1.1 Standing Committee held ten face to face meetings and two teleconferences during the last triennium. A teleconference and an extra meeting (June 2013) were required in order to address emerging issues in the ministry of Frontier Services. Meetings commence with dinner on Friday evening and conclude at 4.00pm on Sunday. The exception in this triennium was the March 2015 meeting which added an extra day in order to address the substantial number of significant items that needed attention before the end of the triennium including major decisions in relation to Frontier Services and priorities with a seriously diminished income. The Friday evening agenda begins with a service of worship including Holy Communion. Prayer and worship shapes the work of the Standing Committee. Over the last triennium the Standing Committee has been very conscious, and grateful, that it has been supported by the prayers of many members of the church and is certain that this support has been reflected in the spirit with which its work has been undertaken and the outcomes of its deliberations.
1.2 The venue for meetings has been the Chevalier Resource Centre at Kensington in suburban Sydney.
1.3 There have been several changes to the membership of the Standing Committee since the Thirteenth Assembly. Mrs Jan Trengove resigned in November 2013 and Mr Craig Mitchell resigned after the November meeting in 2013 appointed him a member of Assembly staff. Mr John Lotu was co-opted to the ASC in August 2012. Mrs Cheryl Lawson was unable to attend the ASC due to significant health issues. Thankfully her health has improved but not sufficiently to enable her to participate in the ASC. Due to changes in National Congress Mrs Denise Champion replaced Rev Shayne Blackman and Rev Dennis Corowa substituted for Rev Rronang Gurrawurra (UAICC Chairperson) who was unavailable later in the triennium for health reasons; until he became the UAICC Chairperson in January 2015 and so became an ex officio member of the ASC. The participation of individual members of the ASC is presented in the table below.
1.4 Member Attendance
Andrew Dutney 10
Alistair Macrae 8
Stuart McMillan 10
Terence Corkin 10
Shayne Blackman 0
Denise Champion 4
Rronang Garrawurra 5
Dennis Corowa 3
Alison Atkinson-Phillips 9
Bethany Broadstock 8
Stu Cameron 8
Michelle Cook 8
Emma Davison 6
Kate Fraser 7
Geoffrey Grinton 10
Zac Hatfield Dodds 9
Andrew Johnson 9
Jason Kioa 8
Cheryl Lawson 0
Jone Lotu 1
Craig Mitchell 5
Deidre Palmer 8
Ian Price 7
Ian Tozer 9
Isabel Thomas Dobson 10
Jan Trengove 1
Jenny Tymms 8
1.5 As provided for in the Regulations the Synod General Secretaries participate in the meeting, although they are not voting members of the Assembly Standing Committee. Similarly the Associate General Secretary and National Consultant for Theology and Discipleship attend. All make a significant contribution to the life and decision making processes of the Standing Committee.
1.6 Business for the Standing Committee is generated by developing issues in the life of the church and society as well as referrals from the Assembly, Assembly agencies, synods, presbyteries, and from Standing Committee members. In addition the Standing Committee exercises oversight of the work of the Agencies and in particular monitors performance of Boards and Committees to which it has delegated significant authority; as well as taking responsibility for ensuring the responsible management of finance and risks in the Assembly.
1.7 By far the most substantial piece of the work before the Standing Committee in this triennium has been addressing the major problems that arose within the aged care services of Frontier Services. These issues led first to the establishment of a separate Board to oversee the process for correcting these major problems and subsequently arranging the transition of the aged care services to other Uniting Church entities – Australian Rural and Remote Community Services (ARRCS) in the Northern Territory and Juniper in WA. Subsequent to exiting from the provision of aged care services Frontier Services undertook thorough reviews of its ministry in community services, patrol ministry and the structure and staffing levels of the National Office. More details will be provided later in this report and also in the report of Frontier Services.
1.8 A major focus across the life of the church over the last two and a half years has been to review and improve the church’s practices that will serve to protect children from abuse. In support of this work the Assembly appointed a part time Executive Officer to work in support of its National Task Group and from September 2014 a full time Policy Officer to assist with the development of submissions, resourcing UCA Officers for participation in various processes of the Royal Commission and to draft policies for use across the church. These positions are jointly funded by the Assembly and Synods as an additional piece of work on an agreed formula. Further information on the Assembly’s engagement with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is provided later in this report.
1.9 The Standing Committee is acutely aware that there was a major failure of governance within the Assembly. This failure led to unacceptable levels of care being delivered through Frontier Services to residents of its aged care programs. Therefore the Standing Committee has been working hard to improve its governance performance. More detail on this is provided later in the report.
1.10 In addition to these major calls on its time the Standing Committee has also addressed itself to the referrals from the 13th Assembly and other matters brought to it from within the life of the church.
1.11 Standing Committee minutes are circulated to all presbyteries, synods, Assembly agencies and Standing Committee members, and are available on the Assembly’s web-site (http://nat.uca.org.au). A summary of the main business items and decisions is always printed in National Update, and frequently through Newsletters distributed by the Synod General Secretaries.
2. UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF THE 13th ASSEMBLY
2.1 There was no unfinished business from the 13th Assembly referred to the ASC for determination.
3. ARISING FROM THE 13th ASSEMBLY
3.1 All resolutions of the 13th Assembly where the Assembly resolved to undertake certain action were put into effect. Those matters that were referred to the ASC for implementation are reported in the following section of the report.
3.2 Amendments to Regulations. There were many decisions by the 13th Assembly approving amendments to the Regulations. The Legal Reference Committee worked long and hard finalizing numerous Regulations including Part 6 – Appeals; new regulations following the discontinuance of the Ministerial Education Commission; Reception of Ministers; Alternative Korean Regulations and many more before returning them to the Standing Committee for final approval. In addition there were three Presidential Rulings plus several other requests that did not lead to a Ruling which is a larger number than in recent triennia. All of this work combines to make the Legal Reference Committee one of the hardest working committees at the Assembly. The Church is greatly blessed that its members make a very significant contribution in this way with the generous provision of their professional skills and time.
3.3 Ministry of Pastor. (Assembly minute 12.27) The ASC established a Task Group to evaluate the ways in which the Church has been able to implement the assessment, education and oversight of persons in the Specified Ministry of Pastor; and to identify areas where there is scope for improvement in the selection and support of people serving in this ministry. The Standing Committee directed the new Education for Ministry Working Group and the Formation, Education and Discipleship Working Group to develop training materials and related assessment requirements for the core competencies in order to ensure that quality, consistent, comprehensive induction and continuing education are provided for Pastors; and to consider flexible education delivery systems; and to update the Period of Discernment resources (ASC minute 13.64.02). Subsequent work by the ASC Task Group brought recommendations for changes to the Regulations that allow for the so called “stream b” for people to enter the ministry of Pastor to be removed and the make adjustments to the pre requisite for a person to be a member (or member in association) for 12 months prior to being recognized as a pastor. The Standing Committee forwarded other parts of the Task Group report on to the incoming ASC for further consideration.
3.4 Evaluation of the Covenanting Process. (Assembly minute 12.28) A Task Group undertook a series of conversations across the church over a couple of years and reported to the Standing Committee in November 2014. The Task Group, in consultation with the National Executive of the UAICC will bring a report and recommendations to the Assembly.
3.5 Amendment to Regulation 2.11.1 – Ministers in Association (Assembly minute 12.21). In response to this referral the Standing Committee appointed a Task Group. It reviewed the Regulations with a view to determining whether any Regulations needed to be amended in the light of current experience where in many contexts there is no likelihood of there being an approved placement in the foreseeable future; whereas the Regulations assume that there will be a Minister in placement. The outcome of this work was the amendment of a significant number of regulations across a wide range of practical issues in the life of the Church.
3.6 Discipline of Church Councillors. (Assembly minute 12.30) This proposal included amendments to the Manual for Meetings and Regulations to make clear that bullying and harassing behavior is not acceptable in the church; and providing a process through which complaints about inappropriate behavior could be addressed. The Standing Committee made amendments substantially in the direction of the original proposal (ASC minute 13.08).
3.7 Conflict Resolution in the Church. (Assembly minute 12.34) This issue arose as part of the ex President’s report and led to a number of conversations in different contexts. The major tangible result of the work instigated by the Standing Committee is that the inter-Synod National Complaints Conversation has been given a mandate from the Assembly to give leadership and resource to the Assembly in relation to complaints, grievances and the Discipline processes of the UCA. It is hoped that this will enable a more proactive and innovative response to this issue.
3.8 Baptism, Confirmation and Membership. (Assembly minute 12.29) The Standing Committee appointed a Task Group at the beginning of the triennium but unfortunately it became clear in early 2014 that the Task Group was not able to complete this task. The Standing Committee was mindful that the Assembly had intended that there be a discussion at the 14th Assembly based on new material that had been produced. When this did not prove to be possible the Standing Committee commissioned the Formation, Education and Discipleship Working Group to prepare a resource, based on already existing material, and to develop a process that will allow a discussion on baptism, confirmation and membership to be held at the 14th Assembly. This discussion is on the agenda for the Assembly.
3.9 Review of the Ministry of Lay Preacher. This work was initiated by the Ministerial Education Commission prior to the 13th Assembly and then continued into the current triennium. The Ministry was affirmed, various Councils of the church encouraged to action and the Education for Ministry Working Group and the Worship Working Group given tasks to do in support of the ministry of lay preacher (ASC minute 13.49).
4. RELATIONSHIP WITH CONGRESS
4.1 One of the most memorable and significant actions of the 13th Assembly was the suspension of the business program so that members of the Assembly could walk to the steps of the South Australian Parliament and hold a prayer vigil in support of justice for indigenous Australians. Subsequent to this action the Assembly called the church to a week of prayer and fasting for justice for indigenous Australians, culminating in a public prayer vigil at Parliament House in Canberra to be led by the UAICC Chairperson and the President (Assembly minute 12.37). The series of activities became known as “A Destiny Together.”
4.2 UnitingJustice Australia is to be highly commended for the work put into fulfilling this referral at the cost of putting aside other important responsibilities. The outcome was well worth the effort as it was an activity which connected with people from across the church and was for many members the most tangible expression of their commitment to the Covenant with Congress that they have been able to demonstrate in a long time. The resources developed and the videos produced remain very usable resources. They can be accessed from the UnitingJustice website.
4.3 The government’s process towards the Constitutional recognition of the first peoples of Australia has slowed somewhat relative to initial expectations. Representations have been made at appropriate times during the process. Until the specific questions that will be included in a referendum are advised no further action is anticipated. At that time Congress will be consulted about their view on the questions and the response of the UCA will be shaped out of that advice.
4.4 Due to a number of factors it has not been possible for the ASC / National UAICC covenant support group to meet during the last triennium. The next ASC may care to consider reactivating this group in the light of current circumstances. However other significant and deepening connection points have been developing and it is a fair assessment to say that the quality and range of interactions between the Assembly and the National UAICC is now better than it has been for a great many years.
5. FRONTIER SERVICES
5.1 In 2012 the Uniting Church celebrated 100 years of the ministry of Frontier Services and at the 13th Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to the people of remote Australia. Less than a year later the ministry of Frontier Services was under severe threat due to major problems in the quality of the delivery of aged care services, and the major financial burden that was caused by sanctions and the need to expend significant amounts of money to rectify major deficiencies in systems and services.
5.2 In the decade prior to its centenary Frontier Services continued to do what it had done for 100 years – see a need in remote Australia and respond to it notwithstanding that this is the hardest place to minister and deliver services. In particular it increased the number of aged care services about three fold as more and more small operators proved unable to fulfil the increasingly demanding accreditation standards with inadequate funding that is provided by governments. Frontier Services was regularly approached by the Commonwealth Government to take on aged care services.
5.3 These services were always difficult to manage. However the systems of management, level of expertise and Board skills in oversight for these increasingly complex and financially risky operations did not keep up with the changing environment of a more widely spread service operating in a complex and demanding regulatory environment. This resulted in poor service delivery outcomes and increased risk to the wellbeing of the persons that Frontier Services was committed to serve – notwithstanding all the good will and best efforts of those involved.
5.4 As more and more services were taken on the Commonwealth Department responsible for standards regularly inspected the services and at various times imposed notices to remedy deficiencies in standards, and on occasions the more serious impost of sanctions. In late 2012 sanctions were imposed on two large sites in Darwin. These sanctions were to be in place for six to nine months. By early 2013 the Commonwealth Department made it abundantly clear that they had lost confidence in the governance and management of Frontier Services.
5.5 In March the Department indicated that it was so concerned about performance that it was prepared to consider whether Frontier Services should have its Approved Provider status removed. If the Assembly Standing Committee had not responded to this possibility by removing the responsibility for aged care services from the then Frontier Services Board to what became called the Transition Board for Aged Care Services then the results for the church would have been catastrophic. With the generous offering of the time and skills of experienced aged care providers from across the church it was possible to put together the Transition Board and to commence the work of resolving the issues that gave rise to the sanctions, improving the systems and as such the care provided to the residents and eventually to transitioning the services to other providers.
5.6 The Standing Committee held a special meeting in late June 2013 in order to further consider how best to put Frontier Services on a sound footing for the future. At that meeting the Standing Committee took the difficult decision that notwithstanding the good will and best efforts of the existing members of the Frontier Services Board a new Board was required. The distress and organizational turmoil within Frontier Services was high at the time and it was judged that the thorough reviews and organizational adjustments that were going to be required needed the involvement of people who not only had a commitment to remote Australia, experience of and respect for Frontier Services; but who could also respond more rapidly and effectively to the challenges being faced by the organization.
5.7 On 1 July 2014 Frontier Services exited the provision of aged care services, except for one service in Alice Springs that had particular issues that took until November to resolve. More details on the transition will be provided in the Frontier Services report. However it is appropriate here to say that the Standing Committee has expressed the sincere thanks of the Assembly to the Boards of Blue Care (Qld) and Juniper (WA) for the spirit of co-operation, goodwill and generosity with which they entered into the processes which ultimately led to the transition of the Frontier Services aged care services to these high quality Uniting Church providers. Thanks were also conveyed to the UnitingCare Aging in NSW/ACT, Resthaven (SA) and other agencies that provided financial support in aid of the transition. Without their involvement it is not clear what other options would have been available.
5.8 This process of transition has been incredibly costly in terms of the demands on people and finances. The costs involved in dealing with the sanctions were very significant but more so was the cost of rectifying inadequate systems and capital investment throughout the organization. It was only possible to effect the transition of the services because the majority of UnitingCare aged care providers were willing to provide support for the new providers. Frontier Services has only been able to meet its costs and to continue the evaluation and reshaping of its ongoing ministries because the Assembly has put its balance sheet behind it and provided cash as required.
5.9 In March 2015 the Standing Committee received a substantial report from the Board on the outcome of the reviews that were undertaken in relation to the future shape of community services and patrol ministry. In response to the submissions made by the Board the Standing Committee, being attentive to the mission and values of Frontier Services and the attendant risks and financial implications, made a series of decisions about the future work of Frontier Services. These decisions are reported in more detail in the report of Frontier Services.
5.10 One decision taken in March was to convene a National Consultation of Remote Area Ministry. This Consultation will be held from June 2nd to 5th. A report from the Consultation will be provided as a supplementary report of the ASC to this meeting of the Assembly.
5.11 Members of the 14th Assembly can be confident that the Assembly, and more generally the wider church, has fulfilled the commitment to remote Australia that it made at the 13th Assembly. That commitment has expressed itself in a variety of ways and is not diminished because aged care services are no longer delivered through Frontier Services. Most importantly the Church can be confident that the needs of older Australians in remote Australia which were previously served by Frontier Services are in the best Church hands possible.
6. EXERCISING OVERSIGHT OF ASSEMBLY AGENCIES AND COMMITTEES
6.1 In 2012 the Standing Committee reported to the Assembly that it was becoming very focused on its responsibilities to exercise good governance over the areas which the church has entrusted to its care and oversight. It was reported that the areas that were of particular focus were compliance with legislative requirements, ensuring fulfillment of contractual undertakings, protecting the legal and reputational risk of the organization and its parts, ensuring that good financial management and risk mitigation are in place and thinking about strategic issues that affect the Assembly, as well as others.
6.2 Clearly the events of the last triennium indicate that these efforts were required well before 2012 and that continued work is required to improve the Assembly’s performance in governance.
6.3 The Standing Committee has invested significant effort in the preparation for, and conduct of, regular meetings with Board / National Committee representatives ensuring that greater and more rigorous attention is given to the oversight of delegated Boards and Committees. This work will be further enhanced by a thorough review of the delegations that have been given to them with the outcome being greater clarity on the nature and range of delegations and accountability for them.
6.4 There is more detailed and regular oversight of the finances and risks in individual areas of operation via the work of the Assembly Audit, Finance and Risk Committee – another incredibly hard working Committee of highly skilled people. The Standing Committee has established a risk register for its own areas of responsibility and it is provided at each meeting of the Standing Committee where it is available for use as well as being subject to periodic review.
6.5 The task of improving governance capacity in the ASC is continuing and some of the steps on the way to further improvement are reflected in the information provided to potential nominees for election to the ASC; an enhanced induction process and a stronger emphasis on the skills mix required by the ASC and its Committees and Working Groups.
Standing Committee has also moved in the direction of expanding the source of people who can be identified for serving on Assembly bodies in an attempt to add diversity and deepen the skill mix available for the work of these groups. This approach is reflected in the opportunity for any member of the Assembly to use an expression of interest form to indicate interest in serving on Assembly Task Groups. This, and other actions, are consistent with the request to the Standing Committee from the 13th Assembly (Assembly minute 12.35).
6.6 During this triennium the Standing Committee established the ASC Governance Group. Its terms of reference include developing questions, guidelines and a timetable for Agency reporting; identifying and planning into the ASC agenda opportunities to address issues of strategic importance and / or urgency for the Assembly and the wider Uniting Church; enhancing the capacity of the ASC in its governance role by undertaking tasks referred to it from time to time; e.g. considering areas where co-options may be appropriate, improving reporting formats, providing guidance on things such as conflict of interest, improving meeting processes, etc. This work has been very beneficial to the functioning of the Standing Committee and will continue in the next triennium.
6.7 During this triennium a significant amount of work was undertaken to clarify the role of the Assembly’s legal entity, UCA Assembly Ltd and in particular the responsibilities of its Directors. The issue of who should comprise the membership of the Company and a change to a majority of non staff Directors was also addressed. These changes required a redrafting of the company’s constitution. The opportunity was also taken to identify where there is opportunity to improve the documentation that needs to flow between the Directors and the various entities that make use of UCA Assembly Ltd.
6.8 The outcome of the review of UCA Assembly Ltd was to seek to have UCA Assembly Ltd operate as much as possible as a trustee company. This approach is more problematic for a company established under the Corporations Act (Cmth) when it signs contracts for the delivery of services. However external legal advice indicated that this is possible with the correct structures around the interface of Directors and the bodies on whose behalf the Company signs contracts.
6.9 There is a question for the Assembly about whether this company structure and arrangements will meet the expectations of the Royal Commission, the polity of the church and needs of the Assembly when the Royal Commission expresses a view on the incorporation of entities that are involved with children. This is a subject of ongoing consideration. The considerations around this issue are referred to later in the report.
7. PRESIDENTIAL RULINGS
7.1 Presidential Ruling #28 addressed the question of whether a Synod acted in compliance with all relevant Regulations and by-laws in relation to its handling of a complaint against a Minister in the Synod. The President determined that the Synod acted appropriately. The Presidential Ruling was varied by the Standing Committee only sufficient to correct an error in the numbering of a regulation in July 2013 (ASC minute 13.54).
7.2 Presidential Ruling #29 addressed the question of whether a Synod acted in compliance with the Constitution and Regulations when it passed a series of resolutions requiring the sale of congregational property in reliance upon Regulation 4.6.3. The Presidential Ruling found that the resolutions were compliant except where they did not comply with the process required by Regulation 4.11.10 in so far as the resolution related to ‘Congregational property’. The Presidential Ruling was confirmed by the Standing Committee in November 2013 (ASC minute 13.79).
7.3 Presidential Ruling #30 addressed whether a bylaw of a Synod that conferred certain powers on the Moderator conformed to the Constitution and Regulations of the Church; and whether the actions of the Moderator of that Synod in relying on that by law conformed to the Constitution and Regulations of the Church. The President ruled that in so far as the bylaw might purport to grant power to the Moderator to dismiss the Synod Standing Committee then it does not comply with the Constitution and Regulations and any action to dismiss a Standing Committee by a Moderator in reliance upon such a bylaw would not conform to the Constitution and Regulations. The Presidential Ruling was confirmed by the Standing Committee in July 2014 (ASC minute 14.60).
8. ASSEMBLY FINANCE
8.1 Standing Committee appreciates the financial contributions from the Synods towards the Assembly budget for each of the three years of 2013 – 2015. This support has been given at times when the resources of some Synods have been under particular stress.
8.2 Notwithstanding the good will and support of Synods for funding the Assembly, the Assembly has experienced a significant reduction in its grants over the last triennium. The Synod grants to the Assembly in calendar year 2012 (the budget year for the Assembly at the time) totaled $3,798,000 which was down $689,000 or 15% on the previous year. In the budget year 2015/16 (the Assembly now uses the financial year as its budget year) the Synod grants are anticipated to be $2,979,000. This represents a reduction of $819,000 (21.5%) in this triennium and $1,508,000 (33.6%) over five budgets. This reduction in funding is compounded by the removal, for the foreseeable future, of a grant commencing in 2015. This grant of $140,000 in 2014 arises from a property in which the Assembly is a beneficiary. The detailed financial report of the Assembly is provided as document B4A.
8.3 Given the dramatic downturn in Synod grants, sometimes coming without warning, strong cost controls and budget processes are not sufficient to manage the loss in income. Over the triennium UnitingWorld Relief and Development and the Northern Synod have ceased to receive funding support from the Assembly Fund due to their capacity to generate some funds from other sources. Over the last three years the Assembly has managed to maintain existing work that is supported through the Assembly Fund albeit with some reductions in staff positions. However that is no longer an option.
8.4 In March the Standing Committee addressed the latest significant downturn in Synod funding and resolved that significant changes would need to be made in the staffing mix of the Assembly. The outcome of this work is taken up in the section on “Agency Arrangements” at 11.4.
8.5 One positive development over the last few years has been that the Synods and Assembly have co-operated to jointly fund particular national activities. These new areas of work have either been funded on a formula basis (the national staff in support of the church’s work for the Royal Commission) or through negotiated contributions (National Disaster Recovery Officer). The importance of this project based approach to funding is that contributions for this national work come from cost centres within the synods other than the line marked “Assembly grant”. This is a model that may need to be further explored in relation to other areas of national work.
9. EXEMPTIONS FROM THE OPERATION OF REGULATIONS
9.1 From time to time Standing Committee is asked to exercise its authority under Regulation 3.10.1 to approve alternate Regulations and / or exemptions from Regulations for particular bodies.
9.2 During the last triennium there were two requests for exemption to the operation of the Regulations. The Synod of Queensland was granted an exemption to the operation of Regulation 22.214.171.124 (a) (iii) to the extent necessary to enable some members of the Synod’s Standing Committee to hold office over the period of two synods; ie three years (ASC minute 13.16.02). The National UAICC was granted an alternative regulation in relation to Regulation 3.3.8 (a) (i) such that for the 14th Assembly the National Coordinator of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and not the National Administrator shall be an ex officio member of the triennial Assembly.
10. AMENDMENTS TO THE REGULATIONS
10.1 The 13th Assembly authorised the Standing Committee on advice from the Assembly Legal Reference Committee to amend the following parts of the Regulations when the Standing Committee deems it necessary (Assembly minute 12.06):
• The Code of Ethics
• The Alternative Regulations for Korean Congregations
• Part 5 – the Discipline Regulations
10.2 The Standing Committee undertook a thorough review of the Alternative Korean Regulations and approved a significant revision (ASC minute 14.78.02).
10.3 A consequential amendment arising from the work on the Alternative Korean Regulations was to amend the definitions section of the Discipline Regulations (Regulation 5.1.1) to include in the definition of Minister ‘a minister of another denomination serving in a placement’.
10.4 The Standing Committee received advice that there was a pressing need to review Regulation 5.5.1. One change was made to Regulation 5.5.1 (h) to remove the word “amicably” (ASC minute 14.86.08) and a Task Group was appointed to do further work. In March the Standing Committee received a report that more time was needed for consultation and authorized the Task Group to bring proposed amendments to regulation 5.5.1 to the 14th Assembly. Proposals to this effect will be provided by the Task Group.
11. AGENCY ARRANGEMENTS
11.1 During the last triennium ongoing financial pressures have required continual striving after how to hold areas of work when less money is available to pay for staff. In response to this pressure the half time position of Christian Unity Secretary has been discontinued and the work incorporated into the role of the person responsible for supporting the work of Doctrine and Worship among other things. The new title for this role is National Consultant for Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship.
11.2 In March this year when the position of National Director for Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry became vacant the Standing Committee reluctantly decided that it could only offer an initial appointment of two years for this role due to the uncertainty of Assembly funding. The future shape of this and other ministry areas will need to be determined within a more comprehensive consideration of how the ministry of the Assembly is delivered.
11.3 Due to the significant reduction in the finance, accounting, HR and payroll work at Frontier Services after the exit from aged care the Frontier Services Board decided to outsource the provision of these services to the Assembly Secretariat. This gives the impression that the Secretariat has increased in size, which it has, but the funding has been provided from a new source.
11.4 At its meeting in March the Standing Committee addressed itself to the question of priorities for the years 2015/16 and beyond. In order to meet the anticipated shortfall over the next two years and to plan for the future shape of Assembly work, the Standing Committee resolved to reduce the funding to UnitingWorld Church Connections by $250,000 (but allow it to use reserves for these two years in order to sustain current work); discontinue the position of Associate General Secretary; accept the generous offer from the UAICC to receive a $70,000 reduction for one year and to make other relatively minor adjustments as necessary. In this two year period the ASC will develop an alternative way of working with a staffing structure to match which is project based with a focus reflecting Assembly priorities. This may require that changes be made to some Assembly Mandates.
12. THE ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
12.1 In November 2012 the Standing Committee established a National Task Group to assist the UCA’s engagement with, and response to, the Royal Commission. The Assembly has offered leadership for the church in providing draft terms of reference for Synod based Task Groups, a National Framework within which to respond to the issues before the Royal Commission and through its Executive Officer convening meetings of various stakeholders and facilitating responses to the Issues Papers put out by the Royal Commission.
12.2 Co-operation and co-ordination across the UCA has been of a high order in relation to the Royal Commission. This way of working has allowed all parts of the church to learn from the experiences of others; facilitated the sharing of resources across the church; and enabled the less resource rich parts of the church to still be able to work towards the significant change that is necessary.
12.3 At the time of writing the UCA has received from the Royal Commission five ‘Notices to Produce’ addressing several issues. A school and its related Synod, and two church missions in two different Synods have been required to appear before Public Hearings. One synod has had a notice to produce but it has not been called to a Public Hearing. Notwithstanding that the UCA has a positive record in its expectations of Ministers under the Code of Ethics and Ministry Practice and its sexual misconduct complaints policies, and has child safe church policies and agencies have strong systems; child sexual abuse still occurs to children within our care. There is much that can still be done to make our church safer for children and vulnerable adults. Subsequent sections of this report will reference matters that are being addressed in response to, or that are of concern, to the Royal Commission.
13. REVIEW OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT COMPLAINTS POLICIES
13.1 Since the 13th Assembly the Standing Committee has reviewed and approved a revised policy for addressing complaints of sexual misconduct made against a member or adherent of the Uniting Church in Australia. This has a been a major piece of work but the new policy is now in place and will be subject to regular review as are all policies in this area.
14. NATIONAL REGISTER OF COMPLAINTS
14.1 The system in the UCA for sharing information about persons who have been subject to successful complaints of sexual misconduct, including child sexual abuse are informal and not certain to be complete. Where a person has their recognition as a Minister withdrawn this is recorded in the Assembly minutes and whether this was for disciplinary reasons. However suspensions and complaints about lay persons are not centrally recorded. This means that unless the relevant Officer in a Synod or other part of the church knows who the responsible Officer is in the synod of origin of a person, then inquiries cannot be made. Also there are no protocols that make clear who should access information and for what purposes.
14.2 Best practice is to have a system that allows for information of this type to be shared with appropriate people for a proper purpose. In order to be most useful the UCA needs a national register of complaints. The Standing Committee has tasked the General Secretary with undertaking a process of consultation with the synods with a view to establishing policies, procedures and infrastructure that will enable the UCA to have a national register of complaints before the end of 2015 (ASC minutes 14.53.04 and 15.16.02).
15. LEGAL IDENTITY AND STRUCTURES OF GOVERNANCE
15.1 One of the major concerns of the Royal Commission is that any entity that has dealings with children must have access to insurance and assets sufficient to make good any claims for damages. The goal of this is to ensure that the bodies responsible for persons who abuse children have assets with which to meet the claims that arise from such abuse. Like many churches the UCA is, for the most part, a collection of unincorporated associations of people who do not have what the law calls “legal personality.” Such associations cannot be sued or hold assets. The “legal identity” of the UCA is in the Synod Property Trusts and the Assembly’s Corporations Act company, UCA Assembly Ltd. The Property Trusts of churches do not direct the ministry of the church. The Royal Commission, and the Victorian State parliament on its own initiative, wants to end this separation. The Royal Commission wants to require that the churches and others be able to provide a “proper defendant”. Incorporation is one of achieving this.
15.2 A significant amount of work has already been undertaken in order to identify a form of incorporation (and there are several from which to choose) that best supports the current relationships between the church, its schools and Agencies and which aligns with the polity of the church. This work is being undertaken collaboratively across the church. As visibility grows on the best way to proceed and its implications for the church then information will be progressively shared more widely across the church. The Royal Commission will express its views on these matters in a major report on redress and civil litigation that will be published at the end of June.
16. ELDERS REVISITED
16.1 During the course of the triennium representations came from various parts of the church suggesting that there was a need to revisit the role and understanding of Elders. This was because of a growing sense that the church may be losing something important in its life due to the lack of a clear role description for Elders in the Regulations and the absence of a locus (ie Council) through which to shape and guide its ministry since the move to one local church council (ASC minute 14.28).
16.2 A Task Group was established which consulted widely across the church. A report and proposals will be brought to the Assembly.
17. CHANGE OF SYNOD BOUNDARIES
17.1 The Standing Committee agreed to a request from the Synods of NSW / ACT and Victoria / Tasmania that the Howlong congregation be located within the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. (ASC minute 14.86.07).
18. INVESTMENT COMMITTEE UPGRADE AND PRACTICE IMPROVEMENT
18.1 As part of its commitment to improving governance across all areas of the Assembly the Standing Committee has re-established the Assembly Investment Committee with a professionally based membership and a revised charter. Investments are done through managers. Most investments are with UCA entities and all follow the Ethical Investment Principles of the UCA.
18.2 In 2014 the Standing Committee resolved that it would no longer invest in fossil fuels and encouraged other councils and groups in the UCA to take the same position. The divestment process is being undertaken following the pattern of the NSW / ACT Synod which has adopted a similar policy (ASC minute 14.42).
19. LUTHERAN – UCA SHARED EUCHARISTIC LITURGY
19.1 The Standing Committee endorsed ‘A Great Prayer of Thanksgiving, with Commentary’ and requested the Christian Unity Working Group to make it available to UCA congregations in whatever ways are appropriate (ASC minute 13.12).
20. ANGLICAN – UCA DIALOGUE
20.1 The Standing Committee received report of the results of the Anglican – Uniting Church dialogue in the document Weaving a New Cloth and has brought a proposal to the Assembly that it be adopted as the basis for ecumenical co-operation with the Anglican Church of Australia (ASC minute 14.44.03).
21. CONSULTATION ON THEOLOGICAL COLLEGES
21.1 The Standing Committee received a request from the Synod of NSW / ACT asking that the Assembly convene a consultation with theological colleges to see if the time was right for higher levels of integration and cost sharing between some or all of them. With the encouragement of the Standing Committee the President convened a series of meetings. The outcome of these consultations was that there a move to one college is not an option at this time. However the discussion has brought a number of Synods into closer and intentional conversation about sharing courses and in some cases perhaps higher levels of collaboration in the future.
22. CODE OF ETHICS FOR LAY LEADERS
22.1 A Presbytery wrote to the Standing Committee advising that there was a pressing need for a Code of Conduct for lay persons. The need for this resource was said to be heightened with the increasing number of lay led congregations and the lack of a clear reference point when Presbyteries felt the need to intervene in congregations in order to address inappropriate behavior by lay persons.
22.2 The Standing Committee agreed that a simple document that could act as a Code of Conduct for Lay Leaders had merit. It has not been possible to complete that work in this triennium and so a process for producing the next draft has been put in place and the work will return to the next Standing Committee.
23. STAFF MATTERS
23.1 The Standing Committee reviewed the ministries of the follow senior staff and reappointed them for the periods indicated:
• Rev Dr Tony Floyd, National Director, Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry – 31 March 2015.
• Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director Uniting Justice Australia – 31 December 2017.
• Rev Dr Chris Walker, National Consultant for Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship – 31 July 2017.
• Rev Glenda Blakefield, Associate General Secretary – 30 June 2017.
23.2 The Standing Committee appointed the following senior staff for the periods indicated:
• Mr Craig Mitchell as National Director, Formation, Education and Discipleship – 28 February 2019.
• Mr Rob Floyd as National Director of UnitingWorld effective from 1 May 2014.
• Rev Alan White as Interim National Director of Frontier Services – 31 March 2014.
• Rev (Deacon) Scott Kelly as National Director for Frontier Services – 1 May 2015.
23.3 Mrs Rosemary Young concluded her term as National Director for Frontier Services in July 2013.
23.4 Rev Dr Kerry Enright concluded his placement as National Director for UnitingWorld in April 2014.
23.5 Rev Terence Corkin advised that he will conclude his placement as General Secretary on 31 December 2015.
23.6 Rev Allan White concluded his term as Interim National Director of Frontier Services – 1 August 2013.
23.7 Rev (Deacon) Scott Kelly concluded his term as National Director of Frontier Services – 8 October 2015.
24. BUSINESS PASSED TO THE NEXT STANDING COMMITTEE
24.1 The outgoing Standing Committee has provided a number of suggestions for attention and action by the incoming Standing Committee arising from its work on governance and other matters.
25. FUTURE MEETING DATES
25.1 The incoming Standing Committee elected by the Fourteenth Assembly will hold its first two meetings in Sydney on August 28 – 30 and November 13 -15.