Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

1.         INTRODUCTION

As Christ’s Body, created, sought and gathered by the Holy Spirit of God, questions long wrestled with continue to keep our attention and demand our reflection, prayer and consideration. As a national church we are beginning to be more aware of the rich possibilities in identifying and naming images and metaphors, insights and language arising from our different cultural heritage that also speak to that which humanity shares in common as God’s creatures made in the image and likeness of our Creator. As that awareness grows, so too do the uncertainties, questions, even discontent and fear of loss of past identity, even of control and familiar ways of being and doing church in other parts of the UCA.

Being a multicultural church living and witnessing cross-culturally remains exciting beyond belief and challenging beyond expectations. In this most recent triennium we have focussed more directly on identifying and naming maturing views of how we are already enriched by the diversity of biblical, theological and missional insights and the cultures and world views that give rise to them.

Since the 12th Assembly there have been a number of changes in the administration and other support for the ministry of MCCM. Most recently Ms Elizabeth Plant was appointed 0.6 of full-time as Executive Assistant to the National Director, and Ms Bronwyn Thompson as Education Projects Officer, Uniting Faith and Discipleship Team with 0.4 of full-time for Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry. Their presence and skills will add considerable strength and flexibility to our administrative and policy resource development abilities. They will be especially helpful over the next triennium.

2.         ASSIGNED TASKS

2.1        Resolutions of the 12th Assembly

There were three resolutions adopted at the last Assembly with import for our work. One, a major area of ongoing difficulty across the UCA directly related to multicultural and cross-cultural ministry (MCCM) (2.1.1 below), and two requiring action from MCCM. (2.1.2 and 2.1.3 below)

2.1.1     Call to the church to “… look proactively for opportunities to encourage and resource new and emerging congregations and faith communities within all cultures and cultural groupings” (09.09.02).

In accepting changes to the Property Regulations and seeking a new “National Property Policy” the 12th Assembly made the above call to “congregations, schools and agencies”. (09.09.02). We ask members of the 13th Assembly, Synods and Presbyteries to note the general lack of proactive action in this.

The UCA has long been developing comprehensive strategies for decline and adapting ministry practise to ongoing lessening of resources. However, there is little evidence of the church planning for ‘growth’ and expansion by taking seriously and planning strategically to “encourage and resource new and emerging congregations and faith communities within all cultures and cultural groupings”. This does apply to money and property! However it also applies to access to ministry agents and flexibility in the shaping and making of placements to meet current needs and anticipate emergent needs in the significantly changing contexts of increasing numbers of under-resourced and often desperately needy communities  – of every cultural, linguistic and socio-economic background! National Conferences and other CALD community leaders can be a source of essential and relevant information and insights in these matters.

2.1.2     Property Policy for the Uniting Church in Australia (09.09.03 and 09.09.04)

MCCM draws the attention of members of the 13th Assembly to Proposal 09.09.03 (v), which stated that, “there is an expectation of compliance with a ‘National Property Policy’ that has been approved by the ASC”.  As with 2.1.1 above, there is little evidence of the policy forming an intentional part of strategic mission planning. MCCM has not yet been able to develop an effective roll out strategy for this either.

The work of developing and adopting a “National Property Policy” (09.09.04) has been completed and was approved by the ASC in November 2010. The document is in the process of being translated into community languages, as skilled interpreters are available. The Policy is yet to be used as a creative tool towards building bridges of understanding and collaboration in the one ministry of Christ and for the kind of proactive strategic planning noted in 2.1.1 above.

2.1.3     Task Group on National Conferences (09.20) and the Report to the 12th Assembly 1

a)         Restructure of Uniting National Conferences Working Group (UNCWG) has been completed, as has the revision of the Guidelines for Uniting National Conference (09.20.02 [a] and [b]. They were approved by the by the ASC in November 2010.

b)         The national Reference Committee has agreed that this Working Group will meet regularly and it is now scheduled to gather twice between meetings of the national Assembly. The most recent was in February 2012. As with all our budget items, this will be reviewed over the next triennium

c)         Strategies to communicate more effectively the existence, role and structures of Uniting National Conferences to the wider UCA (B26-2), and assistance for Presbyteries in knowledge of and ways of linking with National Conferences (B26-3) were major topics of discussion at the February 2012 Uniting National Conferences Working Group. The report of those conversations is currently before the national Reference Committee for planning and implementation.

d)         Challenges in establishing new racially, culturally and linguistically diverse congregations and faith communities (B26-2): see the note in 2.1.1 and 2.1.2 above.

e)         Concerning the management of relationships between UCA congregations and faith communities and ‘home churches’ (B26-2) see 3.2.2 (e) later in this report.

f)          Sensitive and creative cross-cultural relationships and communication training (B26-3), see the report on Cross-cultural Relations Workshops under 3.2.1 (a) below. Also note the agreement of the national Reference Committee concerning the need for integration of this into ongoing education, as is required for the Code of Ethics. This will also form part of our conversations with the MEC scheduled for later this year.

g)         Meeting of UNCWG with leaders of the UAICC (B26-4): Significant changes in the staffing and leadership of the UAICC (B26-4), and other pressing matters on the agenda of the UAICC and MCCM, has meant that this meeting has not yet been possible. It remains on the planning agenda of the national Reference Committee and the UNCWG.

3.         KEY MINISTRY AREAS

3.1        Changes to ‘Working Groups’

For several years the wider ministry of Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry was carried out very effectively through several Working Groups.

At the 12th Assembly the Working Groups were:

  1. i.Uniting National Conferences (UNC)
  2. ii.Intentional Multicultural Ministry (IMM)
  3. iii.Cross-cultural Theology and Education (CCTE)
  4. iv.Second Generation Youth and Young Adults (2ndGen)

Over time it became clear that this approach was not longer an effective way of working. Differences in approach and structures involved in cross-cultural ministry between Synods, particularly the larger ones of NSW/ACT and Victoria/Tasmania, massively increasing work-loads on most members and all convenors of working Groups -increasingly to the point of needing to relinquish responsibilities, and the need for flexibility and change in rapidly changing contexts and circumstances all added to the mix. Time and budget costs mean that it is not possible to simply have all Working Groups operating on a national basis which is the most useful and preferred option.

After reviewing the growing ineffectiveness of that arrangement, the national Reference Committee restructured the Uniting National Conferences Working Group (UNCWG), and determined to explore other ways of fulfilling responsibilities previously undertaken by the other working groups.

In exploring other possibilities for the carrying out of its Operational Guidelines the national Reference Committee made a number of changes for its own meetings 2. MCCM-NRC now:

  • Meets twice per year instead of once. This allows the MCCM-NRC to be more thorough in the carrying out of the UF&D Mandate and our Operational Guidelines, and better use of members’ experience, gifts and graces.
  • Holds one of those meetings each year on site at the United Theological College in North Parramatta and to build opportunities to meet and reflect with the student body and faculty an integral part of the meeting program.

MCCM-NRC members usually join in community worship and lunch, and a lead a workshop/seminar around the practise of and issues involved in cross-cultural ministry. This is very helpful way of drawing on the wide experience and insights of the diverse membership and cultural backgrounds of MCCM-NRC members. In addition there is interaction with staff concerning ongoing development of appropriate and effective theological education and formation for ministry in the Australian context 3.
In future students and faculty will be offered opportunity to sit in during some sessions of reporting and work.

  • Holds the second national Reference Committee meeting outside NSW/ACT. This will provide opportunities similar to those above and facilitate better networking between local and national MCCM work. 4

3.2        Activities towards fulfilling MCCM areas of responsibility during the past triennium 5

3.2.1     Promoting cross-cultural learning and sharing across the life of the Church

(a)        Cross-cultural Relations workshops

Over 11 years ago the Board of Mission of the synod of NSW and MCCM jointly developed a workshop resource for exploring cultural difference and building relationships across those differences. Originally call “Confronting Racism” workshops they have been more widely known as ‘Cross-cultural Relations’ workshops.

Successive meetings of the Assembly have variously ‘strongly supported’, ‘encouraged’ and ‘urged’ their use and availability across the UCA as important resources for building bridges of cultural awareness and understanding concerning cultural difference, advantage, and disadvantage. This has not proven possible for a number of reasons including disbelief in the reality of racism in Australia, conviction that this workshop is unnecessary because “We are not multicultural here!”, and lack of workshop and ongoing opportunities to ‘train-the-trainer’. It has also proven extremely difficult to have this vital workshop rated highly in the priorities for ministry and training in presbyteries and synods across the country.

Developing an attainable rollout strategy with very limited staff resources has also not been possible. In 2010 MCCM and the leadership team of the ELM Centre in the Synod of NSW/ACT were collaborating on developing a rollout and training strategy in line with the revisions in train for the Workshop and the DVD resource. However the major restructure and subsequent changes in staffing in the synod of NSW/ACT Uniting Mission and Education Board mean this is not possible, at least in the short to medium term.

However, a substantial review of the workshop took place after more than 10 years of use and included many of those who had led workshops and some of its original designers. We are now in the final stages of re-writing the Workshop manual and the revised workshop will be renamed - one suggestion is “Building Bridges of Understanding”. It will still focus on the key issues of the original, but begin from a more positive and creative place.

A DVD of case studies and stories will accompany the Manual. The DVD will contain stories for use in the workshop, and to also be used as a stand-alone resource for use with a simple study guide. We expect this flexibility will make both resources more ‘user friendly’ and facilitate more widespread use of them. We expect to have copies of the resource available for launch at the 2012 Assembly meeting, and are still working to develop simplified strategies for its publicity, distribution and equipping of trainers.

It is the view of MCCM that until this matter is seen of sufficient importance by the UCA to expect participation and compliance as a regular part of the formation of ministry leaders and Code of Ethics training, that it will continue to be seen as optional at best and unnecessary by personal choice at worst.

During the past triennium the national director and others from the MCCM-NRC and wider networks have shared in leadership of the Cross-cultural Relations Workshop at the United Theological College in NSW/ACT, where this workshop is a requirement for all students for one of the UCA specified ministries.

(b)        Peacemaking/conflict resolution Workshop 6

In response to a growing need to be proactive about community conflicts over race and culture in Australian society, MCCM and the then Board of Mission of the Synod of NSW/ACT began a collaborative project together during 2011. This involves assessing the suitability of the Young Ambassadors for Peace (YAP) program of UnitingWorld for adaptation and use within Australia. For this purpose a number of initial conversations took place between the national director and UnitingWorld staff responsible for the program. Two teams of 2 persons participated in YAP workshops in Mindanao, South Philippines (conflict within communities) and Ambon, Indonesia (conflict between communities). The original plan included evaluation of that participation, and if appropriate planning for a trial program to be run in Australia. A number of emergent difficulties, including the major structural and staff changes in the Synod of NSW, and staff changes in this area of the work of UnitingWorld, mean the program is on hold for the time being.

(c)        One Great Sunday of Sharing

Continues to be a useful focus for some congregations to use in highlighting and sharing stories and experiences of cross-cultural ministry across the UCA. However with no resources for advertising and placement within the calendar of the UCA, and increased pressure on the particular timing of the event – mid July, OGSS continues to struggle to find an appropriate and useful place in the increasingly overflowing timetable of the year for many congregations and faith communities. We are currently in discussions with the person responsible for Appeals in another national Agency who has offered some insights and guidance to us from his own experiences. In addition we are exploring whether there is an event in the wider Australian community calendar with which this might be connected, e.g. Harmony Day or similar.

In 2012 OGSS falls on the opening Sunday of the 13th Assembly and we are working with the MCCM team in South Australia to have a celebration in Adelaide before the opening of the Assembly. In addition, there will be some additional resources available to complement those made more widely available from the Assembly worship team.

3.2.2     Supporting the ministry of migrant congregations and ministry to new and emerging groups

(a)        Uniting National Conferences Working Group (UNCWG)

This working group has been restructured as indicated in 2.1.3 above and met most recently in February 2012 and a report of that meeting is being processed by the MCCM-NRC at its March 2012 meeting.

The February 2012 meeting included a major session with members of the Assembly Worship Working Group - the Revd Drs Chris Walker (National Consultant for Theology and Discipleship) and David Pitman (Convenor). The intention of meeting together was to explore ways in which this work of the Assembly could be more proactive in developing both ‘in language’ worship resources, including the interpretation of some Uniting in Worship 2 materials and broaden the resources for worship in the UCA to more appropriately represent the rich diversity of worship traditions, customs, music, song, dance and symbols, that are increasingly part of our life.

During the discussion it became clear that a remarkable number of resources have either been developed and/or already translated into language for local, and sometimes community use. Some of these came through MCCM over previous years, but many are more recent. As a result it was agreed that these resources would be shared more widely and as soon as possible made available electronically to both the Worship Working Group and the wider church through the Assembly web site. In addition, the Worship Working Group will have a regular spot in the meeting of the UNCWG so that the whole church can become more proactive in developing resources from across the whole breadth and diversity of the UCA.

A key matter in all of this discussion was the central place of worship in the life of the UCA; for praise of God and for the building up of God’s whole people. For people of faith in migrant communities this is especially true as a core part of their transplanted identity centres on life in the community of faith i.e. ‘church’ as both community and place/space. This adds considerable weight to the often pain-filled cry of our CALD communities for their need for worship space to be heard and acted on with grace.

(b)        Uniting National Conferences (UNC)

(i)   National Conferences allow for the sharing of hopes and joys, concerns and difficulties and the discovery of how many of those are common across cultures. The Revised Guidelines for Uniting National Conferences referred in 2.1.3 above can be found on the MCCM page of the UCA Assembly website.

National Conferences continue their vital place in the life of the UCA, meeting in a variety of ways, scheduled at different times (annually, every 18 months, every 2 years, and/or as required – self defined]) Some Uniting National Conferences invite the whole community across Australia, with designated people voting on decisions (e.g. Tongan, Fijian, Samoan), to smaller groups with ministry leaders and representatives from each congregation/faith community with everyone voting (e.g. Chinese, Indonesian).

In 2012 there are 10 communities who have National Conferences: Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, Indonesian, Tamil, Filipino, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean - until 2012 the Council of Korean Churches, and Vietnamese - who have not met for several years as a formal National Conference. In recent years the local UCA Vietnamese congregation at West Footscray in Vic/Tas has hosted a conference to which other Vietnamese communities and ministers have been invited. In January 2012 the Vietnamese gathering and its leaders decided to re-form again into a National Conference and plans are underway for that. In February 2012 the Council of Korean Churches re-formed into a National Conference framed by the Guidelines for Uniting National Conferences. MCCM also supports UCA members participating in the Hindi speaking Fellowship that includes Hindi speakers from Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand. We are currently working with Synod staff and team and leaders in the South Sudanese communities in South Australia Synod/Presbytery to establish an inaugural National Conference for South Sudanese communities in Adelaide in October 2012.

During 2011 MCCM supported a significant conference in Canberra to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Tamil-speaking ministry there.

(ii) The formation of a Korean National Conference and the Korean Presbytery in the Synod of NSW/ACT

In recent months two major decisions have been made relating to ministry to and by Koreans within the Uniting Church in Australia.

Korean National Conference: A major decision relating to ministry to and by Koreans in the UCA came in February 2012 when the council of Korean Churches in Australia moved to become a National Conference of the UCA under the guidelines for National Conferences. This is a completely different process and structure, with different aims than the Korean Presbytery. The Korean Presbytery is a presbytery of the Synod of NSW/ACT. The Korean National Conference, under the auspices and oversight of the Assembly MCC, is a national gathering for all Korean congregations and members in non-Korean speaking congregations and ministry leaders (both Korean speaking and non-Korean speaking) who are involved in ministry to and with Korean members of the UCA right across Australia. This is a very significant difference from the previously existing Council of Korean Churches in Australia. Note: we have an Indonesian background, UCA trained and ordained, Minister of the Word leading the English language ministry in a Korean congregation that is a member of the Korean Presbytery.

Formed many years ago the Council of Korean Churches only involved Korean speaking congregations and Korean speaking ministry leaders: minister and one key leader from each Korean Congregation. It had its own Guidelines and its leadership was only NSW based!

The newest of our National Conferences now uses the Guidelines for all National Conferences, is inclusive as noted above, and has issued a clear affirmation of intent and commitment to being intentionally cross-cultural. That document is available to the Assembly for information, encouragement and prayer.

Formation of a Korean Presbytery in the Synod of NSW/ACT: The Synod of NSW/ACT at its 2011 meeting approved the creation of a Korean Presbytery within its bounds. This marks another step in a decade long journey whereby the UCA sought to better provide for participation in and contributions to the broad life of the UCA from its Korean language congregations and ministry leaders.

The Korean Commission, was granted many but not all of the responsibilities of a presbytery. Many UCA Korean congregations in NSW/ACT were part of it, but a significant number chose to remain members of and participate in the presbytery within which they are located. Over the years some congregations have chosen to come into the Commission, and others to relocate back into the local presbytery.

In 2011 the change from Korean Commission to Korean Presbytery was approved, and it was inaugurated late in 2011 as a presbytery under the normal Regulations and responsibilities of presbyteries within the UCA in a service of celebration at the Dong San UCA in Mays Hill. This has been a faithful and often difficult journey of discovery to provide a safe place to build experience and confidence in participating in what is a unique polity and organizational structure in the world church and for new ministry leaders and communities coming into the ethos and life of the UCA. That it has resulted in the formation of a presbytery has been spoken of publically by both participants and observers as both blessing and failure. Blessing for the reasons noted above and for the discussions and struggles it triggered. Failure because the UCA had a decade during which presbyteries had opportunity to work out other ways of inclusion, mentoring and change, and did not.

It is important for the Assembly to understand that from its inception as a Korean Commission the now Korean Presbytery conducts all of its business, including Minutes and Reports, bi-lingually in both Korean and English, including simultaneous translation in both directions.

The recent Uniting National Conference Working Group, made up of chairpersons and others from our National Conferences, noted the formation of the Korean Presbytery, with thanksgiving, encouragement to the leaders and participants, and assurance of prayer support. They also expressed disappointment that struggles for inclusion and fuller participation that are not culturally or language bound, but are common right across the UCA, are still being dealt with through forms of separation and are not at the centre of our ministry to one another and our witness to the community 27 years after we declared ourselves to be a ‘multicultural church’. They strongly affirmed the role, place and purposes of Uniting National Conferences, and affirmed that they do not see them as either an alternative a pathway to becoming a presbytery. They are different journey’s, with different history and intent.

(c)        Hearing the voices of National Conferences

MCCM continues to seek ways by which presbyteries and synods can also take account of the voices of National Conferences. One of the ways in which that happens is through collaboration between the National Director and office bearers of national Conferences working with synods and presbytery leadership to bring concerns of the conferences and member congregations/faith communities before them. It is important however for the UCA to understand that while very significant in the life of the UCA National Conferences do not always speak with one voice and do not always represent strongly held divergent views within cultural groups and communities. Finding ways in which that diversity can also be valued and represented within the various councils of the UCA remains an ongoing matter of concern and significance. The national Reference Committee hopes to be in a position to bring Proposals to the 13th Assembly after it considers the report of the February 2012 meeting of the UNCWG.

Of particular significance during the past triennium was the 2010 Fijian National Conference held in Darwin. A Fijian accompanied the first white missionaries to east Arnhem Land so there are important experiences of the journeying together of those two cultures in that place. Those links continue through the children of Fijian missionaries who were born in those indigenous communities and continue with strong ties to them. When word got around the indigenous communities that the Fijian National Conference was to be in Darwin, folk asked if they could come. Over 20 members of east Arnhem Land indigenous communities participated in the whole of the conference including the former Moderator of the Northern Synod the Revd Dr Djiniyini Gondarra. For worship and celebrations on the final day another 50 or so east Arnhem Land community members who were in Darwin came to join in.

This was an extraordinary experience of sharing together – first peoples, Australian-Fijians, and Fijians from home visiting for the Conference, all living, studying, worshipping, singing and dancing together around the theme “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” It was a transformative experience for all! At the end all members of the Conference – indigenous and Fijian (First and Second peoples) issued a statement, affirmation and call to the UCA. A copy of this will be available to all members of the Assembly. This marks one significant way in which the intentions and commitments of Assembly Key Direction (a) is being fulfilled.

Most recently the newly formed Korean National Conference also issued a statement to the UCA. The recommendations in it are with the national Reference Committee and will be gathered up by it for reporting to and conversation within the UCA. A copy of it will also be distributed to members of the Assembly.

(d)        Congregations in Association

There has been no further action in the triennium.

(e)        Relationships with ‘home’ churches overseas.

Relationships with ‘home’ churches overseas continue to be a set of relationships that are both nurturing and also a source of tensions and misunderstandings. There are increasing numbers of congregations across Australia whose members not only come from our partner churches, but who are in fact, or by claim, member congregations of those ‘home/partner’ churches.

How the UCA relates to these congregations in Australia, what effect that has, if any, on any existing or planned partnerships, and how such partnerships should be negotiated and carried through are all matters under serious discussion between the National Directors and appropriate other staff of UnitingWorld (overseas partnerships), MCCM (work within Australia), key leaders from particular communities in the UCA (e.g. Chairs of National Conferences), and the president of the Assembly.

3.2.3     Working collaboratively with Synods and other Assembly Agencies to support [and resource] leaders who can minister across cultures and foster the development of multicultural congregations

(a)        Collaboration between MCCM, the National Director, and presbyteries, and across the UCA 7.

Across the UCA awareness of the reality of our multicultural nature continues to grow and experiences of the gifts and complexities of cross-cultural ministry are becoming more widespread. With this there has been a significant increase in opportunities and requests for collaboration and consultation with presbyteries and synods. During the triennium this has included:

  • Participating in Presbytery reviews of CALD congregations: Darwin and Hobart, and support of presbytery and CALD congregation in building closer links into the local and national UCA
  • Cross-cultural Retreats and Gatherings in NSW/ACT and Vic/Tas
  • Consultations with some Presbytery Ministers in Queensland, NSW/ACT, Vic/Tas, Northern and SA Synods concerning local issues, exploring possible solutions/new directions, ministry and leadership concerns
  • Participating in Workshops and Conferences in WA, SA
  • Collaborating with presbytery task groups as they develop local resources for cross-cultural ministry and conflict resolution
  • Consulting with ministry leaders in congregation placements concerning cross-cultural ministry, property sharing and the National Property Policy
  • Provision of interpreter capacity (then Executive Assistant Mrs Helena He) in assisting a presbytery and a CALD minister and congregation through a difficult closure and leaving experience.

It has been the practise for several years to invite the various MCCM staff in the synods to join the national Reference Committee for its meetings. This is a significant opportunity to share together the local and regional visions and priorities, strengths and struggles, that are the focus of synod ministries, in the broader context of the overall picture of the health and wellbeing of our diverse life nationally. As with much of the UCA’s interconciliar work this is often the subject of different priorities concerning the role and place of MCCM work in the overall life of the UCA and/or difficult budget constraints on this sort of sharing. We do try to balance this by providing hospitality for the meetings (land travel and accommodation) while the staff provide for their air travel.

(b)        Cross-cultural theology and education

This area of our ministry now features significantly in the regular meetings of the MCCM-NRC. Towards this end, the first meeting each year is held onsite at the United Theological College in North Parramatta (see 3.1 above).

Within the synods of NSW/ACT and Queensland, for example, education programs for specified ministries continue to be developed using a variety of languages and with a range of teaching and assessment styles. Connecting these excellent steps in progress into a national movement across the UCA remains a constant challenge. Having these matters in the mainstream of education planning and policy development and program delivery is assisted greatly by the invitation of the Lay and Leadership Educators Network to include the National Director in their annual network meetings. This means that cross-cultural education for ministry and leadership can be mainstreamed into the life and work of the whole church. In addition, potential difficulties and possible solutions can be addressed in the planning stages and not be delayed by repeated additional consultations.

(i)   An initial conversation has been held around biblical/theological hermeneutics of cross-cultural ministry. As a follow up to this, the national Reference Committee has established a small working group has been established to explore what might be required in terms of reflecting on a theological/biblical cross-cultural understanding of Christian faith, with the expectation that this work and a plan for implementation of any outcomes will form a key part of our work in the next triennium.

(ii)   During 2012 a consultation is being arranged between members of the MEC and the MCCM-NRC to discuss a range of matters concerning more effective theological education and formation for ministry in our multicultural and cross-cultural life. This is a significant step in an area of major concern in the ongoing nurture and development of cross-cultural ministry and leadership in the UCA. For our part we will be focussing on an integrated approach that includes the processes of the POD, formation, placement, continuing education and Reception of ministers from the perspective of CALD background.

3.2.4     Assisting the national networking and co-ordination of the work of Synods in exploring ways of discipleship formation and leadership training of second generation [nXtgen] members; and identifying emerging leadership with gifts for multicultural and cross-cultural ministry. 8

(a)        2nd Generation Youth and Young Adults

In our report to the 12th Assembly MCCM indicated our plan to hold “a dedicated national 2ndGen Gathering in 2010 (between and not in competition with NCYC’s)”. This has not yet happened. Instead considerable staff time was shared with the President of the Assembly (and his support staff), the National Chairperson of the UAICC, and national youth/young adult ministry leaders in the planning, organising and administration of the National Young Adult Leaders Conference. This was held in early February 2012 when the President and UAICC Chair hosted a gathering with 9 other facilitators and almost 70 Young Adult leaders from across the country representing First and Second peoples and the cultural diversity of the UCA. Key aims in this gathering included exposure to the national identity of the UCA and its ministries across and outside Australia; opportunities for significant young adult leaders from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds to network together in that exposure time; to encourage, support and challenge them in their diverse ministries as leaders in the UCA.

Conversations within MCCM and our networks are becoming more intentional about being clear concerning the similarities, and the differences between 1.5Gen (young people born overseas but growing up and receiving all their education in Australia); older 2ndGen adults (children of earlier waves of migrants/refugees/asylum seekers); other 2nd Gen youth (children of more recent waves of migrants/refugees/asylum seekers) and young adults – some of who are first generation migrants.

The National Director and members of the MCCM-NRC are regularly involved in supporting (and if requested occasionally providing input) what is an increasing inclusion of 1.5 and 2ndGen youth and young adult leaders into the life of some National Conferences. This happens through intentional children’s, youth and young adult programs alongside the ‘adult’ program. Within the last triennium includes, for example, the Executive of the Tongan National Conference including in very significant ways 1.5 and 2nd Gen young adult leaders in planning the whole youth young adult program (2011), and the program for the whole community of participants at the 2012 gathering. Filipino, Niuean and Vietnamese gatherings normally have a significant involvement by 2ndGen/1.5Gen youth and young adults in the program and in up front leadership of parts of the overall program.

Queensland, NSW/ACT and Vic/Tas continue to develop regular 2ndGen ‘events’ – some locally and others regionally based. As we become aware of what is on-line in other Synods and networks we are becoming more intentional about providing links from our own site rather than trying to set up an additional one.

The national Reference Committee is working on recommendations and suggested guidelines/priorities from the 2012 meeting of the UNCWG for the establishment of a new 2nd Gen working group.

3.2.5     Assisting the Church to fully utilise the gifts of members from culturally diverse backgrounds and develop policies and cultural sensitivities that respond to their needs

(a)        Intentional Multicultural Ministry

The MCCM report to the 12th Assembly noted that the NRC was looking at “other possible ways of furthering this work focus”, and section 3.1 of this report noted reasons for the subsequent disbanding of the Working Groups, as they were previously constituted.

During his regular visits to Synods (and occasionally to presbyteries) in this triennium the National Director has built in opportunities to work alongside local expressions of cross-cultural ministry, to hear and participate in those stories and experiences, and to share stories and experiences from other places as and when appropriate (see 3.2.3 (a) above).

Changes to the IT provider for the Assembly, and the gifts and skills now available to MCCM through the Uniting Faith and Discipleship Team give us additional capacity for the use of IT to develop more effective means by which to gather and make stories available through the use of our web site and the National Director’s blog and other appropriate media streams.

Story-sharing opportunities that are already underway and that will be further developed during the next triennium include:

  • Single page documents/stories on cross-cultural themes similar to the “Doc Bites” produced by the Doctrine Working Group. These will be available through our web site as downloads for simplicity of production and ease of use;
  • Further development and use of the National Director’s ‘blog’
  • Face book and cross-cultural ministry networking
  • A cross-cultural ministry story-sharing section on the MCCM web-site

(b)        In-language resources and translation and interpretation

MediaCom has produced a Korean/English version of the resource study booklet “Understanding the Uniting Church in Australia”. Versions in several other community languages are in the process of being produced. After consultation with a number of community leaders all editions will contain both first language and English as this provides a resource able to be used by mixed language groups, especially 1st and 2nd generations together.

Provision of adequate resources of suitably qualified people and finance continue to severely limit our ability to translate/interpret key documents and resources. These difficulties are amplified as language diversity grows with each new community added into the life of the UCA. MCCM works with other UCA agencies and teams encouraging them as part of a multicultural and multi-lingual church, to have considerations of access through language in the forefront of their thinking and planning and to not see ‘translation’ as simply the responsibility of this one part of the UCA.

(c)        Living boldly cross-culturally: our 1985 commitment versus 2012 realities and what might bring them together!

As the UCA continues to live into its 1985 declaration of being a multicultural church questions continue to arise in every area of the life of the UCA about how or even if, that bold affirmation 27 years ago is actually shaping every aspect of our communal life 27 years on. It is clear that it does not!

Right across the country there are questions about multicultural benchmarks – standards to be met and processes established by which all aspects of our life and our councils can more consistently, intentionally and overtly reflect that essential characteristic. Others want to know when we will get serious about expecting some form of compliance and accountability about the many implications of being multicultural and living and ministering cross-culturally. In theological education and training, biblical insights and scholarship that arise in and through cultures that are neither western or Christendom, equipping for ministry and leadership in a land that is profoundly multicultural and multifaith, structures and meeting process that are shaped out of the diverse gifts of our members and not simply from inherited and mono-cultural forms.

What is most often spoken of is the usefulness of a framework that actually illustrates and shapes the essential core values and character of such a multicultural church, a church living and ministering cross-culturally for all God’s people.

We noted in our report to the 12th Assembly (2009) that other churches overseas are also struggling with similar questions about authentic shapes and core values for such a church. To this end MCCM has been planning for two further steps in grasping with faith and conviction God’s gift of cultural and linguistic diversity.

(i)   The first: A framework that highlights the characteristics of a multicultural church living and witnessing cross-culturally. This written declaration of principles and objectives would provide a series of benchmarks by which we can hold one another accountable across the whole church for the ways in which we live into (or not) our 1985 declaration and the 2006 reaffirmation that we are a multicultural church for all God’s people.

The ‘Characteristics’ framework, in its intent and purpose, is akin to the second statement from the Commission on Church Union: The Church: its nature, function and order (1963) in which an attempt was made to give shape to an emerging union of three churches that had agreed on certain fundamental beliefs. This document does not assume that status! However, it does intend to move the UCA more deliberately into accepting an intentional framework for our corporate life as a multicultural church living and ministering cross-culturally.

Under the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit this framework while recognising the clear and distinct roles and responsibilities of the various Councils of the UCA, will require greater accountability of all members and every part of our organisational structures in living out the declarations and affirmations of 1985 and 2006 and other associated decisions.

It does not proscribe details, nor seek any particular changes to Regulations. But it will provide a framework of consistency of expectation across our life based on the core values we have proclaimed in the Basis of Union, the Statement to the Nation, the 1985 Statement and the 2006 Affirmation concerning cultural and linguistic diversity, and other decisions this church has made concerning Property and Reception of Ministers. In this way the whole UCA can continue to enter into all the richness and diversity, struggle and difficulty that are God’s gifts to us through Christ in 21st century multicultural and multifaith Australia.

(ii)   The second, for the 14th Assembly in 2015: A new comprehensive theological and biblical Declaration fitting for a 21st century cross-cultural and poly-lingual church that is shaped in partnership with the UAICC. It is our prayer and commitment that the preparation and drafting of such a Declaration will:

  • Take account of our Relationship to the Basis of Union and builds on its time limited commitments and relationships;
  • Build on from the welcomed and celebrated new Preamble to the UCA Constitution and the naming of the First and Second peoples in it;  
  • Gather up decisions made since 1985 about the ways in which that Declaration should shape the whole of life of the UCA; 
  • Frame the life of the UCA theologically and biblically for the next decade in light of 30 years of living and experience as a multicultural church
  • Clarify the particular ‘terms/language’ in use in the UCA, and their meanings as ways of providing common use and meaning in our conversations and decisions across-cultures

It is our strong conviction that by the ongoing grace of God such a resource and Declaration will take the UCA to a new level in our journey towards reconciliation and a deeper expression of our commitment to and accountability for growing together and living and witnessing cross-culturally. 

4.         OTHER ACTIVITIES AND PROGRAMS OF MCCM

4.1        Election Resources

For the Federal Election in 2010 MCCM worked with all other Assembly Agencies in the production of resources to guide people of faith in making choices for their voting and also to guide them in assessing the values and priorities of various candidates. MCCM contributed a “Hot Topics” leaflet and reviewed the major document in the resource booklet on multiculturalism

4.2        Mission Prayer Handbook

The 2012 edition is available and MCCM was pleased to again make contributions of stories, reflections and prayers to this useful and imaginative resource. The stories reflect a mix of personal and communal, of insights, and struggle around the Assembly theme for this triennium: Life Overflowing.

4.3        Participation of the National Director in other Assembly Task Groups

During the triennium the National Director has participated in two Assembly Task Groups: one reviewed processes and requirements for the reception of Ministers from other denominations, and the other Ministry Supervision.

5.         THE NEXT TRIENNIUM

5.1        Membership of the Assembly Reference Committee for Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry

The Chairperson of the Reference Committee is elected by the 12th Assembly and normally serves for a three-year term to enable people from different communities to offer leadership.

We wish to recognize and express our deep appreciation of the significant leadership that Rev Eseta Meneilly has offered during the last three years to both the national Reference Committee, the Uniting National conferences Working Group and to other areas of work of the Assembly. An indigenous Fijian, trained and ordained in the Synod of Vic/Tas, Eseta brought strong gifts for leadership, wide experience of multicultural and cross-cultural life in the UCA, deep sensitivity to and understanding of the complexities of leadership for a Pacific Island woman among some of our cultural groups.

Following the 13th Assembly the ASC will appoint a new Assembly Reference Committee from a list of nominations in accordance with our Operational Guidelines, we are thankful that as ex-Chairperson, Eseta and her gifts will continue to be available to the UCA nationally.

Our thanks also go to members of the Reference Committee who serve this UCA with vision and commitment and are passionate about building the Uniting Church in Australia as a faithful community of hospitality and justice in Christ. This commitment is not always supported in local Church Councils and Presbyteries with members often having to take annual or study leave in order to participate – ministers as well as laypersons. While acknowledging this to be the case in other areas of the UCA’s ministry, we do want to express our concern that such fulfilment of commitment is not treated as sharing gifts together in the one ministry of Christ across the whole life of the UCA

We place on record in this Assembly our thanks to our administrative support staff. The Assembly office team work long and hard to assist the National Director, the Reference Committee and the ministry of MCCM. Both Elizabeth and Bronwyn exercise their ministry with energy and enthusiasm on what is a long and mysterious journey of discovering the what, how and why of this UCA and its multicultural and cross-cultural life.

During the next triennium we will continue the expectations of the UCA to move towards a more even balance of gender, age and ordained/lay, while maintaining a substantial level of experience of both the UCA and cross-cultural ministry, and vital capacity to bring to life the visions inherent in the Basis of Union and our Declaration that we are a multicultural church.

5.2        Developing new initiatives

The work of MCCM is both challenge to and resource for the whole church: enabling congregations to grasp the challenge of mission and ministry in contemporary multicultural and multi-faith Australia. Across Australia increasing numbers of congregations are developing creative ways to engage in multi and cross-cultural ministry. We are committed to supporting them and to encouraging other congregations to share their stories, to follow their example. Matters of focus for the next triennium have been noted throughout this report. They promise to be challenging, sometimes confronting, always opportunities to experience the grace and power of the Spirit of God at work calling this church to continue its life as movement and not denomination.

The vision of transformed relationships in Christ that is a multicultural and cross-cultural church continues to inspire us and to undergird all of our work. During the next triennium the Agency is committed to take forward our central responsibilities under our Operational Guidelines and the Mandate of the Uniting Faith and Discipleship team.

In addition, we are convinced that ‘place’ – Australia, and ‘Spirit’ – the gift and presence of God here and active through Creation and throughout all time and history, remain relatively unexplored gifts to help us all understand better the rich depths of our own various cultures and spiritual insights from those cultures. Further, that these gifts from indigenous peoples of insight and naming of the presence of God and Spirit in this land are likely to provide ways forward that will be effective tools for understanding one another and at the same time connect that which is disproportionately European and Western with other ways of knowing, understanding and speaking about God, life in Christ, and journeying in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We will continue to look for ways to explore this through emerging biblical and theological scholars, teachers and leaders from cultural, language and world-views that are neither European, western, or Christendom based. 10

5.3        Looking to the Future – A Church for all God’s People

The Uniting Church in Australia and the nation itself is enriched beyond measure, and beyond our present entry into the diversity of cultures, races and languages with which God blesses us all. Yet our experiences of this journey over the past triennium to continue building relationships of understanding, to discover ways in which we can celebrate our differences and to receive each other as equals in the Spirit, is often painful as well as joy-filled.

While we talk as if we travel into unknown territory, it is in fact, a journey towards God’s promised end, an end in view for all humanity! This journey continues to require the courage to share resources that are God’s gift and not our possession, to step out from the shelter and safety of our own community, culture and ways of being, and to sing the Lord’s song in this new land where we have the gifts, insights and experience of First peoples to inform and ground us. Then we will truly be a Church for all God’s people, a Church of diverse people in a rapidly changing 21st century Australia and world.

Revd Eseta Meneilly
Chairperson: Reference Committee

Revd Dr Antony [Tony] Floyd
National Director

Members of the National Reference Committee 2009-2012

Queensland:
Revd Apichart Branjerdporn (to 11/2011)
Revd Lulu Senituli (from 11/2011

Vic/Tas:
Revd Dr Apwee Ting (Past Chair)
Mr Wai Hoey
Revd Jason Kioa
Revd Dev Anadarajaran
Revd Fa’ama Leota (to 11/2010)

NSW/ACT:       
Revd Amelia Koh-Butler
Revd Dr Clive Pearson (Theological Advisor)
Revd Rodel Palma
Revd Kiduk Hwang

Northern:           Revd Thresi Mauboy

South Aust:
Revd Dr Elizabeth Vreugdenhil (to 11/2010)
Dr Tangi Moi-Moi Steen (since 03/2011)
Mrs Amel Manyon         (since 03/2011)

WA:                  Revd Dr Emanuel Audisho

 


[1] Reports to the 12th Assembly B26 pages B26-2 and B26-3

[2] This accords with MCCM-NRC responsibilities and flexibility in our Operational Guidelines:

[3] This is linked to Assembly Key Directions as in 1 above

[4] This is linked to Assembly Key Directions as in 1 above

[5] From the Operational Guidelines for MCCM within the Uniting Faith and discipleship Mandate

[6] Links to Assembly Key Direction (b) (i)

[7] This is linked particularly to Assembly Key Direction (c), (d) and (e)

[8] This links particularly to Assembly Key Direction (c) (i) and (ii)

[9] This work is linked to Assembly Key Directions (a) continue working with the UAICC, (b) (i) developing resources that will assist our members and councils to develop skills and strategies to live together in peace in a multicultural, cross-cultural and diverse UCA, (viii) fostering equity and reconciliation within the Australian community; (c) “(iii) explore new expressions of mission and Christian community and the renewal of existing forms”. And (d) “(ii) articulate and celebrate our identity as the Uniting Church in Australia; (iii) the education of our members to better know, own and share their faith; and (iv) encourage a conversation as to what we need to be as a church”.

[10] Links to Assembly Key directions (a), (b) (i), (c) (ii) and (iii), (d)