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Crosslight Celebrating 25 years of

No. 280 September 2017


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Here’s a quick guide to what’s happening and what the big issues are likely to be as the church gathers, discerns and decides at Synod 2017

Meet the baby seal that’s charmed Barack Obama, and alleviates the symptoms of dementia and doesn’t even ask for fish

One of the major items on the agenda for Synod 2017 is electing the next moderator. Meet the nominees to be moderator-elect

Can a movie about talking apes be a type of biblical epic? There’s not much monkeying about in this Hollywood blockbuster

This month Australians will be receiving the postal survey on same-sex marriage. How should Christians respond? See voices arguing both for and against same-sex marriage on pages 22-23.

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How whole churches and communities can be groomed to allow sexual, physical and psychological abuse and what the warning signs are

Cover illustration by Garth Jones

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Regulars

Moderator Sharon Hollis finds inspiration from the scenes of hope that countered the hate on display in Charlottesville

People - 19

Reviews - 20 to 21 Letters - 23 Notices - 24 to 25 Moderator’s column - 26

Editorial Respectfully disagree

PENNY MULVEY

OUR country and our churches are at a crossroads. As a nation, we have never been very good at disagreeing with each other without making it personal. Social media has poured kerosene on a society that is already combative. Our

Communications & Media Services

UCA Synod Office, 130 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 Phone: (03) 9251 5200 Email: crosslight@victas.uca.org.au ISSN 1037 826X

political system is combative. Our legal system is combative. Our mainstream media is polarising. And social media has elevated the art of abuse to a whole new level. Throw in an issue of such substance and importance as same-gender marriage and there is absolutely no room for nuance, ambivalence or uncertainty. And yet, many people do feel uncertain. When the dust eventually settles following the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey and the potential introduction of legislation redefining marriage; will friendships have been trampled, families divided and the thread that holds our community together, ripped asunder? My Facebook feed is overflowing with articles on same gender marriage. One Christian writer believed it was a call to arms for Christians, based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34-39. “…For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…”

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.

Others have spoken carefully of the need to protect the vulnerable, especially LGBTI young people, to ensure commentators do not bandy around thoughtless, damaging statements. UCA Assembly released a statement following the federal government’s announcement of a postal vote, acknowledging the diversity of opinion within the Uniting Church. “We have always tried to maintain a respectful conversation on this subject between the councils of our Church and to work constructively across our membership,” the statement reads. “Our commitment to our own process of prayerful discernment means that Uniting Church leaders will not be recommending any position to members in relation to the 2017 postal plebiscite, should one take place. “Regardless of any legislation change, we will continue our own process of discernment in relation to same-gender marriage in a way that reflects the Uniting

Church’s commitment to uphold Christian values and principles.” Two ministers of the Uniting Church present their individual reflections on same gender marriage on page 22. Both these articles and people’s responses have been posted on Crosslight Online and the Vic/ Tas Facebook page during the past month. There is much at stake here – for Christians, for the LGBTI community, for the government, and for the nation. I do not dispute the importance of the matter we are debating. It is hugely significant. It changes forever the definition of marriage that has been accepted for centuries. My question is what role do I play in impacting the tenor of the discussion? Am I causing harm? Am I reflecting Christ’s love and grace in all I say, post, comment? Do I have the courage to gently challenge others who are being disrespectful or even abusive? How can we hold our community together through this time, in particular our LGBTI brothers and sisters? Please pray.

Circulation: 21,000 (publisher’s figure).

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Deadlines: Advertising and editorial. Please check exact dates on our website <crosslight.org.au>. Closing date for October – Friday 15 September 2017. Printing: Rural Press, Ballarat (Fairfax Media) Visit Crosslight online: crosslight.org.au

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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 Rallying to a feminist way of thinking DAVID SOUTHWELL

IT’S not every seminar session that encompasses questions of Christology, gender, race and Serena Williams, but that’s what happened one weekend last month during the With All Due Respect: Theology, Feminism and Conflict conference. Approximately 140 people attended over the two days of the conference held at the Centre for Theology and Ministry. On Friday evening nearly all of the 120 seats of the venue were taken as visiting Boston College Theology Professor M Shawn Copeland delivered the Northey Lecture. Distinguished US theologians, Rev Dr Cynthia Wilson and Professor Ruth Duck, also gave keynote addresses while poet-inresidence Talitha Fraser read two very wellreceived works. Before the official program began, Rev Seforosa Carroll convened a woman of colour meeting in the CTM chapel, which brought together participants from varied non-Anglo backgrounds. Brunswick Uniting Church student and youth support worker Anika Jensen said the conference has given her a lot to reflect on and reinforced some of her own thinking. Ms Jensen said speakers such as Prof Copeland, who spoke on “Why the body matters” and fellow African-American Rev Dr Wilson, delivered a strong focus on the intersection of racial and gender identity. “Something really important is the way that

CALD leaders at the With All Due Respect: Theology, Feminism and Conflict conference

bodies are ‘raced’ and bodies are ‘gendered’ and that it is all social and all constructed,” Ms Jensen said. She said that language could perpetuate or dismantle such constructions. A session led by Brisbane theologian Dr Janice McRandal illustrated how US tennis champion Serena Williams challenged set notions of identity. “She (Dr McRandal) used Serena because she is someone who is simultaneously exoticised because of her race, so she is sexualised but also desexualised for her ‘masculinity’ and athleticism,” Ms Jenson said. “She is someone that, I think, the white patriarchy tries to put in a box because they are very threatened by her. “The theologian talked about high Christology and how if we identify Jesus in a narrow way we don’t actually allow for that identity to be mirrored as ourselves.” Ms Jensen said one thing she had

especially taken from the conference was the importance of not putting people into categories but instead seeing them as part of the whole of God’s creation. “It’s the way that we and the church in welcoming the stranger have to be welcoming ourselves and welcoming someone who is also created in the image of God,” Ms Jensen said. She thinks rather than using the term ‘diversity’ it would be more useful to speak of ‘wholeness’. Ms Jensen said she was pondering things from the conference that she could apply in her own life and youth work. “It was really freeing,” she said. “When I work with youth who have really different understandings of what sexuality is and what gender is I often think ‘how are our sermons and how are our teachings applicable to you guys? How can we actually access what you are thinking about or even what I am thinking about?’

“It confirms in my own theology and my own thoughts about the world because those are things I think about often but aren’t preached about on a Sunday.” The conference was organised by the Australian Collaborators in Feminist Theologies network in partnership with Pilgrim Theological College, Trinity College and the Jesuit College of Spirituality. CTM conference organiser Cath McKinney said the conference had shown that theological discussion could be joyful and forward-looking. Ms McKinney felt this was particularly important in the context of what is disappointing about the contemporary church, as highlighted by the royal commission investigations of how incidents of child abuse were handled, “It was a hopeful engagement of what is possible,” she said. “It was complex and authentic and just the beginning.”

behaviour become grooming behaviour is the intention of the person engaging in the behaviour,” the report said. However, the report argues that its decision to recommend a broader grooming offence will provide the criminal law context for institutional codes of conduct. “We consider that a broader grooming offence could help to emphasise the wrongfulness of grooming behaviour which should perform an educative function for institutions, their staff, parents, children and the broader community,” the report said. The report notes that children are not the only targets of grooming, and recommends that changes to criminal law should provide a broad definition. Crosslight’s feature this month supports this contention. Rev Ann Key writes of the careful, planned grooming of entire communities to enable the groomer to become invaluable, loved and highly respected, therefore able to readily access his/her targeted victim/s. The church, with a focus on forgiveness,

redemption and love, is a ready target for cunning groomers. Ms Key states that the groomer shows the same attributes as innocent and well-meaning individuals. She says patterns of behaviour can be a giveaway. She also says it is important to not discount someone’s intuition. The Culture of Safety continues to educate congregations about grooming as well as other aspects of the Safe Church program. There have been some further changes to the Keeping Children Safe policy, which are being outlined in the Safe Church training. These relate to the removal of ‘direct supervision’ and professional exemptions; tighter definitions around negative notices and ‘appointed leader’ and support for small congregations.

Royal Commission report highlights criminal justice PENNY MULVEY THE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse might have concluded both private and public hearings, but the work is far from complete. Last month the Royal Commission released a number of reports, with the most significant titled Criminal Justice. This weighty volume – 2070 pages including appendices – makes 85 recommendations aimed at reforming the Australian criminal justice system to make it fairer for victims of institutional child sexual abuse. A number of the recommendations relate to police and prosecution responses, evidence of complainants and sentences and appeals. Some also relate to the faith community and other institutions, and identify offences such as grooming, ‘failure to report’ and ‘failure to protect’. Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said the criminal justice system is often seen as not effective in responding to child sexual abuse cases. Conviction rates are lower compared to other crimes. “Child sexual abuse cases are often ‘word

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against word’ cases with no eyewitnesses or medical or scientific evidence. Complainants often take years or decades to disclose their abuse,” Mr Reed said. “Although we have focused on child sexual abuse in institutions, these 85 recommendations are likely to improve responses to child sexual abuse in all contexts.” While all Australian jurisdictions have grooming offences, the legislation varies. The Royal Commission is committed to creating consistency in relation to reporting, definitions and legislation relating to child sexual abuse. As a result of the recommendations of the Betrayal of Trust report, Victoria is an exemplar for other jurisdictions, and the Royal Commission points to Victorian law on a number of occasions in this report. The Criminal Justice report acknowledges that broader grooming offences can be difficult to prove in circumstances beyond the narrower online or specific grooming offences. “What makes apparently innocent

For all information relating to the Keeping Children Safe policy, supporting templates and training please go to ucavictas.org.au/ keepingchildrensafe/

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group sessions. The Assembly Standing Committee has asked the Synod to provide feedback on two topics: marriage, and sovereignty and treaty. Members have been provided with material to help them prepare for working group discussions on these issues. Last year’s Synod meeting resolved to form a Creative Design Team, tasked with considering how to bring more energy and engagement to the long meeting days. Headed by Aaron Blakemore, the Creative Design Team has come up with a number of new initiatives for this year’s Synod. For example, reporting bodies have been asked to consider participating in a market place concept, designed to give members time to ask questions in a more intimate setting. There will be a presbytery panel on Saturday evening; the Sunday evening program focussing on intergenerational leadership is being hosted by the Creative Design Team. Nine ‘Minutes of Appreciation’ will be given as a result of imminent governance changes, which will result in a number of

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THE 2017 Synod meeting begins on Friday 8 September with opening worship at St Michael’s Uniting Church in Collins Street Melbourne. Synod resumes for business the following day at the Box Hill Town Hall. There will be 295 ordained and lay members representing the eight presbyteries attending for the five days and three nights. They will discern, worship, break bread and resolve together as they prayerfully focus on the present and future of the Church. Members will appoint a new moderatorelect (the three nominees are featured on pages 10 and 11), who will take up the role of moderator at the 2019 Synod meeting. Elections will also be held for Standing Committee, Assembly Standing Committee and Business Committee members. The ‘big ticket’ items are likely to be proposals relating to possible changes to the presbyteries; changes to the by-laws as part of the implementation of the Major Strategic Review and the four working

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boards being replaced, along with a few key retirements. In the wake of the Victorian government’s Royal Commission into Family Violence and the recent media coverage about domestic violence within church families, the Commission for Mission is bringing a proposal calling for more action from the federal government. The proposal calls on the Commonwealth to introduce a Medicare item number for counselling men to end violent behaviour; to amend the Family Law Act 1975 regarding breaches of an injunction as well as a number of other items aimed at providing greater protection for victims of domestic violence. Each day of Synod begins with a devotion. Bible studies are also a key part of the daily program, along with a theological reflection at the conclusion of the day’s business. And those who attended the 2016 Synod at Box Hill and missed their daily caffeine fix will be happy to hear that coffee carts will be on location.

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News The unexpected sources of resilience NIGEL TAPP

Moderator Sharon Hollis, second left, with panel members, from left, Alison Overeem, Kae Campbell and Luke

ATTENDEES at last month’s Moderator’s Luncheon in Devonport heard how resilience arises out of relationships and understanding. About 35 people braved cold and wet conditions to attend the event at Devonport Uniting Church, where they received a warm welcome and hearty lunch from the local congregation, which expressed its delight in hosting VicTas Synod Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis. Ms Hollis was part of a panel that discussed the need for resilience in a region that has had its share of natural disasters and economic challenges. Kae Campbell played a prominent role in the Latrobe community’s recovery from devastating floods last year. She said at times of crisis sometimes the most important thing a person could do was to just sit and listen. “We need to talk... to hear the sad stories as well as the funny stories,” Mrs Campbell said. “As a result we have developed friendships with our local community and it has created a bond between the Lions Club and our community.”

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Mrs Campbell said helping others was about engaging and learning what sort of assistance they really wanted rather than coming with a set agenda. Luke Sayer, editor of The Advocate, said his newspaper aimed to promote resilience by highlighting the robustness of the region’s communities in times of crises. Mr Sayer said he had great faith in the communities of North-West Tasmania to band together in periods of difficulty as their resilience had been tested time and again. “It is a bit like the rings of a tree trunk. Each ring has a connection to the next,” Mr Sayer said. “That is what makes our communities resilient, by being connected, and it is certainly something we want to hang on to.” Ms Hollis said support often came from unexpected sources in times of difficulty or challenge. “Sometimes those you don’t expect are the ones who really stump up for you,” she said. Ms Hollis said it was always worth taking the risk to approach people to see if you could offer assistance or support.

Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress-Tasmania’s Leprena centre manager Alison Overeem agreed that sometimes it was better to risk saying the wrong thing rather than saying nothing. She also said people were far more open to ideas when they believed it was coming from a non-judgmental perspective. The event at Devonport Uniting Church was the third Moderator’s resiliencethemed lunch event organised this year. Past luncheons have been held in Albury and Warragul. Mrs Campbell said change was a constant for all communities and it was important to accept that and be prepared to work with it. Managing change successfully required listening to what everyone has to say and giving the information people need to form their decision-making. Ms Overeem said change should ideally be anchored in a sense of stability and safety. Mr Sayer said it was important that people affected were not left with a feeling that they had no involvement in the change process.

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News The hidden side of homelessness DAVID SOUTHWELL

Michael Sukkar and Samantha Dunn joined in the Homeward Bound walk.

THE controversial clearing out of the Martin Place tent city in Sydney last month, as well the removal of the footpath encampments in Melbourne’s CBD early this year, put homelessness in the spotlight. But, according to support and advocacy groups, these front page stories don’t reveal the scale of the problem. In events staged around and during Homelessness Week (August 7-13) Uniting partnered with other support groups to highlight the growing number of ‘hidden homeless’, people who live in temporary arrangements and don’t have permanent, private and secure housing. Only 6 percent of the 105,237 homeless people in Australia are rough sleepers. Figures released by Homelessness Australia reveal a 60 percent increase in people sleeping in their cars and 46 percent increase in couch-surfing. On the first day of August, politicians and others were shown how people end up being part of this growing tide of hidden homeless in Melbourne’s east. Federal Liberal MP and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar and state Greens MP Samantha Dunn were among 75 participants who took part in the Homeward Bound walk around Ringwood Lake. Each participant was asked to walk in

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the shoes of someone experiencing homelessness by choosing out of five typical scenarios: • A 17-year-old boy who has been couch-surfing with friends because his step-dad became physically violent. • A 53-year-old woman, recently separated from her husband of 31 years, who has just been evicted from her rental home. • A single man, 27, whose relationship has broken down and who can no longer live with his parents because he lost his job. • A seven-year-old child living with her mother, sister and brother. Her mum lost her job and had to pack up the house and move. • A 35-year-old woman born outside Australia with limited English and no family support who is experiencing family violence. At markers placed around the lake, the walkers learnt how these representative stories unfolded. The walk was organised by the Eastern Homelessness Network (EHN) – which includes Uniting Wesley and Uniting Harrison. On the same day, Uniting helped put on a similar awareness-raising walk around Lake Guthridge in Gippsland.

In Melbourne’s west Uniting partnered with other groups to stage a homelessness blanket drive and event day in Werribee on 12 August. The growing regional problem of homelessness was the focus of a breakfast event put on by Uniting Ballarat in partnership with the Central Highlands Homelessness Alliance and Central Highlands Homelessness Network. A message coming out of all the events was that homelessness is a problem that needs to be tackled urgently. Uniting Wesley said it has seen a remarkable increase in the number of people seeking emergency relief and accommodation assistance. Manager of crisis and homeless services Janene Evans said rising rent has pushed people on low incomes out of private rental and into marginal accommodation such as rooming houses, caravan parks and couch surfing. Homelessness Australia has launched a national campaign calling for the creation of 100,000 community-housing properties in Australian over the next five years, including 30,000 in Victoria. “We support Homelessness Australia’s call to action because providing affordable housing is the single most important way to reduce homelessness,” Ms Evans said.

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News Zooming around the synod

IN 1977, the year of the formation of the Uniting Church, one of the world’s first personal all-in-one computers, the Commodore PET, was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. A clunky beast by today’s standards, this early computer weighed over 10 kilograms and contained a keyboard that many found difficult to operate. Today, as the Church celebrates 40 years, societal and technological changes have invited all organisations to alter their approach in many areas. How the church communicates through the use of computers is one area where there is considerable change. Rev Paul Stephens, convenor of the Presbytery Transition Team, was reminded of these changes during a recent series of information sessions presented in Victoria and Tasmania. The sessions were presented by Mr Stephens and the

Jason Talbot

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Uniting Church welcomes proposed laws to end modern slavery Strategic Review Implementation director Dr Jason Talbot, and were designed to provide information that they will present at the Synod 2017 meeting. “I was in Ararat with Jason listening to his presentation,” Mr Stephens said. “He was talking to the people in the room with us but, because of technology, he was also talking to people gathered in Warrnambool, Portland and Hamilton. And I thought ‘Wow’, haven’t times changed?” Dr Talbot and Mr Stephens both used Zoom video conferencing for the workshop. Dr Talbot believes one of the greatest benefits for the synod is that people are not necessarily required to travel long distances to meetings. “Synod operations and many presbyteries and churches are using this technology more and more,” Dr Talbot said. “We understand that people’s lives are busy and dialling in to a meeting from your own home or office is an effective way of participating without losing hours in travel time. This is particularly helpful in regional areas, where towns can be hundreds of kilometres apart.” In regional Australia, some areas still experience difficulty with connections. One of the advantages of the video conferencing is that the presentations can be recorded. This means that if you had trouble hearing or seeing the presentation, the recording can be sent to the participants afterwards. “It’s the sense of connectedness that I like,” Mr Stephens said. “You can ask questions, participate in the conversation and feel like you are really in the room with everyone. It’s great that we are able to experience a connectedness that a relatively short time ago would have been the stuff of fiction.”

THE Uniting Church has welcomed the federal government’s proposal to introduce new legislation to combat modern slavery. According to the International Labour Organisation, an estimated 21 million people worldwide are trapped in forced labour. More than half of the documented cases occur in the Asia-Pacific region. Minister for Justice Michael Keenan announced on Wednesday that the government will introduce legislation that requires large Australian companies to report on how they are addressing modern slavery in their supply chains. A large company is defined as a business with an annual turnover of at least $100 million. Under the proposed laws, they will need to publish a ‘Modern Slavery Statement’ on their website every year. The statements will also be available on a publicly accessible central repository. Dr Mark Zirnsak, director of the synod’s Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit, welcomed the government’s proposal. “The government’s announcement on greater transparency around large companies’ efforts to curb slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains is a very welcome step forward,” Dr Zirnsak said. “Members of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania can take significant credit for

this outcome, with the campaign they have been involved with since 2011 when the JIM unit launched the campaign through the release of the Unshackling the Laws Against Slavery report.” The JIM unit has worked with other civil society partners to expose cases of forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton plantations, Thailand’s seafood industry and global palm oil production. Earlier this year, they made a joint submission to a parliamentary inquiry, calling on the government to create legislation to improve supply chain transparency. “While the new laws will be a step forward, the JIM unit will continue with its engagement with businesses to ensure that people in developing countries that make the goods and services we buy have decent jobs,” Dr Zirnsak said. “Church members will still be invited to join campaigns to end slavery, forced labour and human trafficking in supply chains of companies operating in Australia.” The government will finalise the proposed reporting model following consultations with the business community and civil society organisations. The Minister for Justice is expected to bring forward a draft legislation in the first half of 2018.

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News Beyond denominational boundaries BETHANY BROADSTOCK

JUST a little over a month ago I was sitting in the courtyard of a micro-brewery in the centre of Leipzig, a beautiful city in eastern Germany. The World Communion of Reformed Churches General Council was near its end after 10 days. It had convened for the first time since 2010; on this occasion in the same year as the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I was there as one of three voting delegates representing the Uniting Church in Australia and, at this moment, I was thinking about home. That is, what I would say to the church that sent me about all I had seen and heard. An event which only occurs every seven years is bound to be a significant moment in time. It is also significant for the WCRC because of what it represents – 80 million Christians globally. UCA members are among them. The size of this number reminds us of our own smallness. Not in the sense that our significance as a part of the whole is reduced by comparison, but rather it appropriately places our own life in a perspective which is perhaps becoming increasingly necessary. ‘We are but one part of the whole church’ is not a new or particularly incisive comment. Especially in the UCA, which came into being (15 years before I did) with a deep sense that it was true. Union was a form of dissent from denominationalism, thus ‘uniting’ in a present and ongoing tense, and thus a commitment to ecumenism. Forty years on, as movements become institutions and take on a life that is unique to them, the status and shape of this commitment bears some reflecting on. Is our location in relation to other churches

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(L-R) are Sean Gilbert (Synod of South Australia), Bethany Broadstock, John Flett, Denise Liersch

still fundamental to our self-understanding and to our worldview, as it once seems to have been? If not, why not? Even though I have recently developed a snap, inward reaction to the rhetoric of denominational ‘decline’ (which manifests outwardly in inadvertent but enthusiastic eye rolling), I am quite sure this context is at least one factor. It is compounded by a changing social and religious landscape. Can a commitment to openness, or the outward-facing orientation which urges us beyond ourselves, survive under the weight of uncertainty and anxiety about our own location? The introspection which can result from both has more than enough capacity to narrow the horizon. This is exactly why communions such as the WCRC remain valuable and important places to be, and why it was important the UCA participated in global church reflection on liberation, gender justice,

empire, community, the forces of death, and the God of life. These forums offer us, as does ecumenism on any scale, an encounter with what we are not, which lifts our vision beyond what we are. The common identity we share with others in the love that holds all things together is found again and again. We all belong to God. Our own self-reflection is at its best when it takes account of the whole Christian church, to which we make our unique contribution and by which we are also shaped. We cannot live in isolation. We are always properly located in relationship, which means the scope of our vision is never and can never be limited to the boundaries of our denomination. If the nature of our participation in the world and in the life of God is truly the inprocess ‘pilgrim’ journey of which the Basis of Union speaks, that journey will always lack some integrity if we think we can take it alone.

One of the questions posed to the WCRC General Council was about the ‘unfinished business’ of the Reformation. What ideas began in that movement that need to be pursued again? What needs to be reaffirmed, revisited, reworked or rejected? The UCA may ask similar questions in relation to some of the commitments which seemed to lie at the heart of union, including a desire for unity which will never be fulfilled until it is. We will live into the answer of what its new face might be, not with time but with intention. Meanwhile, it remains true that neither concept – ‘uniting’ or ‘reforming’ – is unique to a movement or time. They are ways of speaking of the divine plan to make all things new. The Council theme pointed to this clearly with its prayer that the Living God would renew and transform us again. I add my prayer for our own decentring in order to be open and ready, and for a dissatisfaction with being alone.

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Profile Meet the nominees SANI VAELUAGA How long have you been in the UCA? I have been in the Uniting Church for 20 years including six-and-a-half years in Sydney in the mid ‘80s. My training for the ordained ministry was through the University of Auckland and Trinity Methodist Theological College in Auckland. I was ordained in 1998 and served in the Methodist Church of Aotearoa-New Zealand for five years from 1997 to 2002 before joining the UCA, Synod of Vic/Tas in 2003. Tell us a little about your family/ significant other? I’m married to Temukisa Amituana’iVaeluaga, a UCA minister currently ministering with and among the Bellarine congregations in the Greater Geelong area (Drysdale, Portarlington and St Leonards). We have five children and one grandchild. I’m the middle child out of nine children and have many adopted siblings from both my father and mother’s families.

How did you become a Christian? I was born into a Samoan Christian family and nurtured in the faith in my childhood to mid-teens in the Methodist Church in Samoa. My mother came from a Congregational church family background and my father was from a Wesleyan Methodist tradition. I left home as a teenager to continue my education in New Zealand in the mid seventies and joined the Methodist Church in NZ where I lived and studied. Later I worked as a public

servant at the Electricity Department in Wellington and Social Welfare Department in Auckland from the late ’70s to mid ’80s. Following our marriage in 1984, Temukisa and I migrated to Sydney in 1985 and joined the UCA at Narrabeen and Mona Vale in Sydney’s North Shore and later at Quakers Hill in Sydney’s North West. What do you think differentiates the UCA from other denominations? Here’s a church that planted and nurtures a new shoot out of three major denominations (Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian) to form one church, the Uniting Church in Australia. Its name speaks of Christ’s hope and vision reflected in his prayer in John 17, for his followers to be one (diversity in unity) as He and the Father are one. What differentiates the UCA from other denominations is: • its active hope to be faithful to the call of God, to love God and love our neighbours.

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its commitment to seek justice and reconciliation with the First Peoples openness and welcoming the diversity of people to join the church and serve as members or leaders. its desire to be part of the community that speaks and offers deeds and words of hope for all people especially those who are suffering, the poor and marginalised, LGBTIQ, refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and the world. its heart for ecumenical partnership and working together with other faiths and denominations in the mission of God for peace and justice for all people. the courage to reform its life and being in terms of structures and regulations to enhance and strengthen its participation in God’s mission through, worship, witness and service in the name of Christ.

DENISE LIERSCH Tell us a little about your family/ significant other? I live in an ‘extended family’ situation with my husband, daughter and father. My sister is very close as well, while my son lives in Canberra. My husband, Carl, is an engineering manager in the automotive industry. We’ve been married for over 30 years … and he is still my best friend. How long have you been in the UCA? I grew up Catholic. It was at university that I had ‘first contact’ with non-Catholic Christians. In 1984 I was house-sharing with a friend who was part of a young adults Christian community in a network of houses linked to a Uniting Church. My friend’s father was the minister, and through him and that Christian community, I found a new heart language of ‘the grace of God’ … and a home in the Uniting Church.

How did you become a Christian? I have always been Christian – through my family and the faith communities I grew up in. As a young child I prayed each night and often during the day. It was a running conversation with God about people and happenings over the day, where God was in each of the significant things that went on that day. I saw God in the intricacies of nature and in the way people interacted with each other and what was going on in the world including in social, political and ethical issues. There have been turning points at various stages of my life where I’ve changed quite significantly, including at the time I joined the UCA, but I couldn’t say there was a time when I became a Christian. What do you think differentiates the UCA from other denominations? It was in the UCA that I first heard the language of ‘grace’ and ‘gifts’: the grace of God who loves each one of us without us needing

to earn that love; this God who gifts each one of us uniquely, calling us to use those gifts for the good of the community of faith and the world. Many people would point to public theology or a passion for justice. The Uniting Church is strongly shaped by a faith that God is actively at work in the world to bring creation to fulfilment in Christ. Faith is not personal and private, nor just ‘up-in-heaven’, but involves God’s transformation and renewal of this world: “your kingdom come”. What most inspires you? ‘Breakthroughs’ inspire me. When a person or community is bound by ideas or habits that have become limiting or destructive, it is inspiring to see a breakthrough enabling them to open up to new life-giving ways. When communities or nations are bound by fear or self-interest, it is inspiring to see the Spirit of God breaking through to bring about radical changes of heart, attitude

REV STAN CLARKE Tell us a little about your family/ significant other? My wife, Sue, is part of the Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS). We met and married at Bible College 34 years ago where she completed a Dip Min then sundry subjects at the United Faculty of Theology. Jennifer and Paul joined the family during my placement at MurtoaMinyip. Jennifer is now a primary school teacher in Melbourne, a children’s ministry leader at Ringwood UC, and engaged. Paul is part of the Air Force, married with three fabulous children, and lives in Brisbane. Sue subsequently qualified as a social worker, being awarded a University Medal. Significant illness ended a PhD program but she has since completed a Master’s Degree. Prior to joining the ACAS team she worked at Launceston Base Hospital and The Alfred. She is a creative worship leader, a lay preacher and has written a number of special children’s services. Her hobby is sewing clothes for the grandchildren. 10

How long have you been in the UCA? I was raised in a devoted Christian family in one of the uniting churches. My father was a lay preacher for 60 years. I transitioned into the Uniting Church at Union and have been here ever since. At that time I was a member of the Kennington Church (Bendigo). Since being ordained in December 1986 I have been engaged in full-time ministry in rural Victoria, in Tasmania for 13 years, and in metropolitan Melbourne these past 13 years. How did you become a Christian? I haven’t known life in which church was not central. I have a clear memory of my parents kneeling beside their bed each night knowing I was a subject of those prayers. The little church at Nullawil had a strong program for discipling children through Sunday School, Christian education and after-school mission programs. But it was a camping program run by the ESA organisation that established a life of discipleship, regular study and clarity of commitment to Jesus Christ.

What do you think differentiates the UCA from other denominations? People have asked me about the doctrinal stance of our church. They are bemused that we don’t have a document to which potential members must sign off. Instead the creeds of the church, the Basis of Union, as well as the Scriptures, together with sundry sources of wisdom enlighten us. We also inherited a rich heritage from the uniting churches. What makes the UCA such a wonderful church to be part of is the invitation to bring our questioning, learning and humanity into a fellowship in the Spirit of God. We are committed not so much to right-thinking as right-practice, giving rise to energised concern for big-picture issues of justice and environment, and practically working with those doing life tough to achieve self-empowered lives. Our church is strongly represented in community groups making our local communities better places. These are wonderful qualities to bring to the discussions and debates of our secular society. The UAICC (Congress) is essential CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


Profile

What most inspires you? The good news and hope for all (creation) in Jesus Christ. The faith and gifts of the First Peoples and the struggle for justice, healing and unity for their peoples and for all Australians. The wisdom of the elderly, the strength and curiosity of the young, the power and capacity of the land, sea and sky to support life and humanity. Capacity of the people in diaspora (migrants) to sing the lord’s song in a strange land that is now their home. How would you describe your leadership style? The biblical model of Jesus ‘the good shepherd and pastor’ is the leadership model that I seek to follow. A servantleader, who loves and cares for the people, who is prayerful and depends on God’s power and grace to create, heal, change and renew our life as community and creation. My leadership style is more consultative and invitational with a consensus approach

and will. When a ‘spirit of change’ sweeps through like this, it makes me think of the biblical images of the desert blooming, water flowing from the rock and Jesus proclaiming good news for the poor and liberation of the oppressed. Damaged environments can flourish, resources shared and injustice corrected with a shift in community attitudes and political will, where the Spirit of the God of life is at work! How would you describe your leadership style? Collaborative and multidisciplinary are good ways of describing how I work. This goes back to my 20 years as a physiotherapist in hospitals and community-based public health. Each person in the team brings their own particular skills to work with the client, identifying together the goals that matter in their context and working towards their

to our learning what it means to be a truly post-colonial Australian church living in covenant with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. And we are an exciting diversity of many languages, cultures, ages and histories. What most inspires you? I am inspired by three things – people, faith and wilderness. People – of all ages – who courageously engage in fresh ventures of mission and service inspire me. Often it is seemingly ordinary, uncelebrated members of my churches – an older woman who befriended odd bods on the train because they were distressed; children who pooled their funds, organised a morning tea, and multiplied their starting fund manyfold and sent it off to Hope Builders in Uganda. Then there are wonderfully faithful people who keep doing what is needed to keep the church ticking, freeing other people for creative ministries. The wisdom and insight of my Facebook friends’ reflections on their lived experience regularly provides food for SEPTEMBER 17 - CROSSLIGHT

which encourages people to share their views and perspectives. I have the capacity and freedom to challenge and express a point of view when the need arises as part of the discernment process. As a leader I’m keen to inspire and empower others in ways that affirm, encourage and develop their gifts for building up the Body of Christ in worship, witness and service. What was your most memorable holiday? In 2012 I was part of the President’s Minister’s Conference in Alice Springs. Temukisa joined me for the weekend after the Conference. It was our first time in Alice Springs. One of the things we wanted to do was to visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) and some of the historical sites and landmarks in Alice Springs. We said to ourselves “we won’t be going home without touching the rock at Uluru”. But that almost did not happen when we asked some of the local folks about visiting the rock and they said it

fullest potential. Working together brings out creativity and sparks new energy and ways of seeing things. When we pray together as a community to discern the movement of the Spirit of God, this Spirit can work in and through us to make us into the one body of Christ following Jesus. What was your most memorable holiday? A few years back, my husband and I met up with our daughter who had three weeks’ break between two archaeological digs in Egypt and Israel. We stayed in a local village in Egypt, in a suburb of Jerusalem, and in Jordan. I loved being amidst local life, the heat of summer, the colours of the rocks, sand, sea and sky, the beauty of the desert and wadis, the crystal water of the Red Sea and the salty Dead Sea, climbing Mt Sinai in the night and seeing the sunrise from the mountain top. Being in the ancient and modern city of Jerusalem for over a week

thought. The weekly discipline of preparing worship to share with a faith community constantly renews my spirit. Times of bushwalking in iconic wilderness areas of Tasmania, and exploring the awesome outback areas of our beautiful land, have always proved renewing for my spirit. How would you describe your leadership style? My leadership arises out of living among the people of God and being deeply involved in their lives. I talk of flying kites and throwing balls in the air as metaphors of testing ideas and possibilities to see which ones catch the wind of God’s Spirit, and which ideas people want to play with. Then, as a leader, I do everything in my power to encourage, resource and protect such dreamers to give those heart-bursts opportunity to flourish. Leadership often involves a deal of interpreting the church to the world, and the world to the church, in ways that create faithful connection.

takes 5-6 hours drive to get there. Anyway, we hired a car and left about 4:30am the following morning and arrived at Uluru about 10am. What a sight! The sheer size, colour and smell of the rock were absolutely awesome, humbling and overwhelming. We spent about six hours walking, viewing and enjoying the rock. We were fascinated by its history and the Aboriginal story of its formation and relationship to the local peoples and land. In Alice Springs’ town centre, we noticed a vivid contrast between art galleries, the souvenir shops that mass produce and sell Aboriginal art, and the Aboriginal artist and his/her family sitting on the ground near the footpaths selling two or three paintings of their own. We stopped and talked with one of the artists who said, we sell two or three paintings at a time and then go back home and paint another two or three to sell next time we come.

Do you have a favourite TV show? My favourite TV shows are The Vicar of Dibley and Home and Away!

was far too short a time. The experience of getting through checkpoints at border crossings, going through blockades guarded by mounted machine guns, and the divisions and contrasts between peoples was stark. The day we travelled home from Tel Aviv via Cairo was the day when Egyptian President Morsi was deposed with mass riots in Cairo and the city in lockdown. Our flight was diverted and we got stuck in Amman. I pray for peace-making differently since then.

of the human heart in a world that defies simple categories … maybe with a bit of whimsy or humour added in.

Do you have a favourite TV show? I’m not really a TV show sort of person, but I love watching movies on TV at home curled up on the couch. Some of my favourite movies over the years have been The English Patient, Amour, Pan’s Labyrinth, Life of Pi, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Kandahar, Good Bye Lenin!, The HundredFoot Journey and The Intouchables. I love movies that touch into the complexities

What was your most memorable holiday? Not one but two. Earlier this year we spent 11 weeks touring in Italy, France, Spain and Morocco. It was an amazing time, enjoying the scenery, being part of other cultures but also confronting the history and roots of our own faith. It helped us better understand many of our cultural assumptions. And the times I visited with Hosana Church (Dili, Timor L’Este), the partner church of the Ringwood UC, while not exactly a holiday, were fantastic times of building life-long friendships and faith partnerships across divides of history, language, culture and theology, yet celebrating being one family of God. That partnership is transforming lives in both churches. Do you have a favourite TV show? I indulge the cultural experience of watching the Bombers play their magnificent brand of football! Nightly news bulletins are a fixture. And I am a fan of programs like The Big Bang Theory and Have You Been Paying Attention?, and programs that explore

Tell us something that might surprise people. You might be surprised that I have experienced the following: • Deep-water line fishing in NZ with a retired minister and friend using a two seater kayak with a small outboard motor. • Participated in a three weeks outward bound course in Anakiwa, NZ in the middle of winter. • Arrested by police as part of a stunt for the show: You got to be joking hosted by Don Lane during my time with Grundy Entertainment & Television in Sydney. • Hot air ballooning over the Yarra Valley • I have a licence (tickets) to operate an excavator and skid steer.

Tell us something that might surprise people. I have an eclectic taste in music. That’s not surprising in itself, but I find some are surprised at what my loves include: Arvo Pärt and The Smashing Pumpkins, Bach and The Howling Bells, Stravinsky and Placebo. I’ve seen Placebo in concert twice – once in Melbourne and once in Germany – and was really hoping to see them again for their 20 years of Placebo concert tour this year. It was a hard decision to choose between buying tickets for their only Melbourne concert or going to the opening of Synod. I haven’t bought tickets for the concert (yet).

history and environment. I particularly enjoyed the recent series on the Medici family and another that utilised high tech scanning equipment to unearth secrets of ancient cities and monuments in Italy. Tell us something that might surprise people. I went to tech school to become a carpenter and emerged an industrial chemist. Maybe that explains my enjoyment of working with wood. I have commenced a second doll’s house for my younger granddaughter. I previously built a rather large one for her older sister. If people have seen me play golf (I haven’t played for ages) they would be surprised that my name is on the honour board of the Murtoa Golf Club as winner of the Four Ball/Best Ball Championship in 1991.

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Profile Faith at work AUSTRALIA may be an increasingly secular country according to the recent census, but author Kara Martin believes Christians can still practice their faith in the workplace in creative ways. In her new book, Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, Ms Martin documents stories of Christians who integrate faith into their daily occupations. “I think the workplace is an amazing opportunity because I certainly believe that Christian values are aligned with what’s going to be effective in a workplace,” Ms Martin told Crosslight. “If we look at human resources work, if you treat people with respect and dignity because they are made in the image of God, then people will honour that and work well with it. “In fact, most values of major organisations align well with Christian values – a lot of it is about integrity, honesty and respect.” While the number of people identifying themselves as Christians has declined, Australia is more religiously diverse than ever before. Ms Martin believes the increased awareness and acceptance of different religious beliefs in the workplace presents an opportunity for Christians to share their faith without proselytising. “In England, there’s more of a push for religious tolerance in the workplace by making more allowance for Muslim believers – creating prayer space for them and making sure they have breaks where they can do regular prayers,” she said. “Christians can see their work as a calling from God and work well and hard to support fellow workers and see the workplace as an opportunity to give people a taste of the kingdom.” During Ms Martin’s early career as a television reporter, she found her ethical values challenged by the demands of the newsroom environment. She recalled one instance where she interviewed a mother whose son was killed in a house fire. In a state of grief, the mother revealed information that

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was captured on camera without her knowledge. The news director insisted on including the footage in the news story, a stance Ms Martin was uncomfortable with. She decided to resign rather than sacrifice her moral principles. Ms Martin believes churches and faith leaders can offer guidance and support for young people who encounter ethical challenges in their professional life. “Often that initial period can be really challenging and that’s where messages from the Church in support of them entering the workforce and encouraging them can be really helpful,” Ms Martin said. “I think for a young person entering the workplace, it’s very important to have a couple of people you can pray with and work out where you stand and how to respond to some of the issues you come across. “Also, being informed what the Bible has to say about work is helpful.” In her book, Ms Martin challenges the idea that missionary work is the only authentic means to perform ‘Christian’ work. She offers six spiritual disciplines that Christians can practice to worship God through their work – holy working, gospel working, prayerful working, incarnational working, spirit-empowered working and social justice working. “I know some people who feel really called to ‘everyday, ordinary work’ because they feel that God has strategically placed them in those workplaces,” Ms Martin said. “There was one woman who said to me ‘I’m just an administrator in a hospital and I didn’t think God was interested in what I do’. “She read the book and realised God isn’t just interested in what she’s doing, he’s already there around with her. That’s been an encouragement to her and it’s really changed the way she sees work.” Workship was shortlisted for the 2017 Australian Christian Book of the Year award, which was won by Our Mob, God’s Story. Turn to page 20 for our review of Workship.

CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


Feature

BY

REV ANN KEY

REV ANN KEY has been a member of the Uniting Church since it began 40 years ago. She has been an ordained minister for 28 years. Throughout that time, Ann has witnessed the devastating impact abuse, in all its forms, can have on the church community and beyond. Sadly, as the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse illustrate, Ann is not alone in dealing with the aftermath of abuse within the church. She believes it is important for people to acknowledge that, rather than offer a safe haven from abuse, many churches – because of their inclusive, welcoming nature – can unwittingly harbour predators. Ann is currently on the council of the Bethel Centre. Bethel’s services are available to individuals and groups in the Vic/Tas synod who have experienced trauma, abuse or misuse of power emotionally, spiritually, physically or sexually within the church.

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Feature ABUSE in one form or another has most likely always existed in the Church. In many cases, aberrant behaviour, has been overlooked at best, and accepted or covered up at worst. A male-dominated workplace environment over many years has historically not helped. As numbers in congregations have dwindled, there have been fewer people to ameliorate the impact of ‘difficult’ people. Ministry agents, elders and church councillors have often been illequipped to respond helpfully with conflict resolution skills, interpersonal skills and accredited counselling qualifications. Members of congregations have been reluctant to ‘make waves’ or name the difficult people. Excuses range from ‘Numbers are down, we don’t want to lose another one’ to ‘We want to be accepting of everyone’ to ‘We want to prove we are welcoming of people with ...’ to ‘We need the money’. Compromises in standards begin, and then are difficult to reverse. Support and or assistance from presbytery and synod personnel have not always been present, timely, or appropriate. Nor has the Church response previously modelled a safe place for victims. Many victims have been disinclined to expose themselves to further abuse or re-abuse by initiating or persisting with attempts to seek justice or acknowledgement of the abuse. CASE STUDY ONE THE first case study relates to grooming of adults to enable inappropriate use of power, damage of property, and emotional abuse of adult women and girls. Bill was a bachelor in his late 50s who, rather than wash his clothes, would turn them inside out and wear them again. Slight in stature and ingratiating in manner, Bill quickly became a person people felt sorry for, and sought to involve in the life of the congregation because he was lonely and well-connected in the wider church. Congregation members were good and kindly people, who wanted to show the community and each other that they were accepting of anyone and everyone. Bill was not pleasant to be near, so it was thought an ‘outside’ job would keep him on the envelope list and give everyone a bit of distance. All the church property keys were given to Bill. He loved wearing the keys in a prominent location so everyone would know who the real ‘gatekeeper’ was. He would check everything after any meeting. No heaters or lights were ever left on. In winter the heaters were turned on early in the mornings so the church was nice and warm when folks arrived. In summer, the air conditioners and fans were on so everything was cool. Even the morning tea things were set out ready. If the alarms went off, no one else had to get up and go out in the middle of the night. Everyone, including the minister, knew that Bill would be there. The rubbish bins were put out and brought back in, the plants were trimmed, rubbish was cleaned up from the garden. The place looked lovely and well cared for. Without having been asked to do anything other than open and close the church for meetings, over time, Bill became indispensable, and made life, especially for the men, much easier. When women in the congregation began to feel uneasy in Bill’s presence, it was attributed to his poor hygiene. Men fobbed off the comments made by partners and teenage daughters, because Bill always gave them space. He deferred to the men and praised them at every opportunity. Women were told they were imagining things, and needed to be more ‘Christian’. They were told to be kinder to ‘poor’, lonely Bill; include him more; cook meals and drop them in. Increasingly, the women found there was no support for them in stopping Bill

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invading their personal space. He would come into their homes through unlocked doors and pretend he had knocked but there had been no answer. He was found peering through windows when women were on their own at night. There were reports of Bill coming in through a back door while a woman was in the shower, and waiting for her with a towel when she came out of the bathroom. Another woman found him sitting at her kitchen table, having made himself a cup of tea while she was dressing. When one woman formally approached the chairperson of the church council with complaints that Bill was entering her house, rifling through drawers, changing belongings around, putting grass clippings in the linen cupboard, and prowling around outside at night, the response was: “Stop complaining. While he is doing it to you, he is not doing it to our wives and daughters.” The woman was advised not to go to the police about the matter, as there would be no corroboration of the story from congregation leaders. When locks on the doors were changed (this was a former manse to which Bill had keys), there was a formal visit from the chair of the church council complaining that this action should not have been taken. The chair had visited Bill, told him there had been a complaint and that police may be involved. Bill was so upset, he had threatened to leave the church, and it had taken several hours for the chair to placate him and have his assurance this would not happen. Bill’s place was secured. The grooming was complete. The women were effectively isolated, and no one talked about this to anyone else. Abuse does not have to be sexualised for there to be feelings of violation and betrayal. The women felt let down by pretty well everyone, and powerless to band together in response. Bill continued for many years in his role as gatekeeper. To the best of my knowledge, his abuse continued in one form or another, until age and infirmity brought an end to his mobility, and he was relocated to a secure aged care facility.

In spite of decreasing numbers, the church continues to attract people who are evil. Not sick. Not mentally ill. Not difficult. Evil – a word we rarely use. I hope the church will always have a place for the sick, difficult and mentally ill. Those who groom other individuals for the purposes of moral, ethical, spiritual, physical (or a combination of all) rape are evil. One of the effects of grooming is that it isolates people. They do not feel they can speak to anyone about either the grooming, or how they might feel they have been abused, ‘duped’ or hurt. Grooming, when done well, can therefore continue unabated unless someone acts as a ‘circuit breaker’. A person who is accomplished at grooming will have the people being groomed questioning themselves, their relationships with each other, even their memories. When one becomes aware of being groomed or ‘conned’, the prevalent feelings are of guilt, shame, feeling duped or stupid. One can end up feeling like the criminal rather than victim. Prime targets for grooming are those in positions of authority or power, or people who are vulnerable in one area or another. Compromising this group means that any consequent CASE STUDY TWO THE second case study concerns grooming adults in order to sexually abuse children. Sam had had a difficult life. Everyone knew that childhood illness had robbed him of the sporting potential he talked of. He openly spoke of having been sexually abused while in hospital, and there were rumours of incest involving his mother as well. He was a father and when he showed an interest in working with other children in sporting clubs, scouts, and then in Sunday school, the general response was that Sam was a good member of the community. He was always welcome to assist with camps, meetings and so on, particularly when other parents weren’t available. Children started coming home from scout camps telling their parents that ‘something had happened’. Mums told the scout leaders what had been said, and were assured the matter would be dealt with. They were also told their children were ‘imagining things’ or ‘making things up’. And the ‘something happened’ continued. Numbers in the scout group plummeted, and Sam left. No action was taken, although one child was killed, and another injured by a car while trying to run away from him and another leader on a camp. This was never investigated, no charges were laid, and both leaders concluded their association with scouting immediately. Sam’s children would go to the homes of their friends after school, then show extreme reluctance when it was time to go home. There were stories of the children crying and making up every excuse to stay longer. Their school performance fluctuated and concern was expressed about their emotional wellbeing, even though they were always dressed well and seemed physically cared for. No one in town was surprised when the children left home and moved away as soon as they were able. Sam ‘church-hopped’ all the congregations of each denomination

CODES

The Church has liturgical and institution and commonly referred to as jargon. Ov language or ‘code’. Words or phrases u without appearing to impugn an individu Such words include:

‘Difficult’ - The religious equivalent of a v Anger-management issues, etc. ‘Don’t be alone with …’ - Usually means touch a person or make an innuendo. ‘Always close the curtains at night’ - Pe ‘Don’t leave your bags in sight’ - Someo ‘You are imagining it’ - I don’t believe yo comments because I don’t want to do a ‘That’s best left alone’ - Don’t talk abou ‘We don’t want to upset anyone /rock th ‘Leave it with me’- Often means the con

in town. When he left the first one after several years, because the minister wasn’t basing his sermons on the scriptures sufficiently, Sam’s reputation for being very pious and devout strengthened. He was considered a good and Godly man, involved in the community and interested in young people. As Sam left each congregation, his reputation as a very religious man grew. Liturgical dance saw him leave another congregation. The use of the modern version of the Lord’s Prayer saw him leave another. The local UCA was the last cab off the rank. With his reputation as a devout and religiously conservative person intact, Sam was safely entrenched. The baby-sitting service he and his wife informally offered was gratefully taken up by the increasing number of young families coming into the area. And because she was so nice it didn’t matter that most, if not all the time, his wife would have to work at the last minute, and he would do the babysitting on his own. And then the story began

CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


Feature complaints or expressions of concern will be minimised, excused or dismissed. In some cases, disclosures will be responded to in such a manner that the person making the disclosure feels re-abused. Grooming takes time. There is a lot at stake for the groomer, and they can afford to be slow, methodical, and bide their time, while developing strong supports to counteract later accusations or enquiries. Preparing individuals and groups such as congregations can take months, or even years. Although the following case studies relate to Anglo congregations, grooming is not limited to or by Anglo culture. Grooming and abuse occur in all cultures, and the purpose of the grooming can vary. In some cases paedophilia is the purpose for grooming, others domestic violence, others the physical rather than sexual abuse of children and others it is the misuse of power in terms of control of the congregation/minister for non-sexualised relationships. Once exposed, the groomer will often leave, undermining the reputation of the person who exposed their behaviour. This has two effects. The first is to play the role of the victim, thereby continuing to be able to elicit sympathy and

nal languages. These are well known ver the years, I have observed another used to give a warning about a situation ual or breach confidentiality.

vexatious litigant. Unco-operative.

s the person will try to inappropriately

eeping Tom one is suspected of theft. ou, or I am going to ignore your anything about it or can’t. ut it to anyone he boat’ - Shut up nversation will end there.

to unravel. One family approached the minister, stating that two of their children had been sexually abused. They refused to go to the police. They forbade the minister to go to the police. They would ensure the children were not out of their sight. They would pray for guidance. It is difficult to know where everyone is all the time. One child slipped out to go and say hello to Sam, who he knew as a friend with sweets and computer games. The family approached the minister again. Another of their children had been abused. They still didn’t want any action taken. Surely talking to the person, Christian to Christian, would help. They felt they were failures as parents, should have been more watchful and taken better care of their children. The grooming of the parents had been happening for three years, the abuse of two of the children for 18 months. The congregation had been part of community grooming for almost 30 years. Against the parents’ wishes, the police were notified immediately and an investigation began. The parents’ reluctance to involve the

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police was not based on a lack of care for their children. For them, it was unthinkable that a Christian would do such a thing – it was literally incomprehensible. So effective had the grooming been, that they felt their neglect as parents was the reason the abuse had occurred. Sam remains the ‘epitome’ of groomers. Let me unpack this a little more. Sam had worked on the theory that most people like to be thought of as intelligent, clever and good parents. The first children he abused were the children of the local police, doctors, teachers and clergy. This took place over a 30 to 40-year period, involving multiple clergy, multiple police, doctors, teachers etc. The people that others will go to if there is an issue. Because these folk did not want anyone to know their children had been sexually abused, when further cases of abuse were disclosed to them police reports were not processed, and no further action was taken. The abuse continued, with the paedophile working with three children at any one time. One who he was ‘finishing’ with, one who he was most active sexually with, and a third who was being groomed as the next sexual victim. The process could last several years depending on the ages of those involved. While an undercover police investigation commenced immediately, within the next few days disclosures started coming from all parts of the community. Mostly these came from the mothers of the primary victims. Now in their 60s and 70s, story after story was disclosed of attempts to get action from the scouts, police, medical staff or church, all without success. Women relived the horror of finding out what had happened to their children, the ongoing effects they had lived with, and the overwhelming grief and guilt at feeling they had failed as parents. Without exception, these women had attempted to have the perpetrator brought to justice. One institution after another failed them and their children, until the women were eventually silenced. Watching their children become involved in lifethreatening and life-taking activities was an ever-present burden with them. Although much of the abuse had occurred independently of church membership,

support from the people groomed. The second is that doubts are left in the mind of the people regarding the whistle-blower. Anything they say in the future about any issue, let alone the groomer, will be brought into question. The groomer has retained power and influence. No congregation wants to open themselves to being maligned within the community. Without details being made public for reasons of privacy, the ‘groomer’ if forced out is usually able to concoct whatever reason suits their purposes as to why they left. There is usually little if any opportunity for a right of reply. What I write about is by no means definitive. Grooming and the resultant abuse is a highly complex, multi-dimensional dynamic, effecting body, mind and spirit. Being alert to groomers is not about a witch hunt, or exercising prejudicial behaviour. It may well be about gut instinct and following one’s intuition. The behaviour of a groomer is extremely close to the behaviour of a genuinely well-intentioned person. We all like to think we are astute judges of character, and can spot a perpetrator of whatever sort a mile off. This is the very reason why a groomer is able to infiltrate congregations,

because the individual identified as a Christian, the church was largely held responsible for the lack of action taken to stop the abuse of over 300 children. Few remained members of the Church. All longed for peace. The ‘cone of silence’, once broken, gave rise to an outpouring of grief. Such is the power of an accomplished groomer that the victims – primary and secondary – are left feeling responsible or to blame for what has happened. The groomer seems to show no remorse, awareness of the impact of their actions or emotional connectedness with anything other than meeting their own needs. Evidence anecdotally and in court indicated that Sam had been sexually abusing children from his late teens. There was a brief period, when his own children were the preferred age for his criminal activity, when complaints from the local children ceased. When Sam’s

children became old enough to resist him, he resumed abusing any children whose parents or community of involvement could be colluded and groomed. As stated earlier, reports and disclosures were ignored by key leaders in the community. This implied to people that there was either not a problem, their children had lied in the first place, or that the perpetrator was somehow ‘protected’. Factors critical to finally dealing with this were: believing the parents; noting the inconsistencies in Sam’s linear and biographical story; observing behaviour which was questionable; observing the compromises / excuses church members continually made for Sam; observing and experiencing Sam’s attempts to groom; a general discomfort in Sam’s presence, and consistent ‘feeling’ that something was very wrong.

Grooming needs intention, time and opportunity; the 'hunter' will bide his or her time. It is important to note that while the cases I have discussed concern men, women can also effectively groom congregations and individuals. A grooming technique eventually will include emotional/ethical blackmail. It is about unbalancing the power differential so that abuse of one type or another can take place. Be wary of people bearing gifts. There will be a time when the favour will be called in. Above all, trust your intuition or gut instinct about someone. If you consistently feel uncomfortable, or that something is just not quite right, it probably isn't.

RESOURCES AND INFORMATION Department of Human Services Child Protection Crisis Line 13 12 78 Police 000 To report to the Synod 1300 789 374 E: cultureofsafetycontact@victas.uca.org.au ucavictas.org.au/keepingchildrensafe Bethel Centre 03 9859 8700 E: support@bethelcentre.com.au W: bethelcentre.com.au/

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Celebrating 40 years The leading cultural question NIGEL TAPP

Less than a decade after it was formed the Uniting Church in Australia boldly declared itself to be a multicultural Church. More than 30 years on from the 1985 statement can the UCA say it is “mission accomplished” or does the statement remain aspirational rather than a reality? The UCA contains 193 specific language groups, 56 intentional cross/intercultural congregations, 12 National Conferences and one Korean Presbytery. Within the Vic/Tas synod there are 22 congregations and 19 faith communities which conduct worship in a language other than English. One of these, a Korean congregation, is located in Tasmania and the remainder in Victoria. These congregations represent a broad cross section of cultures including Tongan, Samoan, Cook Islands, Indigenous Fijian, Indo Fijian, Korean, Chinese, Burmese, Tamil (Sri Lankan), Dinka (South Sudan), Chollo (South Sudan), Filipino and Indonesian. Of the 264 ordained active ministers within the synod, 48 are from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds. More than 26 percent of students who enrolled at the Pilgrim Theological College this year are from a CALD background. Just as the nation has become more distinctly multicultural, so has the church. Tongan church leader Rev Jason Kioa believes positive steps have been taken towards the goal of being a true multicultural church but feels we are still short of the promised land. Mr Kioa was the first Pacific Islander to lead an established Australian church body when he was appointed as the VicTas synod Moderator in 2006. He said that until the leadership of the church at all levels, from congregations to Synod, more closely reflect the diversity of those sitting in the pews, it could not be seen as multicultural mission accomplished. “If we say we are a multicultural Church, the leadership must reflect that,’’ he said. Mr Kioa said that raising leaders from culturally diverse backgrounds was not easy, particularly when many of the Church’s activities – both verbal and written – are in English, a second language for many. He said the establishment of national conferences for other nationalities in 1987 was very important in helping to train and equip future leaders of the Church from CALD communities. Rev Swee Ann Koh is the director of the synod’s intercultural unit. He agreed that leadership in the synod predominantly rested with those from an Anglo-Celtic (Anglo) background. “Just because our church looks diverse doesn’t mean it is diverse. For example, the leadership at all levels of the church are by and large from the dominant (AngloCeltic) culture,” he said. Mr Koh said he was encouraged that the Port Phillip West Presbytery was working towards having at least three 16

CALD representatives on every council and committee in recognition of the presbytery’s cultural and ethnic diversity. But, he said CALD NextGen and CALD women were still largely absent from boards, councils and committees of the church. “When will the rich diversity within our church be truly reflected in all levels of our church? Or will the growing part of the church still be unrepresented in our structures?” he asked Rev Dr Tony Floyd – the former Melbourne-based national director of multi and cross cultural ministry – said Anglo church members need to be mindful that there were culturally different ways of discerning and approving leadership. “Many people, and particularly those in CALD communities, won’t put their hand up. It is misinterpreted as shyness or not being interested but it is (just) not keeping with the way their culture works,” he explained. “But if you go to them and indicate that you want to nominate them often the response is very different. “So there has to be willingness to change the way we do things.” Dr Floyd said the Church is “pregnant with life and hope in Christ” because of the many positives which came from the Church’s cultural diversity. “We are a multicultural church but, as the Basis of Union tells us, we are together on that journey,” Mr Floyd said. “There is no question we are a church of many cultures, that is a given. “But there are changes we need to consider, such as the English language base of our

theological education and how we do our work and undertake our business. “We are the only church structure in the world which uses inter-related councils and it is a model which is difficult to explain to someone who is only familiar with a hierarchical model.” People from other cultural backgrounds worshipping alongside those of Anglo descent go back to the days before union. Many Tongans were supported by the Methodist Home Mission Department and welcomed into small churches such as Hyde Park, in Kew. The congregation quickly swelled as more Tongans sought to find a church home with those of the same ethnic background. Dr Floyd said many migrants engaged with English language congregations as a means to fit in to the Australian way of life. Many first-generation migrants understood the need for their children to improve their English and undertook church activities in the dominant cultural language. One such example is the Melbourne Korean Uniting Church in Malvern, which has a fulltime English-speaking minister on staff but conducts their main service in Korean. Dr Floyd said he believed many Anglo church goers struggled with the concept of attending a service undertaken in a language which was not in their tongue. “People enjoy going to watch it but really struggle to comprehend they can participate without understanding the words,” he said “But worship happens with the heart not the head.” Dr Floyd said a desire to worship in

their own language and culture was an important reason CALD members sometimes chose to establish their own congregations. He argues that both Anglos and nonAnglos within the Church would benefit by taking the time to listen to each other’s stories. “It is one of the simplest ways to grow an understanding and leave behind our uncertainties and fears,” he said. Second generation CALD woman Elvina Kramer, who is of Tongan heritage, said she saw great benefit in being able to grow in her faith through relationships with both her Anglo Manningham Uniting Church community and the Tongan community. “It allows me to take the good out of both the Tongan church and my local church,” Ms Kramer said. “It is obviously important for me to have the support of my local church but just as important to get support from my Tongan community.” Ms Kramer said she felt privileged to have experienced both cultures and believes it has helped her spiritual growth, to the point where she where she initiated and facilitates a local bible study group for Tongan women. But she also acknowledges that some have found crossing from the Tongan to the Anglo-Celtic church community more difficult because of the change in worship style. Rev Jacob Yang, who was ordained in the Korean Presbyterian Church in 1990 and transferred to the Uniting Church six years later, said he believed it was important for Anglo members to encourage and support CALD members in continuing to worship according to their own traditions. Mr Yang said, at times, conflicts arose between ethnic communities and Anglo communities because of differences in how worship was undertaken. He said he would much rather all members viewed themselves as members of the Uniting Church rather than using terms, such as CALD. Mr Yang said the lack of English skills of many CALD members made it difficult for them to fully comprehend the operations of the Uniting Church which limited their ability to engage, particularly in searching for leadership opportunities. “It would be extremely helpful if the Uniting Church could invest some money in translating some of their documents (such as rules and regulations/Basis of Union) more freely into ethnic languages,” he said. “Too often it seems the Uniting Church expects the ethnic community leaders to learn English and then translate such documents.” While Mr Yang said it was important for ethnic groups to nurture and prepare their young people for leadership within the church, he would also like to see Anglos take a role in nurturing young leaders from ethnic backgrounds. “After all, everyone is from the one church,” he said. Mr Koh said as the church moves forward there needs to be a shift from being a multicultural church to becoming truly intercultural. “In a multicultural church, we live alongside each other, in crosscultural church, there is some reaching across boundaries. But in an intercultural church, there is respect, mutuality, reciprocity, equity and engagements with other cultures and ethnicities.” CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


Vision and Mission

Freed up to follow Christ AT face value, “Be lighter and simpler” is one of the more attractive Statements of Intent* adopted by the Synod. Who would not want to embrace the notion of being lighter and simpler? It conjures up images of the simple life, of restful holidays, of no demands, of walks in the sun. It speaks of lives that are burden free and exhibit a lightness of spirit. I recall many years ago the visiting Scotsman John Bell teaching the song We will lay our burden down … at the feet of the risen Lord. Of course, the song is a reference to Matthew (11:28-30) which says: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” My first Bible, a soft brown covered Good News Bible, had those sketch figure pictures of people putting down heavy sacks that had been hung over their burdened shoulders. What an attractive invitation. We all like the invitation to rest. But we also know how hard it is to let go. There is a feeling of security in the accumulation of stuff – physical, emotional, even spiritual stuff. These images invite deeper consideration. Here in Matthew, a heavy burden is something that holds us down, or holds us back. The imagery is the animal burdened with the yoke that places a heavy demand upon them. Additional energy and effort is required to make forward progress. But the image is offered as a teaching by Jesus. The message of being burdened is linked to the possibility of being released from that burden, not simply to be ‘free’, but rather to be ‘freed’. We are used to the

SEPTEMBER 17 - CROSSLIGHT

idea of being ‘freed from’, but this teaching includes the flipside of being ‘freed to’. For Jesus’ invitation is also being freed to take up a lighter and easier yoke – Jesus’ yoke. ‘Rest for the soul’ is to be found in the yoke of following Christ. In the message of the gospel, we are ‘freed to’ in a sense – freed to follow Christ, freed to learn from the Master Teacher, freed to travel the road as pilgrims on the way. We are freed to live the way of humility and grace that God has offered the world in the Good News of Jesus Christ. Be lighter and simpler, as one of the 10 Statements of Intent adopted by the Synod, arose in response to the experience of many across the Church that our processes and structures are burdensome; that they are cumbersome and even obstructive. The summary sentence for this Statement of Intent reads: ‘We will be lighter and simpler in our practices and formal structures so we can be more flexible and proactive in responding to the movement of the Spirit’. We seek ways of organising our life together as God’s church that we might be ‘freed from’ burdensome practices and structures in order to be ‘freed to’ be more able to respond to the movement of God’s Holy Spirit. Not that our practice and structure are meant to be burdensome. Indeed, they were anticipated to supporters of freedom, speaking of ‘the free obedience of the children of God’ (Basis of Union, para #17). As I reflected upon this Statement, and read various UCA writers, two quotes seemed particularly pertinent: one on Paragraph 17 of the Basis of Union from D’Arcy Wood’s 1986 Building on a Solid Basis, and the other from former UCA President Gregor Henderson’s 1997 essay

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30

Looking toward 2020. From Wood: “… law [in the Church] is a framework which supports freedom. The alternative to law in the church is either chaos or arbitrary power… “… Not only can mistakes be made [in our law], which need correcting, but the needs of the church and of her mission also change, and this necessitates an updating. “One of the tasks of the future church will surely be to simplify and interpret these documents so that [church] law does not impede but rather smooths the path of a faithful pilgrimage’. And from Henderson: “One of the hopes that remains in my mind [from the early days of the Uniting Church] was that propounded by a number of our leaders that the Uniting Church would not just be another denomination: that our commitment to being an ‘Australian’ church and an ‘ecumenical’ church would mean that we would not be rigidified by rules and regulations nor hidebound by ritual and tradition. The hope of the leaders of the early Uniting Church was that we would be a flexible church, open to change. In short, the new Church would be more of a movement

than an institution.” As we seek to embrace the Statements of Intent in our synod, may we be led by the Spirit to be lighter and simpler; that we may follow the path of faithful pilgrimage and be a part of the movement of the Spirit in our day. A prayer: Disturb us Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore. (Frances Drake) Bless, O Lord, this Uniting Church, that you may shape us in ways that smooth the path of faithful pilgrimage. In Jesus Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

David Withers Strategic Framework Minister *(see the recently released booklet ‘Supporting Information on the Statement of Intent’ (downloadable from: ucavictas.org.au/visionandmission/ resources/).

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Pilgrim Reflection What is the Uniting Church for?

THIS might seem a strange question to ask. After all, our very name tells us: we’re uniting. Yes, this tells us something about the ecumenical context of our origins. We are one product of the 20th century pursuit of visible church unity. For a while, our existence was something of a beacon to other churches – a sign of what could actually happen when long-standing differences and mistrust were put aside.

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Indeed, we had a mandate to go on uniting. But what now? The quest for visible church unity is no longer characterised by the energy it exhibited in the middle third of the 20th century. Churches have found ways of respecting and supporting each other, and somehow co-existing, despite continuing differences. Church division doesn’t seem to be quite the scandal it once was. Moreover, the rise and proliferation of Pentecostal and independent churches in Asia, Africa and South America has completely re-shaped the ecumenical landscape. The diversity of Christianity is now even more complex than anything thrown up by the conventional denominational differences associated with the historic European churches. We and other ‘mainline churches’ are often little more than bit-players in those recent global movements. Of course, over the last 40 years we’ve quite rightly taken up additional and new vocations. We shouldn’t expect it to be otherwise if we believe that we are being led by the Spirit. We demonstrate that in the way we quite frequently describe ourselves as a multicultural, inclusive, covenant-making, social justiceprioritising and diverse church. None of the commitments behind these adjectives are in question. But look more carefully at what we do when we put any of those adjectives, including uniting, in front of the word church. We risk defining ourselves over and against other churches. Given the reality of multiple churches, this is largely inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pause and look more deeply at what is going on. Are we in fact simply perpetuating denominationalism, albeit in a new form, by continuing to define ourselves over and against other Churches? What happens when we take those adjectives away and are left with ‘church’? Why is there a church in the first place and why should there continue to be a church? My hunch is that, quite apart the answers

offered, the force of those questions will vary according to our generation and whether or not we are shaped by a Christendom or post-Christendom imagination. Let me explain this. The generation which courageously voted for union was largely able to take the existence of the church for granted. It was part of the fabric of society. Being a Christian and going to church had cultural legitimacy. The existence per se of the church did not require social justification. Accordingly, there was cultural, spiritual and intellectual space to think about such matters as uniting divided churches, the social role of the churches, and even the finer doctrinal points of interdenominational disputes. None of this was trivial, and without it union would never have happened. It was, however, the world of Christendom. On the other hand, matters are quite different for anyone born after union, let alone in the last 20 years. They know first-hand, in a way that those of us of the older generation don’t, what it means to be in a culturally minority position and daily engaged with a level of cultural pluralism unimaginable 40 years ago. They have never known the church to be a major social player. They have no memory of, and therefore no nostalgia for, huge Sunday schools and church sports clubs or the church possessing social prestige. Uniting Church congregations have simply not been big enough for their lives to be built around their church commitments the way the lives of many of us older Christians were. For them, Christianity is something you have to step into with few cultural supports for doing so. Many of them will be the only point of contact with Christianity for perhaps most of their friends. (Recently, a sales assistant – probably in her mid-20s – asked me what I did. On hearing that I was a minister she responded by telling me that no one in her family has ever had any contact with religion. I suspect she and her family are far from alone.) This is the post-

Christendom world. I believe that this post-Christendom world has largely caught the Uniting Church by surprise. The courage, hopes and aspirations which accompanied union and which have sustained us for 40 years were the hopes and aspirations which were needed in Christendom. We were right to show that courage, have those hopes and nurture those aspirations. Yet, the remarkable thing is that the theology which brought union about was strangely anticipating post-Christendom. (This was not accidental. The authors of the Basis of Union had noted the declining influence of Christendom in their first Report in 1959.) There is a sense in which we now have a chance to catch up to the theology of the Basis. When the Basis describes the church as “an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself ” it defines the church wholly in terms of its relationship to Christ. This might seem a straightforward matter, but it is exactly what risks being obscured when we don’t pause to ask what ‘church’ means and we emphasise instead any of the various adjectives we choose to place before it. As we move more deeply into the postChristendom context, the questions of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the church will press upon us more persistently. Starting to answer those questions with something like ‘an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself ’ could prove very fruitful. It also pushes us back to ask, ‘Who is this Christ for whom we are an instrument?’ And on such questions, I believe we need to listen to the post-union/postChristendom generation of the UCA as they help us reflect on what the UCA is for. Geoff Thompson, Co-ordinator of Studies: Systematic Theology, Pilgrim Theological College. Geoff blogs at www.xenizonta.blogspot.com.au

CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


People UA Sunday

Golden opportunity WHEN Julie Blake was flipping through Crosslight earlier this year, she noticed that the Kalgoorlie Uniting Church – in Western Australia’s remote Goldfields region – was offering accommodation in the manse in return for people willing to take services. Julie and her husband Ricky were already planning a trip from their home in Tasmania’s northwest to Coolgardie, about 40km away from Kalgoorlie. In July the couple stayed four days in Kalgoorlie-Boulder – a city of more than 30,000 people located about 600 km northeast of Perth – in exchange for conducting a Sunday service. Julie, who often conducts services at Penguin Uniting Church, engaged with congregation members over the telephone and internet to plan the service and arrange the music. She described the whole experience as “wonderful”. “There was a thought that we were walking into the unknown, but really the congregation was very much the same as those on the North-West of Tasmania,” she said. “They were so friendly and welcoming. It was just like finding another bit of our Uniting Church family.” Kalgoorlie church member Nadra Calver said the idea arose because the church had

struggled to attract a permanent minister. “We advertised in a few different states (Victoria-Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland),” Ms Calver said. She said there has been a steady stream of enquiries, ranging from grey nomads travelling the country to those just seeking a short break from Perth. “The congregation really enjoys it as they have a lot of different people with different outlooks on faith,” Ms Calver said. “For instance, Julie’s was a very familyoriented service which was different.” The four-bedroomed manse comes fully furnished. Anyone interested in taking up the offer can contact Nadra (08) 9091 3612 or 0477 060 872.

Presidential seal of approval

said PARO had a wider application than aged care. “It is also very good for children or adults who have developmental problems,” he said. Prof Shibata said he had made a robotic harp seal, rather than a common pet such as a dog or a cat, because people would be more likely to accept and less critically scrutinise a mechanised animal they were less familiar with. While PARO is relatively new to Australia there are 5000 models in use throughout Japan, Europe and the US, where the federal government has certified it as a medical device. PARO has also made a cameo appearance in The Simpsons and one even caught the eye and imagination of former US President Barack Obama when he was visiting Japan in 2010, as a YouTube clip of a US TV news report shows. Should you want to take home a PARO of your own it will set you back $7580, but they do come in a choice of four colours.

VISITORS to Uniting AgeWell’s Noble Park Community might be surprised to see residents holding and stroking a very cute and quite noisy baby seal. But what is perhaps even more surprising is that the cuddly critter is actually an advanced robot that has even charmed a former US president. PARO, which stands for personal robot, is a therapeutic aid that is primarily used to help calm agitation and relieve other symptoms of dementia. When held, petted or stroked PARO’s sophisticated sensors and artificial intelligence prompt it to respond with complementary gentle movements and cooing noises. It will also learn to recognise an owner’s voice and will adopt a new name when one is repeated to it. At the beginning of August one PARO was introduced as a trial at the Noble Park Community. “It’s been a great success,” Uniting AgeWell special projects manager Carol Fountain said. “We’ve already found that particularly for people who are agitated. It’s backed up by quite a lot research, so it’s not just a novelty.” PARO was invented by Professor Takanori Shibata, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (also known as AIST). Prof Shibata, who visited Melbourne last month, SEPTEMBER 17 - CROSSLIGHT

UNITING AgeWell’s historical links with the Uniting Church date back 70 years, when some of the Presbyterian and Methodist congregations had the vision and foresight to build facilities to invest in the care of older people. Many Uniting Church congregations still strongly support Uniting AgeWell communities through pastoral visits to residents, and volunteering in a number of capacities. On Sunday, 8 October, Uniting Church congregations will take part in ‘UA Sunday’, which draws together all the festivities of Uniting AgeWell’s annual Celebration of Ageing Well. Rev John Broughton is the director of mission for Uniting AgeWell. He believes offering chaplains at each Uniting AgeWell site honours the vision of past congregations while ensuring aged care services remain a missional outreach of the Church. “This special service recognises the

importance for older people to age well in environments where the work is infused with the Christian faith tradition,” Mr Broughton said. As the people of Jesus Christ, it is appropriate for Uniting Church congregations to take some time to reflect theologically, and prepare as a church community, for the life-long transition called ageing.” Mr Broughton said the service is also an opportunity to give thanks to God for the wonderful diversity of backgrounds and life experiences of Uniting AgeWell customers and their families. To assist worship leaders in their preparation for ‘UA Sunday’, the Uniting AgeWell Mission Committee has made available a suite of resources available at: unitingagewell.org/about-us/publications, or by contacting John Broughton at: JBroughton@unitingagewell.org

Julie Blake

Professor Takanori Shibata, PARO and Carol Fountain

Rev John Broughton with Carnsworth resident, 106-year-old Thelma Barnes

On tap and on song SOME people might think an event called Beer and Hymns sells itself, but Sally Douglas wasn’t so sure. “I didn’t know if any more than five people would show up,” the Richmond Uniting Church minister said. As it turned out the 40th anniversary of union event, put on by the Richmond and Northcote Chalice Uniting Churches, attracted far more than a handful to the Wesley Anne bar and restaurant in Melbourne’s inner north. “People came from all kinds of places,” Rev Dr Douglas said. “There were young and old, pretty much a full house, beautiful singing and fab musicians. It was pretty special.” Some of those attending were not church people but had seen the event advertised in posters on the high street. “The way we did it was really low key,” Dr Douglas said, with the focus on the singing rather sermonising. Participants were invited to bring along to bring along copies of Together in Song or the Australian Hymn Book to choose favourites from. The hymn or other worship song numbers were called out and written on a whiteboard, to be added to those that had been emailed in earlier. “There were some golden oldies and but also others sung,” Dr Douglas said. There was one particularly memorable chorus rendition inspired by last month’s

scenes of clergy linking arms to symbolically resist the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The clergy who linked arms in Charlottesville sang This Little Light of Mine and the same song rang out as a sign of solidarity from those gathered in the Wesley Anne. “There was applause and tears,” Dr Douglas said. Dr Douglas said there is already talk of organising a second event - Beer and Carols.

Singers at Wesley Anne Bar

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Review

Keeping the faith

Workplace wisdom

Modern message

Forever friends

REVIEW BY TIM LAM

REVIEW BY TIM LAM

REVIEW BY NICK MATTISKE

REVIEW BY PENNY MULVEY

BOOK | FAITH: EMBRACING LIFE IN ALL ITS UNCERTAINTY | TIM COSTELLO

BOOK | WORKSHIP: HOW TO USE YOUR WORK TO WORSHIP GOD | KARA MARTIN

BOOK | MARINER | MALCOLM GUITE

PLAY | DI AND VIV AND ROSE

AS the former CEO of World Vision Australia, Tim Costello has witnessed poverty and injustice in some of the most conflict-prone nations in the world. His latest book, Faith: Embracing life in all its uncertainty, covers a broad range of global topics, from refugees to climate change to religious extremism. In this collection of short essays on spirituality and politics, the renowned Baptist minister and social justice advocate explores the role of faith in the world today. Costello welcomes an inclusive Christianity that is personal without being individualistic. He presents a largely progressive stance on social justice issues, although he stays silent on more contentious topics such as euthanasia and same-sex marriage. While Costello openly expresses the beauty of God, he is equally vocal in condemning the atrocities committed in the name of religion. He confesses he is often “fed up with faith” and the “narrow, bigoted, judgemental” discourses propagated by those who claim to represent all Christians. He expresses frustration with world leaders who exploit religion for political purposes, particularly those who use religious nationalism to exclude minority groups. Faith is not just concerned with issues on a global scale. Drawing on the experiences and conversations that shaped his spirituality, Costello illustrates the power of faith in overcoming daily adversity. Like many people of faith, Costello wrestles with doubt and uncertainty on his faith journey. In this memoir, he details his struggles coming to terms with the suicide of a close friend and his inability to comprehend why a benevolent God allows natural disasters to take the lives of innocent people. While the book appeals to a predominantly Christian audience, Faith is also sensitive to those of other faith or no faith. Costello invites atheists to see faith through a different lens and explains why he believes spirituality and secularism can complement each other in the modern world. Faith is a call for the global community to rediscover its shared humanity and bridge the religious and cultural divides that often lead to war and poverty.

THE average Australian spends more than 40 hours a week at work. With our occupations consuming so much of our daily lives, it can be easy to regulate faith to a part-time activity. In Workship, author Kara Martin explores how Christians can worship God through their daily work in creative and spiritually-fulfilling ways. Drawing on her own experiences as a former television reporter, Martin seeks to bridge the divide between the traditionally secular world of the workforce and the spiritual world of worship. Workship is filled with short vignettes that illustrate the diversity of ethical, spiritual and personal dilemmas faced by Christians in their daily work life. The stories cover a wide range of professions and detail the conflicts that arise when a person’s faith clashes with their workplace culture. Anecdotes are intertwined with theological reflections to provide a spiritual antidote for those struggling in a toxic work environment. In addition to its strong biblical underpinnings, Workship offers practical advice on how to rediscover the spiritual value of daily work. Each chapter ends with a prayer and reflection questions that invite the reader to ponder how they are fulfilling their God-given gifts. A highlight of the book is a section on the six spiritual disciplines developed by Martin to help Christians integrate faith with their work. These overlapping disciplines offer different approaches to practicing the gospel in the workplace. A questionnaire in the appendix section offers a valuable resource for groups and individuals to identify their preferred spiritual discipline. Martin’s journalism background means she conveys her stories in a crisp and accessible writing style that steers clear of theological jargon. It is a book suitable for both seasoned professionals and young people entering the workforce for the first time. While it may be a light read, Workship offers plenty of thought-provoking ideas that will stimulate self-reflection beyond the pages of the book.

SAMUEL Taylor Coleridge’s famous epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the tale of a traveller and his epic journey, reckless acts, a descent into an earthly hell, rescue, a kind of baptism, the path home, the growth of wisdom and the desire to share that wisdom. The hero is a sailor, but it may as well be Coleridge himself. The poem is almost a premonition of the ensuing drama of Coleridge’s own life, with his marriage and financial troubles, and his opium addiction. It is a deeply spiritual poem, echoing Coleridge’s own journey, as he sets off full of hubris and is humbly reduced to prayer before being rescued from near-death by the grace of God. Some scholars downplay the religious aspect of Coleridge’s life, but Malcolm Guite makes a case for the importance of faith to Coleridge, and his significance as a spiritual writer. Coleridge celebrated nature as God’s good creation and enjoyment of it as putting us in touch with a deeper reality. This is a Romantic response to the Enlightenment’s emphasis on reason which, according to Coleridge, like dissection, kills the thing it explains. But it is also a deeply Christian view of the world. Coleridge’s holistic vision is encapsulated symbolically in the beginning and end of the poem, when the mariner notes the kirk, the hill and the lighthouse of home, which Guite suggests stand for faith, nature and the life of the mind. Furthermore, the poem, according to Guite, has much to say about our own times, just as Coleridge thought the ancient literature he so enjoyed had much to say about his. Guite sees in the lines ‘water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink’ a metaphor for our consumerist society, where we have material abundance but a soul-destroying dislocation from nature and a subsequent crisis of meaning.

“I WANTED to write a play about friendship and I wondered if I could catch what it’s like to know and love people for a long time, in an hour-and-a-half.” English actor and playwright, Amelia Bullmore, is talking about Di and Viv and Rose, the latest offering by the Melbourne Theatre Company. This story will resonate with many. We all have friendships that have stood the test of time. This person/s knows our family; our skeletons; our idiosyncrasies. And because of that (or in spite of that), they still love us and stay in touch. Di and Viv and Rose met at university in the late ’80s/early 90s. Di (Nadine Garner) is the magnet who brings the other two disparate women into the friendship. They share a house, their dreams and their heart ache. Rose (Mandy McElhinney) is a no-holdsbarred type of person. In your face, honest, desperate for love and sex, she is both loveable and exhausting. Viv is private, likes order and has a plan for her life. She is focussed, hardworking and aloof. Di is a warm-hearted lesbian (out and proud at uni but still in the closet at home), athletic and still finding herself. Bullmore’s intention was for three actors to play the three characters from age 17 through to their 40s. The audience broke into a spontaneous round of applause when the three, as 18-year-olds, danced unabashedly around their lounge room to the tinny sounds of their small radio cassette player. For these young women, life held so much promise, but the dreams of the young change as the responsibilities and experiences of adulthood take over. The audience is drawn into the lives of these women. Their stories are both universal and particular. We find ourselves reflecting on friendships that are no more, on those that have survived the bumps of life and at the end of it, we are grateful. It is those friendships that enrich our lives, stretch our understanding and enable us to be better people.

Available at: www.hachette.com.au RRP: $55.00.

Showing at The Sumner Theatre until 16 September.

Workship was shortlisted for the 2017 Australian Christian Book of the Year.

Faith was shortlisted for the 2017 SparkLit Australian Christian Book of the Year Award. 20

CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


Review Gospel truth REVIEW BY SEAN WINTER BOOK | BIBLICAL LITERALISM: A GENTILE HERESY | JOHN SHELBY SPONG

IN this typically lively and provocative book, John Selby (Jack) Spong has come out of writing retirement to consider the origins of biblical literalism and fundamentalism. Spong claims to have found the key that unlocks both the (nonliteral) meaning of the New Testament, and the problematic history of its literalist interpretation: that Biblical literalism is a

Gentile heresy, imposed on Jewish texts that were, from the outset, intended to be read symbolically. Spong’s agenda is clear: we should return to those forms of symbolic interpretation and seek to undo the damage done by literalism. In particular, we need to recognise that the Gospels in our New Testament “are not biographies…do not contain tape recordings…are not historical chronicles” and therefore no-one who understands them “could possibly believe these narratives to be literally and entirely true.” Following a lengthy introduction, Spong’s argument proceeds in two stages. Part I provides an overview of critical information about the Gospels; information covered in any university course introducing the New Testament. It also introduces the reader to the theory on which Spong will build pretty much the entire edifice of his argument. He suggests the stories in the Gospels were probably preached as part of a ‘synagogue liturgy’ before they were written down. As such, they were originally symbolic interpretations of scriptural texts from the Jewish law and the prophets. Spong’s key assertion is that biblical literalism begins when these Jewish symbolic stories are taken out of the synagogue and detached from a Jewish worldview. Gentiles started to read the stories literally, as descriptions of ‘what Jesus did and said’ and left us a legacy for interpretation that has had calamitous

consequences. The remainder of the book unpacks this thesis by looking at the ways in which the gospel traditions, especially in Matthew, from Jesus’ birth to Jesus’ resurrection, should be seen as subjective and symbolic interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, with little or no direct relationship to historical events. The book is written with Spong’s customary passion, and provides a clear sense of some of the complexities involved in gospel interpretation. Much of what he argues should be affirmed. The Gospels are not ‘history’ in any simplistic way (but then again ‘history’ isn’t simple). They do contain symbolic narratives that draw on the language and imagery of the Hebrew Bible to communicate convictions about what Jesus did and said. Spong is strong on identifying and describing such features. The Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses. And yes, biblical literalism is a bad thing. But the book suffers because of Spong’s insistence that these features of the gospel mean that they were never intended to tell us what happened and that, consequently, we would be foolish to draw any kind of historical conclusions about Jesus from their pages. The argument reverts to the ‘either/ or’ debates of a past generation that are problematic not only theologically, but also in the light of our understanding of the nature of history. I venture to say that

if Spong had done a little more reading in recent scholarship on the Gospels and ‘biography’ or ‘history’, his conclusions might have been more judicious (though less obviously controversial). And the key foundation stone of the argument (derived from Michael Goulder’s work on the Gospels and early Jewish and Christian lectionaries) simply cannot support the weight that Spong places on it. We actually don’t know that such Jewish lectionaries existed in the first century CE. The parallels adduced between each Jewish feast and related sections of the Gospels are sometimes strained. The majority of New Testament scholars find the lectionary hypothesis unconvincing, and for good reason. And the notion that Gentiles introduced ‘literalism’ is simply false on the basis of our earliest evidence. Paul was very fond of non-literal reading of texts in his Bible (just look at what he says about Hagar and Sarah in Galatians 4:21–30 for an example), and any reading of Gentile Christian writings of the second century will throw up countless examples of non-literal interpretation. No, biblical fundamentalism is the product of a much more modern set of conditions, as, in its own way, is Spong’s attempted escape from it.

ape conflict through circumstance rather than choice. But the Colonel does not share Caesar’s affinity for pacifism and believes in protecting his race through genocide. Director Matt Reeves re-watched biblical epics such as The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur prior to filming War. In War, Caesar is a Moses-like figure tasked with the responsibility of leading his apes to the ‘promised land’. The scenes of apes forced to labour for their human captors echo the enslavement of the Israelites in the Book of Exodus. There is even a metaphorical ‘parting of the Red Sea’ moment, in the form of an avalanche. Backed by a sombre score from composer Michael Giacchino, War is an intentionally

grim film set against the backdrop of an apocalyptic landscape. This is a lonely and desolate world, the twilight of human civilisation. War is often brutal and unrelenting, but there are also moments of tenderness and unexpected redemption. The Apes trilogy has been lauded for its photorealistic motion-capture technology and War shows how far visual effects have come since the prosthetic-wearing days of the original Planet of the Apes film. Yet for all the praise War will receive for its ground-breaking CGI, it is the characters who will stay with audiences long after the credits roll. War is a rousing, epic and poignant conclusion and a fitting finale to one of the best science fiction trilogies in the past decade.

Available at: www.harpercollins.com.au/ RRP $27.99 Sean Winter is Academic Dean and Coordinator of Studies in New Testament at Pilgrim Theological College.

Gorilla Warfare REVIEW BY TIM LAM FILM | WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES | M

PERHAPS a movie about talking apes is the last place audience would expect to find Christian imagery. But War for the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best films this year; it is also one of the most moving biblical epics in recent times. War is the final instalment of the rebooted Apes trilogy, which began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Set two years after the events of Dawn, a simian flu has wiped out most of humanity and ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) finds himself hunted by the mysterious Colonel. When tragedy strikes, Caesar must wrestle with his darker instinct for vengeance as he sets off on a personal quest to take down the Colonel. SEPTEMBER 17 - CROSSLIGHT

Accompanying Caesar is his loyal orangutan friend Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), a new addition who provides comic relief to an otherwise bleak film. Along the way they are joined by Nova (Amiah Miller), a human girl from the original Planet of the Apes (1968) film. Woody Harrelson plays the crucifixwearing Colonel, leader of the rogue military force Alpha and Omega, a title used for God in the Book of Revelation. The Colonel sees himself as humanity’s last defence and embarks on a ‘holy war’ to preserve the last remnants of human civilisation. Throughout the trilogy, Caesar has adopted a position of peaceful co-existence. He is a reluctant leader, drawn into the human-

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Opinion

Christians don’t speak with one voice Not all Christians are opposed to marriage equality

FOLLOWING the Senate’s decision last month, we as a nation are now moved to focus on a postal plebiscite on marriage equality. Within 12 hours of the decision, I received an email from the Coalition for Marriage which is a part of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL). I have never subscribed to this group, so was surprised to receive this email. What I wasn’t surprised about was the content that spoke unequivocally against marriage equality for reasons which we have all heard in the media. This view is the loudest view coming from Christians and yet it is not representative of the whole Christian community. The Christian community is so much more diverse. The Uniting Church, of which I am an ordained minister, is a good example of a

Niceness does not override Lordship for Christians

On a first reading of Rev Isabel Greenhill’s Friday Forum post, I mentally congratulated her for adopting a conciliatory tone towards people who do not share her position. But on a more careful reading, I became aware that I was subtly classed with the uncompassionate, bottom-of-the-class theologians who simply don’t get it yet. Whenever one holds a position with deep sincerity and some erudition and logic, one longs for other people to come on board – and one cannot help but think that the other side is in some way defective in their understanding, compassion, or logic. Allow me to push back a little on this weknow-best attitude that apparently comes with a full stop that brooks no further questions. Pastoral issues arising out of the plebiscite

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church that holds a diversity of views on marriage equality. We have been on this road alongside and with the wider community for many years because we are a church that seeks to engage with contemporary issues of social justice and the environment. We do this by holding together the faith traditions from which we come, modern scholarship in fields relevant to the issues, and the current experiences of people no matter what their background or their social standing. To be clear, at this stage there has not been a decision made about how the Uniting Church will respond when marriage equality happens. The reason for this is because the Church is not there yet. As already stated, there is a diversity of views and for the Uniting Church it is important that everyone is given opportunity to voice them respectfully and to listen equally respectfully. It is a process of learning and growing together, of loving each other, with the hope that together a way forward becomes clear. We are a discerning Church, listening for the promptings of the Spirit, so it often takes time for decisions to be made. This can be frustrating but at the same time can be deeply moving as we seek to uphold values of respect, love, justice and hope. It doesn’t matter which end of the debate we as individuals sit on, we are all capable of crushing another with our words and

actions and must be so careful. Preparing for a postal plebiscite is a good time to remember these words of caution. In my work as a Uniting Church minister I journey with such a diversity of people as they navigate life. In all of the church communities I have been involved with I have had many, many conversations with people around the subjects of homosexuality and marriage. And the biggest reason for this is that life experiences prompt this reflection. Ruby’s grandson is in a relationship with Brian; Max’s sister has told him that she is a lesbian; Lucy in youth group has said that she is not sure of her sexuality; Dakota’s colleague at work, Phil, has started dressing as a woman; Greg has left Louise because he is gay. These conversations happen more often now than say 20 years ago but there is still a way to go. What I have learnt from these conversations is that people of faith generally and genuinely want to find ways to respond with love and empathy. There are always exceptions, but generally speaking there is a yearning to show care and compassion. For some, this prompts significant personal reflection and a readiness to hear different ways of thinking . This is partly why it is so important for people of faith to openly share and discuss the alternate ways of thinking from what

has been traditionally taught by the church. It shows that there are other ways. You don’t know what you don’t know. The other reason why it is really important for people of faith who support marriage equality to find their voice is a spiritual one. I would say that 95 percent of couples who come to me to be married come because they want “to be married in the church before God”. The blessing of God on their marriage, through the church, is important. (The other 5 percent come because the church is generally cheaper than a civil celebrant!) People of faith speaking up for marriage equality is an expression of belief that God embraces, celebrates and blesses loving relationships full stop. People who feel isolated from God because of their sexuality or intimate caring loving relationships need to know that they too are loved and accepted by God. Whatever process we as a nation adopts to further discuss and decide on marriage equality, may we engage in discussions with respect, compassion and integrity. And may the diversity of Christian voices be heard, reflecting the way of Jesus in getting alongside people who are suffering and silenced.

need to be considered also, but that would require another article on its own. I shall put the case against same-sex marriage, quite deliberately, from a Christian viewpoint consistent with the Basis of Union. Historical Christianity does not permit ‘self-definition’ and ‘my experience’ to be the ultimate values. Instead, Scripture nourishes and regulates both our faith and obedience. As Christians we are called to be in the world but not of it. The Christians at Rome were exhorted to have their minds renewed – Pagan worldviews are different from the biblical worldview (Romans 12). It is instructive to google “Frankfurt School” and “Intersectionality”, and wonder at the suppression of religion in the public education system – suppression in the name of niceness to certain minority groups. There are philosophical and theological presuppositions on which same-sex marriage is affirmed. Brexit and Trump indicate that there is some unease with the culture of selective niceness and selective compassion. Christianity is not a culture of niceness. It is a culture of severe mercy and tough love. Leviticus 19:17-18 declares that you hate your brother, if you do not correct him, when he operates outside of the law. Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 4:20 “You have not so learned Christ!” And Hebrews 10:24 speaks about “Provoking one another to love and good works”. From these instructions, one would get the impression that niceness and tolerance (a pseudo love)

are not ultimate values for Christians. We need the renewal of our minds, if we are to truly acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. Lordship is a “no-no” in the culture of niceness. Yet the grand narrative of the Bible does not allow ‘my experience’ to ontologically overrule God’s expectations of me. If we are indeed created in God’s image, individually and in relationship (Trinity!), then the Maker’s instructions need to carry some weight. The grand narrative of Scripture, as narrative, will nourish our faith and give background to our obedience, and the particularities of God’s demands will regulate our obedience. That is the plain reading of Paragraph 5 of the Basis of Union. There are ministers, elders and members in the UCA who would rather not be tied down to the Basis of Union. They have stated that they have a different understanding of the Reformation witnesses (cf. Paragraph 10 of the Basis of Union). That is why the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church was initiated immediately after the 2006 Assembly. Within the context of Paragraphs 5 to 11 of the Basis of Union, the Uniting Church would find it a severe challenge to celebrate same-sex marriage for its members and adherents. It would be a departure from the Basis of Union (and the substance of the faith!). In particular, the Uniting Church Assembly has not yet followed Paragraph 11. It has not held extensive discussions with the worldwide fellowship of the church to

discern the will of God. Now for the social aspect. Currently there are powers at work to remove “the Church” from the corridors of power. I am not overly concerned about that, in the final analysis. On past performance, I am unlikely to give up my faith because people adhering to a “culture of selective niceness” are “not nice” to me. I am resilient, by the grace of God. Whether the state should allow samesex marriage is a sociological question in a democracy. There are sociological consequences which will be seen differently by people with different presuppositions (e.g., the Frankfurt School). As a Christian I will vote against same-sex marriage in the plebiscite, as I still have a right to cast my vote in accordance with my beliefs. If the state allows same-sex marriage, I will hand in my state authorisation as a religious marriage celebrant. This authorisation is an anachronism in an increasingly secularised state. As I hold my position with deep sincerity and some erudition and logic, I long for other people to come on board – and I cannot help but think that Isabel sidesteps the Basis of Union, just as she thinks I hold an uncompassionate view. Our presuppositions are currently mutually exclusive, but recognising that may be a starting point for discussion.

Rev Isabel Greenall Western Heights Uniting Church Herne Hill, Geelong

Rev Walter Abetz (retired) Longford Uniting Church Presbytery of Tasmania CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


Letters and Online converstaion ONLINE CONVERSATIONS HEDLEY WA FIHAKI: It is vital for honesty and integrity of debate that we begin by stating clearly the Uniting Church position; that marriage is between a man and a woman! Ministers are called to adhere to the Basis of Union. And that it is not unloving or unjust to state our position on this matter as it is firmly grounded in scripture and the tradition of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. Migrant ethnic National Conferences within the UCA have clearly stated this matter. TREVOR R FAGGOTTER: Hedley is quite correct, Isabel, in his comment. The Uniting Church currently has a position on marriage. It is quite clear. It is between a man and a woman. Those teaching differently are not authorised to do so. As Dr Ian Tanner, the first Moderator of the SA Synod, and former President of the UCA, clearly taught, to “adhere” to the Basis of Union, means to “stick to it”. CAMERON CUTTS: The question though is, should what the Uniting Church believes marriage is, i.e: “Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life” be applicable to all Australians? Surely this is where the separation of church and state comes in. We are talking about civil marriage not sacramental marriage. GREG ROLLES: Its funny how people opposed to same sex marriage jump straight into “think of the children”. As a Christian I support gay marriage because I do think of the children. I think of teens who can’t admit they’re gay because its unsafe to do so. I think if teens who self harm or worse because the message constantly coming from our society is “you are wrong”. There is no way a just and loving God would allow me to stay quiet whilst the Church and State attack the health of His most beautiful creation, human beings. People die because of stances like the Uniting Church. And people spirituality die with hate for themselves. What must that mean for the spiritual health of those who are persecuting these vulnerable people? If the Uniting Church is officially anti-gay marriage, then shame on it and woe to them. If your answer is we don’t hate people, just their sin, then shame on you, you’re saying that people’s sexuality, a gift from God that is intrinsic to who we are and how we connect with other people is wrong. To me, that’s blasphemy.

RICHARD PETERSON: In public, the Uniting, Baptist, Unitarians, Presbyterians and Friends appear to have been silent on this issue of equality for all. JANICE LARSEN ESHUIS: The Bible is VERY clear on Marriage, and VERY clear on the sinfulness of homosexual and other deviant relationships - what God has said is relevant for all time and cannot be changed. God loves us but doesn’t love our sin - He offers us forgiveness and redemption, but He has never and will never condone the LGBTI way of life and beliefs, whether you like it or not. JEAN WOODS : Do you believe EVERYTHING in our bible? I hope not. Did you sacrifice your first child? BRAD LAWLER: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.” 1 Timothy 2:11-15 ROBERT LIGHT: What parts of the Bible support homosexuality? None. The texts which refer to judgement are not relevant, because people are not the subject of debate. We are discussing whether marriage is to be redefined in law. GARY LOBLEY: Thank you Isabel, your thoughts show not all Christians have their head in the sand. If there is a God, I am sure he or she is loving of all people. If marriage between a man and a woman is relevant, why are there so many divorces, violence and abuse? CHRIS OWEN: Isabel, polls indicate that Christians who support SSM are the majority with almost the same level of support as in the general population. Those against simply shout louder... ROD PEPPIATT: I respect the great sincerity with which Walter holds his views, but my vote in this do-nothing, nonbinding, political plebiscite has nothing to do with niceness. As a disciple of Jesus, I follow as faithfully as I can his way of compassion and justice that I see in the gospels. This is enough to convince me that I must vote yes.

Statement of Marriage approved by the UCA Eighth Assembly in 1997. Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life. It is intended to be the mutually faithful lifelong union of a woman and a man in every part of their life together.

SEPTEMBER 17 - CROSSLIGHT

PETER BYRNE: The mustard seed of Christ’s parable of the kingdom of heaven is very tiny. But we don’t have to be tiny and exclusive, to constrict ourselves, to be included. The seed, when planted in, and drawing nutrients and water from God’s earth, will grow into a big, ugly sprawling tree. But that is not where it ends, for it will in turn create and drop more tiny seeds. The kingdom spreads and grows. It doesn’t stand still. There is no more Jew and Greek, no more male and female, no more slave and master, no more exclusion by our exclusive definitions and categories, be they relating to slavery, to male domination of female, to racial bias and difference, to created sexuality, nor to marriage. COLIN GURTEEN: It should be noted that the author is a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia and a passionate defender of the Basis of Union. (Things I share in common with Walter.) Paragraph 11 of the Basis is referred to under the rubric of “Scholarly interpreters” and reads as follows: ‘The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left the Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word. In particular the Uniting Church enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry which has characterised recent centuries, and gives thanks for the knowledge of God’s ways with humanity which are open to an informed faith. The Uniting Church lives within a world-wide fellowship of Churches in which it will learn to sharpen its understanding of the will and purpose of God by contact with contemporary thought. Within that fellowship the Uniting Church also stands in relation to contemporary societies in ways which will help it to understand its own nature and mission. The Uniting Church thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr. It prays that it may be ready when occasion demands to confess the Lord in fresh words and deeds.’ It is the nature of this scholarship which leads the UCA to reject the inerrancy of the bible, to reject slavery, to embrace the ministry of women as equal to that of men. All of these have been claimed as “biblical” but we have moved on. The lordship of Christ is now confessed in ‘fresh words and deeds’. There are numerous scholars - Christians who genuinely embrace ‘literary, historical and scientific enquiry’ - who comfortably reject arguments that there is such a thing as “biblical marriage”, provide lucid explanations of the Leviticus prohibitions, and generally help me and many others to grasp the consistency of the gospel with the acceptance of our LGBTQI brothers and sisters. However, Walter and many others fail to be persuaded by this scholarship, not because it’s bad scholarship but because they have already decided their position long before the scholars speak. In short, they are incapable of confessing ‘the Lord in fresh words and deeds’.

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.

LETTERS

Marriage equality My experience made me a strong advocate of marriage for gays as well as straights. In the late 1980s I represented the Uniting Church on the Churches AIDS Pastoral Care and Education program and volunteered with the Victorian AIDS Council. I was privileged to accompany several young men through to their deaths. Many had no family or partner support. They were isolated, lonely and afraid of public censure. In striking contrast, Ian*’s and Dave*’s home reflected the strength, beauty and depth of their long-term relationship. Ian was determined that his beloved partner’s death would be at home, surrounded by love and care. Ian rostered friends and volunteers to accompany Dave when he, Ian, had to be at work or asleep. I was awed by their mutual tenderness, gentleness and strength in the face of deep sorrow and imminent bereavement. The Bible beside Ian’s bed looked worn from constant use. In the middle of Dave’s last night, Barry the care team member, woke Ian so that Ian could hold Dave through to his last breath. Ian then carried his grief to St Ignatius Church for two hours of meditation and prayer. Barry went off to his day job as a school principal. I stayed with Dave’s body and started on the phone list. The funeral service, in a Uniting Church, was organised by Dave’s family. They had rejected Dave when he came out as gay and still refused, after more than a decade, to recognise Ian. In the service, Ian was relegated to the back of the church with us, the carers. He was mentioned once, but only as an organiser of care for Dave. Their mutual love was blocked out. Such ferocious disrespect would have been impossible if Ian and Dave had been able, legally, to marry. The Churches have every reason to value and advocate for committed, long-term, monogamous relationships without distinction of gender. Ruth Hoadley Hawthorn

The appointment of Dr Jennifer Byrnes quoted: “The Synod Standing Committee discerned that Dr Byrnes has the considerable gifts and graces to embody and implement the leadership and change that is being envisaged in the executive officer role and indeed the life of the unit.” Why should a leader with gifts and graces be saddled with a bureaucratic title, ‘Mission and Capacity Building Unit’? Why the need for the term ‘Unit’? Dr Byrnes writes “ I am looking forward to the challenge of bringing many of our shared hopes for a thriving church to fruition.” With these wonderful words and the Biblical descriptions of the Christian life as full of grace, could not a more appropriate title be found? Louise Joy Heathcote Uniting Church Central Goldfields, VIC (Ed’s note: We agree Louise. One of Dr Byrnes’ first tasks when she begins in her new role is to come up with a new title.) 23


Placements CURRENT AND PENDING PLACEMENT VACANCIES AS AT 18 AUGUST 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 Mark’s) (*) Chadstone – Melbourne Fijian (*) Mount Waverley (St John’s) (C) 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: placements.secretary@victas.uca.org.au

MINISTRY MOVES CALLS AND APPOINTMENTS FINALISED Marian Bissett (Lay), Bridgewater – Gagebrook to commence 1 September 2017 Paul Chalson, Canberra City/ Toe Talatalanoa to commence 1 November 2017 CONCLUSION OF PLACEMENT Kevin Yelverton to conclude at Newtown (St David’s) on 17 September 2017 Fran Barber to conclude at North Essendon on 12 November 2017

RETIREMENTS Marie MacDonald, retired on 1 July 2017 Alf Thistlethwaite, Upper Kiewa Valley to retire on 1 November 2017 Wendy McDonald (Lay), Gippsland – Presbytery Minister, Administration to retire on 1 November 2017

Notices COMING EVENTS LAST SERVICE OF THE DANDENONG NORTH UNITING CHURCH CONGREGATION 2PM, SUNDAY 1 OCTOBER 2018 Dandenong North UC, cnr Birch & Holly Avenues, Dandenong North. Rev Bruce Crowle & Rev Ineke Gyles will lead a final service of celebration. Refreshments to follow. RSVP by 23 September to Margaret Swaby, DNUC Secretary on E: samaswaby@bigpond.com or P: 03 9707 0631. AITKEN COLLEGE YEAR 8 EXPO 3.10PM – 4.30PM, TUESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2017 VCE 1 Building, Aitken College, 1010 Mickleham Road, Greenvale. Students will display and present assignments completed in three of their core subjects: Science – models of the mining industry. English – eBooks with six different writing approaches. Humanities – campaigns to save the rainforest. LAST SERVICE OF THORPDALE UNITING CHURCH 11AM, SUNDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2017 Thorpdale UC, cnr Graham and Johnstone Streets, Thorpdale. The final service of Thorpdale Uniting Church will be conducted by Rev Chris Duxbury, followed by a shared lunch (please bring a plate), and then an afternoon of sharing and entertainment. All are welcome. For more information, contact Val Murphy on P: 03 5634 6267 START MAKING BEANIES FOR THE BEANIE BONANZA SATURDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER 2017 Boronia Road Uniting Church, 209 Boronia Road, Boronia. Drop your entry into the church office whenever it’s open. You may well be one of our award winners! Judging day is Saturday, 23 September. Market stalls will sell a variety of crafts, jewellery, cosmetics, homewares, etc. on the day, as well as Devonshire Teas and light lunches. Call M: 0421 769 067 for more details. CENTRAL MALLEE CO OPERATIVE PARISH – WALPEUP 80TH ANNIVERSARY 11AM, SUNDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 2017 Walpeup Uniting Church, Patchewollock Road, Walpeup. Join the Walpeup congregation and the Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis in a Parish Service of Celebration to mark the 80th Anniversary of the Walpeup Uniting (formerly Methodist) Church. A Frontier Services barbecue (in nearby park) will follow the service. Enquires and RSVP to Merle Pole. P: (03) 50941331 or E: poles7@bigpond.com. RSVP by 17 September. ACCESS THREE CBD CHURCHES: UNITING CHURCH HISTORICAL SOCIETY GUIDED WALKING TOUR 10AM – 3.30PM, TUESDAY 3 OCTOBER 2017 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. RSVP by Tuesday, 19 September, with your name(s), phone and email to Geoff on E: gkp@netspace.net.au or M: 0448 740 195.

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CELEBRATION OF AGEING WELL – UNITING AGEWELL SUNDAY SUNDAY 8 OCTOBER 2017 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 unitingagewell.org/sunday-worship or by requesting a hard copy from E: JBroughton@unitingagewell.org. 175TH ANNIVERSARY, WESLEY CHURCH-UCA GEELONG CITY PARISH 10AM, SUNDAY 22 OCTOBER 2017 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: office@wesleychurchgeelong.net SENIORS’ MORNING TEA AT THE HUB SUPPORTING RESEARCH INTO MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE. 10AM – 12 NOON, THURSDAY 26 OCTOBER 2017 Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Bogong Avenue and Kingsway. 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 research into Motor Neurone Disease. For info and group bookings, P: 03 9560 3580. OPEN GARDENS, INVERLOCH UNITING CHURCH 10AM – 4PM, SATURDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2017 Inverloch Uniting Church, Williams St, opp. P.O. Maps available from church. $10 including M/T or A/T. Enquiries from Liz on M: 0401 472 669 or Bev M: 0408 502 707. CHRISTIAN HEALING 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. 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.” For enquiries contact Jan on M: 0407 507 313, or Harry Box on E: harryb01@optusnet.com for registration brochure. Register by 6 October for early bird discount. Registrations close 20 October.

CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


Notices SHEPPARTON HIGH SCHOOL REUNION, 1940s, 50s and 60s 12PM, SUNDAY 12 NOVEMBER The Royal Mail Hotel, 47 McLennan St, Mooroopna. The committee have 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: TBEPhillis@bigpond.com 50TH ANNIVERSARY, ALEXANDRA, ST ANDREWS UNITING CHURCH 10AM, SUNDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2017 Cnr Villeneuve & Downey Streets, 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. SWAN HILL UNITING CHURCH CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS ADVANCE NOTICE 2-4 MARCH 2018 Swan Hill Uniting Church, cnr Beveridge and Rutherford Streets, Swan Hill. Swan Hill Uniting Church will host a weekend of activities and a Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Church. For more information please contact E: shuc@iinet.net.au, Office P: (03) 5032 2380, Jen Waldron (church council chair) on M: 0466 569 010 or Anne Ryan (office secretary) on M: 0439 345 979.

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 www.chalice.org.au or P: (03) 9482 2884 for more information. 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. 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 10am2pm, and Wednesday 10am-12 noon during the school term. People of all ages are welcome. For more information P: (03) 9560 3580.

CLASSIFIEDS CALOUNDRA: Sunshine Coast, Queensland: Beachside units, from $400/wk. For details contact Ray P: 0427 990 161 E: rayandjean@hotmail.com. CAPE WOOLAMAI, PHILLIP ISLAND: Summerhays Cottage. Sleeps three. Tranquil garden. Stroll to beach. Discount for UCA members. www.summerhayscottage.com.au. 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 nonreligious styles. Includes contemporary hymns. Copies available from Jacob’s Well, 41 Roberts Street, Horsham, 3400 or P/Fax. 03 5382 3769, or E: jacobswell41@bigpond.com. 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 10 am each Sunday. Contact Lynne Oates on P: 03 5668 1621. 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. 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.

Newington College, founded in 1863, is a boys K–12 day and boarding school associated with the Uniting Church in Australia. Newington has approximately 2040 boys across three campuses, with 1350 boys at the Stanmore Secondary campus, including 50 boarders. There are two Prep Schools at Lindfield and Stanmore.

COLLEGE CHAPLAIN Newington College is seeking to appoint a permanent, fulltime School Chaplain to join the Chaplaincy team for the start of 2018. The College was founded on the Wesleyan Christian traditions of faith, diversity, inclusiveness and service to others, traditions which remain fundamental today. The position could, depending upon background and interests, specialise as the Prep School Chaplain or as a Secondary School Chaplain or be across all 3 campuses. Further information, including a position description setting out the selection criteria and application form can be found at www.newington.nsw.edu.au/about-newington/careers The closing date for applications is 22 September 2017

SEPTEMBER 17 - CROSSLIGHT

25


Moderator’s column

Faith leaders link arms in a show of solidarity following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville

One in Christ

OVER the last couple of weeks I have found myself reflecting on Paul’s statement in Galatians (3:26-28) that through Christ we are all made children of God through faith. Divisions we construct are no longer the categories by which Christians are to view each other for we are all one in Christ. We often act as if the statement that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female is an injunction to merely tolerate people different to ourselves. We less frequently allow it to be an invitation to

26

view people through the eyes of God and treat them with the loving generosity God extends to us. For Christians, what defines us is our baptism and that alone. Our place within the community of the church is sealed by God’s actions in Christ and signed by our baptism. This means, as a church and as Christians, we no longer regard people from a human point of view. That is to say, we no longer regard people through categories such as gender, race, economic status or sexuality, labels that so often divide us. Rather we understand these divisions have been overcome by Christ so that we might live and act for radical inclusion that moves beyond mere toleration to create communities that recognise the image of God in each person, that develop ways

to honour people in their difference as a fellow child of God. When we use this lens we strive to create communities that find our unity in our being treasured children of God. We value difference as enrichment of our community rather than as a source of division and alienation from each other. Such an understanding also demands we speak out about anything that threatens the full inclusion of another person. So we call out hate speech, sexism, homophobia, racism or classism because these behaviours continue to value what divides, rather than living into the way of God in which division is overcome in Christ. A couple of chapters on in the letter to the Galatians, Paul reminds the church that knowing yourself as a child of God has implications for how we live in the world.

Those of us who are incorporated into God’s life through baptism are invited to open ourselves to having our lives shaped by the Spirit of Christ, which produces the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to bear each other’s burdens and amend the failing in our own lives (Galatians 5:22-6:3). The fruits of the Spirit are to manifest themselves in our daily lives, in how we go about our working or volunteering, how we are with our friends and family, how we live in the world and how we engage with contemporary issues. The fruits of the Spirit also call us to speak and act prophetically. I have watched the news coming out of Charlottesville and been inspired by the witness of those who protest against hatred and violence. I am reminded that the gifts of the Spirit can lead Christians onto the streets, putting bodies in the way of all that oppose God’s reign. We should not imagine that such racial hatred only exists in America. Racism is, sadly, alive and well in Australia as well. Manifesting the fruits of the Spirit in this country leads us to speak out against racist comments we hear in our daily lives, to oppose racism when we see it in civic society and, when occasion demands, actively confront bigotry and hatred. As we approach the potential Marriage Equality postal survey, we as Christians need to reflect deeply on how the fruits of the Spirit will live through us. No matter how you plan to vote, as Christians we need to ensure that homophobic speech and actions have no place in our discussions. We should be willing to speak out against homophobia and hatred in others. In this way we can bear witness to the inclusive community God draws us into and be seen as bearers of the fruits of the Spirit which are both our gift and our calling. Sharon Hollis Moderator

CROSSLIGHT - SEPTEMBER 17


Crossword This month in Crosslight

ACROSS

For the cluey reader

2. Museum that uses art as a medium to raise difficult and challenging questions 7. A delegation of five visited synod office from here 10. A virtue of early Christians 13. Sharing life together 14. The UCA agency working with people in Asia, Africa and the Pacific to end poverty 16. The opposite of a ‘charitable’ handout 19. German theologian, Jurgen _ 20. One of the most significant sacraments in Christianity 22. A disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods 23. Multimedia light installation, part of Dark Mofo

COMPILED BY LYNDA NEL

DOWN 1. A person living in solitude, sometimes as a religious discipline 3. Conference of young adult leaders of the UCA 4. Day Christ rose to heaven 5. To be transformed after trauma 6. Artists are incredibly important to the life of _ 8. Prophet who instructed the people of Israel while in exile in Babylon 9. Minister of GKI Perth congregation, Rev _ 11. Avid readers 12. Crossing of land found in almost all spiritual traditions 15. Australia refuses to recognise this border of offshore oil and gas reserves with Timor-Leste 17. A grain eaten in Sudan 18. First of its kind in Melbourne, in Wesley UC 21. First women to be ordained as a minister in any denomination in Victoria, Rev Isabelle _

Giving is living

Lord, We pray for peace in the world May our political leaders have the wisdom to seek compassion To put aside cultural differences To bridge geographic divides To replace animosity with love To choose hope over fear We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen

This year marks 50 years since Israeli military forces first occupied Palestinian territory. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel began establishing settlements on the West Bank in violation of international law. A number of Uniting Church members have visited the Holy Land in recent years and witnessed the shocking living conditions of Palestinians in their homeland. Sally Masters is a nurse, grandmother and Conversation Partner with Uniting Journeys. In

is

GIVING

LIVING

preparation for her role with Uniting Journeys, she travelled to the Middle East and spent three months living in Palestine as an ‘ecumenical accompanier’. During her journey, she lived with locals to gain a glimpse into some of their challenges with authority. The synod’s Giving is Living program encourages congregations to embrace a spirit of generosity. Visit www.victas.uca.org.au/GivingIsLiving to download monthly pew sheets and prayers for congregational use.

CROSSWORD ANSWERS ACROSS 2. MONA 7. Timor-Leste 10. Patience 13. Communion 14. UnitingWorld 16. Solidarity 19. Moltmann 20. Eucharist 22. Atheism 23. Crossing SEPTEMBER 17 - CROSSLIGHT

DOWN 1. Hermit 3. NYALC 4. Ascension 5. Reconciliation 6. Faith 8. Jeremiah 9. Sapangi 11. Bookworms 12. Pilgrimage 15. Maritime 17. Couscous 18. Organ 21. Merry 27


Synod Snaps

“SOMETIMES I ARRIVE JUST WHEN GOD’S READY T O H A V E S O M E O N E C L I C K T H E S H U TT E R .” — Ansel Adams

Hampton Park Uniting Church hosted a ‘Coffee with a Muslim’ event to foster greater interfaith understanding in the local community.

Ballarat Central Uniting Church presented quilts to Uniting Ballarat, which will be distributed to women and children escaping family violence.

Richmond Uniting Church has a new lending library outside their church.

Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis recently visited Castlemaine. She is pictured here with Castlemaine Uniting Church minister, Rev Michele Lees.

Queenscliff Uniting Church held a vigil to mark four years of offshore detention.

North Balwyn Uniting Church members have been involved in ‘Wrap With Love’ since 2004. They have created a total of 740 rugs out of 20,720 knitted squares.

Crosslight September 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...

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