B18 – Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry

1. INTRODUCTION

Setting out to be deliberately vulnerable by crossing cultures is to move into ways of being and relating totally different from raising our levels of tolerance. It is to enter into something ambiguous, often difficult, but always surprising and enriching world of mutual respect and equality. In the embrace of the Holy Spirit it is to be on the way to God’s gift of One Body, many members living faith and life cross-culturally through and under the cross of the crucified, Risen One.

As Christ’s Body, created, sought and gathered by the Holy Spirit of God, the well-rehearsed conversations spanning well over the 30 years since the UCA declaration that “We are a multicultural Church”, still demand our reflection, prayer and consideration. They also focus more clearly some of the most pressing matters of joy and concern for the ministry entrusted to us, and for the church as a whole. The stories of that journey and accountability for this ministry form the substance of this report for members of the 14th Assembly.

In its role within the national Church, Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry and the members of the national Reference Committee (MCCM-NRC) continue to become more aware of the rich possibilities in hearing, identifying and naming images and metaphors, insights and language arising from our different cultural heritage. These are insights, gifts, and graces that speak to our common humanity as God’s creatures made in the image and likeness of our Creator. When we listen in love, we do hear the Holy Spirit speaking into our stories, time and space of the presence and revelations of the Creator God across, within and through cultures, and throughout time. Scripture and one of the 20th century’s significant European theologians speak of this:

“If one gives answer before hearing, it is folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13)

“The first duty of love is to listen.” (Paul Tillich)

In this most recent triennium the MCCM-NRC has focussed more directly on creating space. This is actual space in gatherings and agenda, in which respectful story-telling and story-listening allow for genuine hearing and growing trust. It is also spiritual and mental space, allowing for identifying and naming maturing views of how we are already enriched by the diversity of biblical, theological and missional insights and the cultures and world views that give rise to them.

These insights are gathered up clearly and richly in the first 9 pages of the UCA Manual for Meetings. They are especially important as the gathering of the Assembly offers a significant opportunity for the national Council of the UCA to model listening before answering, and loving through listening. When this reality of being and practise forms and shapes our every action and intention, then it is the experience of members of the MCCM-NRC that the richness and energy yet to be realised and released flows from and through hearts already on fire within the cultural and linguistic diversity of both First and Second peoples. When that fire and flow begins, the UCA will then be bravely shaped by its own and humanity’s margins, living with Christ in them and no longer speaking anxiously and in uncertainty of venturing to the margins.

2. THE MANNER OF OUR COMMUNITY BUILDING AND DISCERNING IN THE EXERCISE OF OUR RESPONSIBILITIES

The gathering, considerations and discussions in the MCCM-NRC are shaped by vision in “One Body, many members – Living faith and life cross-culturally”. The 13th Assembly in July 2012 adopted this paper as naming the visible characteristics of life and faith of a multicultural church. The document was then issued with a Call to the whole Uniting Church to be lived into through all the UCA Councils, Agencies, Reference Committees, Working Groups and Task Groups, leaders and members. The ministry of the MCCM-NRC is facilitated through commitment to the processes of shaping and nurturing community that are set out in the first 9 pages of the UCA Manual for Meetings.

Commitment and faithfulness to this journey has led us to experience a quite remarkable increase in the ‘grace margin’. This is the space between the safety of place, structures, processes, culture, and language, and the immobilising and disempowering fear of difference, change, uncertainty, culture and language. This enlarged space where the fear of difference and the threat of change is overcome is the grace margin. Here members of the committee have been enabled and empowered to listen to, and be challenged by the stories of culture, community and faith, especially about matters that often cannot be spoken of in public or ‘mixed’ company.

All of these characteristics and processes reflect the MCCM-NRC members’ experience of the realities of the Basis of Union

The Uniting Church affirms that every member of the Church is engaged to confess the faith of Christ crucified and to be his faithful servant. It acknowledges with thanksgiving that the one Spirit has endowed the members of Christ’s Church with a diversity of gifts, and that there is no gift without its corresponding service: all ministries have a part in the ministry of Christ. … The Uniting Church will thereafter provide for the exercise by men and women of the gifts God bestows upon them, and will order its life in response to God’s call to enter more fully into mission. (Paragraph 13 – GIFTS AND MINISTRIES)

3. ASSIGNED TASKS

The 13th Assembly assigned no new tasks to MCCM.

4. ACTIVITIES TOWARDS FULFILLING MCCM RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE PAST 3 YEARS

4.1 Workshops – there are 3: All are in the final stages of editing after a comprehensive review and revision, and linking to the DVD resource and Study Guide ‘Building Bridges’. The revised first workshop below will be trialled in South Australia during April-June 2015 and include leadership identification and training for ongoing use.

• Cross-cultural Relations – sometimes referred to as Building Bridges of Understanding. The Assembly has endorsed, encouraged, and urged the wider UCA to use these workshops for almost 15 years with little or no success until now. Across the country there is an emerging recognition of the need for such as this.

• Living together as God’s people in this place – Property sharing / building relationships within and between communities. (For any situation where there are a variety of groups in a congregation or congregations on the one site).

• Inter-generational Workshop – aimed at building relationships and bridges of communication and understanding between generations.

4.2 “Building Bridges: living God’s gifts across cultures’, a 2-DVD set of case studies and stories with an accompanying Study Guide has been completed and almost 200 copies distributed and sold across the country. They highlight the biblical and theological basis for why cross-cultural ministry is at the heart of the UCA’s communal life and witness.

As strongly suggested by key leaders across the diversity of language groups within the UCA, the Study Guide has been written in English. However, the Study Guide also includes a simple framework for the studies in 7 community languages. As they become available, other language versions will be posted for download on the Assembly website. We expect to have limited copies of the resource available for members of the 14th Assembly meeting,

This resource is a companion to the Cross-cultural relations Workshops already available to the UCA, and the National Director and members of the MCCM-NRC and are still working to develop simplified strategies for its publicity, distribution and equipping of trainers. By the time of the meeting of the 14th Assembly a series of workshops and ‘train-the-trainer’ sessions will have been held in the Synod/Presbytery of South Australia.

It remains a deep concern to the members of MCCM-NRC and their networks that these excellent resources continue to be massively underutilised across a church that is struggling across all areas of its life and witness. MCCM-NRC is strongly of the view that the matter of cross-cultural relations and awareness should be of sufficient importance to the UCA leadership and Councils that it becomes normal practice to expect participation and compliance in every corner of the UCA. This includes being an integral part of the formation of ministry leaders, Code of Ethics training, and in-service for all UCA staff, Otherwise this whole area of richness and ministry will continue to be seen as optional at best and unnecessary or irrelevant by personal choice at worst.

4.3 Advice and counsel concerning ways, processes, resources, pitfalls, communication, in settings where there is little or no cross-cultural experience, or at least, none intentionally previously.

4.4 Crisis management includes many of the matters above as well as, misunderstandings about: UCA policy or theology; processes for keeping or calling ministry agents; reviews of congregational life and vitality of Call; bullying behaviour. These often begin in the national office because of close, trusted and respected relationships. Conversation and follow-up always include advice and guidance about the appropriate council or officers of the UCA to whom or with whom this matter needs to be directed. Sometimes that also requires advocacy or bridging between the councils / leadership and the community / individual in difficulty.

4.5 Strategic Planning – a number of presbyteries have invited the National Director to be involved in either planning for or the actual carrying out of strategic planning, ministry / minister consultations. This is especially true in smaller synods where the range of skills and experience may be quite limited due to lack of encounter with or familiarity with particular cultural groups.

4.6 Policy development and development of Guidelines – occasionally presbyteries take a lead and begin to anticipate the need for clear policies and processes. For example, Dealing with Conflict in multicultural setting (Pty of P-N), a resource guide with significant input from the National Director and members of the MCM-NRC. When requested, offering a national perspective, overview, and assistance with the development of Operational Guidelines for newly established or planned MCM committees in presbyteries and synod.

4.7 Challenging the Church about its prior commitments and current realities – the UCA in its Councils has not made anything approaching uniform or even intentional progress with the commitments that relate to cultural diversity beginning in the 1985 declaration ‘We are a multicultural Church’. With the workshop resources, and the DVD / Study Guide the requests for specific assistance in exploring possible ways forward in those commitments are increasing. It is clear from responses, especially in various communities that the sense and reality of national identity connects with a growing sense of change in communal and personal identity as Christian – Australian – (culture of origin).

4.8 Support of communities

4.8.1 CALD communities networking: While all of our CALD communities have local expressions (faith communities, congregations, tenants) they all are part of much wider communities as well (at the same time): other UCA groups of the same cultural / linguistic/home church background; other Christian communities in their local, state or national settings; the broader all and none faiths community; the national identity which includes home church. There is frequent connection to the national office where there is an acknowledged and valued national view and identity strengthening identity, inclusion and respect right across this country.

4.8.2 The leadership of our communities value – respect, support, and encouragement, connecting in a larger framework in imagining new possibilities / opportunities for education, next generation training and leadership identification. This is especially important for those seeking better understanding of the UCA as a national church from home churches where the structure is often hierarchical leadership in the national Assembly provides a very helpful (if actually different) connection with ‘authority’ and trustworthiness in interpreting and clarifying the journey, life and evolving shape of the UCA. Empowered leaders are better equipped to teach and lead communities into and in the UCA.

4.8.3 National Conferences (NC’s) – In 2015 there are now 11 communities who have National Conferences: Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, Indonesian, Filipino, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tamil (who have not met for several years as a formal National Conference).

The communities from South Sudan were supported to have their first national network gathering in 4 languages, in Adelaide in October 2012. The communities will gather for the first time as a formal Uniting National Conference in Brisbane in September 2015.

National Conferences allow for the sharing of hopes and joys, concerns and difficulties and the discovery of how many of those are common across cultures. They do this through the use of community language(s), worship and celebration arising from the traditions and experiences of particular groups; studies in Scripture, culture, discipleship, and the UCA; and the sharing in cultural singing, dancing, and foods. The Guidelines for Uniting National Conferences can be found on the MCCM page of the UCA Assembly website.

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

Discussions have begun about having a gathering for UCA Arabic speakers, which would be a multicultural gathering as the language crosses many cultural / ethnic boundaries.

As opportunity arises, MCCM also supports UCA members participating in the Hindi speaking Fellowship that includes Hindi speakers from Australia and Aotearoa / New Zealand.

It is vital for the wider church to understand the importance of these gatherings for various communities. Increasingly they reflect the journeys in and into the UCA, the joys, struggles, and rich gifts. With time and involvement personal relationships, respect and trust develop with and through the National Director and other staff from the Assembly team that provide capacity for nurturing leadership, sustaining communities locally, and working with UnitingWorld in mediating with home church.

These opportunities, and the gradual revealing of gifts and graces, continue to increase the pool of resource persons available to presbyteries, congregations and faith communities for working more closely and respectfully with one another. However, all provide a very significant forum for respectful relationships, national and regionally, that build strong foundations for belonging in and one way of having a voice into the life of the UCA, its leaders, and the public space. It is very important to note that National Conferences do not speak for communities, particularly because all communities or individuals are not necessarily members of NC’s – they are free to choose to belong or not.

4.8.4 And nXtgen: The National Director and members of the MCCM-NRC are regularly involved in supporting (and if requested providing input and mentoring) in facilitating what is an increasing inclusion of 1.5 and 2 Gen youth and young adult leaders into the life of some National Conferences. This happens through intentional children’s, youth and young adult programs alongside the ‘adult’ program. Within the last triennium very significant progress on inclusion within the overall planning and programming at the Tongan, Fijian, Filipino and Vietnamese national conferences, and marked progress in others.

Queensland, NSW/ACT and Vic/Tas continue to develop regular nXtgen ‘events’ – some locally and others regionally based. As we become aware of what is on-line and organised in other ways in other Synods and networks we are becoming more intentional about providing links between those groups rather than adding in a third party.

4.8.5 Hearing the voices of National Conferences: MCCM continues to seek ways by which presbyteries and synods can also take account of the voices of National Conferences. One of the ways in which that is possible is through collaboration between the National Director and office bearers of national Conferences working with synods and presbytery leadership to bring concerns of the conferences and member congregations / faith communities before them. It is important however for the UCA to understand that while very significant in the life of the UCA, National Conferences do not include all members of a particular cultural / language group, they do not always speak with one voice and the public voices do not always represent strongly held divergent views within cultural groups and communities.

There are however, times when the voice of National Conferences has both national and international reach. For example – Tongan National Conference in collaboration with the Communications unit of the Assembly raised serious concerns from within Tongan communities about the ABC program “Jonah from Tonga”. Approaches and involvement of a key radio presenter from the ABC in the Tongan National Conference (1200+ members present, and led at that time by young adults and youth) led to the Chair of the TNC and coordinator of the nXtgen network sharing in a 30 minute on air discussion. Reports on social media picked up these responses in Tongan communities right across the world.

4.8.6 Uniting National Conferences Working Group (UNCWG):
(a) This is a vital forum providing networking opportunities for the various community groups, connections with other Assembly agencies, and insights for local presbyteries and synods. Despite severe budget constraints, MCCM has continued a commitment to facilitate two gatherings of key community leaders twice in the three years between meetings of the triennial Assembly.

The Revd Eseta Meneilly took on the role of chairing this gathering when she was Chair of the MCCM-NRC. At the time only one Uniting National Conference (UNC) had a woman as chairperson: in this case, an ordained Pacific Island woman.

MCCM invites the Chairperson (or his / her nominee), a key woman leader, and a nXtgen/second gen young adult, and some leaders from communities that do not yet have a National Conference e.g. Arabic speaking and some African communities. Modelling and experiencing the place of men, women, and young people / adults, lay and ordained as contributing gifts into national leadership in the UCA has proved to be more effective, readily accepted, and genuinely inclusive than simply legislating for it.

(b) The gathering in 2014 focussed particularly on responses, issues, and concerns relating to the discussion paper ‘A Theology of Christian Marriage’. The meeting was grateful for the presence of the Revd Dr Chris Walker, national consultant for Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship, and his contribution to clarifying and better understanding the paper and the processes involved.

There was deep disappointment about the style and focus of the paper, concern that it was a way into approving same-gender marriage without genuine opportunity to fully express the complex nature of personal and communal networks affected by marriage. The central themes of the discussion are taken up in the reporting of this journey for the members of the MCCM-NRC later in this report.

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

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

The calling or secondment of ministers from other denominations / partner churches are cause for increasingly significant demands on the time, insights and connections of staff in UnitingWorld and the National Director. Most often this is because local communities and / or presbyteries do not consult with either UnitingWorld or the MCCM about the timing and practices of partner churches in relation to placements of their ministers. When consultation does take place it is often with only UCA timelines and procedures in mind. Such moments of insensitivity to the equality of other Christian churches and lack of respect for their own integrity and identity have led to several occasions of deep offence. Close collaboration on these situations, are beginning to produce helpful and respectful resources / guidelines that include the time frames and processes of overseas partner churches so that UCA communities and councils can adjust our processes to respect their own.

Over the past 5 years Revd Meneilly has built strong, trusted and respected relationships across the diverse communities of the UCA and their leadership. As these characteristics are the foundation of genuine communication across cultures, it is the conviction of the National Director and members of the MCCM-NRC that she should continue in this role for the next triennium. In addition, that as Chairperson of the Uniting National Conference Working Group, she should be ex-officio a member of the next MCCM-NRC. We will be recommending this to the Assembly Standing Committee when it makes Reference Committee appointments for 2015-2018 at the meeting in August 2015.

4.9 Links and networks with other agencies

4.9.1 Building and sustaining links and networks with UnitingWorld and Relations with Other Faiths and any specialist staff are of increasing importance, usefulness and significance. These connections go to home church links, partnership agreements (placements, processes, honouring equals, reception / calling of ministers), awareness of home land situations between religious groups that must be taken into account in the ways in which we speak about and engage in Relations with other Faiths here in Australia.

4.9.2 Collaboration with other councils and leaders: Increased number of conversations with moderators, synod business committee convenors, and advisors with the UAICC about insights nationally regarding greater inclusion of and participation by non-English speaking communities. These include:
• Participating in the Pilgrim Presbytery reviews of CALD congregations in Darwin, and support of presbytery and CALD congregations in building closer links into the local and national UCA
• Cross-cultural Retreats and Gatherings in WA, and Vic/Tas
• Consultations with some Presbytery Ministers in Queensland, NSW/ACT, Vic/Tas, Northern and SA Synods concerning local issues, exploring possible solutions / new directions, ministry and leadership concerns
• Participating in Workshops and Conferences in WA, SA
• Collaborating with presbytery task groups as they develop local resources for cross-cultural ministry and conflict resolution
• Consulting with ministry leaders in congregation placements concerning cross-cultural ministry, property sharing and the National Property Policy in a multicultural church

4.9.3 Networks and collegial sharing with other National Directors keeping our MCM commitments are at the forefront of the work of UF&D team and other national agencies.

4.10 Theological education/formation for ministry: Conversations with some colleges and / or staff about support mechanisms / resources that might be available nationally for minority culture / language candidates / lay preachers / students – mentors, interpreters, guidance concerning meaning and processes of reading and assignments.

It still remains for cross-cultural education for ministry and leadership to be mainstreamed into the life and work of the whole church. During 2013 a consultation was held between members of the Ministerial Education Commission and the MCCM-NRC to discuss a range of matters concerning more effective theological education and formation for ministry in our multicultural and cross-cultural life. This was seen as a significant step in an area of major concern in the ongoing nurture and development of cross- cultural ministry and leadership in the UCA. For its part the Committee will be focussing on an integrated approach that includes the processes of the POD, formation, placement, continuing education and Reception of ministers from the perspective of CALD background. These matters are now in the hands of the Education for Ministry Working Group and those exploring the most effective ways of delivering contextually appropriate formation for ministry and what ‘colleges’ are most useful for providing that.

4.11 Congregations in Association: There has been no further action in the triennium. The matter however is by no means ended as increasing numbers of fellowships from churches other than our traditional partners seek a relationship with the UCA – often through reading the Basis of Union in their first language.

4.12 In-language resources and translation and interpretation

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

5. THE NEXT TRIENNIUM

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

The journey of the past triennium has included a number of discoveries that we note here without detailed comment but for reflection, discussion and discernment as the UCA journeys through the middle of this second decade of the 21st century. These insights guide the work and ministry of the MCCM-NRC in fulfilling their role and responsibilities.

5.1.1 Cross-cultural ministry is often characterised as wrestling with a return to our missionary past, or being limited by biblical and theological conservatism. MCCM-NRC are discovering that cross-cultural ministry involves being more inclusive than the most progressive liberals and more biblically disciplined than the most fundamental evangelicals

5.1.2 Intentional cross-cultural ministry requires the church to raise the bar in practices of faith around core aspects of faith rather than assuming its most common denominator – often referred to as dumbing down. To discern, imagine and express ideas, theological concepts and insights, and connections with the complex and deep truths of Scripture in languages and metaphors from non-colonial, non-English-speaking, non-western philosophical backgrounds is in fact, far from dumbing down. This journey requires of all of us deep respect and openness to those new insights and truths that God has yet for God’s peoples, and profound trust in the Holy Spirit as guide and gift. It requires the dominant culture group among the diversity of Second peoples to recognise others’ as equals in every aspect of faith and discipleship and to relinquish their / our own sense of priority.

5.1.3 The journey imagined in this Basis of Union was to be a journey with a newly acknowledged and God given destination: the reconciliation of all creation. This was to be a community whose heart, life, and purpose are to be deeply grounded in this ancient land with its ancient God-given peoples – Australia! In 1985, 2006 and 2012 Assemblies of the UCA declared that this includes all peoples now identified as Second peoples, in covenantal relationship with First peoples in Australia.

5.1.4 On this pilgrim way, in the midst of recognising diversity in unity, living faith and life cross-culturally requires the communities of the UCA to clarify covenantal relationships: this includes understanding of and relationship to ‘the One’ who holds us together in the one Body (in whom all things cohere).

Biblical witness (in which the Church hears the word of God – Basis of Union paragraph 5) describes these relationships as a covenant. This particular relationship process and journey requires clear identification of and speaking about as foundations on which articulating the core covenants in ways that hold together the Union (UCA and vision). This discovery and adherence to it goes to the heart of genuine diversity in unity

5.1.5 Martin Luther talks about being open to testing. One of the things that MCCM-NRC has discovered over the years is that our doctrines mean nothing if they cannot be held up to the scrutiny of voices from other cultures and faith journey’s in the church. To assume otherwise is theological cultural imperialism.

The fact that there are cultures and communities other than western / European based in Australia and throughout the world, means that every cultural ‘way’ should be scrutinised for signs of the presence of the Creator God in the present and from before Christian missionaries entered those contexts. For the UCA, it is particularly the so-called ‘Australian or UCA way’. Unaddressed, and without critique, this raises questions about whether a lot of our liturgical and ecclesiological practises are simply some form of syncretism.

5.1.6 As a church committed to living out the reality of cultural diversity as God-given, how threatened are doctrine and ecclesiology if we are not able to have this conversation? Or it is a lack of breadth, skill, or capacity concerning anthropology/sociology in the journey of leadership formation?

It is of increasing significance for the MCCM-NRC that for some of our partner Churches in South East Asia, studies in these areas are integral in the program of formation for ministry. In the Seminaries of the China Christian Council – Three Self Movement, training in traditional Chinese music and poetry are a requirement in the formation for all students for ministry. The reasoning behind this is that all ministry agents are expected to be able to ‘speak the Gospel’ through tools that are integral to communication and values within local culture and expression. Tools that are God given!

Three years on from accepting such a framework or set of benchmarks, One Body, many members – living faith and life cross-culturally, and the 13th Assembly of 2012 calling on the UCA through and in all of its Councils, agencies, programs, members and leaders to be intentionally accountable to one another in these matters. It is clear that this is still not the case! Therefore MCCM-NRC will be bringing some simple proposals to the 14th Assembly seeking the further commitment of the Councils of the UCA to mutual accountability in matters of inclusion, respect and accessibility to all areas of the life and witness of the UCA by everyone, irrespective of cultural or language background.

Through accepting the discipline of mutual accountability and sharing of stories, experiences, and insights, the whole UCA can continue to enter into all the richness and diversity, struggle and difficulty that are God’s gifts to us through Christ in multicultural and multifaith Australia.

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

The Chairperson of the national Reference Committee was elected by the 13th Assembly and normally serves for a three-year term to enable people from different communities to offer leadership.

The Committee wishes to recognize and express its deep appreciation of the significant leadership and gifted educational and resourcing skills that the Rev Amelia Koh-Butler has offered during the last three years to both the national Reference Committee, and to other areas of work of the Assembly. A self-described ABC – Australian born Chinese, trained as an Accredited Youth Worker and later ordained in the Synod of NSW/ACT, Amelia brought strong gifts for leadership, wide experience of multicultural and cross-cultural life in the UCA, deep sensitivity to and understanding of the complexities of leadership for nXtgen woman, youth and young adults across the life of the UCA.

Following the 14th Assembly the ASC will appoint a new Reference Committee from a list of nominations in accordance with our Operational Guidelines. MCCM-NRC is thankful to God that the experiences of Amelia as past-Chair and Eseta as Chair of the Uniting National Conferences Working Group will still be available to the committee and therefore the UCA nationally.

Our thanks also go to members of the Reference Committee who serve this UCA with vision and commitment and are passionate about building the Uniting Church in Australia as a faithful community of hospitality and justice in Christ. We note with sadness that their commitment is not always supported in local Church Councils and Presbyteries as they often have to use annual or study leave in order to participate – ministers as well as laypersons. This is neither just nor inclusive! We express our concern that such fulfilment of commitment is not treated as sharing gifts together in the one ministry of Christ across the whole life of the UCA

The Committee places on record in this Assembly its thanks to its administrative support staff in the Assembly office. The Assembly office team work long and hard to assist the National Director, the Reference Committee and the ministry of MCCM.

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

6. PROPOSALS

The Reference Committee will be proposing an amendment to the process proposed by the Doctrine Working Group / ASC in regard to the way in which the UAICC members and the CAD communities within the church can be consulted in the next round of discussions on marriage. The proposal invites the Assembly to establish the process through which the consultation will take place rather than refer the development of a process to the Standing Committee.

The proposals arising from this report are to be found in Document C – Proposals.

Revd Amelia Koh-Butler, Chairperson
Revd Dr Antony [Tony] Floyd National Director

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