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Crosslight Celebrating 25 years of

No. 281 October 2017



Will elderly downsizers save the Great Australian Dream? Not according to one think tank

Why Christians can support the medically assisted dying laws being debated in Victoira



The fight to keep Florence and Sheryil Allen together with their family as a deportation deadline looms

We have consensus – Crosslight’s summary of the all sights and sounds of Synod 2017

Out of the mouths of babes - our front cover this month features one of the messages sent by year two and year four students from Scots School Albury to Synod 2017. Words and pictures of support and encouragement were posted on the walls of Box Hill Town Hall during the Synod meeting. In our editorial (below) we share some more of those messages. Turn to the centre pages for our Synod wrap or go to for a full report.


Moderator-elect Denise Liersch on visiting the famous doors where the Reformation came knocking 500 years ago



Dr John Evans on the lessons he learnt taking part in a famous pilgrimage

People - 09 Letters - 17 Reviews - 20 to 21 Notices - 24 to 25 Moderator’s column - 26

Editorial Dear the people that came to Synod, I hope you have a nice meeting and you will make the right decision. Hope you don’t fight. CLAIRE, YR 2

Good luck in your Synod Meeting. From MADDIE, YR 4

I hope your meeting goes well and that you all leave friends. Good luck. OLIVER, YR 4

The year 4’s at The Scots School hope you have good luck at your meeting. From YR 4 SCOTS SCHOOL ALBURY

I hope you make good decisions in your meeting. GEORDI WILLIAM MITCHEL, YR 4 This is from Year 4 Scots School Albury. Sorry the drawing is bad because my friend wrecked it. I hope your side wins! FROM BATMAN

I hope your meeting is fair, nice, happy and you are kind. I hope that if you don’t agree on what they said please do not shout at them and forgive what they said and say, “I don’t agree.” in a nice voice. MILLIE.W, YR 2

I wish you great luck with your meeting on Friday. SAM, YR 4

I hope your meeting goes well and that you all leave friends. Good luck. OLIVER, YR 4

I hope that you have a nice meeting. Hopefully you end up being friends in the end. SAMER, YR 2

We all say Good Luck! ANNABEL, YR 4 I hope you have a good meeting. ARIFA.

Better Together. EMILY, YR 4 Good Luck. From ABIGAIL CASE, YR 4

Communications & Media Services

UCA Synod Office, 130 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 Phone: (03) 9251 5200 Email: ISSN 1037 826X

Have a great time I hope it’s all fair and you all respect each others ideas. ELLA Crosslight is a monthly newspaper produced by the Communications and Media Services unit of The Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. It is published 11 times a year. Opinions expressed in Crosslight do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or the policies of The Uniting Church. Advertising: Crosslight accepts advertising in good faith. Acceptance of advertising does not imply endorsement. Advertising material is at the discretion of the publisher. Distribution: Crosslight is usually distributed the first Sunday of the month.

The moderator asks the Synod meeting “Do you agree to this?” Love from Jemmah

Circulation: 21,000 (publisher’s figure). Deadlines: Advertising and editorial. Please check exact dates on our website <>. Closing date for November – Friday 20 October 2017. Printing: Rural Press, Ballarat (Fairfax Media) Visit Crosslight online:



Staff: Executive Editor - Penny Mulvey Managing Editor - Deb Bennett Graphic Artist - Mirna Leonita Design, Digital Illustration and Print Services - Garth Jones Communications Officer - Tim Lam Media Communications Officer - David Southwell Advertising Co-ordinator - Lynda Nel Communications Manager - Nigel Tapp Digital Technology Officer - Graham Holtshausen

News UCA demands action to stop ‘ethnic cleansing’ UNITING Church President Stuart McMillan has urged the Australian government to take a lead in ending the brutal violence against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. More than 410,000 Rohingya have been driven out of the country by military forces and into refugee camps at the Bangladeshi border. The crackdown followed a series of insurgent attacks on police and military posts by Rohingya rebels in the Rakhine state on 25 August. A top United Nations human rights official described the Myanmar military response as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. There are reports of military personnel burning entire villages and shooting fleeing civilians. “The Australian government must urgently work alongside the international community to halt what is justifiably being described as the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority by military forces,” Mr McMillan said. “We are thankful to the Australian government for the announcement of $5 million in aid to respond to the crisis which will go towards much needed emergency assistance in the region. “We encourage the government to provide this and any further assistance it can to ensure that those fleeing this tragic situation have access to food, shelter and security for as long as is necessary.”

Members and supporters of the Rohingya community in Melbourne stage a public demonstration

The Rohingya have been described as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Approximately 1.1 million, mostly Muslim, Rohingya live in Rakhine and they have long been targets of violence and human rights abuses. They are not recognised as Myanmar citizens, which means their rights to marry, study, travel and access health services are restricted. Last month, members and supporters of the Rohingya community in Melbourne staged a demonstration outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade office in the Melbourne CBD. The megaphone-led chanting protesters symbolically smeared blood on their shirts

and faces to protest against what they described as ‘genocide’. Habib, a spokesperson from the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation, said the crackdown by the Myanmar military was conducted under the pretence of fighting Rohingya rebels. “The government is targeting civilians in an attempt to cleanse the population,” Mr Habib said. “The aim is to clean out the Rohingya population and push them into Bangladeshi territory.” Despite the escalating crisis, the Australian government continues to offer $25,000 to Rohingya refugees on Manus Island detention centre if they return home.

Up to seven Rohingya men – some recognised as refugees – have agreed to return to Myanmar, where they will face the threat of ethnic persecution. “Australia must do whatever we can to support those who have fled and who cannot return home,” Mr McMillan said. “I echo calls from the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibhahim Abu Mohammed for the government to allocate a new quota for the arrival of Rohingya refugees into Australia. “I call on Uniting Church members to pray for our Rohingya brothers and sisters who are suffering and mourning the loss of lives. “May peace prevail and replace the hate and violence.”

Working and weaving together VIC/TAS Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis joined with the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne last month to launch a historical ecumenical agreement between the Uniting and Anglican churches. Weaving a New Cloth is the first agreement signed between the two churches in nearly 30 years. The document outlines opportunities for shared hospitality, mission and witness. At an Evensong service at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Ms Hollis and The Most Rev Dr Philip Freier formally endorsed Weaving a New Cloth. “We had been disheartened by our failures, but God strengthened our resolve and commitment in our unity of purpose and gave us the vision so that something new could be created in his glory,” Ms Hollis said. Maureen Postma is the Uniting Church co-chair of the Trinity Declaration’s Joint Standing Commission (JSC). The JSC was established in 1999 to explore pathways for conversation and cooperation between Uniting and Anglican churches at the local level. “The Weaving a New Cloth initiative is the result of over 30 years of national dialogue towards a unified and supportive way forward,” Ms Postma said.


Moderator Sharon Hollis joins with Anglican and Uniting Church leaders at the launch of Weaving a New Cloth

“Its origins were in the 1985 Agreed Statement on Baptism, which was adopted by both churches. “Further progress was made in Victoria in 1999 when both churches adopted The Trinity Declaration and Code of Practice for local cooperation between our two churches.” A document called For the Sake of the Gospel was endorsed by the 11th Assembly

in 2006, but the Anglican Church’s General Synod did not approve it. In 2011, then-Uniting Church president Rev Alistair McRae and Anglican Primate Archbishop Phillip Aspinall established a new joint Working Group to produce a national framework for cooperation. This led to the creation of Weaving a New Cloth, which was approved by the Anglican General Synod in 2014 and the Uniting

Church Assembly in 2015. The document specifies areas where Anglican dioceses and Uniting Church presbyteries and congregations can work together ecumenically. It particularly emphasises ecumenism on a grassroots level through the sharing of resources for mutual benefit and the establishment of joint Uniting-Anglican congregations.


News Downsizing may not be the dream solution DAVID SOUTHWELL

IN Australia, the generation gap has become the accommodation gap. The dizzying rise in house prices, which have far outstripped incomes, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, threatens to deprive many young people of what many considered a generational birthright in post-war Australia, the opportunity to call a place your own. But a leading public policy think tank has questioned whether the frequent call, as made by Treasurer Scott Morrison among others, for older property owners to downsize will help revive the Great Australian Dream of mass home ownership. Grattan Institute economist Trent Wiltshire has been part of a six-month project looking at the extent, causes and possible solutions to unaffordable housing. “It’s certainly looking bleak for the younger generations,” Mr Wiltshire said “I think it’s reached a tipping point now where people realise things have changed and it’s going to be very hard for a lot of younger people who are going to miss out on what was considered the normal thing, to


own your own home, by your 30s and 40s.” In the 1950s, 70 percent of households owned their homes. It is only recently that this has declined to 67 percent, but that figure doesn’t convey the reality that some categories of people are effectively locked out of the property market. “Where you see the big falls in home ownership are among the younger age groups,” Mr Wiltshire said. “And it is even more significant among the younger and poorer households. People in the lowest 20 percent of incomes have seen the biggest falls.” In the lowest earning segment of 25 to 33-year-olds the rate of home ownership has plummeted from 60 percent to 20 percent. “It used to be that if you were wealthier you were more likely to own a home but it wasn’t a massive determinant. Now being a low income earner means it’s really, really difficult to own a home,” Mr Wiltshire said. This has significant effects in creating and entrenching inequality across the socioeconomic spectrum and between generations. “Income inequality hasn’t changed but you see this big change in wealth inequality and that’s mainly due to these rapid increases in house prices in the major cities,” Mr Wiltshire said. He said that on average 65 to 74-year-old homeowners are $400,000 wealthier than 10 years ago, thanks to the appreciation of their properties, while 55 to 65-year olds are $300 000 better off. Meanwhile, the wealth of 25 to 34-year olds has remained the same.

Mr Wiltshire said that for young people, being able to own a home or even afford a deposit was increasingly dependent on help from family and friends, whether that be inheritance or gifts or others acting as guarantors of loans. “That’s a worrying trend that it will depend more and more on how wealthy your parents are to buy a home,” he said. Despite the difficulty faced by young people in buying a home, surveys show only a slight dip in the number aspiring to property ownership. “A majority of young people still feel owning your own home is a big part of the Australian way of life,” Mr Wiltshire said. That’s especially so in Australia where renting laws don’t encourage the long-term leases that are found in some European countries. “We’ve generally viewed renting as a temporary thing or a last resort,” Mr Wiltshire said. “Many people, especially with young kids, want security and renting in Australia really doesn’t offer that. Our tenancy laws are more tilted towards landlords.” With many retirees living in large family homes, the focus of much discussion has been on how to encourage them to downsize to more modest premises and free up the bigger properties for young families. However, the Grattan Institute believes that extra inducements to downsize are unlikely to have a great effect. Mr Wiltshire said that studies show there are financial disincentives, such as sales tax, to swapping to a smaller property, but that

isn’t the main obstacle. “People like where they live, where they’ve grown up for a long time, they don’t want to move,” Mr Wiltshire said. “A big factor driving up house prices is that it is very difficult to build your medium density maybe two to three-storey townhouses in established suburbs where the jobs are, the transport hubs are, the shopping is. It’s hard to build properties that people would like to downsize to.” Mr Wiltshire did nominate one financial factor that discouraged downsizing – that the house value is not counted in the assets test to get the old age pension. This means, depending on other income and wealth, people in multi-million dollar homes can get the pension while some in more modest dwellings can’t. He said to change this would be a very hard thing politically to do. However, he suggested including homes in the assets tests need not mean pensioners would have to sell their houses. They could instead use a reverse mortgage (a loan taken out against some of the property value with interest added to the debt). “A lot of older people want to see their home as an inheritance tool and pass it down to the younger generations, which is obviously very understandable,” Mr Wiltshire said. “But it can mean the age pension is being used as an intergenerational transfer. “Whereas to draw down on some of the equity of your home as you get older is possibly a fairer way to do it.”


News Healing conference open to all

The blessings of Sheryil

CHRISTIANS from all denominations are invited to attend a conference on spiritual healing in Melbourne this October. The 2017 OSL Healing Ministries conference will be held at the Waverley International Hotel in Glen Waverley from 2-6 October. The conference takes place once every three years and the theme for the 2017 event is “Walking in Faith into the Future”. OSL Healing Ministries was formerly known as the Order of St Luke (OSL), named after ‘the beloved physician’ in the Bible, before it formally changed its name in 2009. It is an ecumenical organisation dedicated to supporting healing ministries in churches throughout the world. The Pearce Memorial Lecture is presented at every conference in tribute to the late Andrew Pearce, a former national chaplain of the Order. This year it will be delivered by John Harrower, former Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, on the topic of dealing with trauma. Four keynote speakers will run workshops. Rev Bruce Reekie will speak on the theology of healing and Pastor Jason Rawlings will tackle the theme “Keys to unlock Australia”. The other speakers are Dr Grant Bickerton, a Christian psychologist, and Rev Bill Sim, a chaplain from OSL New Zealand. The conference will include daily Bible studies led by Anglican minister Rev Geoff McAuliffe, who will also be inducted as the incoming OSL Healing Ministries national chaplain at the conference. Participants can join in the full fourday program or attend single day and evening sessions.

SYNOD employee Jacqueline Vanderholt writes about her sister Sheryil who faces deportation from Australia.

Registration forms and details can be obtained by contacting the OSL Healing Ministries acting secretary on (03) 9837 5097 or emailing You can also contact the Victorian State Chaplain, Rev Lloyd George, on 0427 460 485.


Sheryil was born 28 July 1967; she was the fourth in the family of six kids. Mum and Dad were so brave to have two more kids after Sheryil. Sheryil was a beautiful baby who never had any symptoms of a child on the spectrum. My parents were none the wiser as in India there was no awareness about autism in the 1960s. It was only when she was four years old and showed slow language development and frequent tantrums that my parents realised that something was not quite right. Well something was right – she was placed in the right family. For us siblings we never understood why Sheryil behaved differently. Why she hated crowds, would scream at the drop of a hat, and didn’t like any of other the siblings getting attention. For a long time, we grappled with trying to find common ground with her. We also asked “why our family, Lord?” Our family life revolved around Sheryil’s needs and routines. We learnt quick smart that family life will never be normal; in fact it was full of sacrifices. United we all went through the journey and united nothing could conquer our determination to make Sheryil’s world as normal as possible. Sheryil couldn’t speak until she was five years old, her speech was limited to only a few words and today she can only communicate basic things. Sheryil doesn’t understand time, may wake up at 3am and start her day. She doesn’t know how to read or write and has no cognisant or discerning skills. However, she can follow instructions and thrives on routine. She does not

go shopping as she does not understand the concept of money. She makes no fuss with her food and wears anything without complaining. All she ever wants is the love of her family and she loves her dolls. As Sheryil’s only sister, Dad made sure I assisted Mum in Sheryil’s personal hygiene and grooming skills. These little tasks taught me lessons for life – like being compassionate and never taking anything for granted. I have also learnt to be kind, appreciative and less judgmental, as I experienced first-hand what it is to be richly blessed compared to my own sister. My sister was amazing – she never ever indicated that I did a bad job in caring for her, even though there were days I was irritable and cranky. She always says thank you with true meaning and a beaming smile, and always, always says sorry if she has a bad tantrum. She cares immensely for the entire family and is very protective and always has our back covered. Sheryil has done more for me and our family than we could ever hope to do for her. Understanding Sheryil took a lot of effort and self-inventory on my part and even today I make mistakes.

But this process has given me patience, an organised life, a quiet dignity and commitment to responsibility that I would not have found without her. She has taught me the true meaning of compassion, to take peace and solace in the little gifts bestowed upon us each and every day, to appreciate life and to be content with simplicities of life which you can never buy from a shop. The person I am today, I owe to Sheryil. Having her live with my own family is not the easiest. To subject my husband Clyde and son Luke to her routine and quirks requires a good balancing act. But I am enriched with a marital relationship that has withstood tough challenges and has steeled our inner strength and responsibility. I am also blessed with a kind, compassionate and gentle son who bravely has taken over the role as a dutiful and caring nephew to his autistic aunt – what a noble man he will turn out to be. I am grateful to be a sibling to an autistic sister. I have learnt how mindfulness builds compassion, and a great understanding that life needs to be simple. My sister has touched the lives of anyone and everyone who takes the time to get to know her. These people see past her deficiencies, her quirks and into the beautiful soul beneath. They see a smart young lady who loves her family, her dolls, her routines, and has taken us all into a journey of natural love. To the family she is undoubtedly “a garden of a single rose blossoming in infinite ways”.

Jackie and Sheryil as children

Sheryil and Jacqueline



News Moderator urges minister to let Sheryil stay

MODERATOR Sharon Hollis has written to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to ask that he reconsider deporting Sheryil Allen, a 50-year-old woman with autism, and her 80-year-old mother Florence Allen to India. Sheryil and Florence live with synod employee Jacqueline Vanderholt, who along with all the rest of their family reside in Melbourne. “Forced separation would do irreparable harm to Sheryil and Florence who are both vulnerable on account of intellectual disability and old age respective,” the letter written to Mr Dutton on behalf of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania states. Florence and Sheryil have been in Australia since 2012 and Ms Vanderholt has applied to get her mother and daughter permanent residency in Australia. The application was denied because it was ruled Sheryil’s autism could be a potential burden to the Australian

taxpayer, even though Ms Vanderholt and other family members have taken full responsibility for her care. “The family has indicated they are in a position of financial self-sufficiency to care for both Sheryil and Florence,” the synod’s letter reads. Sheryil has been fully looked after by her family in Australia. “My autistic sister has very simple needs which the family can easily provide,” Ms Vanderholt wrote on the petition site. “A walk in the park, a drive down the countryside, playing with her dolls and most importantly to be surrounded by her family. She loves her nieces and nephews immensely. “Having an autistic aunt in our children’s midst has etched their characters enabling them to be true value-driven Australian citizens. “ Sheryil and Ms Vanderholt’s four brothers are all in Melbourne.

Ms Vanderholt says that without any family in India to help her ageing mother Sheryil will have to be placed into institutional care. “This would cause her great trauma, despair and inconsolable grief as she has never lived a life without her family and has no understanding of any other language other than English (being the language always spoken at home even in India),” Ms Vanderholt wrote. Ms Vanderholt’s appeal to Mr Dutton for special ministerial intervention on compassionate grounds was rejected at the end of August. This means that Florence and Sheryil could face deportation back to India as early as 3 October. Both the ABC and SBS have produced stories on the family’s plight leading to a groundswell of social media support voiced for Florence and Sheryil to stay. An online petition has gathered 42,104 supporters at the time of writing.

Sheryil and Florence



News Ongoing renewal in the spirit of the Reformation

REV Denise Liersch, moderator-elect of the Uniting Church Vic/Tas synod, travelled to Germany as one of three Uniting Church representatives to the World Communion of Reformed Churches, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, from 29 June to 7 July. She shares her experiences with Crosslight. A couple of months ago I stood in front of the Castle Church in Wittenberg where, 500 years ago, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors. Well, not to these exact doors; they are no longer made of wood,

and Luther’s 95 Theses are now cast into the bronze of the doors. As I stood there, repair works were being undertaken to the old stonework around the new doors. The church as a whole isn’t quite the same as it was either; it’s had a lot of work done to it since then… I hope. In fact, the 1000 or so people with whom I was gathering in Germany were praying for precisely that: that the Spirit of God would continue working on the church, the body of Christ. ‘Living God, renew and transform us!’ was our theme for the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). I was in Germany as one of three Uniting Church delegates to the General Council (GC) of this international ecumenical body. The GC is held every seven years, this time coinciding with the 500year anniversary of the 16th century Reformation which Luther was a part of – though the important reformers for the WCRC member churches are Calvin, Hus, Knox and others. We met mostly in Leipzig, home of the peaceful revolution that sparked the fall of the Berlin Wall, but we also spent one day in Berlin, and another in Wittenberg. Over the two weeks of the GC, around a thousand people from over 230 member

churches came together, representing 80 million Christians across the world. From many different cultures and with many different languages we talked, ate, prayed, worshipped and sang together; listened to and learned from each other; discussed and discerned God’s leading together; and made decisions that we believe are the will of God for our world and church today. We tackled issues of injustice, conflict, corruption, poverty, abuse of power and exploitation. We focused on several main areas: theology, justice, gender justice (including adoption of a Declaration of Faith on Women’s Ordination), communion in mission and strengthening communion. We were encouraged by internationally renowned biblical and theological scholars to regain the Reformation spirit of protest and resistance to the death-dealing powers of division, conflict and oppression by the empires of this world. Ironically, Luther’s protest, and that of the Reformation, led not just to the reforming of the church, but also to conflict, division and splitting up among Christians. The GC charged member churches to take up the ‘unfinished agenda’ of the Reformation: constant renewal of the church.

The day in Wittenberg marked this by signing a statement that declares unity in understanding amongst Catholics, Lutherans and other churches on the very doctrine which separated them back in the 16th century. So there I was: standing in the church where 500 years earlier Luther preached and worshipped, as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed. It reminded me of the words attributed to Luther as he stood before his accusers at the Diet of Worms: “Here I stand. God help me.” These were words of protest, conviction, determination to take a public stand for what he believed was right, willingness to be held accountable for he believed in, prayer for transformation of the church, and of trust in God to hold true, both to himself and to the church. In a period of transition in the life of the Uniting Church, may we pray, not to find ways to shore up our church as we know it, but for ongoing renewal in the spirit of the Reformation.

For more information on the World Communion of Reformed Churches visit

Cartoon by Irwin Traeger


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People Celebrating 175 years of witness in Geelong ONE hundred and seventy five years is an extraordinarily long period by any measure - three quarters of the entire time of European settlement in Australia – but that is the anniversary being celebrated this year by the Wesley congregation at Yarra Street, Geelong. On Sunday 22 October, this major milestone will be celebrated with a special service, displays, activities and lunch. The Wesley congregation has issued a warm invitation to any who have had contact with Wesley and its associated pre-union congregations - of St Giles Presbyterian and Geelong City Congregational - to join them on this special day. Originally Methodist and now Uniting, the congregation has been a major presence in the Geelong city and members have made significant contributions to the community in many different ways. One notable member was Charles Brownlow, the Geelong footballer immortalised in the AFL best and fairest award handed out every year. While the buildings have

Speed date a Muslim FIRST dates can be pretty awkward encounters, especially when you have nothing to talk about, but there were plenty of energetic conversations at the Speed Date a Muslim event held at St John’s Uniting Church Elsternwick in August. Approximately 40 people from different faith backgrounds came together to hear the firsthand experiences of Muslim women over coffee and tea. Participants were invited to enter conversations with an open heart and mind. The interfaith community event was organised by The Side Door’s Social Justice Hub, based at St John’s Uniting Church in Elsternwick. The participants at the St John’s Uniting Church gathering consisted of roughly equal numbers of Muslims, Christians and Jews. Healesville Uniting Church member Heather Hysted attended the event with her husband and described it as a “wonderful experience”. “We got to extend our friendship network

changed significantly over the years, the mission of the congregation has also endeavoured to adapt and serve the changing needs of Geelong city. The Wesley Centre for Life Enrichment is one current mission iteration. Over the decades, the congregation has been steadfast in the face of major community challenges, including world wars and the Great Depression. It has also been blessed by the leadership of fine ministers. In the immediate postWWII era, these included Norman Kemp, Stan Weeks, Rex Mathias, Jock Lavender and Alex Peerman. Music has also been a major party of the congregation’s life, with an historic organ and large choir for many years, and in recent years the Wesley Singers and band. For more information, please visit or call the church office on 5229 8866.

by meeting two women who had diverse stories to share about the Islamic religion and their everyday lives,” Ms Hysted said. “How fortunate we felt to be extended such warm hospitality, and to have the opportunity to acknowledge our consistent values and common humanity with these wonderful women. “We are enriched by their generosity. My only complaint about the event was that it went too quickly!” Rev Philip Liebelt, minister of St John’s and co-chair of The Side Door’s steering committee, said he was delighted at the interfaith spirit on show during the event. The speed-dating concept was created by chef Hana Assafiri at her Moroccan Soup Bar cafe in Fitzroy North last year. “Hana was really pleased to be doing this in a Christian church complex,” Mr Liebelt said. “Some of her team even took the opportunity to pray in the church after conversations had ended.” Born in Australia but raised in Morocco and Lebanon, Ms Assafiri wanted to create a safe space where people can ask Muslims about their faith and culture. A follow-up interfaith peace gathering and shared meal was held on 17 September to coincide with UN Peace Day.

Hana Assafiri (standing, right) addresses participants at the Speed Date a Muslim event


Still going strong 70 years on HOWARD Secomb can look back on 70 years as an ordained minister but still wants to talk about the future. “The faith is still strong,” the 95-year-old said after attending the Service of Tributes at Synod 2017, where he was the longest ordained minister in attendance. Mr Secomb, who has been to every Synod since Union, said he was in good health and “very fit”. “It’s very interesting, catching up on the past and looking into the future,” Mr Secomb said after the service. As a Methodist minister Mr Secomb served for 14 years in Tonga, where he was president of the Free Wesleyan Church. He was also principal of the Tupou College for boys from 1951 to 1963.

Tupou College celebrated its 150th year in 2016 and can claim to be the first secondary school in the Pacific Islands. During his ministry career Mr Secomb also served in Nunawading, Forest Hill, Preston, East Doncaster and Ascot Vale before retiring 30 years ago. He said that although the membership had gone numerically downhill, he is inspired by the “continuing life of the church and Christian witness”. Mr Secomb’s wife Janet was born in Tonga and is the daughter of revered Methodist minister and advocate of church union Dr Alfred Harold Wood, who was the founding principal of Tupou College. At Tupou College’s 150th anniversary celebration in Melbourne Mrs Secomb delivered a speech in Tongan. Mrs Secomb is the sister of renowned Basis of Union commentator and former Uniting Church President Rev Dr D’Arcy Wood, who was also born in Tonga and returned to the island in 2015 to perform the coronation of the current king.

Howard and Janet Secomb

Laced with love for moderator LACE was the theme of the latest city/ country ‘showdown’ between two Uniting Church ministers at this year’s Synod meeting. In what has become something of a tradition, Rev Cynthia Page and Rev Clare Dawe have enjoyed a friendly op shop rivalry for some years. Claire is the minister for the Chelsea Parish, made up of Carrum, Edithvale and Chelsea Uniting Churches and Cynthia is the minister at Eaglehawk and Marong Uniting Church, just outside of Bendigo. At Synod 2016, they attempted to outdo each other with gifts from their respective op shops, resulting in the women dressing in fashion chosen for them by the other. A Facebook post earlier in the year gave the ministers the idea to present a unique gift to moderator Sharon Hollis. According to the Facebook post, the moderators of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland always wear something made of lace. The tradition dates back to the days when

heads of churches had to wear lace to ensure an audience with royalty. Claire suggested a lace item would make a perfect 2017 op shop challenge. Cynthia accepted with: “Bring on the op shop lace rivalry and let us adorn our beloved moderator with lace!” “We had a lot of lace at Eaglehawk and decided to fashion the lace around a vintage brooch,” Cynthia said. Coincidentally, when she searched online, Cynthia found that the traditional ‘jabots’ are often fashioned around a brooch. Claire said that for Chelsea the challenge proved to be unusually difficult. “Normally we would have enough lace to sink a ship, but would you believe we couldn’t find any in the op shops?” she said. “In the end we found a beautiful heart made of lace which we presented to Sharon.”

Clare Dawe, Sharon Hollis and Cynthia Page


Profile Korea’s pain of having no route to reunification SILVIA YANG

THE Korean War caused a deep wound to all Koreans. More than 10 million people were scattered all over the country and, since all means of communication were cut off, the wardispersed families had no way to verify whereabouts of their missing relatives. In 1983, a live TV program titled Finding Dispersed Families aired for 138 days in a row with the aim of helping people find their long-lost family members within South Korea. As a result, approximately 10,000 Koreans were reunited with their families. On the other hand, those who left their family members and relatives in North Korea are still longing for their reunion encounter and, if possible, stepping on their home soil. My father’s hometown Sonchon is in the North Pyung-an Province which is located in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). However, Koreans do not consider my father as a North Korean. Where you happened to be when the Armistice was signed was a simple barometer to define whether you are a North Korean or a South Korean. As my father was south of the division line, the 38th parallel, on July 27, 1953, he became a citizen of the Republic of Korea. Luckily, he was an anti-communist and in terms of ideology he had no political

discomfort living in South Korea. However, at this time of Korean history, there was no complete freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Until 1988, South Koreans were not able to travel overseas freely. The only way of getting out of the country for my father, an ordinary citizen, was by means of immigration. I remember my father saying that there is never a town, city or a country like your own hometown. Yet he was ready to immigrate to any country that was happy to accept South Koreans – it happened to be Paraguay. Just like that, in 1975 when I was 12 years old, my life as a diaspora Korean began. Since then, I would not be able to count the number of times I’ve been asked ‘where are you from?’ During my teenage years, I responded with a strong ‘I am from SOUTH Korea’, with a derogatory connotation towards the North. To be honest, the person who asked me about my ethnicity in the 70s and 80s might not even have had the knowledge that Korea had been divided into two nations. I had been educated under a strongly anti-communist military dictatorship during my primary school period and I was brainwashed that North Korea was a brutal enemy of South Korea. The fraternal tragedy line, parallel 38th, did not only bring physical separation. Hatred and resentment towards what was once your own nation and your ancestry had been seeded in a young girl’s views. Paraguay is the farthest country in the world in terms of distance from my country of origin. Nevertheless, hostility toward North Koreans continued during my teenage years in Paraguay. Funnily enough, Koreans living overseas had to be even more vigilant not to be seen in contact with North Koreans. Contact with North Koreans was prohibited by the South Korean law and anyone found to be involved with a North Korean would be considered a spy. It was probably out of fear that I responded with such strong emphasis on the adjective ‘SOUTH’ Korea. This continued for a while during my first few years here in Melbourne as well. But living in this multicultural society, and having learnt to e embrace all backgrounds and e ethnicities, I realised it was a s shameful articulation using t term ‘SOUTH’. North and this S South, we are absolutely the same e ethnic group with the ability to c communicate perfectly using the c common language, Korean. The recent events leading to h heightened tension in the Korean

peninsula enlightened me to the meaning of the term ‘armistice’, a temporary cessation of war, not an end of war. The helpless reality is that we South Koreans are not in the driver’s seat. There are multiple superpowers with political and economic agendas at stake. In fact, it is no different to the Cold War itself that divided the Korean peninsula. What South Korea wants ultimately is not a continuation of armistice or prevention of war, but the final settlement for peace in the peninsula: reunification. Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program will not be stopped with further economic sanctions and applying maximum pressure on his country. It is good to hear that humanitarian assistance to North Korea will proceed, including to children and expectant mothers regardless of the political situation. The South Korean government plans to review allocating the donation of some $US 8 million to North Korea through UN agencies. The more ballistic missiles Kim JongUn launches against the world, the more missiles full of love and embracement the world should send back to open a dialogue without provocations and pressure. For all who draw the sword will die by the sword. My father died in 2001 at the age of 81 in Seoul. He was not able to visit his hometown ever again since 1953 when the Armistice Agreement was signed. Writing this, I checked for the first time how far Sonchon, my father’s hometown, is from Seoul City Hall using Google Maps. It says ‘No route found’ from South Korea. There is also ‘no solution found’ that we Koreans can implement as a nation awkwardly sandwiched between the US, China and Russia. Did you know that the Armistice Agreement was signed by US, North Korea, and China? The Korean War has wounded many and divided the nation in half. However, the most agonising wound of all that South Korea carries is our helplessness in deciding the fate of our nation; whether it be war, armistice or reunification. My beloved husband, the father of my two daughters, still lives as one of the 50 million South Koreans. My father’s relatives, who I have never met, probably still live with the 25 million North Koreans. People candidly ask ‘What do you think about the current tension in Korea?’ My simple and honest answer would be that we long for reunification, no matter what struggles it may bring. Silvia Yang has lived in Australia for the past 10 years while her daughters completed their education. She has a PhD in linguistics, studied theology and currently works at the University of Melbourne teaching Spanish and Korean. Dr Yang is a CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) relationship officer for the Uniting Church.

Silvia (aged five) at her elder sister’s middle-school graduation 1968 or 69 Papa: Kyung-soon Kim Mama: Ok-sook Kwon Elder sister: Hee-ok Kim 2nd Elder sister: Baek-hwa Kim Hee-jeong Kim (Silvia Yang)




The abused child I carry within

PARTICIPATING in the Culture of Safety training and listening to the discussion around it, I am two people. One is the experienced minister, analysing the changes being made and thinking about how best to introduce them to a congregation. The other is the small child experiencing abuse, the one who still lives inside the adult me and responds to the discussion with pain and outrage. From the age of about three, I was physically and emotionally abused by members of my family. This was decades ago, when much less was known about family violence, mental illness and emotional abuse. There was still a belief that physical abuse could not happen in nice families. My family was definitely nice: two parents, married to each other, the father in full-time work, the mother in part-time; four children, all doing relatively well at school, even if the eldest child seemed to suffer from an unusual level of anxiety about their performance; the entire family attending church every Sunday. No one looking at us from the outside could have imagined that anything

was wrong. I certainly didn’t know that anything was wrong, because I had never known anything else. Psychologists and social workers describe part of what happened to me as ‘scapegoating’ and a lot of research has been done on it. Dysfunctional parents choose one child to blame for everything that goes wrong in the family, rather than addressing what they themselves are doing wrong. The scapegoat may then act out, living up to that identity. That certainly happened to me. Throughout my teens I was a bundle of anger and hate, completely different from my much more stable younger siblings. Today the adults around such a child might question why they were ‘acting out’. But, as I said, this was a long time ago. Growing up as an abused child is lonely. Believing that I deserved what was happening to me, I carried a load of guilt and shame with me everywhere I went. I could never allow my friends, teachers or the adults at church to see who I really was, because if I did they would reject me. Even worse, if they didn’t reject me, there was the chance that they would blame my

“... surely anything that might help protect children from abuse is worth some inconvenience?”


parents for what they were doing to me. Since I was responsible for my parents’ well-being that would only add to my guilt. I was the scapegoat, the one accountable for the emotional state of my family. As I grew up I realised that I could probably seek help for myself and that there were people who would listen and believe me, but I believed that that would be a betrayal of my parents and would only make everything worse. Things change. I grew up, went to university, and studied psychology. I sought out an extremely helpful psychologist who told me one of the most important things I have ever heard: a three-year-old is not responsible for what happens to them. Not even if that three-year-old was me. My parents separated; they went to see psychologists themselves, talked about the patterns of abuse in their own families, were diagnosed with mental illnesses and received treatment. They apologised to me and I forgave them. Things have changed, in my family and in the society that surrounds us, and as far as I can see only for the better. I wonder what it would be like living my story out today. Would family violence have been mentioned at my school, and would I have made the connection between what was being talked about and what was happening to me? Would I have been aware sooner that what was happening to me was wrong? If I approached a teacher or minister, would they have been prepared to see through my family’s ‘nice’ façade, aware that family violence and child abuse can happen in the best of families? Would my parents’ mental illnesses have been diagnosed earlier, and would they have received the treatment they needed? Like most people who experienced abuse as a child, I am now a relatively functional adult. Human beings are astonishingly resilient. I grew up determined to do my absolute best to prevent what happened to

me happening to any other child. I became a minister in the Uniting Church, using the residual responsibility I feel for the entire world to care for others. I regularly see a psychologist who reminds me that I am not, in fact, responsible for the entire world; believing that is a work in progress. I am surrounded by people who know the real me and love me, including my family. But what happened to me is still part of who I am. Inside me there is still a three-year-old child who believes they are bad; an eightyear-old who believes they are responsible for the feelings of everyone around them; a teenager so angry at the world that only violence can express it. Most of the time these identities are subsumed by the adult who discovered that they are worthy of love and can love others. But sometimes they reappear. Over the past few years I have participated in the Synod’s Safe Church Training. I have seen elements of my story reflected in case studies and the three-year-old has cried inside. I have heard people complain about the obligation for all church volunteers to have Working with Children cards and the angry teenager has wanted to break things, because surely anything that might help protect children from abuse is worth some inconvenience? But the eight-yearold knows that expressing this might hurt the feelings of those around them, and so I have stayed quiet. Except here. We know now how many people have experienced and are experiencing violence in their family, how many children have grown up and are growing up abused. These people are both sitting in the church’s pews and preaching from the church’s pulpits. We are definitely sitting in training days and church meetings listening to people complain about the inconvenience of the Culture of Safety.


Opinion Why Christians can support medically assisted dying DR HARLEY POWELL AND REV DR ALLEN EDWARDS

THE Victorian parliament is considering legalising voluntary medically assisted dying. While this raises some uncomfortable feelings for many people, it is a significant issue for the whole of our society, and one we should all consider very carefully. Some folk will vehemently oppose the whole idea of ‘euthanasia’ (as it is often called) while others will just as strongly welcome the possibility that some form of voluntary medically assisted help with dying will at last become legal. It is important to understand that the new law will allow suffering, dying, people to die in a manner of their own choosing when they feel ready. They will need to take the prescribed medication themselves and doctors will not be allowed to kill people. The new law will not allow mercy-killing or euthanasia as used by veterinarians. Death is a fact of life. As much as possible, we generally try to avoid it happening to ourselves and others. Some believe that only God has the right to determine when we die, yet most accept treatment when the natural course of the disease would lead to death. They believe God approves of this, and that God has given us free will, allowing us to determine these things for ourselves. Most consider it our responsibility to address suffering and extend life. Medical science, especially in recent centuries, has helped us enormously towards this end. We are grateful for these advances in human knowledge and our ability to show empathy and compassion. Sometimes, perhaps more often than we care to admit, death comes as the culmination of drawn-out, painful and undignified processes which result from attempts to cure an illness, or simply to put off the inevitable end-of-life. Many people who have experienced the death of a loved one in these circumstances believe there must be a better way. Others, however, have strong objections to the proposition that the law could allow a dying person legal access to medical help to end their life. Some have strong religious objections because they believe it is against God’s will. They may say that because all human life is held in trust from the Creator and is precious, it has an inherent sanctity; life should be embraced as a gift from God so only God has the right to end it. They will perhaps quote the commandment: “You shall not kill”. (Exodus 20:13). In 1994, our VicTas Synod’s Bioethics Committee, under the chairmanship of Rev Doug Fullerton, examined this issue and concluded: “The Committee faced the question of whether in an imperfect world there are situations in which responsible moral action may involve taking human life. The Committee concluded that such situations do exist. However, they ought to be regarded as exceptions. Such action cannot be taken with an absolutely clear conscience, for although we may believe


we are acting responsibly and make these decisions as carefully and prayerfully as we can, we recognise that we may be wrong. The Committee acknowledges our continuous need for God’s grace and forgiveness.” Some members of the Committee (we were among them) believed that our church should continue to explore this issue. We now strongly believe that legalised voluntary medically assisted dying is an appropriate approach for the state to take, and for us, as Christians, to support. As Christians, we believe that in Jesus of Nazareth, we have the best insights about the real nature of our relationship with each other, and of the real nature of God’s relationship with humankind. Compassion is central to the teachings and activities of Jesus. He summarised all the old commandments in his new commandment to “love one another”. We note that Jesus did not mention assisted dying in any of his recorded teachings, although we know assisted dying was practised before his time. Jesus taught that love and compassion for suffering people is the most important aspect of human living, demonstrated in his own life – which he voluntarily sacrificed because of his love for all people. Having Christ-like compassion for others, means we need to do everything we can to reduce their suffering. Just knowing that assisted dying is available provides strong palliative relief for many suffering people who fear a distressing death. While some may consider medically assisted dying as a failure of palliative care and some palliative care physicians feel it is unnecessary, the experience in Oregon (USA) shows otherwise. The stated reasons for seeking assisted death in Oregon are not severe pain or poor palliative care but loss of dignity, loss of autonomy and loss of the ability to enjoy things, which make life worthwhile. These losses cannot be relieved by palliative care. Of nearly 40,000 deaths each year in that state, there are only about 130 assisted deaths, some 0.37 percent of all deaths. The vast majority of deaths are managed successfully with normal palliative care, and very few patients actually choose assistance with dying. In Oregon many people who are prescribed the medication do not actually take it, but nevertheless get great palliative relief from knowing that if their symptoms become unbearable they need not suffer an uncomfortable death. In a recent case involving Dr Rodney Syme, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) accepted that providing a dying patient with a bottle of the medication substantially reduced fear of an uncomfortable death in the days and weeks before death. The patient did not have to take the drug to get the beneficial palliative relief; the simple possession of the drug, or a

Artwork by Garth Jones

promise to have it supplied if requested, was sufficient to provide great relief. Dr Syme’s purpose in supplying the drug was to improve palliative care, not to end the patient’s life. The difference may be thought to be too subtle to be important, but it is true that giving patients the means to end their suffering has a useful palliative effect at a very distressing time. We believe it is possible to compassionately care for suffering dying people by supplying the drug, and, because we regard their life as sacred, we can tell them we hope they will not use it. However, we will understand if they do. When suffering is intense, unending and unable to be relieved by medicine and religion, most people, including many of

faith, reasonably wish to die a good death, surrounded by the love of family and friends. In such distressing circumstances, voluntary medically assisted dying facilitates such a death and may well be the most compassionate action. Refusing this medication to a person with unbearable suffering is a form of coercion and suggests a lack of compassion, or at best a limited compassion, which does not reflect the unlimited compassion of Jesus. We believe it is important for us as Christians to speak up in support of the proposed new law, to counter some views which oppose it. This is an edited version of an address presented by Dr Harley Powell to the people of the Forest Hill Uniting Church on 23 July this year. CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 17


Old endings and new beginnings




ALMOST 300 Synod members packed Box Hill Town Hall throughout the five business days of the meeting to discern and discuss the future of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania. Before that Rev Dr Robyn Whitaker set the tone for the 13th Synod meeting during the opening worship at St Michael’s Uniting Church on the Friday night. She urged Synod members to “wrestle with God and one another… in our very noncombative UCA way of holding up coloured cards.” Perhaps the biggest news that emerged from this year’s Synod was the announcement of the moderator-elect. In a Synod-first, the announcement was live streamed on Facebook. Rev Denise Liersch, minister at The Avenue Uniting Church in Blackburn, was chosen as the moderator-elect. She will be installed at the opening worship service of the 2019 Synod, where she will replace the current moderator Rev Sharon Hollis.

The Synod received visitors from assembly with the president, Stuart McMillan, assembly general secretary Colleen Geyer and president-elect Dr Deidre Palmer all in attendance. In preparation for the 15th Assembly next July, Synod members were asked to participate in working group discussions on the Uniting Church’s position on marriage and recognising sovereignty of the First Peoples in Australia. The Synod’s conversations attracted the attention of the ABC, who ran a Lateline story on how faith communities can have respectful discussions on same-gender marriage. The sessions in the main hall were dominated by the amendments to the Synod Standing Committee bylaws and a suite of proposals from the Presbytery Transition Team. After days of deliberations and revisions, the Synod reached consensus on presbytery funding. Reformed bylaws for the Synod Standing Committee were also adopted. But one proposed requirement for rural and Tasmanian representation was not adopted after a majority, rather than the usual consensus, vote.

Moderator-elect follows the God of surprises

REV Denise Liersch was named as the moderator-elect of the Uniting Church Synod of VicTas following a ballot on the Sunday of Synod. Ms Liersch will be installed as the moderator at the opening worship service of the 2019 Synod, replacing the current Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis, and will serve until the 2022 Synod. She is currently the minster at Blackburn (The Avenue) in the Presbytery of Yarra Yarra. Ms Liersch – who is married with two children – was one of three nominations for the position with the others being Rev Stan Clarke and Rev Sani Vaeluaga. After the ballot result was announced at the Synod meeting, Ms Liersch encouraged members to keep on following the God of surprises. “When we follow we keep on following, when we walk together as First and Second

People we keep walking together. We seek community and we keep going,’’ she said. Ms Liersch said she loved the Synod’s mission statement as it was not so much about strategic growth as an approach to life where we are always following Jesus. It was about being attentive and responsive to God, the one we are following, and attentive and responsive to those we were walking with. She said she was reminded by the story of Jacob (Genesis 32:22-31). “It was in the struggle that Jacob saw the face of God but he also needed to learn to let go,’’ she said. “As Jesus Christ said, perhaps the grain of wheat needs to die when placed in the ground in order to grow into new life. “We (truly) give ourselves over (to God) when we can discover ourselves surprised by what happens. (When) we keep believing in the God of surprises.’’

explore the impacts of family violence within the community, youth group facilitation and youth leadership opportunities.

Leprena is developing a culturally safe and inclusive space and this is symbolised by wall murals expressing contemporary Aboriginal culture, which have been produced by local teenage Indigenous artist Grace Williams. UAICC Tasmania chair and minister Rev Tim Matton-Johnson said work had been done on collating and finding ways to display cultural information about the life of the UAICC ministry in Tasmania. A second “on country” workshop has been held on Bruny Island as part of a family violence project funded by the Tasmanian state government. The same program also recently developed a successful Safe Families Expo in the Moonah Arts Centre. Ms Overeem said Leprena continued to develop networks with other not-for-profit providers of services for Aboriginal people. “This allows us to provide safe space for the provision of services at no cost to us for Aboriginal families who otherwise may find

accessing such services intimidating,” he said. “These have included literacy projects, a school holiday program and a play group, work readiness training and mentoring.” House church worship is also being offered by Congress in Launceston with contact maintained and fostered amongst the wider Aboriginal community. Craig McGough is UAICC Victoria’s Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre general manager. He said Narana continued to be a significant destination which offers authentic and immersive cultural experiences to families, tour groups, schools, community and business groups and church groups. Narana attracts up to 1000 visitors a week. Cultural education is delivered daily to school, community and business groups by Narana’s team of Indigenous educators. They help visitors appreciate and understand ancient Dream stories, connection to country, artwork, cultural artefacts and bush tucker.

SYNOD 2017 heard feedback of what VicTas members think about same-gender marriage and what they would like the national Uniting Church Assembly to keep in mind as it discusses the Church’s position next year. On the Sunday of Synod working groups convened to discuss same-gender marriage and what the Uniting Church should consider for Assembly. Two facilitation group leaders Rev Rachel Kronberger and Phil Morris presented a summary of what the groups had said

to the general meeting of Synod on Tuesday morning. Ms Kronberger first outlined some of the hopes that the groups had expressed about what was going to occur at Assembly. The groups hoped that the Church would be open to equality, safe and honest conversation, deep listening and respect as well as accepting diversity. A particular hope was that the Church listen to the voices of LGBTIQ, CALD and First Peoples. There was also a desire for a clear theology of marriage. Three working groups expressed the hope that the Church would change the

definition of marriage to being “between two people”. The groups expressed concerns over the conflict, disunity and potential schism the subject could engender in the Church. There were also concerns the members and congregations could be marginalised, left behind or pressured to conform. Some groups were concerned by details such as whether a same-gender marriage could be conducted in a church building and what would happen if ministers or congregations disagreed. One group warned of rushing to decision and another of the danger of indecision. In its preparation to discuss the topic

Walking together at Synod THE Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congresses in Tasmania and Victoria presented Synod members with a broad overview of their work in both states. Alison Overeem is the centre manager at UAICC’s Leprena facility in Hobart’s northern suburbs. She said Congress was seeking to provide holistic community development and cultural inclusion through its work. Ms Overeem said a strong relationship had been developed with the Presbytery of Tasmania and praised the work of former synod liaison minister Carol Bennet and former presbytery chair David Reeve in helping to sustain this. The work being done at Leprena includes cultural learning and sharing opportunities, empowerment programs for women to

Synod members given say on same-gender marriage




The Synod also adopted a proposal acknowledging family violence in Church communities and rejected any theology used to legitimate family violence. Another significant resolution at Synod 2017 was the passing of a proposal calling on the Victorian and Tasmanian governments to support the development of Medically Supervised Injecting Centres (MSIC). The Creative Design Team introduced a number of new initiatives to this year’s Synod. Daily vox pops, filmed and edited by the Communications unit, were shown throughout the meeting. The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ session allowed Synod members to roam around the Town Hall building and attend in-depth reports and interactive sessions held by various Uniting Church agencies and bodies. An evening storytelling program on the theme of sustainable leadership and generational change was warmly received by Synod members. Each day theological reflection was provided by Dr Margaret Campbell, who even played a

New presbytery funding model adopted

PRESBYTERIES will be guaranteed funding for a minimum of two full-time ministry positions, following a decision of the Synod. The funding will be based on an approved stipend to contribute to the ministers’ capacity to fully undertake their work. Presbyteries will also share an annual fund of at least $400,000 for additional resourcing. A distribution model for the

Moderator’s rollercoaster 18 months MODERATOR Sharon Hollis presented the Moderator’s Report to Synod 2017, outlining her observations of the life and witness of the Synod of Vic/Tas over the previous 18 months. Ms Hollis took members on a rollercoaster ride of emotion. She spoke of her own failure in the work of reconciliation; of the joy she feels as she visits congregations and agencies; her hope for the future and her gratitude for the people in her life. Ms Hollis adopted ‘Following Christ…’, the opening words of the Vision of the synod, as the theme for the meeting and the final 18 months of her term as moderator. Her report was framed around the rest of

the synod’s Vision Statement: Following Christ, walking together as First and Second Peoples, seeking community, compassion and justice for all creation. The moderator acknowledged that there had been little progress in the covenanting between the synod and the two Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congresses in Victoria and Tasmania. She said this was nobody’s fault but a new process had been resolved by the Standing Committee which she hoped would enable new ways of working together. “I confess to the Synod my own failure to be an agent of reconciliation and to the work of de-colonising that still needs to happen in my own life,” Ms Hollis said. “I pray for the gift of the Spirit that I and the Synod might develop an imagination for how we can address what we have done wrong and what we might do to set it right.” Ms Hollis also reflected on her experiences visiting congregations and communities of faith.

bit of reimagined Bach as a welcome musical interlude at one stage. The Synod farewelled a number of long-serving staff and board members whose roles will conclude as a result of Synod restructure. The Property Board, Board of Mission and Resourcing, the Centre of Theology and Ministry board and Commission for Mission board will wind up on 30 November. The Finance Committee, the Risk Management Committee and the Audit Committee will change their terms of reference. In the closing Eucharist, Uniting AgeWell’s director of mission Rev John Broughton reminded Synod members that “new beginnings are affected by old endings” and that as Synod 2017 drew to a close, a new door opens for the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania. “For a Synod that ended well – we thank God,” Mr Broughton said. The next Synod will take place in May 2019, but before then Melbourne will host the 15th Assembly on 8-14 July next year.

new fund will be developed in consultation with the presbyteries. The fund will build on the strengths and principles learned from the Rural Ministry Leadership Fund, taking into account equity and need. A process to review the arrangements for the fund will be developed by the Standing Committee with a report to be considered by the 2020 Synod. Previously presbyteries were funded under a mandated model of three ministers. The mandated model was concluded, by consensus, earlier in the Synod meting and will cease no later than 30 September 2018. All eight presbyteries received funding from the Presbytery Pool Fund, and the Rural IOMF helped fund five rural presbyteries including Tasmania. Many members expressed concern that the funding proposals were inadequate for rural presbyteries to be able to effectively

undertake their work. A facilitation group undertook further discussions before bringing a revised proposal, which was approved by consensus on the final day. Presbyteries have also been encouraged to develop sources of income beyond what is being provided through their Synod budget. Earlier in the meeting, members of the Presbytery Transition Team (PTT) told Synod members they had travelled widely throughout the synod and heard from a variety of church members. Of particular concern were the highly demanding roles of presbytery chairperson and treasurer. The Synod agreed, by consensus, to allow presbyteries to appoint officers, including the chairperson, with remuneration based on a full or part-time stipendiary basis in the future.

“Many of the communities I have visited are flourishing. These communities and congregations understand that the role and place of the church in society has changed and they seek to respond to this change,” she said. “They are grounded in prayer. They long to share the Good News. They are open to the new thing God is doing in their midst.” She also spoke of the importance of ensuring that the whole of church continues to strive to be a safe place for all. Ms Hollis referred to both the inappropriate use of power and bullying among church members, as well as abuse against children. “We need to learn how to disagree with each other without damaging each other,” the moderator told the Synod meeting. She spoke of meeting with survivors of child sexual abuse within the Church, and said that as she offered an apology and a settlement, their recurring plea was to ensure such abuse did not happen again.

Assembly was asked to affirm that what matters is “the quality of relationships not just gender”. Another group thought it might be useful to hear from sister churches that had grappled with the issue. Assembly was called on to develop resources for informed and respectful conversation, and possible alternative marriage liturgies as well exploration of legal issues and a code of ethics. Moderator Sharon Hollis commended members on the way they had discussed the matter. “The level of respect, generosity – you could feel it in this Town Hall,” she said.



Feature Young take the lead at Synod

Aaron Blakemore

THERE was a distinctly youthful feel to Synod 2017. On Sunday night six young people shared stories that focused on sustainable leadership and generational change. The session was led by Synod Creative Design Team members Aaron Blakemore and Bethany Broadstock. Manningham Uniting Church minister Rev Lucas Taylor admits while he does not consider himself young – at the age of 36 – he does comes from a different generation to most of his congregation. But he stressed that it was important to continually engage across the broad

cross-section of generations which make up our communities. Lucas warned words used carelessly could impact negatively. “It is the comments (young people might receive) about our dress or hair. Comments which suggest we may be tolerated but never embraced or welcome,” he said. Jen Shields, Robin Yang, Anika Jensen, Hannah Dungan and Rev Jennie Gordon also shared their stories and experiences within the life of the church. The session was warmly received and embraced by the Synod members. On the final morning of Synod some younger members presented a Bible study on “Following Christ – A Basis of Union perspective”. The presenters were Rev Deacon Michelle Cook, Joy Han, Anna Harrison, Kelly Skilton and Bethany Broadstock. Joy Han and Anna Harrison opened the session with a joyful musical number. The lyrics rang out –“We have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back”. Ms Han shared her experience of being moved emotionally, physically and spiritually by Christ’s power, primacy and centrality in her life. She spoke of her desire to explore further how we can be ambassadors for Christ. Ms Harrison introduced ‘Poo Man’ to Synod. She explained that one day a friend had invited to do some art. She declared herself a rubbish artist but went along anyway.

“We were given a Bible verse from Psalms 139 – ‘Oh Lord you have searched me and known me’,” Anna recalled. The verse made Anna feel raw and exposed because “I sometimes feel unlovely”, but it also made her realise that God saw her when she was unlovely and yet still saw her as beautiful. She started to shape Poo Man, a gawky and lumpy clay fellow who now takes pride of place on the Harrison family dining room table. Poo Man continues to remind Anna of the love and grace of Christ and Christ in her.

Bethany Broadstock

Vox pops from Synod 2017




WHAT has surprised and impressed me is the diversity of voices that have brought to bear in the discussions we’re having at Synod. The church is by-and-large old, ageing and white but the voices at Synod undermine this and we are bringing a lot of fresh, young, culturally diverse perspectives.

BEING at Synod for the first time can be very daunting and having to listen and to learn about what is going at the Synod as a governance body of the Uniting Church really excites me. Coming as a lay person at Synod, the language that was used and the theology behind of a lot of things was quite challenging for me, but I’m happy to be here.

THIS is my first Synod, so it’s a kind of ‘wrestling time’. I’m trying to wrestle with different issues and agendas to understand and express my opinions more wisely and wrestling with many strangers to know and communicate with them in culturally appropriate ways.




WE talked about some really big, emotional, complex, hard issues. Synod walks into those conversations with generosity but also knowing that there’s going to be conflict and not running away from that. I think that’s such a significant thing for this denomination and I’m really proud to be here because of the conversations that have been had.

THE Uniting Church is a wonderful church. It is a wonderful church that embraces all cultures and embraces all difference. We will have different views in our conversations in working groups but at the end of the day, we are one people, of one God.

THERE’S lots of talk about change and lots of talk about how do we move forward. I would suggest that the Uniting Church and its members look towards First Nations people as the Good Samaritan, the leader of change. We are adaptable, we’ve resisted and we’re adaptable to change over many years so I think there’s a lot of cultural reflections that could be immersed within the worship and theological reflections. And the coffee’s really good!



Letters Not about equality IN Matthew 19: 4-5 and Mark 10: 6-9 Jesus is quoted as citing Genesis 1:27b, which says, “...male and female he created them” and leads immediately into Verse 28: “God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’.” Jesus then said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. So they are no longer two but one flesh.” (New RSV) It is extremely difficult to interpret this saying of Jesus as envisaging or including same-gender marriage. In my view, the use of the expression ‘marriage equality’ by the proponents of same-gender marriage is a misuse of the word ‘equality’, amounting to a hijacking of the word in the same way as the word ‘gay’ was hijacked many years ago. It has been adopted because it conveys a more emotionally appealing concept than the historically more accurate words. Few in the Uniting Church would argue, and certainly not I, that men and women are not equally valued in the sight of God – but they are not the same. They have been created different for a very good reason – to enable procreation and the raising of children. That is surely the main reason why societies around the world and down through the centuries have sanctioned heterosexual marriage as the core of the family – the fundamental building block of society. The crux of the present debate is not really a question of equality. It is about the social structure we want to preserve and the central place of marriage in that structure. It would be possible to legislatively recognise partnerships between two people of the same gender without pretending that their relationship is the same as a marriage between a man and a woman, which it is not and never can be. John Beswick AM West Tamar UC Parish

Chaplain disappointment I HAVE had numerous visits to hospitals this year. Three of them were four or five nights. One was booked in two months prior to major surgery. Though two of the three hospitals had religious affiliations I was not visited by a chaplain of any faith or denomination. I am surprised, disappointed and somewhat hurt by this.

Helen Hallett Gisborne, VIC

Letters to Crosslight are always welcome. Letters should be 300 words or less and include full name, address and contact number/email. Letters may be edited for space, style and clarity.


Time to stand up and be counted AS a gay member of the Uniting Church in Australia I can only express my dismay at the lack of conviction shown by my Church. The Uniting Church is the only church in Australia that accepts gays and lesbians as full members and leaders. And yet the Uniting Church will not stand up and advocate for us. Other groups in our society are given full support without question. But gays and lesbians have to put up with a non-committal, sit on the fence, safety-first approach. It’s time for the Uniting Church to stand up and be counted in this issue. Same-sex marriage must be celebrated in our churches. Or it will be just one more nail in the coffin. Michael E East. Camberwell, VIC.

Dark message HOBART has once again hosted the winter event called ‘Dark Mofo’. This event celebrates darkness in many forms and contains immorality (organised public nudity) and blasphemy (mocking the cross of Jesus). Another segment of Dark Mofo involved a slaughtered bull, hoisted high and with legs outstretched to form a cross whilst revellers danced around it, smearing themselves with blood. Some media comments on this pagan event included words such as ‘disgusting’ ‘sickening’ and ‘frighting’. But most importantly what does the Bible say? “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness we lie, and do not practise the truth.” (1 John 5: 6 – 7) “Have no fellowship with the works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5: 11) “Jesus says if you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14: 15) Darkness is mentioned many times in the Bible as a description of sin and the devil. As Satan is the arch enemy of God any activity involving the evil one mocks God, but Dark Mofo glorifies darkness and like a cancer is growing and spreading. In defiance of God’s Holy Word some Uniting Churches joined in with Dark Mofo. For a church to be of Jesus Christ how can it participate in a pagan event that mocks the cross of Jesus? Fortunately there are many people in the UC who love and serve the Lord and distance themselves from such pagan events. They participate with churches of various denominations who join together with prayer meetings, a Bible reading marathon and a walk of condemnation showing unity in upholding God’s Holy Word. Mark Leonard, Endorsed by the Westbury/ Whitemore Uniting Church Council Chairman Robert J Clarke

No safe euthanasia Invitation to retired I READ with interest the article on ministers euthanasia in the August edition and thank you for bringing this to our attention in the light of impending legislation in the Victorian Parliament. While stating that some polls and numerous Christian thinkers and theologians were in favour of euthanasia, the thrust of the article was in its stories. Daniel Andrews says his mind was changed by seeing his own father suffer a painful death from cancer. However, as a GP who prescribes drugs for dying patients I could not help thinking that prescribing Endone to Ms Field’s suffering mother at the end of her life seemed unusual. Similarly, I wonder if Kenneth Ralph’s parishioner who was “yelling and screaming and really suffering” was receiving any palliative care at all. Obviously, we don’t have the full stories. I too have stories of deaths including my own mother and mother-in-law which would be hard to condense. This enormous social change before us is about compassion; “ending unbearable suffering for terminally ill patients” as put in the 2012 Newspoll. Yet its scope is for people whose life expectancy is a year and who want to die with dignity. The loss of control is one of the scary things that can come with dying but the risks associated with this personal autonomy must be considered. Surely, an informed discussion will take into consideration Daniel Andrews’ fear that ‘economic rationalism’ would influence medical decisions. Why was the amount of money a government could save if euthanasia was legalised even calculated? Shouldn’t we be listening to those in the palliative care sector? Their occupation is with dying people. The ABC reported those professionals said “MPs would be making a huge mistake if they backed the plan”; why would they say that? Why would the Ministerial Advisory Report not include a trial of palliative care or a mental assessment? To assume such a law would not expand over the years is naive. We only have to look at the initial Netherlands legislation and then look at actual practice with the High Court ruling (1986) that “the pain guideline was not limited to physical pain, and (includes) ‘psychic suffering’ or ‘the potential disfigurement of personality’.” Current amendments include lifeterminating treatment to children and giving more power and protection to doctors. Even its staunchest advocates admit there is no safe euthanasia or assisted dying legislation. Mr Ralph says those concerned about a ‘slippery slope’ ‘are not examining the evidence in places where voluntary euthanasia is legal’. I think that everyone should rectify this neglect. Doug Utley Park Orchards, VIC

ONE of the events to which we look forward each year, is the gathering of retired ministers and their spouses, deacons, minister’s widows and widowers. Once again, it will be at the Glen Waverley Uniting Church, and be on Tuesday 31 October, commencing at 10.30am. Details will be sent as soon as lists are updated. We can assure those who are retired from full-time ministry that a warm welcome awaits you. It is a great opportunity to catch up with one another, probably fixing the world and the Church at the same time. The ageing process sometimes makes instant recognition difficult, but we all face this. If you have held back from attending this function in the past, we invite you to reconsider coming. The worship, meal and program will be there for all to enjoy and share. Rev Clem Dickinson and Rev Ian Smith

Lambasted WHEN it comes to TV commercials there are excellent examples and conversely there are some shockers! If you are like me, you cringe at some, in particular the health comparison website that is no longer funny and has past its use-by-date. And just when you thought Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) had dined out on all the ideas on how to market lamb, its creative agency, aptly named The Monkeys, has caused yet another stir. If you haven’t seen the ad, there’s a fair chance you have heard or read about the backlash. Within a few days of its first airing, Australia’s advertising watch (not sheep) dog had already received a number of complaints. Now we read the Indian government has intervened in the controversy, lodging an official diplomatic complaint. The Indian high commissioner had made a ‘demarche’ to three Australian government departments – Foreign Affairs, Communications and Agriculture. Their main beef (mixed livestock term I know) is the depiction in the ad of the Hindu deity Ganesha, eating lamb, citing it as ‘ignorant and insensitive’. So what for other faiths? Whilst the Indian government has lodged a protest on behalf of its citizens of the Hindu faith, who will express concern on behalf the followers of the Good Shepherd himself who is not omitted from the ad’s character list. If we are meat eaters, do we forego the lamb roast, deny ourselves of the odd lamb chop or give up the lamb’s fry and bacon? Whatever our personal and collective response, one thing remains, when it comes to the retail price of lamb, we are being well and truly fleeced. And worst still, some monkey is pulling the wool over our eyes! Allan Gibson Cherrybrook NSW


Reflection Walking the walk REV DR JOHN EVANS

RECENTLY my wife and I walked part of the Camino, The Way, to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela – a city which has been destination for pilgrims for almost a thousand years. We were not pilgrims for extended weeks. We walked for a week along the Portuguese Camino – still long enough to get blisters, sunburn and be very grateful we arrived safely in Santiago. In this 40th anniversary year of the Uniting Church, much is made of our Church being a ‘pilgrim people’ – “always on the way towards a promised goal”; we do not “have a continuing city but seek one to come”. (Par 3, Basis of Union.) We like the image; we name our churches, even our theological college, ‘pilgrim’ – but what in practice does it mean to be a pilgrim? My reflective task for the journey was to consider what was it like being a pilgrim, and what that means for our Church as pilgrim people. Were there lessons that may help and guide us as we continue our pilgrimage? When one walks the Camino, the goal – Santiago – draws you forward. The intermediate goals of where you will get to that day encourage you to continue. The aches and stiffness and the trials of the journey are put to one side as you imagine what completing the pilgrimage will be like. Does our vision of a goal, as the Basis says – of the coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation, Christ’s beginning of the kingdom of heaven – actually draw us forward? Or are we more occupied with the setbacks and difficulties of the present moment (all those blisters and aches)? The goal draws you forward – but so does the companionship on the journey, and the encouragement of strangers and outsiders. There is a fellowship of pilgrims. One relates easily with complete strangers, even through language and cultural barriers. Where have you come from? How are you travelling? – are common topics of conversation. Those in the towns and villages you walk through know you are a pilgrim and offer encouragement and support. At one point on our journey, we lost the path. We stood somewhat forlornly on the corner of a busy intersection pondering our pilgrim’s guide. Then several cars screeched to a halt (causing traffic chaos) and their drivers wildly gesticulated – we could not speak Spanish – to show us the way to go. People want to help pilgrims – and one can think people will also help the Church as it endeavours with integrity to be Christ in the world. I think we doubt this good will, and only hear rejection and hostility. Also, do we sufficiently appreciate the diversity of all the pilgrims; and how that can energise and encourage? Pilgrims travel as lightly as possible. One has to shed what we might regard as the comforts of life. This focuses the 18

Photo by John Evans

mind as to what is important. What do we actually need on this journey; what is essential? All those possessions (buildings?), perhaps things from the past – will weigh one down, literally; perhaps even prevent you from attaining your goal. This means you have to be self-reliant – resilient even. There will be times, as we found, when there are no options, no choices, no shops or even places to eat. In today’s world we have so much choice, but on a pilgrimage you travel lightly and the there is no distraction into other paths and other ways. As a pilgrim on the Camino, one carries a passport. At each point on the journey you can get another stamp in your passport. You have a record where you have been – and even in Santiago you may get, on the basis of your passport, a certificate that you

have completed the journey. It is with the passport you are able to stop in certain accommodation while you are on the way. This passport rapidly reveals to others who you are – your identity as a pilgrim, and from where you have travelled. In the church, what is our ‘pilgrim passport’? Does our life together reveal who we are? What are the signs we are followers of Jesus? On the Camino, it is not the pilgrim who stamps their own passport – it is an outsider, someone else. It is not what we think of ourselves – it is indeed what others think of us as to whether we truly can be called pilgrims. One day we had a particularly long and arduous climb. Yes, there was the goal of Santiago ever before us; and also the goal of where we would stop that night (as it happened, a delightful monastery in the

hills). But what actually helped in this moment of a long, steep walk? I found one just gets into a rhythm, even a boring, monotonous rhythm, of placing one foot after the other. You do not stop and look around, or take more and more breaks, or even stop to smell the roses. You just keep on with the rhythm of that one step after another. In life, and in the life of the church, surely our routines, those basic, boring, monotonous rhythms – regular worship, intentional study, a pattern of prayer and reflection – help us get through. The difficulties pass and you are soon at the mountaintop – enjoying the beauty of God’s world. Is there actually an underlying pattern of our life together as pilgrim people? On the Camino an arrow and a clamshell point out the route. It is often, indeed usually, not the most direct route. The Way wanders the highways and byways and is invariably a road-less-travelled – at least by the people in the towns and villages through which you pass. As pilgrims, the way we travel can seem very strange to others. Perhaps we in the Uniting Church seem to take a long time to do things – but do we sometimes just follow the efficient and direct ways of the world? The pilgrim path is in fact very different. While on that path you need to take responsibility for the route you take. Don’t just follow the mob and assume they know where they are going. At one point on our journey, we joined up with a dozen or so Spanish pilgrims. We followed the mob – and the whole mob got lost. We had not taken responsibility for our own route and had to backtrack quite some distance to get back onto the path Do we often just follow the mob? And if we are lost, as pilgrim people, are we prepared to backtrack, perhaps acknowledge we were wrong, and then rejoin the path? Backtracking (humility?), strangely is a part of moving forward as a pilgrim. On the other hand, sometimes it is not all about the route someone else has mapped out for you. One day we decided to follow an alternative route (still a part of the Camino), the path and all of those little yellow arrows just disappeared (or we just could not find them). However, we knew where we were and where we were heading – so we made our own way. We probably chose a poor route, stumbled a bit, but we still got to our planned destination that night. If you know where you are going – and that is the important thing: there is not just one route, one path. There can be many paths. Are we as pilgrim people confident in ourselves and sure of the goal, that we may even venture in new, perhaps even uncharted ways? As pilgrims are always reminded – they are not alone, God goes with them. When I began the Camino I wasn’t confident it would actually be anything more than a good hike in Spain. The goal many of my fellow pilgrims had: to venerate what are believed to be remains of St James himself – Santiago, the very name of one’s destination – sat awkwardly with me. However, as it happened, the journey threw up unexpected opportunities to reflect on being a pilgrim, and what we the Uniting Church, a pilgrim people on the way, can be. Being a pilgrim now actually means so much more. I would recommend it – but true, watch those blisters! CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 17

Pilgrim Reflection Always on the Way

IT is the week after the 2017 Synod. Once again we were reminded in a number of reports and speeches from the floor that the Church is on a journey. We are a pilgrim people, ‘always on the way’. The theme of the church as a pilgrim people emerged strongly in the early decades of the Christian movement. Paul wrote to a bunch of Gentiles in the busy city of Corinth, who had never set foot in anything resembling a wilderness, and told them that the story of Moses and the people wandering towards the promised land is their story. Moses, the pillar of cloud, the sea crossing, the gift of manna, the temptation to idolatry “these things happened and were written down to instruct us”, Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 10:1–13). But the place where the theme is most strongly developed is in the erudite and highly distinctive text we usually call ‘The Letter to the Hebrews’. Hebrews is really a sermon on the theme of pilgrimage, a ‘word of exhortation’ for a people on the way. It is full of spatial terms such as ‘place’, ‘land/region/ country’, ‘foreign, ‘homeland’, ‘city’, along with verbs of motion like ‘departing/ travelling’ and ‘returning’. The church is described in Hebrews in ways that shaped the formation of the UCA and continue to influence the decisions and commitments that we make as a Synod: as a wandering people, progressing on a journey in response to God’s command, and looking forward in hope to God’s promised rest. In the words of the Basis of Union, the Church is “a pilgrim people; always on the way towards a promised goal; here she does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come. On the way Christ feeds her with Word and Sacraments, and she has the gift of the Spirit in order that she may not lose the way”. This reminds us that there is no definitive version of the Church’s institutional life or earthly achievement. It also points us to the need for ongoing education and formation as we discern the way ahead, and receive the sustenance of Christ and the guidance of the Spirit.


Hebrews was probably written to provide education and formation for the early Christian movement. And within its often tortuous and perplexing argument there emerges several key emphases that remind us of the need to continue the work of understanding God’s command and promise. First, the writer of Hebrews encourages the wandering people of God by keeping their focus on Jesus’ identity, incarnation, life, suffering, death, resurrection and enthronement. The aim is to strengthen and deepen the church’s confession in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. In the same way, theological education for a pilgrim church will consistently explore the narrative of God’s journey into the full reality of this world in Jesus Christ. Second, the key resource for telling that story is Scripture. Hebrews is a tricky text to interpret, not least because it is ‘impregnated with the OT’. Wrestling with these scriptural texts is necessary because, through the effort of exegesis, the word of God becomes ‘alive and effective’ (4:12) for the people of God on their journey. Similarly, theological education for a pilgrim church provides ongoing opportunity to understand, interpret and live out the vision of Old and New Testaments. Third, Hebrews is not afraid to affirm and make use of the full range of human learning. This is theology in the hands of someone who places all of their intellectual capacity and educational attainment in service of articulating the Christian faith. Theological education for a pilgrim people also affirms the value of intellectual and scholarly enquiry, because these gifts are to be pressed into service for the sake of understanding and articulating the gospel to the very best of our ability. Fourth, Hebrews is a highly creative piece of theology. The writer draws on the broad and developing tradition of the early Christian movement, but shapes and adapts that tradition so it is able to speak to the present moment and the real onthe-ground experiences of the church for whom they write. In the same way, theological education for a pilgrim people will always take the life

and experience of the pilgrim seriously. We should resist the temptation to speak the faith solely in language borrowed from elsewhere or from back then: theology is not ventriloquism. But neither are we the first generation to ask our questions, work through the challenges, or attempt to speak the gospel faithfully. Even in the midst of the demands of the present context, theological work is also done in the context of a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1). Finally, we should note that the depth and complexity of the theology at work in Hebrews are not ends in themselves. For a text so taken up with abstract and speculative modes of theological reflection, it is striking to note the ways in which the author envisages the practical consequences of that theology. Mutual love, hospitality to strangers, identification with the prisoner, upholding marriage, resisting greed, support for leaders (13:1–17); these are just some of the ways that the vision of Hebrews translates into action. Those who call transformation or new understandings of the church, or of the church’s mission in the world, will recognise that theological education is central to that process. In essence, then, a church that commits itself to theological education at all levels of its life is telling itself and the world that it is a community ‘always on the way’. The work of education, whether in a church Bible study or a theological college classroom, is a tangible, visible, intentional, and institutional expression of the church’s commitment to its own journey.

Sean Winter Acting Head of College and Academic Dean, Pilgrim Theological College. This is an abbreviated version of a longer and more technical article published in the journal Pacifica in 2015. A copy of the full article can be supplied on request to



Elect of God

The big split

Understanding Hart Weight of world









THE Synod of Victoria and Tasmania has just chosen a new moderator-elect, and while that may have had some measure of excitement, it’s unlikely to be the subject of an airport bookshop thriller such as this. Picking a new pope is the subject of Robert Harris’ gripping but somewhat fanciful account of ecclesiastical politics and intrigue in Conclave. Through the eyes of Cardinal Lomeli, a scrupulously dedicated but spiritually troubled Vatican functionary, we witness the death of a pope who sounds suspiciously like the current office-holder and the gathering of the 118 or so cardinals to choose his successor. The men go into a type of seclusion and follow a formal series of steps to pick the head of the Catholic church, which emerges when two thirds agree in a secret ballot. The cardinals, as portrayed by Harris, are a mixture of the decent and devout, the ideologically and factionally aligned and the venal, compromised or highly ambitious, however ritually disavowing of earthly rewards. Harris is a former political journalist thoroughly familiar with the major players and machinations of the Blair era of British politics. An inside understanding of the terrain of power and persuasion along with his taut journalistic storytelling makes him an accomplished writer of political thrillers (The Ghost) and historical fiction (Fatherland, Pompeii and the thoroughly addictive Cicero trilogy). Harris excels at creating atmosphere with enough authoritative-sounding detail to give the sense of being immersed in the arcane Vatican surrounds and practises, with the humane, sincere and fastidious Lomeli acting as our guide. In keeping with the sense of discovering a heavenly mandate, the book has a strong sense that a foreordained outcome is being worked out – and in truth it is not wholly unpredictable, although some incredulity is invited. This book is not Harris’ best but its potent mix of piety and politics unfailingly compels the reader on towards finding out who will eventually step out on the papal balcony to assume spiritual leadership of a billion people.

WITH this year’s anniversary of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s famous nailing of the 95 Theses to the church door comes, unsurprisingly, focus on the movement he initiated. It is a story that has been told before, but Alec Ryrie tells it with well-paced prose and lively metaphors. It is strange that we Protestants still apply to ourselves a name that has anti-Catholic connotations, but then Protestantism has always moved forward through conflict. Protestants will argue just as much with each other, and are just as likely to label fellow Protestants as heretics. Splits are easier than unity, but then competition is at the core of the movement’s vitality. One of Luther’s key ideas was the freedom of the Christian individual, but this quickly developed, to Luther’s horror, into constant disagreement and pushing beyond the boundaries of what he thought acceptable. Protestantism has a cyclic history of the radical settling down into the orthodox, prompting further renewal and breakaways. Anabaptists, Pietists, Levellers, Diggers, Puritans, Methodists, Revivalists and Pentecostals have sailed the seas of reinvention, with varying degrees of success. Ryrie suggests that the passion to follow one’s individual beliefs is characteristic of Protestantism but, while this is true, a focus on passionate Protestants means we sometimes miss the experiences of pedestrian Protestants. Complacency has also been a feature of Protestantism. In the 20th century there has been plenty of lackadaisical pew-warming and acquiescence to the status quo. Yet the future of Protestantism belongs not to its comfortable adherents in the West, but to those in Africa; in China, where the uneasy relationship with the state is yet to be worked out; and in South America, where Protestant churches are stealing converts from their old rival, the Catholic church.

DAVID Bentley Hart is the finest of contemporary Christian writers, and the release of not one but two collections of his pieces is a cause for celebration. His prose is exquisite, and his thought is borne on the wings of Minerva’s Owl and the Spirit’s Dove. He admits to a fondness for the obscure term (a random sampling turns up ‘submontane’, ‘lambency’, ‘aglae’ and ‘nitid’), but insists it is for the sake of precision and not (only) showing off. He is exacting, but entertaining – witty, dauntingly widely read and scathing. With mock gravity he announces that ‘grammatical laxity’ is the start of the slippery slope to societal anarchy. His verbosity rises with the degree of passion, of which there is plenty. He has the same attitude to content as to delivery, and castigates the theologically imprecise and badly oriented. His elucidatory qualities mean he is devastating on why a book or train of thought is deficient. And there is a special pleasure in reading an essay and then a follow up essay in reply to a critic on why Hart first said what he did, or didn’t say what he is alleged to have said, and why his accuser is an ignorant so-and-so. He defies easy categorisation. Just when you have him pegged as a conservative (he writes for First Things) and orthodox (small and big O) he will argue for universal salvation or rip into capitalism or decry the conflation of ‘America’ with ‘Christianity’. He turns lazy, received wisdom on its head. The Dream-Child’s Progress contains book reviews and other short pieces. The Hidden and the Manifest is on another level entirely, with thickets of, as the subtitle says, theology and metaphysics that are probably only to be negotiated by those readers with confidence, but it is not without Hart’s usual flair and gusto.

SOMETIMES in a week of television channel-hopping you discover a gem among the myriad of reality programs posing as passable viewing. The threeepisode SBS documentary aired in September The Obesity Myth was one of those offerings. The series followed patients and their families participating in a weight-loss program at Melbourne’s Austin Health. The patients ranged in ages but shared a common challenge of battling their biology to reclaim their lives. What made this program unique was the courage of the participants to share their often painful stories of not only struggles with weight, but the related loss of confidence and of hope. Austin Health doctors are adamant obesity is a serious chronic genetic disease and for the participants this was a significant realisation. Many patients have been debilitated psychologically by society’s commentary that obesity is a lifestyle choice caused by laziness and overeating. For some, the first step in the health plan was the affirmation that obesity should be treated with the same care and consideration given to others suffering major disease. The consequences of obesity can be grim, including limb amputation, reliance on wheelchairs and a shortened life expectancy. Some of the treatment footage was confrontational and presented a startling visual reality of the trials of living with this disease. Even something as simple as getting up from a chair and standing on a step of scales was a major effort for these patients. Most of all The Obesity Myth is a lesson on empathy. The participants allowed the viewers to enter their lives and share their daily challenges. It was clear there is no easy fix for obesity, and that the fight to beat this disease was a lifelong commitment. The program’s final images, when 27-yearold Felicity carried out a ceremonial burning of her largest shirt following her weight loss, brought joy and tears. It reminded us that every step of this journey is tough and that hope is tenuous in such a fierce life-and-death battle. We should applaud these brave people.

Available at: RRP: $54.99

Available at: The Dream-Child’s Progress available at: RRP: $24.95 The Hidden and the Manifest available at: RRP: $42.00

Available at RRP $26.95 20



AS I prepare this review, the Coalition government’s same-sex marriage postal survey is entering its second week. The Australian Christian Lobby, led by Lyle Shelton, is presently staging a ‘no’ campaign launch in Adelaide, the City of Churches. A quick scan of my – or anyone else’s – social media feed is more than enough to confirm that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s promise of a ‘respectful debate’ on same-sex marriage is naive whimsy, at very best. We are just seven days into a two-month process, and it is sadly evident that a festering national wound has been opened. Hysterical misinformation and threats of violence permeate the print and online sphere – a relentless march of jaundiced think-pieces and partisan dog whistling. It is hard to imagine journalist and author Benjamin Law’s Quarterly Essay #67, Moral Panic 101, arriving at a more socially and historically apt time. Moral Panic 101 forensically deconstructs the response deployed by the Murdoch press and some conservative Christian groups in relation to the Safe Schools program. Safe Schools – ironically an Abbott government initiative – was subject to a scare campaign which, it is now apparent,

provided the broader blueprint for the present ideological trench warfare being conducted over same-sex marriage. Law, an LGBTIQ Asian-Australian, empathetically relates the deeply traumatic consequences of this negative, ugly campaigning on the school children impacted. Safe Schools, a program intended to provide 21st century appropriate sex education to kids across the gender attraction and identification spectrum, was quickly hijacked by Australia’s self-designated guardians of conservative morality. Moral Panic 101 illustrates the heavy burden of this demagogic cane waving. Law’s essay is a sad litany of traumatised queer kids’ lives ruined, and in some cases cut short, by bigotry, ignorance and political point-scoring. Of course, when such a low rhetorical bar is being set by politicians and figures in our news media, what hope does ‘respectful debate’ actually have? Transposing the ugly battlelines drawn over the mental health of children, we are now confronted with the very real ramifications of the rhetorical escalation of conservative Australia over the right for same-sex couples to marry with equal rights. If the reaction of the Murdoch press is

anything to go by, Moral Panic 101 has certainly poked a conservative nerve. Sadly, Law’s essay – in daring to question the relevance and reach of the agendadriven tabloid morals campaigners in Mr Murdoch’s employ – has triggered an aftershock of moral panic over Law’s social media usage among those unfamiliar with the ironic vernacular of the online sphere. Law’s essay is a masterclass in lucid, careful journalism. If you’re yet to return your same-sex marriage survey, and are perhaps conflicted (they need to be in the mail by 27 October) I urge you to search out Law’s timely and essential essay. We stand at the precipice of an important, defining schism in the fabric of Australian society in the early 21st century. As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews pointed out in a tweet in early September, US television comedy The Golden Girls had the last word on marriage equality during the first Bush Presidency: “Everyone wants someone to grow old with... and shouldn’t everyone have that chance?”

Mother load

focuses on a detached, newlywed couple living in a remote farmhouse. The wife, or Mother, played by Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) is considerably younger than her husband, the moody poet Him, played by Perdita Durango’s (AKA Dance With The Devil) Javier Bardem. Mother spends her days renovating the monolithic house and, essentially, attending to Him’s nurture; mothering. Him, moody and terse, is experiencing writer’s block, sulkily locked in his study immersed in sullen funk. His behaviour is, at minimum, aloof to his younger spouse and – at worst – contemptuous and dismissive. There is an air of banal dysfunction and unease permeating mother!’s setup, punctuated by flashes of surrealism and loaded iconography. Initially, Aronofsky’s film in many ways evokes the recent spate of home invasion horror films popular with B-movie fans. Then, one evening, Man (Ed Harris) arrives. At this point in mother!, it would be fair to say the viewer’s proverbial thematic resonance mileage may vary. A reading of the film as an increasingly hysterical, anxiety-infused absurdist dysfunctional marriage farce – a la Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – is feasible. To those with a passing familiarity with the Old and New Testaments, however, biblical allegory quickly intertwines with the film’s tense, off-kilter domestic scenes. This is where the capital ‘C’ reading entrenches itself. In quick succession, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, with their two violent sons hot on Man and Woman’s heels... All the while, Aronofsky, an atheist director who often tackles spiritual concepts – see The Fountain for an even more cosmic take – leavens mother! with an air of inscrutability. Are the events unfolding in film actually of a relatively prosaic nature? Are we witnessing Him’s writer’s block break as

he scripts a third person, misogynist, harrowing domestic horror fable? Or are the events we bear witness to an accelerated, blistering test of endurance charting Creation through the Garden of Eden and on through to the Apocalypse itself? In any of the above readings, Aronofsky’s film lends itself to a scathing critique of the single minded – generally masculine – creative id. Bardem’s Him, whether frustrated poet, emotionally detached husband or demented celebrity egomaniac (or all three) is contemptuous and unfeeling towards the increasingly traumatised Mother. He is in thrall to the power of his status as his creation – or Creation – unfolds. Lawrence’s performance as Mother is a disruptive, counterintuitive feint for an actress whose career has been founded on playing women with complete agency. The film is shot entirely from her perspective, the camera studying the planes of Lawrence’s increasingly frantic, panicked Mother dispassionately. In many ways, it is a (small ‘m’) miracle mother! was made. Notwithstanding Lawrence’s critical and commercial heft, and Aronofsky’s auteur status, the film is the very definition of ‘unconventional Hollywood fare’ (as evidenced by its initial box office reception). The marketing campaign for mother! features two portraits of its leads. In one, a painting by artist James Jean, a winsome Mother – beatific, framed by lush vegetation – offers her bloody heart to the viewer. In the other, Him – seated, sinister and engulfed in flame – toys with an oddly shaped, totemic crystal, seemingly humming with ethereal power. Regardless of your interpretive predispositions, this film’s myriad readings are tantalising, exciting reasons to embrace mother!.


THIS divisive new film from director Darren Aronofsky – who last graced our screens in 2014 with the reimagined biblical epic Noah – is a startling meditation on creation. It is subjective as to whether Aronofsky intended the ‘c’ in ‘creation’ to be upper or lower case – the viewer will potentially make that decision during the long conversations which ensue in attempted reading of mother! In a lowercase ‘c’ discussion of mother! writer/director Aronofsky’s narrative



Celebrating 40 years

The art of consensus NIGEL TAPP

FOR those uninitiated in the decisionmaking process of the Uniting Church, it can be a little confusing to attend a meeting where three coloured cards – orange, yellow and blue – seem to dominate proceedings. As Synod Standing Committee member Rev Dr Robyn Whitaker described in her sermon at the opening service to the 2017 Synod, it is the art of “wrestling with God and one another in our (the Church’s) very non-combative way of holding up coloured cards”. This is consensus decision-making as defined by the Uniting Church. A model which moves away from the adversarial approach – where participants can become fixated simply on winning an argument – to a consultative and engagement process which allows more room for the Spirit of God to be present. It is a model which has been used as a blueprint by the World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches. The Uniting Church in Sweden is also investigating the model and many others churches, including the Reformed Church of America, have visited Australia to see it in action. According to the UCA’s Manual for Meetings, consensus decision-making, particularly within the Synod or Assembly meeting context, is a three-step process beginning with an information session, through to a deliberative session and, finally, a decision session. The first session allows for information


to be shared and issues raised. In the deliberative session, issues are discussed and may be canvassed in table groups, preallocated working groups or ad hoc groups to consider and to report back to the meeting. The decision session is where the discernment is drawn together and specific resolutions are made. The orange and blue cards allow a point of view to be visually indicated and can assist the Chair to assess the mood of the meeting as a way forward. The yellow card, a more recent initiative, indicates a person is seeking to contribute to the discussion. Consensus decision-making is not a new concept. It dates back many centuries and has been used by indigenous groups, merchants, traders and even pirates. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have sought to facilitate a unanimous view on business for more than three centuries. The Uniting Church first trialled a consensus model, at its 7th Assembly in 1994. A small group based in Melbourne investigated the Church’s Standing Orders and rules for debate following the 5th Assembly in 1988 and this work provided the catalyst for the 1994 proposal. Former assembly president Dr Jill Tabart, who chaired the 1994 Assembly, said the group investigated how other churches structured their decision-making. This included the Quakers and the New Zealand Methodists as well as the early church as outlined in the New Testament. Consultations were also undertaken with Aboriginal communities to consider their ancient decision-making processes. Dr Tabart said the work group was conscious that, although there was not unlimited time to reach a decision, the amount of time required would depend on the movement of the Spirit of God. “In the end it is about how you discern God’s will and follow the guidance of the Spirit in making decisions,” Dr Tabart said. She recalls a sense of excitement in the Church when consensus decision-making was offered as new way forward based on biblical principles.

In 2000, it was discerned, based on modifications from lessons learnt over the previous six years, that consensus should be the preferred way of decision-making for all councils of the Church. Dr Tabart admits that, while real efforts were made to ensure that moderators understood the model, it was probably not as clearly understood – and therefore successfully integrated – in presbytery and church council gatherings. Although training in consensus decisionmaking was offered, the high turnover rate of church council chairs made this difficult. Dr Tabart considers that may be a reason some councils adopted a laissez faire approach to the principles of consensus decision-making – particularly at congregation level and in some presbyteries – rather than remain in tune with the expectations of the Manual for Meetings. Former president and assembly general secretary Rev Gregor Henderson agreed that while the model is used well at Synod and Assembly level, there is room for improvement in presbyteries, church councils and some other decision-making bodies. “If offering more training is the price we need to pay then I would be OK with that,” he said. Mr Henderson said the move to consensus decision-making was one of the Church’s most defining moments over the last 40 years. “It is a genuine conciliar process of decision-making as it requires more than a simple majority to say `yes, this is the will of God’. Achieving that by 50 percent plus one does not make good theological sense to me,’’ he said. “Consensus is a much better discerning process and a much better listening process because people with oratorical skills tend to dominate under the old adversarial system rather than those with a real sense of conviction. “You do not end up so much with people feeling disenfranchised.” Mr Henderson said consensus had been particularly important in helping the Church effectively debate contentious

issues such as sexuality, the Preamble to the Constitution and a range of social justice policy statements. “Debates such as sexuality came with a lot of emotion and a strength of conviction and consensus was a gift which enabled us to deal with that,” he said. “There was still significant grief but it was not as divisive as it would have been if it was 50 percent plus one model.” Dr Tabart said many positives had come from the move to a consensus model. “There has been the opportunity for quiet, or silent, voices to be heard even if it is just by showing a card,” she said. “It has meant people have become more engaged in a discussion rather than seeking to win an argument at any cost. “I believe that means we have become stronger and more fruitful in our decision making and in building relationships.” Rev Terence Corkin – who teaches nationally and internationally on consensus decision-making as well as writing on the subject – admits some within the Church have become cynical about the model and question its value. But, he said, this cynicism focusses on the techniques – such as the cards – rather than the values of consensus decision-making. “There is a pressing need to refurbish the Church’s understanding of consensus decision-making, with the primary focus on the principles and values we say we believe in,” Mr Corkin said. “The Robert’s Rules of Order (the original standard for facilitating discussions and group decision-making which were adopted by churches) was appropriate for its time (1700s-1800s) but the time is different now because we do not just accept things because someone tells us to. “We need consensus decision-making because it resonates with our culture and our preferred theological conditions. If we want to discern the will of Christ for the Church with humility, trust, vulnerability love, care and building each other up then it requires a consensus approach.” CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 17

Vision and Mission Rev David Withers addresses Synod

Four Synod inspirations

I WAS inspired by the recent Synod meeting at Box Hill Town Hall – all five days of it! By the end, I was tired. Very tired! But I felt honoured to have been part of it all. Here are four particularly inspiring themes that came to mind: I was inspired by the rich diversity of leadership. Leadership came from young people as well as the more ‘seasoned’ campaigners. Leadership was also offered by a rich diversity of cultures. We are blessed as a Church by such diversity. As the Synod unfolded, opportunity was given for new and emerging leaders to bring their gifts and graces to bear, and we were all blessed as a result. I was particularly inspired by the leadership of younger members of Synod. Their


ability to articulate clearly and speak with confidence, and their willingness to be vulnerable in sharing heartfelt stories of faith impressed me. They have so much to teach us oldies. God has gifted them to lead. We were also blessed by the leadership of our moderator Sharon Hollis and our general secretary Mark Lawrence. Together they helped move us through the complexity of questions. They kept a clear and resolute focus on process while never forgetting the importance of discerning the Spirit’s movement among us. With deep compassion and respect, they ensured we addressed and honoured the diversity of views in the room. Together, we were living the Statements of Intent, particularly to ‘grow leadership capacity’ and ‘act together across cultures and generations’. I was inspired about difficult discussions conducted with respect and openness. The Synod engaged with some challenging themes, but the spirit of respectful listening and openness to hear divergent opinions was evident. Some key discussions involved breaking up into working groups that allowed everyone to have a say and to listen to others. There were proposals on: family violence, youth justice, medically supervised injecting centres, assisted dying/suicide legislation. All these issues were raised on the floor of Synod and were considered respectfully and compassionately. Consensus decision-making processes, so ably managed by our moderator, allow the minority voice to be heard and the Synod to be challenged as a community of spiritual discernment. I was inspired that we were seeking to live out the mission principles: nurturing a life-giving community of reconciliation, respond in compassion to human need, and listening to each generation and

culture. I was inspired by the Synod’s focus on our Vision. The Synod’s theme ‘Following Christ …’ was embraced in so many ways: not as an imposition, but as a focus to our reflections. The Synod seemed to be mindful that its briefly worded theme pointed to the fuller Vision statement (notice the three dots after Follow Christ in the logo) and beyond that to the other strategic framework components. Daily opening worship and Bible studies systematically focused upon various parts of the Vision. Time and again speakers referred to the Synod’s Vision, the Mission Principles, and the Statements of Intent. A clear favourite Statement was ‘Be lighter and simpler’. We were constantly reminded what matters. In pointing to these things, the Synod was reminded of its central task – to be a discerning council of the Church that seeks ‘to wait upon God’s Word and to obey God’s will in the matters allocated to its oversight’ (Basis of Union, para 15). As Allan Thompson remarked in his address at the Tribute Service: “Keeping a future focus is vital. Nostalgia should have no part among a pilgrim people. Our task is to discern the renewal to which God is calling us… and to participate in that renewal”. I was inspired! That’s a Church I’m excited to be part of. I was also inspired by a sense of deepening and respectful partnerships between various parts of the church. Whether in table groups, working groups, shared conversation or whole-of-Synod debates, respectful partnerships were being nurtured between congregation, presbytery, synod, institutions, faith communities, and more. I felt a growing trust emerging from the truth that we are following Christ together. We heard of the struggles faced by rural presbyteries in some key debates.

With far richer property resources in urban centres, these struggles also challenge our understanding of how we share our resources. I believe these concerns were respectfully considered and entrusted to various bodies. We entrusted our discussions on sovereignty and marriage to the Assembly, including our hopes and concerns for these matters. There is no doubt that our relationships across the Church can be strengthened. Nonetheless, I was inspired by the growing spirit of trust that might release our people to go forward with renewed confidence. This is confidence that is critically underpinned by our trust in the Christ who calls us to follow. The Synod was living out the mission principle to pursue God’s mission in partnership and the Statement of Intent that seeks to deepen partnerships and trust. As way of sensing the spirit of the Synod meeting, I would encourage you to watch the vox pops videos on the Synod website ( I conclude with a thought shared by the moderator-elect Rev Denise Liersch in her acceptance address to the Synod. She said: “I love the Synod’s Vision statement as it is not so much about strategic growth as an approach to life where we are always following Jesus. It is about being attentive and responsive to God, the one we are following, and attentive and responsive to those we were walking with”. I was inspired that this past Synod meeting had attempted faithfully to do just that – ‘Following Christ …’. God’s blessing be with you and your gathered community as you seek to do the same. David Withers Strategic Framework Minister 23

Placements CURRENT AND PENDING PLACEMENT VACANCIES AS AT 17 SEPTEMBER 2017 PRESBYTERY OF GIPPSLAND Lakes Entrance (0.6) (*) PRESBYTERY OF LODDON MALLEE Sunraysia (UCOS) (0.5) (P) (C) Tyrrell Parish (0.6) (P) (C) Central Mallee Cooperating Parish (*) PRESBYTERY OF NORTH EAST VICTORIA Alpine Regional Resource Ministry (P) (C) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP EAST Beaumaris (0.6) (P) (C) Chadstone (St Marks) (*) Chadstone – Melbourne Fijian (*) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP WEST Aitken College Chaplaincy (P) (C) Coburg (C) Geelong (Wesley) (C) Highton (St Luke’s) (C) Newtown (St David’s) (*) Surf Coast Parish (*) Williamstown (St Stephens) (0.6) (C) PRESBYTERY OF TASMANIA North West Region (Burnie, Devonport, Penguin, Wynyard) (*) Synod Liaison Minister (5 year term) (P) (C) West Coast Patrol (*)

PRESBYTERY OF WESTERN VIC Henty Region – Grange Cluster (P) Henty Region – Surrey Cluster (P) PRESBYTERY OF YARRA YARRA Ashburton (C) Burwood (C) Canterbury (Balwyn Road) (C) Croydon North – Gifford Village (0.5) (P) (C) Ringwood (C) Northern Synod Casuarina (C) Nhulunbuy (0.7) (C) (C) Current - may be in conversation (*) Pending - profile expected soon. Ministers available for placement may express interest in a particular placement. (P) Suitable for pastor. A lay person wishing to be considered must lodge an Expression of Interest. Enquiries and written Expressions of Interest to: Ms Isabel Thomas Dobson Secretary, Placements Committee Email:

Notices COMING EVENTS ACCESS THREE CBD CHURCHES: UNITING CHURCH HISTORICAL SOCIETY GUIDED WALKING TOUR 10AM – 3.30PM, TUESDAY 3 OCTOBER Meet at CrossCulture Church of Christ, 333 Swanston Street, Melbourne. The Uniting Church Historical Society invites you to be part of a special guided walking tour. Starting at the CrossCulture Church of Christ (former John Knox Free Presbyterian), then on to the Welsh Church (former Welsh Calvinist/ Methodist) at 320 La Trobe St, and to St Francis Catholic Church, 326 Lonsdale St. Free event. For more information contact Geoff on E: or M: 0448 740 195. HISTORIC ORGANS ON RICHMOND HILL ON SUNDAY 8 OCTOBER 3PM - Richmond Uniting Church (historic 1888 Fincham Organ) 3.45PM - St Ignatius’ Catholic Church (historic 1874 Fincham Organ) 4.30PM - St Stephen’s Anglican Church (historic 1865 JW Walker Organ) In its 10th year, join us for an afternoon of music showcasing the pipe organs in three of Melbourne’s oldest churches, while raising funds for the Richmond Churches Food Centre. Commencing at Richmond UC, the churches are within an easy walk on Church Street, with three 30-minute recitals showcasing these historic churches and instruments, followed by a champagne reception. Performers include Christopher Trikilis, Robert Stove and Thong Truong. Entry is by donation of cash or nonperishable food. For enquiries P: (03) 9427 1282. CELEBRATION OF AGEING WELL – UNITING AGEWELL SUNDAY SUNDAY 8 OCTOBER Drawing together all the festivities of October’s Celebration of Ageing Well is a Uniting AgeWell Sunday worship service. The service gives thanks for the diversity our residents and their families bring to Uniting AgeWell communities. It is also an opportunity for congregations to acknowledge the UCA mission of assisting older people to age well in environments “infused with the Christian faith tradition”. The Uniting AgeWell Mission Committee has made available resources including a PowerPoint presentation for the Order of Service, wording for prayers, blessings and suggested hymns, resources on the lectionary and a sample sermon. Resources are available at or by requesting a hard copy from E: COME AND VISIT THE HUB The Hub at Glen Waverley Uniting Church, corner Bogong Avenue and Kingsway, is a welcoming and friendly place for people needing company, a cuppa and a biscuit, time to relax in a busy day or to practise speaking English in an informal setting. The Hub is open Tuesday and Thursday 10am – 2pm, and Wednesday 10am – 12noon during the school term. People of all ages are welcome. For more information P: (03) 9560 3580.


MEETING OF THE VICTORIAN CHAPTER OF THE AUSTRALIAN CHURCH LIBRARY ASSOCIATION 10AM – 3PM, SATURDAY 14 OCTOBER Manningham Uniting Church, 152 Andersons Creek Road, Doncaster East. Sessions will include a Bible Society speaker, David Lepore, on celebrating the society’s 200th anniversary, a session on biographies and autobiographies with members bringing and speaking about recommendations from their libraries, the Biennial General Meeting, and a swap table. Please bring a plate of food to share for lunch. For more information please ring Rachel on P: (03) 9850 4828 or E: HABITAT UNITING CHURCH – INSPIRING FAITH JOURNEY WORSHIP SERVICE 10AM, SUNDAY 15 OCTOBER Habitat Uniting Church, cnr Mont Albert St & Burke Road, Canterbury. Habitat Uniting Church will host a special worship service where Emmanuel Saaka will share his inspiring faith journey of moving from poverty and hardship in Tanzania to becoming an advocate for disadvantaged youth through his love of football (soccer). Emmanuel founded Lengo Football Academy to harness the power of football to bring about positive social change. MUSIC TO MAKE YOU SMILE – THE SAVOY SINGERS – SPONSORED BY CHELSEA UNITING CHURCH PARISH 2PM, SUNDAY 15 OCTOBER Aspendale Senior Citizens Hall, 151A Station St, Aspendale. Delight in a variety of popular and modern musical numbers who are presented by The Savoy Singers, highly experienced performers from stage, musical theatre and opera. They will perform excerpts from shows including Oklahoma, South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Half a Sixpence, Pyjama Game, Oliver and many more. Bring your friends – all are welcome for an interlude of musical delight. Delicious afternoon tea provided. Cost is $15 per ticket. Bookings can be made with Barbara on P: (03) 9580 9551 or Kaye on P: (03) 9772 9306. GRAND FETE GLEN WAVERLEY UNITING CHURCH 8.30AM - 2PM, SATURDAY 21 OCTOBER Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Kingsway & Bogong Ave, Glen Waverley. Lots of stalls, food, entertainment, huge trash ‘n’ treasure stall, pre-loved books, pre-loved clothes, craft, cakes, plants, and a silent auction. Your donations of goods for the stalls are most welcome. (Please do not bring to the church until the week of the fete). All proceeds from the fete support our church’s outreach projects. For further information, please contact the Church Office on P: (03) 9560 3580.


Notices 175TH ANNIVERSARY, WESLEY CHURCH, UCA GEELONG CITY PARISH 10.00AM, SUNDAY 22 OCTOBER Wesley Church,100 Yarra Street, Geelong. The celebrations will include a service of worship and thanksgiving, a provided shared lunch and various activities throughout the day. We would be delighted to welcome all who may have been part of this congregation, especially over the last 40 years and during the period of ‘Worship in the Round’. Enquiries should be made to the church office P: (03) 5229 8866 or E:

FEED YOUR SOUL YOGA MONDAY THROUGH SATURDAY – MORNING, MIDDAY & EVENING CLASSES Habitat Uniting Church, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. Free your mind, body and spirit; strengthen your back and core muscles, and improve your overall wellbeing. Classes offered include yoga for beginners, yoga for seniors, yoga for men, yoga for menopause, yin yoga and hatha yoga. For more information please contact Angelika on M: 0401 607 716.

CONCERT TO ASSIST VANUATU AT SURREY HILLS UNITING CHURCH 2.30PM, SUNDAY 22 OCTOBER Surrey Hills Uniting Church, cnr Canterbury Rd and Valonia Avenue. There will be a choral and instrumental concert at the Surrey Hills Uniting Church featuring the Immanuel Singers. Entry by donation to support the ‘Women in Leadership Project’ in Vanuatu. Afternoon tea will be provided. All ages welcome. Further information phone Bron on P: (03) 9836 7817.

WEEKLY SITTING MEDITATION IN NORTHCOTE 7.20AM FOR 7.30AM START, TUESDAY MORNINGS Chalice Community of Faith, Northcote Uniting Church, 251 High Street, Northcote. Contemplative practices invite us to a deeper relationship with ourselves and God. Comprising sitting meditation, a reflective reading and an opportunity to connect. Open to people of faith, no faith or seeking a contemplative lifestyle. No charge, no need to book. See or P: (03) 9482 2884 for more information.

SENIORS’ MORNING TEA AT THE HUB – SUPPORTING RESEARCH INTO MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE 10AM – 12PM, THURSDAY 26 OCTOBER Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Bogong Avenue and Kingsway, Glen Waverley. Come and enjoy a delicious morning tea as we thank our seniors for all they do to help in our community. Bring your family and friends, all ages welcome. All donations to support research into Motor Neurone Disease. For info and group bookings P: (03) 9560 3580. MANY VOICES, ONE SONG – 500TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION. 2-4PM, SATURDAY 28 OCTOBER St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne. Commemorate the free voice of Martin Luther with his 95 Theses. Rediscover the gospel through hymn singing with other Christians. Reconnect with the ecumenical enthusiasm of the Uniting Church. Join with Church Unite and the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement in offering hope to Melbourne on this day. For more information, contact Sandy Yule on E: LAUNCESTON SOUTH UNITING CHURCH FAREWELL OF BALFOUR ST BUILDINGS. 2PM, SUNDAY 29 OCTOBER Launceston South Uniting Church (previously Trinity Uniting) will hold a worship service to farewell the Balfour Street buildings. The service will commence at 2pm, with afternoon tea following. For more information P: (03) 6344 4813. SOUL-FULL SPRING ART THERAPY SESSIONS Swell Centre, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. Nourish your soul this spring with a series of art therapy sessions with Cocoon Creative Arts Therapies. Cocoon is a safe space to reflect on life’s challenges, tend to your inner needs and express yourself through the creative arts. Individual and group sessions available. To book call P: (03) 9819 2844 or M: 0409 946 994. GROUNDSWELL 7PM, FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH Habitat Hawthorn, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. Groundswell is a monthly inter-spiritual gathering. We draw upon our rich human history of spiritual journeys to experience the sacred together. We look at all spirituality in the light of the archetypal patterns in our lives and engage in practical transformative experiences. For more information, visit the Habitat website Enquiries to Elizabeth Bethune on P: (03) 9818 2726.


DANCE CLASSES FOR MATURE WOMEN 1PM-2PM, THURSDAYS Habitat Canterbury, cnr Mont Albert Rd and Burke Rd, Canterbury. Join this gentle, joyful space for movement and self-expression. For more information contact Susan on M: 0433 259 135. RETIRED MINISTERS AND SPOUSES LUNCHEON 10.30AM – 2PM, TUESDAY, 31 OCTOBER Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Bogong Ave and Kingsway, Glen Waverley. All retired ministers of the UCA, their spouses, deaconesses, and ministers’ widows and widowers are invited to the annual gathering. Morning tea at 10.30am, worship with moderator Sharon Hollis preaching, and an update from Mercers regarding the Beneficiary Fund, before lunch at 12.30pm. Cost is $15. For information and a formal invitation, or to RSVP by 24 October, contact Debra Penaluna on P: (03) 9251 5216 or E: Please provide your name, mailing address, email and phone number to ensure that our contact details are correct. Accurate numbers essential for catering. Additional information available from Rev Ian Smith P: (03) 5367 6319 or E: or Rev Clem Dickinson on M: 0438 080 312 or E:

CHURCH SPRING FAIR – HIGHFIELD ROAD UNITING CHURCH 9AM – 1.30PM, SATURDAY 11 NOVEMBER, 2017 Highfield Road Uniting Church, 72 Highfield Road Canterbury. Come and enjoy a wonderful spring fair featuring a massive plant stall, loads of ‘trash and treasure’, cakes, sausages, morning teas, children’s toys, and much more. For more information contact Barbara on P: (03) 9836 6560. OPEN GARDENS, INVERLOCH UNITING CHURCH 10AM – 4PM, SATURDAY 11 NOVEMBER Inverloch Uniting Church, Williams St, opposite the post office. Maps available from church. $10 including morning tea or afternoon tea. Enquiries from Liz on M: 0401 472 669 or Bev M: 0408 502 707. SHEPPARTON HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, 1940s, 50s AND 60s 12PM, SUNDAY 12 NOVEMBER The Royal Mail Hotel, 47 McLennan St, Mooroopna. The committee has enjoyed organising this event and finding students from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Lunch tickets are $20 per person. To RSVP or for more information, contact Joy Phillis (Smith) on P: (03) 5825 1840 or E: ALEXANDRA ST ANDREWS UNITING CHURCH 50TH ANNIVERSARY 10AM, SUNDAY 26 NOVEMBER Cnr Villeneuve & Downey Streets, Alexandra. Alexandra St Andrews Uniting Church will celebrate 50 years of worship in our brick church. We would love to see many friends worshipping and sharing fellowship with us on that day. Nearly 150 years of Methodist and Presbyterian history is also displayed in the church. To help with catering please contact Gillian on P: (03) 5772 2285 or Margaret on P: (03) 5772 2416. 150TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS FOR MELTON UNITING CHURCH 3–10 DECEMBER Join the Melton congregation for the celebration of this amazing milestone with a service of worship and thanksgiving on Sunday, 10 December at 10am with guest preacher Rev Dr Allan Meyer. A shared lunch will be provided. We will be delighted to welcome old friends and new. For more information of activities for the week contact Rev Paul Blacker on M: 0407 553 495 or E:

CLASSIFIEDS CALOUNDRA: Sunshine Coast, Queensland: Beachside units, from $400/wk. For details contact Ray P: 0427 990 161 E: CAPE WOOLAMAI, PHILLIP ISLAND: Summerhays Cottage. Sleeps three. Tranquil garden. Stroll to beach. Discount for UCA members. Ring Doug or Ina, M. 0401 177 775. GRAMPIANS WORSHIP: When visiting The Grampians, join the Pomonal Community Uniting Church congregation for worship each Sunday at 10am. GRAVE BUSINESS 2.0 Navigating the final journey: Resource material for arranging and conducting funeral services, suitable for clergy and celebrants. Complements traditional liturgies and non-religious styles. Includes contemporary hymns. Copies available from Jacob’s Well, 41 Roberts Street, Horsham, 3400 or P/Fax. 03 5382 3769, or E: RRP $20 plus $5 p.p. LORNE : Spacious apartment, breathtaking ocean view, open fire, peaceful, secluded, affordable. P: 03 5289 2698. SENIORS’ SPECIAL: Enjoy a break in luxury surroundings. Three days and three nights, dinner, bed and breakfast for $450 per couple (including GST). Jindivick Gardens. P: 03 5628 5319. SOUTH GIPPSLAND WORSHIP: When visiting South Gippsland you are invited to join the Mirboo North Uniting Church congregation for worship at 10am each Sunday. Contact Lynne Oates on P: 03 5668 1621. UNITING AGEWELL STRATHDON TOGETHER IN SONG HYMN BOOKS NEEDED: Please donate any any Together In Song hymn books not being used to Uniting AgeWell Strathdon for their Sunday service. Please contact Jenny McLeish on P 03: 9845 3152. WANTED TO BUY: Antiques, second hand/ retro furniture, bric a brac and collectables. Single items or whole house lots. Genuine buyer. Contact Kevin P: 0408 969 920.

RETREAT – CAMPS FARTHEST OUT (CFO) – INTER-DENOMINATIONAL 2 – 5 NOVEMBER 2017 Pallotti College, Millgrove, near Warburton. Come away for some precious days of spiritual renewal at Pallotti College, Millgrove, in the beautiful Warburton ranges. Experience a balanced program of Christian meditation, healing and prayer, both teaching and practice. Through contemplation and meditation learn the unforced rhythms of grace. “Be still and know… I AM”. Enquiries to Jan Thwaites on M: 0407 507 313, or Harry Box on E: or for a registration brochure. Registrations close 20 October.


Moderator’s column

Former moderators Sue Withers, Jill Tabart, Isabel Thomas Dobson with current moderator Sharon Hollis and new moderator-elect Denise Liersch (right).

Community and consensus OFTEN when I talk with people outside the Uniting Church about consensus decision-making, they are intrigued. They find it hard to imagine a group of people who meet to look for common ground, who are willing to listen to each other and consider how they might hear God in each other. If they know anything about consensus, it’s the cards – ‘Oh that’s where you wave the coloured cards about.’ I have to explain that the cards are only the small, visible tip of the consensus iceberg. It is what’s below the tip of the iceberg of consensus that I really value and makes me look forward to and enjoy a range of church meetings, including Synod. Consensus decision-making begins a long time before the actual meeting. It begins with an openness to the purpose of the meeting and to where the Spirit might be leading. Consensus is grounded in a prayerful approach to the meeting, whether 26

it’s a meeting of church council, presbytery, Synod or Assembly. A posture of prayerful attention, that begins well before the actual meeting, opens us to God and God’s voice in ourselves, in others, in the conversation and the deciding. I know many of you prayed for the Synod meeting both before it started and throughout the time we were meeting. Those of us who gathered felt sustained by your prayer. I’m sure many of you also do the same for your church council, your congregational committee, the presbytery and assembly. In this way, we all play a part in discernment, through prayer. Consensus is about seeking to discern the way of God through responsible governance. Worship, Bible study and community building are important for the consensus journey. At this most recent Synod meeting we were blessed by four diverse Bible studies that led us to a deeper understanding of the Synod vision. They opened scripture and showed us new horizons of God’s calling. Bible study is an important component of consensus because it reminds us that it is not our voice, our way, our bright idea that

we listen for first. Before we decide, we listen for the living Word in Scripture. Our Synod theological reflector Margaret Campbell grounded us in the big story of God’s nature as divine community and how we might know this God in the world and in our work as a Synod meeting. She reminded us that God walks with us, that God seeks us, that God was working through us. Most church councils won’t have a dedicated theological reflector, but any council can take time to ask ‘Where do we see God at work?’ ‘When did you last have an encounter with God?’ ‘What does your faith mean to you and how does it shape how you think about the work of church council (or whatever meeting you are at)?’ Synod community was built around tables, in working groups and over meals. It was built through our hard work together. Consensus is supported when we are willing to share something of ourselves and our faith with those we meet with and decide with. This doesn’t mean that decisions are always easy, or that we all fully agree with the decision made or with each other. What consensus does mean is that we have

listened carefully to each other and trusted that each person is open to God and longing to be part of helping decide the best way forward in whatever is being discussed. Consensus means that when we have been heard by others and they still wish to proceed in a way we don’t agree with, we allow them to do so, trusting that God’s Spirit is with us. It means that even when we are in the majority we listen openly to those who have a minority voice, testing if we can hear the call of God in this voice. Consensus isn’t perfect. Sometimes it is hard work. Sometimes it is frustrating. But it is worthwhile. By seeking to listen to each other and, most importantly, to listen for the leading of the Spirit, we are enabled to serve God’s mission in the world. On a side note, one of the unexpected blessings of this Synod was being able to do a photo with three female moderators of Victoria and/or Tasmania synod, plus the new moderator-elect. I feel honoured to be numbered among these amazing women that God has called to leadership within our church. Sharon Hollis Moderator CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 17

Crossword This month in Crosslight For the cluey reader



3. Geelong footballer immortalised in the AFL Best & Fairest Award 4. Constant renewal of the church 6. Passing under or through mountains 9. Would bring the final settlement for peace in the Korean peninsula 10. UAICC Victoria’s Aboriginal cultural centre 11. Decision-making by consultative and engagement process allowing Spirit of God to be present 14. Hindu deity 16. Uniting AgeWell’s director of mission, Rev John _ 17. A people group from Myanmar 18. Book of the Bible on the theme of pilgrimage

2 3 4 5 6









1. A form of Christianity which originated with the Reformation 2. Laxity in this area “is the start of the slippery slope to societal anarchy” 5. Critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of Scripture 7. The practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering 8. Where Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors 12. A Pilgrim Walk to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela 13. The assembly of cardinals for the election of a pope 15. The Religious Society of Friends

15 16



Giving is living

O God, We pray for strength during times of crisis Courage in the face of adversity And hope in the face of despair Help us care for one another Lightening each other’s burdens Offering a compassionate ear to those in need Even if the road ahead seems bleak May we remember you will always be with us Until the very end Amen spending and tax cuts for the wealthy. Congregations can send postcards to the Treasurer with messages urging him to reform superannuation tax concessions and redirect the money towards mental health, family violence and housing programs. The synod’s Giving is Living program encourages church members to embrace a spirit of generosity. Monthly pew sheets documenting stories of hope and kindness can be downloaded and printed for congregational use. Visit to access the pew sheets. ACROSS 3. Brownlow 4. Reformation 6. Submontane 9. Reunification 10. Narana 11. Consensus 14. Ganesha 16. Broughton 17. Rohingya 18. Hebrews

MICHELE (right) developed a mental illness when she was 18. After her mother passed away, she lived in supported accommodation funded by the federal government. Rev Deacon Natalie Dixon-Monu (left) runs a number of community programs for people who live with a mental health condition. They are vital for Michele’s wellbeing as they foster social engagement in a safe and welcoming environment. However, many of these programs are at risk of being cut due to lack of government funding. The Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit’s ‘Make Lives Better’ campaign calls on Treasurer Scott Morrison to prioritise funding for community programs over military

DOWN 1. Protestantism 2. Grammatical 5. Exegesis 7. Euthanasia 8. Wittenburg 12. Camino 13. Conclave 15. Quakers



Synod Snaps

“A G R E AT P H O T O G R A P H I S O N E T H AT F U L LY E X P R E S S E S W H AT O N E F E E L S , I N T H E D E E P E S T S E N S E , A B O U T W H AT I S B E I N G P H O T O G R A P H E D .” — Ansel Adams

CALD leaders gathered for a lunch at the St Andrew’s Hanbit congregation where they were joined by new moderator-elect Denise Liersch, former president Alistair Macrae and president-elect Deidre Palmer.

Our resident timekeeper Rev Kevin Dobson made sure Synod members turned up to their sessions on schedule.

Synod members enjoyed a delicious Korean dinner prepared by the St Andrew’s Hanbit congregation.

It was fun and games at the UC Camping ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ session as Synod members took part in an interactive ice-breaker activity. Robyn Hansen packed lectionary readings for minsters in placement and church secretaries to take back to their congregations.

Knitting and crochet have long been fixtures at Synod meetings. This year, the moderator set crafty women (and they are all women!) the task of knitting winter warmers for attendees of the UCA Assembly meeting in Melbourne next July.

The coffee cart at Box Hill Town Hall was under the pump as Synod members recharged themselves with plenty of caffeine.

Every day, four Synod members shared their experiences in vox pops that were shown on the big screen in the main hall.

Crosslight October 2017  

Crosslight is a monthly newspaper for people who have a link with the Uniting Church. The paper is based at the church’s Victorian and Tasma...

Crosslight October 2017  

Crosslight is a monthly newspaper for people who have a link with the Uniting Church. The paper is based at the church’s Victorian and Tasma...