History, has become more actively involved in the Australian Council for International Development, has been consistently active in the Churches Agency Network, a network of Australian church agencies including Act for Peace, and has participated in a number of roundtables relating to issues about which the Government, the Coalition, AusAID or others have sought input.  In 2011, the Relief and Development Unit became a member of the ACT Alliance, the development network of the World Council of Churches.

4.3 In 2011 UnitingWorld’s team was restructured bringing the Church Solidarity and Experience teams into one unit called Church Connections.  The Relief and Development Unit was restructured, more thoroughly integrating Young Ambassadors for Peace into the Unit. 

4.4 The Relief and Development Unit is undergoing its five-yearly AusAID review for reaccreditation in May 2012.

4.5 Communities within the UnitingChurch with significant links to churches overseas have been enriching and assisting UnitingWorld.  Indeed, international partnerships are increasingly influenced by the contribution of people who significantly identify with or wish to support overseas partners.  These communities provide expert advice and networks in the UnitingChurch and wider community.  Our newest partnerships, for example, include with Ekalesia Kerisiano Niue and the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, both as a result of the encouragement of related communities in the Uniting Church.  Discussions with the China Christian Council are greatly assisted by the encouragement of the Chinese National Conference.  At the same time, it is not always easy to engage helpfully with transnational churches with a presence in Australia and where closely related communities are present in the Uniting Church.  Perceived insensitivity in the Uniting Church and in the transnational partner quickly leads to difficult relationships and misunderstandings.  This is an area of work that takes time and care.  We work closely with the National Director of Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry.

4.6 At the end of 2011, Joy Balazo retired as Associate Director for Peace-making and Coordinator of the Young Ambassadors for Peace Programme (YAP).  Joy was the founder of YAP and facilitated the establishment of eight centres for training and the promotion of peace in Asia and the Pacific.  Joy was a strong leader who courageously entered highly conflicted communities.  The story of Ambon is an example of what was achieved.  Whereas in 1999, Christians and Muslims were brutalising each other, in 2011 Joy was invited to help Muslim communities resolve conflict among them.  Prior to Joy’s retirement, Peter Keegan was appointed as Peace-building Program Coordinator to continue this work.

5. CHALLENGES

5.1 A challenge for UnitingWorld is how to engage congregations and communities where international relationships are driven by the connections and enthusiasms of local members.  This often conflicts with the Church’s longstanding partnerships and commitments and the wider Church’s Biblical and theological reflection on mission and development.  From a congregational perspective, local advocates are seen to awaken congregations and facilitate direct ownership.  From a national perspective, enduring partnerships are in danger of shrivelling, partner churches communicate bewilderment when the Uniting Church is seen to engage with other in-country organisations, there is much duplication and fragmentation across the Church and philosophies and practices are sometimes regarded as unhelpful.  UnitingWorld seeks to bridge this chasm, on the one hand recognising the value of local ownership, and on the other enabling as much coordination and learning as possible.  UnitingWorld has not yet found effective ways for this chasm to be bridged.

5.2 The value of coordination of action to alleviate poverty and facilitate mission is well proven.  AusAID increasingly works with larger agencies and encourages as much collaboration as possible among smaller agencies.  In this context, the fragmentation of work across the Uniting Church limits support for overseas partners.  It reduces the effectiveness of programmes and the Uniting Church’s influence on Government policy.  As some congregations lose vitality and participation, they are increasingly unable to attend to mission beyond their own life. 

5.3 In the broader context, the bipartisan support of Labor and the Coalition for the Overseas Development Assistance Budget to be 0.5% of Gross National Income is welcome.  Such bipartisan commitment enables agencies such as UnitingWorld to plan for the longer-term, knowing that there will not be a sudden major reduction in funding when there is a change of Government.  The Coalition’s commitment comes with qualifications attached and it is believed that, given both parties’ commitment to achieving budget surpluses as soon as possible, the bipartisan commitment is not strong.  Congregations are encouraged to advocate for the continuation of that commitment in their local electorates.

5.4 UnitingWorld’s profile is gradually increasing, however it continues to have a low profile in many congregations and communities.  The Agency has sought to address this with a cleaner brand, a refreshed website, improved written communication and visits by staff to every Synod, nearly every Presbytery, Adult Fellowships and many congregations.

5.5 Another challenge, particularly in the Pacific, is the importing of Western understandings of Christianity that undermine valid indigenous approaches.  For example, in Papua New Guinea concerns have been expressed that the influence of some theologies of salvation have emphasised individual choice to the detriment of more culturally fitting and Biblically faithful communal understandings.  Partners often challenge understandings of faith commonly accepted in Australia.

5.6 In relation to the influence of Western thinking, UnitingWorld seeks to be thoughtful about the extent to which it perpetuates a neo-liberal economic paradigm, inconsistent with the Christian faith, through its development programmes.  For example, Australian Government agencies are perceived to have promoted private land ownership in countries where communal ownership is traditional.  They have done this to encourage investment and economic development.  In Vanuatu, for example, this ideology has led to more than 50% of the main island being owned by people from overseas and local people not being able to access their traditional places for accessing food.  In accepting AusAID funding, the Relief and Development National Committee is attentive to the danger of its programmes being directed by ideologies inconsistent with the Christian faith.

5.7 Involvement in advocacy is gradually growing.  UnitingWorld wishes to help Uniting Church congregations engage in advocacy, especially in their electorates.  Many congregations effectively participated in advocacy concerning the situation in Fiji.  Others have been expressing concern for the situation in Papua.  Some are meeting with their local Member of Parliament and writing concerning issues arising from particular partnerships.  The Trade Justice policy proposed and adopted at the last Assembly continues to provide a platform for a broad range of advocacy with other groups especially in relation to closer economic negotiations between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific nations called PacerPLUS. 

6. ISSUES

6.1 Fiji has been a major focus of attention since the last Assembly.  At Easter 2009, the Fiji Court of Appeal ruled that the Military Government was illegal.  In response the Government abrogated the Constitution, dismissed the judges, imposed media restrictions and limited freedom of speech and assembly.  Essentially that regime has remained in place.  The actions severely limited the freedom of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma with whom the Uniting Church has a very close relationship.  Also the Government has often changed its approach without notice.   It charged the Church's Standing Committee with breaching the Public Emergency Regulations by talking about organising an Annual Conference, and then withdrew the charges against all but the President and General Secretary

6.2 In relation to Fiji, the Uniting Church has actively worked with a number of organisations and governments encouraging respect for human rights in Fiji.  The approach of UnitingWorld has been to encourage the Church to tell the story of its involvement in the first three coups and to reach respectfully towards other faiths and to the Indian community.  It has held to a vision of a multi-faith and multi-ethnic Fiji in which the rights of indigenous people are upheld in ways that respect others who live in Fiji.  It has criticised the Fiji Government for its many breaches of human rights including the beating of trade union leaders, the restrictions placed on lawyers, political intervention in prosecutions, continuing media restrictions and the intimidation of people who express views with which the Government disagrees.  It has expressed deep concern for the worsening economic situation in Fiji and for the way in which the Government’s approach closes off open dialogue about the future of Fiji.  UnitingWorld continues to work with the trade union movement and other groups in highlighting ongoing abuse, and in encouraging Australians to think before taking holidays in Fiji.

6.3 In relation to Papua, UnitingWorld has worked with congregations and with the Synods of Western Australia and South Australia, to expand the level of engagement with the Protestant Church there.  It has met with representatives of the Indonesian Government in order to communicate the Church’s desire to contribute to the peaceful development of Papua.  That contribution has been affected by elements of the Indonesian Government restricting access to Papua by Uniting Church personnel.

6.4 In relation to Korea, a Mission Declaration stating the basis for growing cooperation between the Uniting Church in Australia and the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) was signed on 23rd September 2009. This took place on the occasion of the 120th Anniversary of Australian church engagement in Korea. A significant commitment involves cooperation between the UCA and PCK concerning program in North Korea. This is expressed in a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed on 24th March 2011 that commits both churches to working together in North Korea through the North East Asia Program Committee of the Byul Bit Foundation.

6.5 At the end of 2011, the President led a delegation of eight in the Uniting Church’s first formal engagement with the China Christian Council (CCC).  Discussions were productive and practical.  Representatives of UnitingCare, the Chinese National Conference, Theological Colleges and UnitingWorld met with their CCC counterparts to identify steps to be taken to develop a partnership.  Representatives of the CCC were invited to and will be attending the Assembly.  The growth of Christianity in China is a remarkable story.  A partnership with the CCC offers another opportunity for understanding China as its political and economic influence is sometimes feared.  Our oneness in Christ offers a deeper engagement.

6.6 Discussions are also underway to develop a relationship with the Presbyterian Church of Sudan and to formalise the relationship with the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe.  UnitingWorld also works with the National Director of Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry to attend to issues arising from diaspora communities in Australia and their links with their churches of origin.  In this respect, UnitingWorld plans to undertake policy work in relation to migration especially in the Pacific, including migration arising from the impact of climate change.

7. THE FUTURE

7.1 Strategic Plans for 2012 – 2014 have been adopted by the Relief and Development Unit National Committee and the Church Connections Unit.

7.2 The mission and vision statements and the key signposts for the Relief and Development Unit, are:

Mission:  Connecting people and church communities in Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa to partner in God’s mission enabling relief and development.

Vision:  A growing movement of people and church communities, inspired, energised and transformed through global engagement with trusted partners, alleviating poverty and making peace.

Signposts:

  1. Partnering overseas churches and agencies in transforming local communities
  2. Empowering Australian communities and people, especially in the UCA, to be effective global partners, excited, galvanised and engaged with overseas partners through UnitingWorld
  3. Key stakeholders recognising and trusting UnitingWorld as a leading relief and development agency offering leadership in the UCA and beyond
  4. Resourced and positioned to realise our vision 

7.3 The mission and vision statements and the key signposts for the Church Connections Unit are almost the same, with slightly different wording at certain points:

Mission: Connecting people and church communities in Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa to partner in God’s mission enabling discipleship and faith-filled action.

Vision:  A growing movement of people and church communities inspired, energised and transformed through global engagement with trusted partners.

Signposts:

  1. Partnering overseas churches and agencies in transforming local communities
  2. Empower Australian communities and people, especially in the UCA, to be effective global partners, excited, galvanised and engaged with overseas partners through UnitingWorld
  3. Key stakeholders recognise and trust UnitingWorld as a leading mission agency offering leadership in the UCA and beyond
  4. Resourced and positioned to realise our vision

7.4 UnitingWorld is conscious that in order to achieve its goals, it must grow its fundraising from Uniting Church donors on whom it relies and who have been increasingly generous.  It must also build its relational capacity across the Church so that people who engage with UnitingWorld are valued and thanked.  That will be a priority for the next three years.

7.5 The Uniting Church in Australia has a unique pattern of international partnerships.  Many of these partnerships stretch back over a century.  Their strength however is dependent not on their history but on the extent to which people in the Uniting Church now give expression to the covenants that have been established.  In this respect, as UnitingWorld finds ways to fund these partnerships, the imperative of wooing congregations and communities, families and individuals to participate in those partnerships remains pivotal.  That is the greatest opportunity and challenge UnitingWorld faces, even as its Relief and Development Unit works to alleviate poverty, and its Church Connections Unit to enable partners to experience the full encouragement of the Uniting Church in their mission and ministry.

Stu Cameron
Chair, UnitingWorld Church Connections National Committee 

Malcolm Gledhill
Chair, UnitingWorld Relief and Development National Committee 

Kerry Enright
National Director

 



APPENDIX A

UNITINGWORLD
RELIEF AND DEVELOPMENT UNIT
MANDATE

 

Responsible to: The Assembly through UnitingWorld
Reporting Arrangements: The Assembly and the Standing Committee through UnitingWorld, and to UCA Assembly Ltd
Mission Statement:   To hear and respond to the expressed needs of communities in Asia, the Pacific and Africa through aid and development programs that alleviate poverty
         

Mandate:      

  1. To work in partnership with churches, councils of churches and other appropriate agencies, to develop policies and programs that have the aim of transforming communities through sustainable development.
  2. To implement development policies and programs that:
  • Assist communities in developing countries to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development
  • Address the causes of poverty and promote justice, peace and civil society
  • Meet human needs that result from natural disasters and emergencies and to assist people to recover as soon as possible
  • Are effective and well managed and reflect good planning, monitoring and evaluation of projects and programs
  • Give special attention to the development of our capacity and the capacity of our partners.

 3. To be open and clear in informing supporters and the Church about the activities undertaken and to develop their awareness of issues related to aid and development.

 4. To seek support for aid and development activities including the following major areas:

  • Community development
  • Justice and peace building
  • Emergency relief; disaster recovery and refugee support
  • Training and capacity building
  • Development education

5. To maintain a partnership with AusAID through participation in its various programs with NGO’s (such as ANCP and PNG Church Partnership Program) and to maintain membership in the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and to meet the requirements of the ACFID Code of Conduct.

Relationship with UnitingWorld:

The Relief and Development Unit is a unit of UnitingWorld.  

Power to Appoint:       

To establish sub-committees and working groups for various tasks related specifically to the mandate.

Director:

The National Director of UnitingWorld will be the Director of the Relief and Development Unit of UnitingWorld.  Whenever a National Director of UnitingWorld is appointed specific attention will be given to the specific skills and expertise required to undertake the role of Director of the Relief and Development Unit of UnitingWorld.

Membership of the UnitingWorld – Relief and Development National Committee:

The election of the National Committee will occur every three years at the Assembly Standing Committee meeting following the three yearly Assembly meeting; casual vacancies to be appointed by the Standing Committee as required.

In appointing members of the National Committee the Assembly Standing Committee will bear in mind the requirement that Committee members must demonstrate a commitment to issues of aid and development. Also they must have an openness to learn more in key areas of the work of the Relief and Development Unit of UnitingWorld such as aid and development programs, education and advocacy, and promotions and finance.                   

  • A Chairperson appointed by the Triennial Assembly on the nomination of the National Committee
  • Eleven persons appointed by the Standing Committee after considering recommendations made by the Director of UnitingWorld – Relief and Development.  Not more than two of these twelve persons may be staff of any Assembly agency
  • The National Director of UnitingWorld – Relief and Development
  • The Assembly General Secretary or his/her nominee.

Governance and Other Organisational Matters:

The Governance and key organisational matters for the Relief and Development Unit of UnitingWorld are stated in the attached Appendix and in a Governance Document maintained by the National Committee of the Relief and Development Unit of UnitingWorld.

Approved by the Assembly Standing Committee, March 2012

(Please note that the additional documents mentioned in this Mandate are not provided.)

 

APPENDIX B


UNITINGWORLD
CHURCH CONNECTIONS UNIT
MANDATE

Responsible to: The Assembly
Reporting Arrangements: The Assembly and the Assembly Standing Committee
Mission Statement: In response to God’s purpose for the world and its peoples, in collaboration with the Relief and Development Unit, to focus the vision and utilise the resources of the Church through:

 

  • Participating in God’s mission in the world in obedience to the call of Christ (Refer Basis of Union paragraphs 1 & 2);
  • Encouraging and facilitating the Church to pray, study and participate in the mission of God in the world;
  • Building and strengthening inter-church partnerships in mission and discipleship, including evangelism, particularly in Asia, the Pacific and Africa; and
  • Enabling the Church to hear and respond to the needs of people, especially those in greatest need, throughout the world.

Mandate:

1.         To provide leadership for the church in its calling as part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ among all peoples;

2.         To work in partnership with churches, councils of churches and other appropriate agencies, to develop policies and programs in mission, discipleship, evangelism, education, welfare, community development, justice, peace and human rights including political engagement and advocacy;

3.         To contribute to the worldwide endeavour of theological discussion and program innovation in the areas of bilateral and multilateral church to church partnerships in mission;

4.         To develop, encourage and lead the Church’s partnership in mission with churches overseas, especially in Asia, the Pacific and Africa in the context of the 21st century;

5.         To develop relationships and innovative means of working with synods, presbyteries, congregations and groups across the life of the Church to facilitate international mission within the mission of God in the world;

6.         To ensure that the international mission of the church is shared with and promoted to all sectors of the church; and

7.         To emphasise a particular care for and solidarity with communities in greatest need.

Power to Appoint:

To establish sub-committees and working groups for various tasks related specifically to the Mandate.

Director:

The National Director of UnitingWorld will be the Director of the Church Connections Unit of UnitingWorld.  Whenever a National Director of UnitingWorld is appointed attention will be given to the skills and expertise required to undertake the role of Director of the Church Connections Unit of UnitingWorld.

General:

As a Unit of the Assembly’s Agency UnitingWorld, Church Connections will have the following general responsibilities:

  1. Focusing the activities of the Agency on the vision of the Assembly as a whole;
  2. Advising the Assembly and/or the Assembly Standing Committee on policy matters within their area of responsibility;
  3. Making policy decisions where the Assembly or the Assembly Standing Committee has delegated authority for certain policy areas, either through the Mandate or by resolution; and
  4. Implementing policies determined by the Assembly and/or the Assembly Standing Committee through the National Director, other Agency staff and volunteers.

Membership of the UnitingWorld Church Connections Unit National Committee:

The election of the National Committee will occur every three years at the Assembly Standing Committee meeting following the three yearly Assembly meeting.  Casual vacancies will be filled by the Assembly Standing Committee as required.

In appointing members of the National Committee the Assembly Standing Committee will bear in mind the requirement that Committee members must demonstrate a commitment to issues relevant to the work of the Church Connections Unit.  The Assembly Standing Committee may appoint people who are not members, members-in-association or adherents of the UCA where they have appropriate expertise and are prepared to serve in harmony with the ethos of the UCA and to work to achieve the objects of the Unit.  Members must also have an openness to learn more in key areas of the work.

Membership of the National Committee:

  • A Chairperson appointed by the Triennial Assembly on the nomination of the National Committee
  • Eleven persons appointed by the Assembly Standing Committee after considering recommendations made by the National Director of UnitingWorld – Church Connections.  Not more than two of these twelve persons may be staff of any Assembly Agency;
  • The National Director of UnitingWorld – Church Connections; and
  • The Assembly General Secretary or his/her nominee.

Governance and Other Organisational Matters:

The Governance and key organisational matters for the Church Connections Unit of UnitingWorld are stated in the attached Appendix and in the Governance Document maintained by the National Committee of the Church Connections Unit of UnitingWorld.

Relationship with UnitingWorld Relief and Development Unit: 

While operating distinctly, the Church Connections Unit will work in close collaboration with the Relief and Development Unit, ensuring an integrated approach to the Church’s partnerships wherever possible. 

Approved by the Assembly Standing Committee, March 2012.

(Please note that the additional documents mentioned in this Mandate are not provided.)