Membership Discussion Background

MEMBERSHIP

1. Background

I. In 2007, Rev. Dr. Rob Bos wrote a paper, A Church of Passionate Disciples, which was well received.

II. In 2010 a discussion paper, Church Membership, was developed and distributed to all Presbyteries for responses.

III. The Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) felt the responses were too mixed to do more work on it and take something to the Assembly in 2012.

IV. At the 2012 Assembly, a proposal was brought to the Assembly asking that the matter of church membership be taken up. As a result the ASC appointed a Task Group to prepare a discussion paper, however the group did not meet or produce such a paper.

V. In 2014 the ASC asked the Formation Education and Discipleship (FED) Working Group to arrange for the development of a document that is a simplified summary of concerns raised by respondents to the 2010 Church Membership paper, and which identifies possible future directions arising from the Church Membership document. This document is the outcome of the FED Working Group’s work.

2. Changing Context for Membership

I. Australian society has changed dramatically since the 1960s and 1970s. The church is no longer the centre of the local community. Far fewer Australians live their whole lifetime in one locality. Loyalty to and participation in longstanding institutions such as churches, trades unions, service and sporting clubs, and political parties have significantly diminished. For younger Christians, denominational affiliation counts for little. So the notion of lifetime membership of one congregation or even of one Christian denomination is passing. The church’s concept of membership needs to be responsive to these changes.

II. The Assembly’s work in the 1990s on baptism and the catechumenate brought a recognition that our definitions, categories and procedures relating to church membership are complex. Currently we recognise baptised members, confirmed members, members-in-association, plus adherents. The church requires the keeping of baptism registers and rolls for all three categories of membership and for adherents, plus an annual review of all rolls, certificates of transfer, and even lists of absent members.

III. Many congregations find they have confirmed members who rarely participate in the life of the congregation yet retain their voting rights according to the Regulations. They can even appeal if their names are taken off the membership roll (Regulation 5.2.3). On the other hand, others come to participate in the life of the congregation and may be regarded as faithful members, but have not formally become confirmed members or members-in-association or have not transferred their membership from another congregation. Strictly speaking these active participants currently cannot vote in meetings of the congregation. Adherents may attend and speak at meetings of the congregation but also cannot vote. They can be appointed as members of committees, but are not members of the congregation (Regulation 1.1.23).

3. Core Membership Proposals from Church Membership Paper

I. The 2010 Church Membership Paper proposed moving to a new understanding of confirmed membership characterised by active discipleship and involvement in the life of a congregation. This is instead of a single Service of Confirmation which grants lifelong, confirmed membership of the Uniting Church. Confirmed membership will involve a regular and repeatable recommitment to the Christian faith and to the congregation.

II. It was proposed that the current membership categories be simplified and that the category of Member-in Association be removed.

III. These proposed changes would mean that those able to participate in the decision-making life of the congregation will be active (confirmed) baptised people. The emphasis would be on baptism and discipleship – understood as following Jesus and actively participating in the life of the local community of faith, not simply gaining voting rights or joining an institution.

4. Summary of Consultation Process

Affirmations: The consultation process affirmed the idea of limiting decision-making responsibility in local congregations to active members. In general there was support for giving attention to discipleship, recognising the importance of baptism as the sacrament signifying identifying with Jesus Christ and being incorporated into his body, the church, and fostering active involvement in the life of the congregation.

There are two areas of concern derived from the consultation:
Administration in Local Context: Concern about having to make an annual or repeated commitment in order to remain recognised as an active member of the congregation; reluctance to take people’s names off membership lists.

Inclusion: Reluctance to encourage people to become baptized if they were not already baptized; pastoral implications of people no longer being regarded as confirmed voting members if they did not participate in the annual service; did not want to exclude those that had been members even if they were no longer active; there were those who were concerned about the implications for rural and remote people who are not able to attend worship regularly but still consider themselves active members of the Uniting Church.

5. Principles for Membership

The following principles are offered so that the Assembly might consider possible ways forward. These principles attempt to capture the concerns raised during the consultation process, while also maintaining the core principles from the Church Membership paper.

I. Confirmed membership is characterised by active discipleship and involvement in the life of a congregation.

II. Decision-making in the life of the congregation will be by active confirmed baptised people.

III. Confirmed membership is symbolized by an act of commitment that is to be repeatedly affirmed.

IV. Membership categories will be simplified by removing Member-in Association.

V. Church Council’s are to administer membership in a way pastorally sensitive and inclusive according to their context, under the oversight of the Presbytery.

VI. The Assembly will develop a range of resources including many options for administering church membership in congregations according to the above five principles.
Appendix: Background Questions and Answers

The following questions and answers are offered in response to the above proposals from the 2010 Church Membership Paper.

Is baptism necessary for those who want to follow Jesus Christ and participate in the life of the congregation?
People can be followers of Jesus and share in the life of the congregation without being baptised. But a person cannot become a confirmed member of the Uniting Church without being baptised. Baptism is the recognized means of grace by which people are initiated into the life of faith in Jesus Christ and the Christian community (see Basis of Union para 12). Preparing for baptism can be an opportunity to learn more about the Christian faith and is a powerful symbol of God’s grace and our response. So, whether it is for infants or adults, baptism should be taken seriously by both those involved and the church.

How does a person become a confirmed member of a Uniting Church congregation?
There are three ways:
• By being baptised on profession of the Christian faith and being actively involved in the life of the congregation.
• By being baptised as an infant or child, personally professing the Christian faith in confirmation and being actively involved in the life of the congregation.
• Having been baptised as an infant, child or adult, having moved from another Uniting Church congregation or from a congregation of a Christian denomination recognised by the Uniting Church, and being actively involved in the life of the congregation.
In each case it is the Church Council that formally recognises a person as a confirmed member of the congregation for the next 12 months or other agreed period. And in each case the person participates in the annual commitment service or, if unable to be present, signs the annual covenant or commitment statement.

Is confirmation just about voting rights?
Confirmation is much more than simply obtaining voting rights in the church. While it should not be regarded as a sacrament, it is an opportunity to reaffirm baptism and growth in discipleship including the importance of actively participating in the life of the congregation.

Is there still a place for confirmation education?
Yes, although referring to them as discipleship training courses is preferable. All those considering becoming confirmed members of the church for the first time should participate in a discipleship training course. The annual commitment service can include the sacrament of baptism for those not previously baptised as infants or children and a confirmation service for those previously baptised. Note that participation in a discipleship training course is not a one-off experience but is expected to be a regular part of growing in faith and discipleship.

Why an annual commitment service?
Most congregations and people function on an annual basis. This would enable congregations to consciously include newer people, plan discipleship training courses, invite people to renew their commitment to Jesus Christ and the church, and be more intentional about their record-keeping. However, an annual service may not be warranted in every congregation. The Church Council will determine the period of time between the special commitment services, with 12 months regarded as the norm.

Why bother changing the Regulations concerning church membership and emphasising active participation as the basis for voting rights?
While it is difficult and time consuming to change the Uniting Church Constitution, it would be helpful to simplify the Regulations and make the changes suggested. This would reduce the rolls congregations need to keep. Under our proposals congregations will have a baptism register, a roll of confirmed members and a pastoral list. No change is proposed to the right of appeal against the removal of a name from membership (Regulation 5.2.3).

Who is recognised as a confirmed member of the congregation?
All those who are recognised by the Church Council as confirmed members, as in question 15 above, and who have signed the covenant or commitment statement. See also question 24.

Are people other than confirmed members able to participate in the life of the congregation?
Emphatically yes! While not being eligible for election as Elders or Church Councillors, people associated with the congregation who are not confirmed members are eligible to take part in the life of the congregation and to serve on committees or task groups of the congregation.

Will the proposed new arrangements apply to all confirmed members of the Uniting Church?
Yes, but with these understandings:
• under Constitution clause 6(a) the Uniting Church is committed to recognising as confirmed members all those “who were confirmed members in one of the uniting churches” – that is, a confirmed member prior to June 1977 in one of the three churches that formed the Uniting Church. If a Church Council believes it should no longer recognise a person as a confirmed member under the proposed new arrangements, and that person was a confirmed member of one of the uniting churches and wishes to continue to be recognised as a confirmed member, then the Church Council shall continue to recognise that person as a confirmed member;
• some confirmed members of congregations live in remote areas of Australia or overseas and are thus unable to be actively involved in the life of the congregation in which they hold their membership; where such persons wish to retain their confirmed membership of the church, the Church Council of their “home” congregation will continue to recognise them as confirmed members;
• some confirmed members of congregations are unable to continue with active involvement in the life of their congregation due to ongoing ill-health or advanced age; Church Councils will continue to recognise such persons as confirmed members unless a person asks not to be so recognised.
• Note, however, that the current provisions for removal of a person’s name from the congregational rolls (Regulation 1.6.2) will continue to apply to all members, including those referred to in this question.

What about those who are confirmed members in a faith community?
Under Regulation 3.9.2(b) confirmed members in a faith community may hold their membership with a congregation or with the Presbytery. The proposed new arrangements will apply in each case. Where membership is held in a congregation, the Church Council will consider active involvement in a faith community as fulfilling the requirement of active involvement in the congregation. Where membership is recorded with the Presbytery, the Presbytery will review the list of confirmed members annually, and active involvement in the faith community will be a requirement for continued recognition as a confirmed member. Faith communities will also be encouraged to hold an annual commitment service.

Formation Education and Discipleship Working Group,
May 2015


B1 – Business Committee

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Meetings in preparation for the 14th Assembly began in February 2014. Initial planning was undertaken by an Assembly Design Team and subsequently the Business Committee has finalised the program.

1.2 The members of the Business Committee are: Stuart McMillan, Terence Corkin, Glenda Blakefield, Geoffrey Grinton, Rosemary Hudson Miller, Alison Atkinson – Phillips, Michelle Cook, Deidre Palmer , Chris Budden, Dennis Corowa and Haloti Kailahi.

1.3 The Assembly is more than a business meeting. Therefore there are elements of celebration, thanksgiving, community life, Bible Study and prayer. The Business Committee emphasises that these are not optional components for Assembly members. All of these are valuable in their own right and together they are gathered together into the rhythm of the whole week so that the reports, deliberations and decision making are shaped by them. Through these processes of building community and fellowship around word and sacrament we believe that as a community we are best placed to discern Christ’s will for his church.

2. RESPONSIBILITIES

2.1 The role of the Business Committee is to:

  • serve the Assembly in ensuring that all business will be considered in a clear and timely manner
  • ensure that members are enabled to participate fully in the Assembly’s decision making through the provision of all necessary information
  • recommend the agenda and timetable of the Assembly
  • generally assist the Assembly to deal with its business

2.2 The Assembly is in charge of its own business and recommendations from this Business Committee are open to debate, amendment or rejection by the Assembly, as are any other proposals that come before this Council.

3. ACTIVITIES

3.1 In developing the Assembly program particular consideration has been given to how the Assembly can give adequate space in its agenda for worship, Bible study, community building, discernment processes, and of course decisions. An important feature of the Assembly will be the service on Monday morning where we come together to commit ourselves to be a community under the Lordship of Christ for the meeting of the Assembly.

3.2 The Community Working Groups will once again be a significant focus for the life of the Assembly. In response to feedback from the last Assembly they will meet on three occasions at this Assembly, once for community building and orientation to the business and twice to assist the Assembly in exercising its discernment.

3.3 There are a number of major areas of business that have arisen from the life of the Standing Committee over the last triennium. They include the report on the marriage discussion and related proposals, Eldership, a proposal to adopt a basis for ecumenical co-operation with the Anglican Church of Australia, a major report on the UCA response to, and engagement with, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; and a number of proposals to amend the regulations.

3.4 In addition there are a number of significant proposals from Assembly Agencies as well as synods and presbyteries on a range of issues.

3.5 On this occasion the Assembly will not meet on Friday evening. Within the life of Congress and the Presbytery of Western Australia there is the very special occasion of being in a position to ordain two Congress members. The WA Congress and Congress members generally, have been very hopeful to share this important event with as many members of Congress from across the country as might be possible. The Business Committee considered how this may be possible and recognised that the free evening on Wednesday would not work for a number of reasons. As an expression of support and respect for this important event in the life of Congress and the Presbytery the Business Committee has decided not to hold any Assembly business on Friday night. The Presbytery of WA will convene for the ordinations in Winthrop Hall (the Assembly venue) at that time. Members of the Assembly are invited and encouraged to participate in this special evening.

4. BUSINESS PROCEDURES

4.1 All business sessions of the Assembly will be conducted in accordance with A Manual for Meetings in the Uniting Church. A copy of the Manual is in section I of the 14th Assembly’s working papers.

4.2 The Fourteenth Assembly will again feature Community Working Groups. All voting members, and persons associated with the Assembly for the whole meeting, will be allocated to a Community Working Group. The exception is Congress members who have asked to meet together during those times. Community Working Groups are not an optional extra – they are an essential part of our discernment process. It is expected that people will participate in them. You will receive advice on which group you are in, and where it meets when you arrive at the Assembly meeting. The agenda shows the times allocated to Community Working Groups.

4.3 Members will receive their papers in a number of mailings. In addition all reports and proposals are on the 14th Assembly web site for those members who wish to access materials electronically and for the information of members of the church.

4.4 Media coverage at the Assembly has, on occasions, not been helpful to the working of the Council. Care will be taken to monitor the way the media operates and if required the General Secretary, on the advice of the Business Committee, shall determine whether any sessions shall be closed to media. Where necessary the Business Committee will bring proposals in respect of how the media should be involved in sessions that deal with contentious matters.

5. BUSINESS PROCEDURES AND CONGRESS

Over a long period of time the UAICC has indicated that there are difficulties for Congress in participating in our style of meeting. At the 11th and 12th Assemblies a new process, consistent with the principles of the Manual for Meetings, was developed to address the particular concerns raised by Congress. These procedures were seen to be very well received and to be helpful to the Congress and the Assembly. The 12th Assembly agreed to them being used from the 12th Assembly without need to bring a particular proposal to the opening session of each Assembly (Assembly minute 09.03.07). The words of the resolution are provided at the end of this document.

6. CLOSING DATES AND TIMES

6.1 Proposals
Proposals to the Assembly were invited from presbyteries, synods and Assembly agencies with a closing date of April 12 2015 for matters relating to the Constitution and Regulations; and 12 June 2015 for other matters.

Unless the Assembly decides otherwise only amendments coming from Councils of the Church or arising from debates will be received after these dates.

Proposals should be addressed to the General Secretary and may be delivered by email to terencec@nat.uca.org.au or mailed to PO Box A2266, Sydney South NSW 1235.

6.2 Nominations
6.2.1 President Elect Nominations for this position have closed and information about the four nominees appear in the Assembly documents.
6.2.2 Other positions See report D1, Ballots and Nominating Procedures, for full details. Assembly members may submit nominations until 6.00pm on Tuesday 14 July (close of Session 11).

7. PROCESSING OF PROPOSALS

Following is advice to persons who want to submit proposals for the consideration of the Assembly. By following this advice members of the Assembly will greatly assist their cause and the efficient working of the Assembly business processes.

When proposals are received by the General Secretary, or the Manager of Assembly Business (Mr Geoffrey Grinton), they are reviewed to ensure that they are in a form that the Assembly can consider and that they address a matter that it is appropriate for the Assembly to make a decision upon (the technical word is that the proposal is “competent”). If either of these things is found to be lacking then conversations are held with the proposer in order to rectify these deficiencies.

It is not uncommon for a number of proposals to be brought that address the same issue. This is quite common when there are amendments being proposed to an original proposal, or that pick up a matter that is of lively interest to the Assembly. When there is similarity among proposals then the Business Manager will encourage and facilitate a meeting of persons bringing similar proposals, which might lead to a different and possibly joint set of words being developed. Sometimes this will result in one set of words appearing in a proposal that is produced in the Assembly papers and then quite a different set of words being presented later.

The mobile phone number for persons bringing proposals is required. It is only for the use of the Business Manager and will not be published.

8. GUIDELINES FOR PROPOSALS

8.1 Proposals should refer to policy matters, be precise and be unambiguous.

8.2 Proposals should begin “That the Assembly…”

8.3 Proposals seeking amendment to the Regulations should begin, “That the Assembly request the Standing Committee, on the advice of the Legal Reference Committee, to amend Regulation…. to the effect that / to read…..”

8.4 Proposals must be submitted in writing (one copy is sufficient) and signed by two members of the Assembly or by the appropriate officer of the presbytery or synod.

8.5 Proposals should be accompanied by a written rationale of no more than 250 words which will be circulated to all members of the Assembly with the proposal.

8.6 The General Secretary and the Manager of Assembly Business are available to Assembly members who may need advice on business procedures or who may wish to raise a concern or make a suggestion.

9. VISITORS PROGRAM

There will be no formal visitors program at this Assembly. However sessional and day visitors are welcome. Registration will be required on the day, and a small charge for costs will be payable. Contact the Inquiry Desk on arrival.

10. ASSEMBLY GUESTS

10.1 Australian Churches – member churches of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and the NCCA itself have been invited to send persons to the whole meeting of the Assembly where they will be associated as members of the Assembly. This is in order that the Assembly can be ecumenically informed by the perspective of other Australian churches as it undertakes its responsibilities. Other churches and NCCA member churches have been invited to attend the Opening Service and Installation of the President.

10.2 Overseas Guests – Approximately 40 overseas churches and ecumenical bodies will be sending representatives to the Thirteenth Assembly. It is hoped that overseas visitors will share with us in the life of the Assembly in a variety of ways as we address the many issues before us.

10.3 Other Faiths – representatives of other faith communities have been invited to participate at certain times.

10.4 Bible Study – will be facilitated by Dr Rosemary Dewerse with leadership of sessions being provided by Ms Denise Champion and Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho.

10.5 Cato Lecture – will be delivered by Dr LIN Manhong who is the Associate General Secretary of the China Christian Council and the acting Dean of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary. This lecture will be a public lecture at 7.30pm on Thursday 16 July. This opportunity is available to the Assembly through the generous assistance of the Cato Trustees.

11. BUSINESS PROCEDURES AND CONGRESS

09.03.07 The Assembly resolved
Business Procedures Involving Congress
to amend its standing orders to the extent necessary to enable the following process in respect of the UAICC:

  • allowing a representative of Congress to present the UAICC perspective on a proposal immediately after any movers and seconders, provided that they have indicated this intention ahead of time to either the General Secretary or the Business Manager;
  • there will be no specific time limit applied to the Congress speaker(s) in this situation;
  • in the deliberative phase Congress members will not be expected to show cards or to join a queue at the microphones to explain why they are not able to support a proposal. The President will not interpret this lack of showing cards as support for, or opposition to, any proposal;
  • Congress shall be provided with a briefing from the Facilitation Group upon request to the General Secretary;
  • Congress members will not be allocated to the Community Working Groups;
  • Congress, as a group, may request the President that a discussion cease for a time and opportunity will be provided for Congress members to meet together in order to discuss their position. Such business will return to the agenda at the discretion of the President and Congress will have the opportunity to speak at that time.

Rev Terence Corkin
General Secretary

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B3 – Report of the General Secretary

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 During the last triennium the role of the General Secretary has required more than ever the need to actively engage in the management and leadership of an Agency. The crisis within Frontier Services has added significantly to the demands on the time of the General Secretary and the Secretariat team more widely. This has meant that other aspects of the role have been unable to receive the attention that they would normally expect. I appreciate the understanding of the members of the Assembly Standing Committee, my colleagues and the wider church. I continue to be immeasurably appreciative of the understanding and support of my family and the faithfulness of God who has called me to this role and never left me lacking for the resources that are required.

1.2 The role of General Secretary encompasses a number of broad areas of responsibility. Perhaps the most obvious is the responsibility to support the work of the meetings of the Assembly and its Standing Committee, ensuring that the meetings and other work are appropriately resourced and its decisions are implemented. The Standing Committee’s strong focus on governance has led to a major work focus on establishing and supporting the systems and organizational structures that enhance good governance. Within the very lean Assembly structure there is no other staff person who can assist with this piece of work. With respect to the role of the General Secretary this has included implementation of decisions in relation to UCA Assembly Ltd, the establishment of a governance group which meets six times a year, major involvement in developing the tools for ASC engagement with Agencies and regular work on risk registers.

1.3 The General Secretary also has oversight of the Secretariat, which includes the Associate General Secretary, the Accounting unit, Communications, and support staff, comprising approximately 12 full time equivalent (FTE) staff. From July 2015 the financial, accounting, payroll and HR functions for Frontier Services have been delivered by an expanded Assembly Accounting Unit. Apart from additional staff being engaged to enable this work the staff in the Secretariat has been quite stable.

1.4 As CEO for Assembly operations the ultimate responsibility for the performance of National Directors rests with the Assembly General Secretary. Oversight and support of National Directors can only be provided in the current structure because the Associate General Secretary, Rev Glenda Blakefield, carries a significant line management role. Unfortunately the deterioration in Frontier Services required a much more hands on engagement in the management of that Agency than has been required in any agency previously and as such less availability for supporting other senior leaders.

1.5 Representing the Church and the Assembly comprises the third element of the responsibilities of the Assembly General Secretary. My opportunities to meet directly with members of the church have been greatly constrained by the demands of other parts of my role in the last triennium. However attendance at Synod meetings is a priority and has proven to be a great way to remain connected to the issues and concerns of various parts of the church. Ecumenical involvement has been principally through participation in the National Heads of Churches meeting, the National Council of Churches (NCCA) Executive meetings, attendance at the Assembly of the World Council of Churches and working with the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in a variety of ways. In May I was appointed to the Executive of the CCA for the next five years.

1.6 My ability to respond satisfactorily to many requests that come my way has been due in no small measure to the unqualified support and professionalism of my PA, Ms Jenny Bertalan and the often unnoticed staff of the Secretariat who provide the foundations upon which it is possible for the office of General Secretary to effectively function.

1.7 Although the ASC has its own report it does not include an acknowledgement of the important contribution that the members of the ASC make to the encouragement and support of Assembly staff. In particular I express my appreciation the President. Andrew has offered significant leadership within the church and to the wider community and supported the staff of the Assembly wherever he has been able to do so. The work of the Assembly between its normal meetings could not continue without the service of the people who are members of the Assembly Standing Committee. Significant demands are placed upon the ASC and there has been an exceptionally large load to be borne between meetings. The Assembly has been well served by the hard working members of its Standing Committee.

2. THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE

2.1 Over the last three years the financial circumstances of the Assembly have deteriorated at a more rapid rate than the longer term decline which is referenced in every report of this kind. The Assembly Finance Report conveys the seriousness of this situation for the structure and way of delivering the ministries of the Assembly in the next triennium and beyond.

2.2 As the church has sought to adjust its structures to match its membership size and skill base it has become clear that there are some areas where change needs to happen in the way that things are done. The Assembly does not seek to be immune from the need to refocus and re prioritise but seems to have to do so with very little opportunity to plan in advance.

2.3 Like all “mainline” churches in liberal western democracies the number of people who choose to identify with the UCA, either in the census or through participation in various aspects of our life, continues to decline. Some are inclined to see this as a sociological inevitability and to just accept fading away gracefully. The alternative is to find again the church’s historic conviction that being a disciple of the Risen Christ is a critical decision for us personally and socially; that being part of a Christian community (in a sense broader than Sunday morning worship attendance) is an essential part of sustaining and expressing that discipleship; and finding our voice to issue this invitation to discipleship in fresh words and deeds. The future for the Uniting Church lies at neither end of the theological poles which seem to so confidently claim that the future lies with them. If the UCA as a whole embraces and lives out of the orthodox and central theological, biblical, relational and organisational values of its Basis of Union it would be in a much better place to serve the mission of God in the world.

2.4 The legislative and social context in which the church operates has always been one of the drivers for change in the church’s operational and structural arrangements. Ongoing legislative and Tax Office action around the charitable sector and the increasing complexity of the environment in which congregations and agencies operate requires that the church have the capacity to respond in timely, effective and efficient ways. The Uniting Church does not have the structures and decision making processes that are effective for all the issues of these times. Great care needs to be taken when identifying the alternative methods for the exercise of authority in order that the theological, particularly ecclesiological, dimensions in the alternative structures that arise are appropriately addressed. This need sustains the case for why General Secretaries and other leaders in the church require a theological capacity and spiritual disposition that is able to hold and affirm the centre of what faithfulness looks like for an organisation while at the same time crafting a new organisational expression for a church which at the end of the day must be an incarnated expression of the people of God.

2.5 The significance of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse for the way in which the UCA operates as a national church cannot be underestimated. The UCA is not so much a national church as a federated one. The Royal Commission finds the fractured nature of the UCA to be problematic in its goal of strengthening child protection. This is not the only context in which the capacity of the UCA to be the best that it can be is impeded. The UCA needs to find the way of being more integrated across a number of areas – information sharing; capacity to make consistent policy decisions and to apply them consistently; finding a common voice more quickly; resource sharing and the like. This is not the same thing as the organisational unity of our various decision making bodies, although it can be argued that there is scope for more of this in some areas; or overwhelming the differences that context requires in favour of some bland uniformity. However it does require a greater willingness to submit ourselves to one another for the sake of the gospel.

2.6 A regular reference in my reports has been observations about, and encouragement to, national co-operation. In the last triennium there have been a number of significant examples of national collaboration. The most significant being the rallying around by the church’s aged care sector to support the transition of Frontier Services Aged Care. This is a wonderful example as is the subsequent ability to move those services to the UnitingCare Queensland entity – Australian Rural and Remote Community Services, and Juniper (from WA). National co-operation has been very well illustrated through the co-ordination of the work of the National and Synod Task Groups around the Royal Commission. Also the national staff positions in support of the National Task Group have been funded on a formula that allows the Assembly and Synods to contribute proportionally. The new position of National Disaster recovery Officer is another role that it only possible because three funding bodies have come together to enable the position to be created and be located within the Assembly. My view continues to be that the future of Australia is national and that the church will need to adapt itself to this reality. It continues to be my hope that we will find the way to do this before it is pressed upon us from a position of weakness.

3. MAJOR FOCUS OVER THE LAST TRIENNIUM

3.1 In March 2013 the intractable nature of the problems within Frontier Services Aged Care became apparent. Since that time until the present addressing the massive governance, management and financial implications has been a consistent and substantial focus for the General Secretary. Enough is said elsewhere about this matter that I do not need to say more here. However it is impossible to overstate the impact which this series of events has had on the Secretariat workload, and as such must be mentioned when reflecting on what has been the major focus of the last triennium.

3.2 The other major focus for the triennium was the Standing Committee’s continuing attention to improving the systems and practices of governance. It is a body of work that has come a long way and the outgoing Standing Committee has provided a solid base on which the next Standing Committee can continue to build.

4. MY ACCOUNTABILITY AS A MINISTER OF THE WORD

Regulation 2.2.1(a) lists the 12 duties of a Minister of the Word. A review of that list of 12 items allows me to see where they find expression in the ministry of General Secretary. Yet this list of 12 things is problematic when it comes to considering the vocation of a Minister of the Word. Principally because it presents the vocation of a Minister as a set of tasks – almost an ecclesial set of KPI’s.

At its heart this list of 12 responsibilities is a list of strategies through which Ministers give expression to their vocation. The vocation of a Minister of the Word is to assist the church to be faithful to its Lord by enabling it to know its true identity and sustaining the character that is appropriate for the Christian community. Sometimes that has been done through the 12 points in Regulation 2.2.1(a) and sometimes in other ways.

My home congregation is Revesby and I participate as often as possible. Presbytery attendance suffers from the impact of my travel commitments.

The Sydney Assembly office is committed to the practice of weekly staff worship every Tuesday morning. Although not all staff members participate regularly, the fact of weekly worship with a solid core of participants from across the staff, is a very good reminder of who it is we are called to serve through the Assembly.

Rev Terence Corkin
General Secretary

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B4 – ASC

1. INTRODUCTION

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 3.7.4.1 (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.

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B4A – Assembly Finances

1. Commentary

The following information provides a summary of the Assembly‟s financial position and performance over 3 years between the Triennial Assembly meetings.

This analysis and commentary covers all of the Assembly agencies with the exception of the church’s national superannuation fund the Beneficiary Fund (which is a separately incorporated entity) and the (Ministers‟) Home Endowment Fund (which is administered by the Synod of Victoria & Tasmania). The analysis also excludes UCA Assembly Ltd which is the non-trading trustee company established to hold all Assembly property.

Subsequent to the 13th Assembly the financial year for all agencies was changed from a calendar year to a financial year. All results are now reported as 30 June.

The last three years have seen the most significant challenge to the financial well-being and long term sustainability of the Assembly since its inception. This has arisen as a consequence of the crisis within Frontier Services; a considerable reduction in Synod contributions as well as a fall in interest and investment returns.

The Assembly executive team led by the General Secretary, together with the various Agency Committees has responded to these challenges with understandable diligence and, wherever possible has adjusted expenditure priorities to match the falling income.

Negotiations remain on foot with the Synods with regard to their contributions to the Assembly. These negotiations have particular urgency because other income sources (such as a distribution from a property investment in Canberra ACT and the payment of a rebate from Telstra) will also come under pressure in the next 12 months; and actions taken over the past year to reduce expenditure have essentially eliminated all “easy‟ options.

The Assembly therefore continues to face a considerable financial challenge. There are no realistic prospects of a ready turnaround to this situation and the prospect of full recovery of the funds that needed to be committed to stabilise Frontier Services remains, at best, uncertain. As outlined in the Frontier Services report attention is being directed to asset realisation as well as to sustaining fundraising activities but the full impact of these actions is yet to be determined.

Among other impacts, the support given to Frontier Services has had a major impact on quantum of the Assembly’s free or investment funds and hence on investment earnings. Further the reduction in those free funds serves to limit the flexibility of the Assembly to participate in other activities.

The Assembly Finance, Audit and Risk Committee has worked closely with the executive team and the various Agency Committees throughout the Triennium. The Committee is comfortable in advising the Assembly that there has been an appropriate (and in some instances a much needed and improved) focus on governance principles, identification and management of risks (both strategic and operational) and the establishment and implementation of robust policies and processes. These matters of course remain a “work in progress‟.

During the Triennium, the Assembly Investment Committee was established to provide specialist advice and guidance to all Agencies. Establishment of this Committee has proved to be beneficial – especially given the volatile state of the investment market.

With the particular exception of Frontier Services (as reported elsewhere) and also a particular set of circumstances with one aspect of UAICC‟s activities (now rectified), all Agencies have consistently fulfilled their critical compliance obligations to government funding bodies, government regulators and also to Assembly policies.

In the midst of the financial challenges, it is pleasing to report that external audits of all Agencies’ financial reports have been undertaken and none contained formal qualifications by the Auditor. The most recent report for Frontier Services (as at 30 June 2014) was however issued only after very considerable attention was given as to whether it could fairly be stated that the Agency was solvent and able to meet its financial obligations as they fall due. In the event those assurances were demonstrated, at the time, to the satisfaction of the Auditor.

All Agency financial reports comply with Australian Accounting Standards. A detailed set of the accounts will be available for perusal at the Assembly.

1.1 Agencies (excluding Frontier Services)

Agencies included within this section include the Assembly Fund, Secretariat, Uniting Justice and other ministries, UAICC, UnitingCare Australia, UnitingWorld Relief & Development and UnitingWorld Church Connections.

Financial movements over the Triennium can be summarised as follows:

Eighteen months ended

30 June 2014

Year ended

31 December 2012

Year ended

31 December 2011

$000 $000 $000
Income (includes DGR Appeal monies) 20,599 15,537 14,896
Expenses 24,601 13,542 13,422

 

As at

30 June 2014

 

As at

31 December 2012

 

As at

31 December 2012

Net Assets 24,105 28,106 26,244

As the Assembly and most of the agencies changed from a December to a June year-end, the figures presented for 2014 are for an eighteen-month period, making direct comparison difficult.

The major impacts over this triennial period were:

  • Synod contributions have reduced from $4.4m in 2011 to $3.1m (annualised) for the eighteen months to June 2014. In real terms, after adjusting for CPI, this equates to a fall of $1.2m per annum or 27% over the triennium.
  • Interest and investment earnings have been affected by the historically low interest rates and the move into more liquid assets, with average earnings of 5.4% to June 2014, compared to 6.6% to December 2012.
  • Close monitoring of expenses has resulted in a reduction in operating expenses from $8.1m in 2011 to $7.9m (annualised) to 2014.
  • The reduction in net assets of ($2.1m) is after the impairment of the loan to Frontier Services of $5m.
  • The decrease in net assets is represented by:
  • Decrease in General and Designated Funds held by ($0.8m)
  • Increase in Specific and Endowment Funds held by $1.7m (restricted funds)
  • Decrease in Capital Funds held by ($2.9m)
  • Decrease in Financial Asset Reserves by ($0.1m) (unrealised gains in investments)

As much of the funding received is “earmarked”, it is useful to look at the funds available to the agencies:

30 June 2014

$000

31 December 2012

$000

31 December 2011

$000

Net Assets 24,105 28,106 26,244
Less: Property, other fixed assets (5,279) (5,655) (5,713)
Sub-total monetary funds 18,826 22,451 20,531
Less: all Designated, Specific, Endowment funds etc.

 

(13,005)

 

(15,687)

 

(14,116)

Net available funds – “Free cash” 5,821 6,764 6,415

1.2 Frontier Services

Commentary with respect to the financial circumstances of Frontier Services is included in Part 6 of the Frontier Services Interim Board’s report to Assembly.

The very significant changes to the structure and operating model of this agency over the course of the Triennium mean that comparison with previous years is misleading.

Rectification of matters identified in Aged Care Accreditation audits; the financial structure of the transactions to achieve devolution of aged care assets to the Queensland and West Australian Synods and the current steps being taken to devolve Community Services interests have had a significant and deleterious impact on the financial well-being of Frontier Services and also on the Assembly itself.

During the course of the devolution and restructure, the cash reserves of Frontier Services came under extreme pressure. This necessitated the advancement of loans to the agency from the Assembly Fund as well as the framing of formal expressions of support to support other borrowings by Frontier Services. As a consequence the Assembly‟s free funds were very significantly reduced and, as a corollary, Frontier Services has had to accept significant debt obligations.

The Assembly Finance, Audit and Risk Committee has carefully and continuously monitored the unfolding situation with particular focus on cash flow and medium term solvency. An important factor over the next 12 months will be the outcome of the asset realisation program as well as the ability of Frontier Services to sustain its fundraising activities.

Peter M Andrews
Chairperson
Assembly Finance Audit and Risk Committee

B4A – Assembly Finances – Section 2.1

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B4A – Assembly Finances – Section 2.2

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B4A – Assembly Finances – Section 2.3

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B4A – Assembly Finances – Section 3

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B5 – Admission of Ministers Committee

1. A PERIOD OF TRANSITION

1.1 The period since the 13th Assembly has been a time of significant transition for the Assembly with regard to “the reception of Ministers from other denominations” (Constitution Clause 38(a)). The 13th Assembly, after the work of a review task group, significantly changed the structure and process for the admission of Ministers from other denominations. These regulations were approved and came into force at the November 2012 Assembly Standing Committee. As a consequence the Assembly in the triennium since that last Assembly had two committees (and regulatory regimes): the Reception of Ministers Committee (using the old rules Reg. 2.51- 2.5.2 (2012 Regulations) and the renamed Admission of Ministers Committee – using the new rules Regulations 2.5.1 – 2. 5.3 (2012 Regulations as amended). The Admission of Ministers Committee continued to administer under the old rules applications that were made before November 2012.

1.2 There was also a period of transition, in that the then chair of the Assembly Reception of Ministers Committee, Rev Dr Douglas Miller, died on 4 February, 2013. Dr Miller served the Committee faithfully and well, and is greatly missed. The new chair (of the new committee) appointed by the Assembly Standing Committee was Rev Dr John Evans. Dr Evans had been a member of the former Reception of Ministers Committee, and had convened the Assembly Task Group to review the old regulations. The former members of the Reception of Ministers Committee continued as members of the new Assembly Admission of Ministers Committee.

2. THE 13TH ASSEMBLY CHANGES

2.1 The 13th Assembly significantly changed the process for a Minister from another denomination to be admitted as a Uniting Church Minister. Key among these changes were:

2.1.1 The Synod (through its own committee or structure) would manage the process of admission. The Assembly however, would issue a certificate that the process had been completed. In other words, the Assembly would have an oversight role, rather than directly managing individual applications. The Assembly Committee would set the policies by which that process would be administered by the Synod.

2.1.2 An applicant would first serve in the Uniting Church, before the process of admission would be undertaken. Many of the assessments required for admission (such as being a Minister in good standing in the former denomination, with an awareness of the polity and ethos of the Uniting Church) are now required before a minister of another denomination can serve in the Uniting Church. See Reg. 2.5.1(d).

2.1.3 There are now formal requirements that a mentor be appointed for an applicant; and a greater role is given to the Presbytery in which the applicant serves.

3. THE WORK OF THE ADMISSION OF MINISTERS COMMITTEE

3.1 The main responsibility of the Assembly Committee is to maintain oversight of the process of applications being handled by the Synods, and develop policy for the church in the area of the admission of Ministers from other denominations. In the last triennium the Committee has also handled applications made prior to November, 2012 under the old rules – although it should be noted that this work is now virtually at an end.

3.2 With regard to its oversight function, the Assembly Committee chairperson and secretary have endeavoured to meet on a regular basis with representatives of the synods involved in the admission of ministers from other denominations (usually the synod Associate General Secretaries). It also endeavoured to develop a documentation process in which the Assembly would be kept informed of the progress of applications to serve/be admitted to the church.

3.3 In terms of policy development, note the following policies which have now been developed by the Assembly Committee:

3.3.1 A statement on the ordinations which the Uniting Church recognises.

3.3.2 A list of the denominations recognised ordinations by the Uniting Church. (The Assembly Committee will assist the synods in determining if an ordination is recognised by the Uniting Church and is not on this list.)

3.3.3 A “working list” of theological colleges recognised by the Uniting Church.

3.3.4 A process for determining the ‘good standing’ of a minister within the denomination from which they are seeking to leave.

3.3.5 A statement of the educational and ministry formation standard required for a minister from another denomination.

3.3.6 A statement on Ministers from other denominations and the ministry of pastor within the Uniting Church in Australia.

The Committee is also working on a policy with regard to an applicant’s English language ability.

It is the hope of the Committee that these policies will soon be more widely available through the Assembly’s website.

4. ADMISSIONS OF MINISTERS TO THE UNITING CHURCH IN THE LAST TRIENNIUM

Old Rules Applications completed: 29

Old Rules Applications completed but awaiting placement: 3

New Rules Applications completed: 3

New Rules Applications in process: [NSW 11; VicTas 7]

5. REVIEW OF THE NEW PROCESS FOR THE ADMISSION OF MINISTERS

5.1 It still is perhaps too soon to pass judgement on the new process put in place at the last Assembly. Generally, however, despite some teething issues, it seems to have been well received by the synods. The new process has certainly brought to the surface instances where a minister from another denomination has served for many years in the Uniting Church without ever seeking to be admitted as a Uniting Church minister. It also has meant that there is now a clearer process for a minister from another denomination serving with the Church prior to be admitted to its ministry.

5.2 Some issues however, have arisen. It is quite clear that there is difficulty for synods to find places for an applicant to serve (now a prerequisite for admission). Typically this is not because the requirement itself is not worthwhile, but generally, the Church itself is not able to provide these opportunities. A related issue is that, this requirement to serve in a placement prior to the admission process may not be relevant. In particular, the applicant may already be retired or near retirement, and yet being admitted as a Minister of the Church is still significant for the applicant and also for the Uniting Church. This situation will be monitored, and it may be that a discretionary exception that the Minister does not have to serve in a placement prior to admission is required, administered by the Assembly.

6. COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP AND THANKS

6.1 The Committee thanks the former members: Howard Wallace who brought contemporary theological education expertise; Peter Blackwood, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Associate General Secretary who brought a synod perspective to the Committee’s work; and Charity Majiza who has provided a valuable cross-cultural perspective for many years – especially with regard to the many southern African applicants.

6.2 The Committee has been glad to welcome Isabel Thomas Dobson, the Associate General Secretary of the Victoria and Tasmania Synod and Geoff Thompson, Pilgrim Theological College.

Rev Dr John Evans
Chairperson

APPENDIX A ADMISSION OF MINISTERS COMMITTEE

MANDATE

Responsible to: The Standing Committee

Reporting arrangements: The Standing Committee

Mission statement: To fulfil the Assembly’s responsibilities in relation to the admission of ministers from other denominations as stated in Constitution clause 38(a) and Regulations 2.5.1 – 2.5.3.

Mandate: [Regulation 2.5.1 – 2.5.3]

The Committee shall:

1. establish guidelines to be applied by the Synods for ordained ministers of other denominations to serve and be admitted as a Minister of the Word or Deacon, including the requirements for the education and ministry formation of the applicant
2. provide oversight of the process of the application, assessment and admission
3. maintain a list of ordained ministries of denominations of the church catholic that are recognised for the purposes of Regulation 2.5.1(e), and if such ordination is not so listed determine the matter
4. on the advice of the Synod in which the application is made, issue a certificate of completion of requirements for admission of an ordained minister of another denomination as a Minister of the Word or Deacon

General: The responsibilities of every agency include:
• focusing the activities of the agency on the vision of the Assembly as a whole;
• advising the Assembly and/or the Standing Committee on policy matters within their area of responsibility;
• making policy decisions where the Assembly or the Standing Committee has delegated authority for certain policy areas, either through the agency mandate or by resolution;
• participating in cross-agency projects and teams established from time to time by the Assembly or the Standing Committee.

Power to appoint:
• To establish working groups for special tasks related specifically to the mandate.
• To make recommendations to the Standing Committee to establish other working groups for special tasks related to but not part of the mandate.

Membership of the Reference Committee:
• A chairperson and up to 10 members from within one Synod area, appointed by the Standing Committee;
• Power to co-opt up to two additional persons to ensure appropriate competencies, representation and development of new leadership.

Approved by Standing Committee March 2015

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B6 – Beneficiary Fund

1. THE FUND

The Fund has 2,579 Members of which 1,151 are ‘actives’ and a further 1,428 are pensioners. This is a very mature fund with a membership base that has more than half of its membership as pensioners.

2. THE BOARD AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

As advised in the paper to the 13th Assembly, the Trustees decided to reduce the size of the Board to eight. So to achieve an orderly Board renewal, Robert Hoskin, Robert Key, Margaret Burns and Anne Honey, with a combined 65 years of experience and service to the Fund, retired in December 2012.

Pam McAlister, a superannuation lawyer was appointed by the Assembly and Alice McCleary (SA Member Representative) joined the Board in December 2012.

Rick Williams resigned in November 2013, and was replaced by Robert Locke as a WA Member Representative.

Graham Dunstan resigned in December 2014, and Colin Grenfell retired in March 2015. This reduced the number of Trustees to 6.

3. BACKGROUND

The Uniting Church in Australia Beneficiary Fund (the Fund) was established by the Inaugural Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia (the Church) pursuant to Regulation 3.1.6(d) and the Fund was deemed to be an Assembly Agency.

The Fund provides benefits to retiring Ministers, predominantly in the form of a pension payable for life (commutable to a lump sum, at the election of the Member). The amount of the pension is determined using a formula based on years of service and Notional Stipend at retirement, and has in the past been indexed or partly indexed for inflation each year, depending on the financial health of the Fund. The Notional Stipend is calculated by the Actuary by taking into account the average stipends paid by all Synods and after considering the financial health of the Fund.

Benefits are payable on retirement, resignation, death, and disablement.

All Defined Benefits are guaranteed by the Church and any shortfall in funding is underwritten by the Church. The Ministers know what their projected retirement will be worth, irrespective of market volatility so they can plan their retirement with a degree of confidence. The Fund also provides Accumulation benefits which make up a small but growing number of Members. Accumulation Members bear the risk of any adverse investment return (and benefit from any out-performance of investments).

4. INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO

There have only been minor changes to the Fund’s investment portfolio since the last report to the Assembly in 2012. The key changes being:

  • In 2012 the Fund invested into two diversified growth funds whereby the managers have a very diversified portfolio, not unlike the Fund itself.
  • The Fund continues to carefully assess the currency exposures to its foreign denominated investments, and this has resulted in significant changes to currency hedging as the $A changes value when compared to other currencies. The Fund is currently completely unhedged and is therefore subject to the currency swings of the $A relative to other currencies.
  • The Fund exited the direct equities holding in listed property and infrastructure to invest in managed trusts in this sector.

5. CURRENT FINANCIAL STATUS

The financial status of a Defined Benefit superannuation fund is measured by its Vested Benefits Index (VBI). This represents the total Defined Benefit assets over the Defined Benefit liabilities.

Recent investment performance has been favourable with the 1 year results for the Defined Benefit section being 7.6% and the 3 year results being 10.8% pa. This has enabled the Fund to have a pension increase of 4.75% (effective from 1 July 2014), against a CPI increase of only 2.7%. This release of reserves is based on the Pension Increase Policy that limits the amount of the pension increase to what the Fund can afford while maintaining its financial health. The pension increase, effective from 1 July 2015 will be 1.65%, which is marginally short of CPI of 1.7%

6. NEW DEFINED BENEFIT CATEGORY

As advised during the presentation to the 13th Assembly, the Fund was progressing a proposal to open a new Defined Benefit section, to be known as Category 6 and this would be open to all new members as well as giving an opportunity to existing members of Category 5 (being Accumulation) to join.

The proposal that went to the Church in August 2012 included the results of financial modelling so as to ensure that the new Category 6 did not impose additional risk on the Church.

This section now has 109 members.

7. OUTSOURCING TO MERCER SUPERANNUTION TRUST

The major change to the Fund over the last few years, and since the 13th Assembly is at recent Assembly Standing Committee meetings, the Fund Trustees have been progressively advising and seeking approval, ultimately leading to a decision to outsource the Fund to Mercer.

This has been a very big decision for the Trustee and the Church, whereby the Trustees looked at the ongoing reporting and compliance obligations, the rising unit cost of fund administration in a small fund with declining membership and the membership expectation of maintaining the pastoral care imperative of the Fund.

With those specifications in mind, the Trustee undertook a study, assisted by the Fund Actuary, and with the involvement from members of the Church, to investigate whether the Fund could be more efficiently administered by an external administrator.

After a significant amount of work over a long period of time, a preferred candidate was identified and substantial due diligence was undertaken leading to the confirmation of Mercer to be responsible for the ongoing administration of the Fund. The Trustees were already familiar with Mercer who had been the Investment Advisor to the Fund, for some years. An aspect that was identified as being particularly appealing to the Trustees in the Mercer proposal was the identification of a Minister Care Advocate, which would be located in each mainland Capital City.

The Fund will transition its investment portfolio and member administration to Mercer on 30 June 2015, by way of a successor fund transfer, which means that members and pensioners are transferred to the new arrangements without necessarily seeking their prior approval. The consequence of this is that an evaluation will need to be made by the lawyers and actuaries to ensure an equivalency of rights. This means that members’ rights are protected and will be the same as they had previously been, although some minor pluses and minuses may have occurred. In the outsourcing of the Fund to Mercer, the whole of Trustee responsibilities cease.

Going forward, Mercer becomes the Trustee and hence manages the Fund, which in turn becomes a sub-plan of the Mercer Superannuation Trust. The Church is represented by a Policy Committee which will have 4 of the existing 6 Trustees so as to ensure the views of the Church are understood. However, a major change that has occurred is that Mercer is responsible for the day to day management of the sub-plan. A Claims Committee and an Employer Committee will exist to ensure the rights of the various parties are maintained. One aspect of the Beneficiary Fund which was identified as an integral part of the former fund’s ethos was the self-insurance arrangements which ensured members were assessed for various disablement issues in an equitable way. This is planned to continue for the defined benefit members.

At the time of writing this brief summary of what has happened and what is about to happen, the actual transition had not occurred, but at the time of the presentation to the 14th Assembly, the transition will have occurred and the attention will be focussed on ensuring all of the implementation targets are being met.

One aspect of the program that has been central to the considerations of the review is that the Church is still committed theologically to the concept of providing income support for life. The proof of this is the opening of Category 6 which enables Ordained Ministers to have a life pension, subject to the years of service. Category 5 being a lump sum accumulation offering did not provide that commitment.

The Trustees acknowledge and thank the work and commitment of the Beneficiary Fund staff who have worked diligently on behalf of the members, pensioners and the Church during this important transition.

Ian Glenny Chief Executive Officer
Jim Mein Chair

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B7 – Church Polity Reference Committee

The role of the Church Polity Reference Committee is to advise the Assembly, the Assembly Standing Committee and the General Secretary on the polity of the church in light of the Basis of Union, the Constitution and the Regulations of the Uniting Church.

Historically the Committee has been based in a particular Synod with corresponding members drawn from the remaining Synods. As will be noted from its current 2006 mandate (attached), the Committee is required to be based within the Synod of South Australia with a corresponding member from each of the other Synods. Until his election as President of the Assembly, Rev Dr Andrew Dutney was Chairperson of the Committee, and the Committee’s South Australian members were Ian Price, Kate Trethaway, Deirdre Palmer, Michaela Tiller and Stuart Cameron. These members continued into the following triennium together with corresponding members Gordon Ramsay (NSW/ACT) and Jenny Tymms (Qld). Stuart Cameron subsequently moved to Queensland. Following his election as Assembly President in 2012, Andrew Dutney stood aside from the Committee and Jenny Tymms was appointed as the Convenor. Alistair McRae (immediate past President) was added to the Committee. Terence Corkin (Assembly General Secretary) is an ex officio member.

The Committee had one request for advice during its current term of office. This was made by the General Secretary on behalf of the Legal Reference Committee on a matter arising from a request for a Presidential Ruling. The matter related to the powers of a Moderator in a context where the regulations offered little guidance. The Committee handled the request by email discussion.

There may be a number of reasons why the Committee’s advice has not been actively sought in recent years. Assembly officers and the Assembly Standing Committee may have assumed that sufficient experience already existed within the staff and within the current membership of the Standing Committee. Five members of the Polity Reference Committee have been either ex officio or elected members of the Assembly Standing Committee during this last triennium. This will not always be the case however, and the Polity Committee remains available to provide assistance as required.

It is more likely that during this significant time of change, upheaval, and experimentation across the church, matters of polity are being actively explored and tested (both directly and indirectly) in a wide range of contexts. The Church is in a very fluid and complex space: its structures, cultural expressions of church, and the powers and responsibilities of different councils are all under discussion by a range of task groups and committees in local, Synod and Assembly contexts. The nature of these issues requires conversation partners and processes that go beyond a simple request to the Polity Committee for advice. In many of these complex and contested areas it is also unlikely that a definitive response will be able to be provided.

It will be increasingly important as the Church continues to seek God’s guidance about its future, for Councils and task groups to be alert to the polity issues that may be hovering just below the surface of the matters they are addressing. Also important will be the willingness of members of the Church to actively engage one another in considered conversation about these issues, and to enlist the wisdom and experience of conversation partners from the wider Church. Such broader conversations will enrich discussions and potentially strengthen the processes and the outcomes that are subsequently developed. They will also help all parts of the Church to identify those polity matters that may require intentional and deeper exploration by inter-Synod and Assembly bodies, including the Polity Reference Committee.

Jenny Tymms
Convenor

APPENDIX A CHURCH POLITY REFERENCE COMMITTEE MANDATE

Responsible to: The Assembly

Reporting arrangements: The Assembly and the Standing Committee

Mission Statement: To advise the Assembly, the Standing Committee and the General Secretary on the polity of the church, in light of the Basis of Union, the Constitution and the Regulations.

Mandate:

1. To provide advice on matters of polity at the request of the Assembly, the Standing Committee or the General Secretary.

2. To initiate with the General Secretary, the Standing Committee or the Assembly consideration of issues and concerns relating to the polity of the church.

3. To assist other Assembly agencies (eg. Theology and Discipleship, Legal Reference Committee, National Secretariat) with advice on matters concerning the polity of the church.

4. To assist with the drafting of amendments to the Constitution and the Regulations, as requested by the Assembly, the Standing Committee, the Legal Reference Committee or the General Secretary.

Power to appoint: The Reference Committee has power to appoint working groups to operate within this mandate.

Membership of the Reference Committee:

  • Chairperson, appointed by the Assembly.
  • Five to nine persons appointed by the Standing Committee, following receipt of nominations from the Reference Committee.
  • Chairperson and attending members to be resident within the Synod of South Australia.
  • One corresponding member from each of the other five synods, appointed by the Standing Committee.

Approved by Assembly Standing Committee August 2006

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B8 – Defence Force Chaplaincy

1. THE UNITING CHURCH IS FORMALLY REPRESENTED IN THE NATION’S MILITARY BY DEFENCE FORCE CHAPLAINS

This ministry is one of many ministries. However the locus of this ministry is toward those personnel in uniform who are charged with defending Australia’s interests. Two specific elements make up the formal UCA ministry to the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Firstly, the Assembly nominates a convenor to co-ordinate Defence Force ministry on behalf of the Church. The convenor is subsequently appointed to the Religious Advisory Committee to the Forces (RACS) by the Minister of Defence Support. Secondly, the UCA administers chaplaincy ministry through the Uniting Church Defence Force Committee (DFCC). Clergy, on recommendation of the RACS member and the DFCC, are nominated as UCA chaplains and appointed to the ADF. Upon appointment chaplains wear the uniform, fulfil all the requirements of military service and in so doing continue a centuries old tradition of service to the military on behalf of the Church. ADF Chaplains are Assembly appointments and are administered on behalf of the Church by the DFCC.

2. THE RELIGIOUS ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO THE SERVICES. (RACS)

The RACS Committee is a Defence and Church sponsored committee based on a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Initiated circa 1914 this (equivalent) committee has provided advice and supplied ministers to the nation ever since. The RACS Committee is compiled of nominated representatives from most mainline churches and a Jewish Rabbi. Included in RACS are the United Churches representative, (Baptist, Churches of Christ, Lutheran, Australian Christian Churches and the Salvation Army), the Presbyterian, Anglican and Roman Catholic representatives and the convenor of the Uniting Church Defence Force Committee. Two subcommittees, representing smaller denominations and other faiths make input into the RACS. The RACS Committee meets in Canberra quarterly to discuss matters arising, to nominate incoming chaplains and to advise Defence on matters spiritual.

3. THE UNITING CHURCH DEFENCE FORCE CHAPLAINCY COMMITTEE (UCA DFCC)

On behalf of the Assembly, the UCA DFCC recruits, administers and discharges ADF Chaplains. In processing this task the committee seeks to pastorally care for all ADF Chaplains and their families in what is and always has been a very challenging ministry. Chaplains are recruited for full-time and part-time positions in the Navy, Army and Air Force. To be recruited as chaplains candidates must be ordained ministers of the UCA and have up to five years of experience in a Parish to be eligible. This ministry is primarily to younger unchurched personnel in an operational environment.

Since the last Assembly the UCA DFCC has relocated from Queensland to Canberra in the ACT. Increasingly the locus for Defence is Canberra. The development of a more joint approach to operations has meant a greater co-ordinating requirement in Defence and Canberra being the seat of Government, is where more and more defence assets are located. Since the last Assembly report the Headquarters Joint Operating Centre (HQJOC) has been established near to Canberra. This is the centre where all operational decisions are processed jointly in one location. With that the ADF Defence Force Chaplains’ College has been relocated from Bandiana near Wodonga, to ADFA in Canberra as part of the joint approach. Concurrently it was thought wise to re-locate the Assembly committee to Canberra. This transfer occurred in December 2013. It has proved to be a wise decision committee-wise, enabling easier access to more UCA Chaplains and ADF Staff, is cost saving as meetings are held at the same time, and has helped to identify the DFCC as a specific defence asset on behalf of the Church. The DFCC has been supported by the Canberra Presbytery and our thanks is extended to the Presbytery administrative staff for the provision of office space.

4. THE ASSEMBLY DEFENCE FORCE CHAPLAINCY COMMITTEE MANDATE (DFCC)

The UCA DFCC acts on behalf of the Assembly in being a liaison committee between the wider church and Defence and between the UCA and other denominations and faith groups involved in Defence matters. The committee exists to:

4.1.1 advise and support the Uniting Church member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS),

4.1.2 consult with Synods in the approval, nomination and appointment of Uniting Church Ministers as Defence Force Chaplains, and to determine on behalf of the Assembly which chaplaincy positions are regarded as approved placements within the Assembly,

4.1.3 when requested by the Uniting Church member of the RACS Committee, or by the General Secretary, to liaise with the Department of Defence and with representatives of other churches and other faith groups on matters related to Defence Force Chaplaincy,

4.1.4 ensure the provision of pastoral care for Defence Force Chaplains, their spouses and families, and

4.1.5 consult with Synod committees relating to Defence Force Chaplaincy, with regard to the ministry and welfare of Defence Force Chaplains.

4.2 UCA DFCC Membership 2015

The current membership of the DFCC is:

Convenor Rev’d Dr Murray Earl
Chair Rev’d David Thiem
Secretary Chaplain Robyn Kidd
Treasurer Chaplain Gary Whelband
Members Chaplain Alan Williams
Ms Sandy Anderson
Chaplain Charles Vesely
Chaplain Mau Mau Monu
Chaplain Phil Anderson

The DFCC is augmented as appropriate by other chaplains for mutual support, recruitment opportunities and retreat committees. Meeting quarterly, the DFCC assembles at Wesley Uniting Church Canberra and our thanks are extended to Wesley Uniting Church and their minister the Rev’d David Thiem for their hospitality.

5. SERVING CHAPLAINS

5.1 Currently there are seventeen full-time Chaplains and twenty-four part-time reservists serving the UCA in the ADF.

Full-time ADF Chaplains

Navy Chaplain Murray Lund
Chaplain Steve Esterby
Chaplain Andrew Watters

Army Chaplain Mark Hinton
Chaplain Mau Mau Monu
Chaplain Alamoti Lavaki
Chaplain Charles Vesely
Chaplain David Prior
Chaplain John Saunders
Chaplain Robert Packer
Chaplain Matt Stuart
Chaplain John Dansie

RAAF Chaplain Alan Williams
Chaplain Gary Whelband
Chaplain Robyn Kidd
Chaplain Dean Quilty
Chaplain Tim Hodgson

5.2 Since the last report Chaplain David Jackson and Chaplain John Marshall have transferred to the reserve.

6. RECRUITING

Recruiting of clergy for ADF Chaplaincy is a constant demand. The quest to recruit women chaplains remains a high priority. Currently two female candidates are in the process of being nominated as chaplains in the Air Force Reserve. Prospective candidates must be spiritually and physically fit. Age has been revisited and clergy can now be recruited up until their fifty-sixth birthday for full-time chaplaincy, and for reserve chaplaincy until sixty years. The RACS member works with respective Synod placement (equivalent) committees to process a more integrated approach to the resourcing of this ministry of the Church.

7. TRAINING

An interesting trend is the emergence of candidates from within the ADF seeking to become chaplains. The ADF supports such transfers and on application may be granted entry to the In-Service Training (IST) scheme whereby the military will pay for the complete training of the candidate.

As indicated above the Defence Force Chaplaincy College has now been established at ADFA in Canberra. Upon being recruited to ADF Chaplaincy all chaplains enter an-all-through-life training continuum. This expectation has professionalised ADF Chaplaincy. With that ADF Chaplains are subject to professional governance from the Church and from the military, a considerable demand, but necessary in the modern context.

The ADF provides for and resources an annual retreat for all ADF Chaplains. This retreat is considered mandatory and has a diverse tradition of speakers, approaches and spirituality. At the retreat chaplains are able to support one another, cross reference and rest. In this retreat week chaplains are “off duty” and spend time receiving and being restored, a variation on their usual practice of giving, serving and providing. With such diversity within Protestant Chaplaincy it is always a challenge to meet all expectations.

8. TRENDS

With the commitment to diversity within the ADF a move to include other than Christian Chaplains in the ADF was initiated by RACS two years ago. Jewish Chaplains have been part of ADF Chaplaincy for the long-term, however, RACS felt it appropriate to include other faith groups. An affiliate RACS sub-committee was established three years ago and negotiations were initiated by RACS with Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu authorities to process a multi-faith chaplaincy. Also other groups have made approaches to the ADF and RACS, re inclusion within Defence Chaplaincy. These include Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist and other groups. Progress has been made over the years toward a multi-faith chaplaincy. Of late the Federal Government has made announcements toward the immediate appointment of an Imam to RACS. The MOA includes a system of allocation of chaplains based on the number of census adherents self-identified to a particular denomination. This equation will be changed in the future and the MOA will need to be re-written to include minority groups and the subsequent appointment of relevant chaplains. This may result in the reduction of UCA chaplaincy positions. The place of RACS, chaplaincy and matters spiritual remain fluid within the ADF environment. The Church in society, specifically within the military context, is still a vexed issue. ADF Chaplaincy is at the forefront of the discussion.

Cadet units provide a semi-military focus for young men and women. Thousands of young Australians meet regularly in such units. For many young people cadetship is a home, a source of friendship, a place of order in a troubled world and the precursor to a military career. The civilian church can have a role with cadet units in providing informal chaplaincy.

9. OPERATIONS

While much of ADF Chaplaincy is routine, UCA chaplains are at any time on-call and have to be prepared to respond to a short “notice to move”. This may mean to notify relatives of injury or death, meet the demands of emergency relief or a diversity of overseas operations. Since the last Assembly UCA Army and Air Force Chaplains have been deployed overseas to the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Bougainville, the Middle East (in a variety of configurations), and as always the Navy is constantly at sea.

10. CONCLUSION

ADF Chaplains represent the Assembly and serve the Uniting Church to a very high standard. Operational demands are exacting and many UCA chaplains have deployed several times. The cost to chaplains, their spouses and families is considerable and our thanks are extended to them all. The DFCC is well aware of the circumstances in which ADF Chaplaincy is exercised and calls on the wider Church for ongoing support. UCA Chaplains are expected to attend Presbytery and or Synod as appropriate, and the DFCC looks to the whole church to welcome, integrate and support their own.

Rev’d Dr Murray Earl
Convenor UCA DFCC
RACS member

APPENDIX A DEFENCE FORCE CHAPLAINCY MANDATE

Responsible to: The Assembly

Reporting arrangements: The Assembly and the Standing Committee

Mission statement: To advise the Assembly on matters concerning defence force chaplaincy, and to act on behalf of the Uniting Church in relation to defence force chaplaincy in accord with Assembly policy.

Mandate:
1. To advise and support the Uniting Church member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS).

2. In consultation with synods, to approve the placement of Uniting Church ministers as defence force chaplains, and to determine on behalf of the Assembly which chaplaincy positions are regarded as approved placements within the Assembly.

3. As requested by the Uniting Church member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services or by the General Secretary, to liaise with the Department of Defence and with representatives of other churches and other faiths on matters related to defence force chaplaincy.

4. To ensure the provision of pastoral care for defence force chaplains, their spouses and families.

5. To consult with and work with Synod bodies relating to defence force chaplaincy concerning the work and welfare of defence force chaplains.

Power to appoint: The Reference Committee has power to appoint working groups to operate within this mandate.

Membership of the Reference Committee:

  • Convener: the Uniting Church member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services, appointed by the Assembly following receipt of a nomination from the Reference Committee.
  • Up to 14 persons appointed by the Standing Committee, to be located within a Synod as determined by the Standing Committee (normally the Synod of residence of the chairperson).
  • Corresponding members: chairpersons/conveners of Synod bodies related to defence force chaplaincy.

Approved by Assembly Standing Committee, November 1999

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B9 – Formation of the Education for Ministry Working Group

1. FORMATION OF THE EDUCATION FOR MINISTRY WORKING GROUP

The 13th Assembly determined that “the Ministerial Education Commission be replaced by an Education for Ministry Working Group, at a date to be determined by the Standing Committee, to advise the Assembly on the standards of formation, education and training for the ministry of the Word, ministry of Deacon, ministry of Pastor and ministry of Lay Preacher” (12.08). The Assembly also gave Standing Committee a series of authorisations to follow through on this decision. The Standing Committee established a Task Group to prepare for a transition from the Ministerial Education Commission to an Education for Ministry Working Group (ASC 12.32.01). It made sufficient progress for the Education for Ministry Working Group to be appointed by the Standing Committee in November 2013 (ASC 13.62).

Since its formation the Working Group has consisted of: Jenny Byrnes, Seforosa Carroll, Rosemary Dewerse, Andrew Dutney (chairperson), Bev Fabb, Sharon Hollis, Amelia Koh-Butler, Lee Levett-Olson, Anita Munro, Jeff Savage, Steve Taylor, Denise Champion, Murray Muirhead and Grant Finlay. For different reasons Seforosa Carroll, Rosemary Dewerse, Anita Munro and Murray Muirhead have resigned from the Working Group.

The Education for Ministry Working Group (EFM) held its first face to face meeting in July 2014. It has also held several teleconferences. Without an established meeting pattern and with a committee membership with a very diverse range of responsibilities in the church it has been difficult to create a satisfactory schedule of meetings. This has been a source of frustration to members and the chairperson. However, it has been possible to allocate specific tasks to members of the Working Group so that its work can proceed while the issue of meetings is resolved.

At this stage EFM has a threefold agenda. The first is to identify and maintain those administrative tasks of the MEC that need to be continued, including, issuing certificates of completion of Phase 2 requirements for candidates ready to begin placements and be ordained, collecting annual reports, and ensuring that there are the necessary guidelines in place in relation to each specified ministry for the responsible bodies within Synods to do their work. EFM was pleased that the MEC made arrangements, prior to its last meeting for the biennial Theological Educators’ Conference to take place in December 2014 and the biennial National Deacons’ Intensive to take place in February 2015. Both took place in Adelaide with the support of the SA Synod and Uniting College for Leadership & Theology. The second agenda focus is to develop a shared vision, goals and principles for theological education in the Uniting Church, taking into account earlier work of the Assembly and the MEC, including the Statement adopted by the 13th Assembly, “One Body, Many Members – Living Faith and Life Cross-culturally” to guide the future work of EFM. The third is to gain an overview of the work ahead for EFM and to plan that work. EFM understands that the Assembly expects a refreshed approach to ministerial education and is open to innovation and strategic change arising from the advice it receives from the Working Group in the future. Recognising that it will take some time for a complete review of this area of the church’s life to take place, the Standing Committee determined that the standards, procedures and rules contained in the MEC Information Booklet shall be those of the Assembly until such time as they have been replaced by equivalent Assembly rules (ASC 14.0804).

2. SHARING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION AND MINISTERIAL FORMATION

EFM has spent some time investigating the apportionment of responsibility for different aspects of theological education and ministerial formation, finding consensus on key matters:

2.1 The Assembly has responsibility for standards of theological education and ministerial formation. It exercises this responsibility by making national policies and procedures for theological education and formation, and by accrediting educational institutions as places of training for the specified ministries of the Uniting Church. It has established EFM to provide advice and other assistance in exercising this responsibility. EFM believes that in the current and emerging situation of great diversity and change in theological education and formation, and especially in the light of the need to develop innovative ways to design and deliver curricula that will serve the needs of the church, the Assembly’s responsibility needs to be exercised in a way that is less “gate-keeping” and more “permission-giving”. A key role for the Assembly, assisted by EFM, will be to collate and promote best practice in a variety of settings around the church, and to encourage cooperation and collaboration.

2.2 The Synods and UAICC have responsibility for the delivery of theological education and ministerial formation. This responsibility is normally delegated to MEBs. On behalf of the Synods and UAICC MEBs have oversight of theological colleges and their faculties. MEBs oversee the formation of candidates for specified ministries, liaising with the candidates’ Presbyteries and the relevant faculty. MEBs report on behalf of the Synods and UAICC to the Assembly on the delivery of theological education and ministerial formation.

2.3 Colleges and their faculties have immediate responsibility for teaching the courses and administering the other educational and formational programs that are delivered by the Synod through them. It is primarily the colleges and their faculties that facilitate and participate in those personal relationships through which members of the church are educated for specified ministries.

Colleges and their faculties are accountable to the Synods that established, appointed and resource them. The Synods are accountable to the Assembly for the colleges that have been accredited by the Assembly and for the education and formation of candidates for the specified ministries.

The Standing Committee has amended the Regulations to make this pattern of accountability clearer, including 2.4.1, 2.4.8(c)(i), 3.7.4, 3.7.4.3(c). In practice, these changes give Synods and the UAICC, through their MEBs, significantly more scope to shape education for ministry in ways that are sensitive to the particular context, challenges and opportunities for mission in each case. It also means that the primary channel of communication between the Assembly and the Synods/UAAICC is between EFM and the MEBs; rather than between the MEC and Colleges as was formerly the case.

3. A NATIONAL CONSULTATION ON THEOLOGICAL COLLEGES

EFM has played a key role in resourcing a national consultation on theological colleges (ASC 14.08.06). On the recommendation of EFM the Standing Committee facilitated the convening of a meeting of the Synod Secretaries, one person with responsibility for ministerial education from each Synod, UAICC representatives, the last MEC chairperson and the current EFM chairperson. At the time of writing this report, two consultations have been held; in May and November 2014. A third is scheduled for March 2015.

The consultation was convened to consider a series of issues raised by the Synod of NSW and ACT Standing Committee, i.e. to:
a) evaluate current activities and relationships in ministerial/theological education;
b) assess the church’s capacity to continue to resource ministerial/theological education on the existing models;
c) consider the number and location of theological colleges and their associated staffing issues;
d) explore and evaluate alternative models of ministerial/theological education.

At the first consultation each Synod and the UAICC provided information and commentary on (a) and (b); (c) and (d) were addressed in general discussion. The former MEC chairperson added information from the MEC meeting of July 2013, including the outcomes of a discussion between the MEC and the Assembly’s Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry unit, and a series of proposals on models of national cooperation in theological education.

The meeting heard from each of the Synods and the UAICC about its requirements in theological education (the “non-negotiables”). Several common themes emerged which would have to be accommodated in any future model of national cooperation. These included:
a) the need to integrate lay education, discipleship formation, ordinand training and continuing education;
b) the need to have colleges that are in active partnership with the Synod in serving and leading the church;
c) the need for education and ministry training to be contextually sensitive and appropriate; including, the provision of strong and accessible support for learners from all parts of our culturally and linguistically diverse community to help them succeed in a higher-education environment;
d) the need to be able to train candidates for ordained ministries in situ – close to the communities from which they have emerged and within the bounds of the Synod in which their application was accepted.

The meeting agreed that the current models of delivering theological education are financially unsustainable for a number of Synods. It agreed both that the identification of a single provider of theological education would enable more effective cooperation and that the maintenance of multiple campuses is necessary to provide the Synods and UAICC with the theological resources and leadership they need. The idea of a national college with multiple campuses was discussed and the meeting agreed to write to all Synods and the UAICC with the following invitation:

“Theological education providers within the Uniting Church in Australia are invited to submit proposals outlining how they might conduct the operation of a multi-campus, national college providing face-to-face, online and distance delivery of courses. Individual Synods or providers may offer proposals, or Synods/providers may make joint proposals. The scope of such a national college needs to encompass VET sector and Higher Education sector awards (Cert IV, Diploma, BTh/Min, MTh/Min, DMin/PhD). The college needs to take into account the church’s need for an educational ministry that integrates lay education, discipleship formation, ordinand training and continuing education.”

The second consultation, having received and considered submissions from five Synods, agreed that although a move towards a single UCA college and/or single provider remains a long term prospect, the Synods are not now ready to act on that together. However, there is an urgent need for much better communication, cooperation and collaboration between the several Synod colleges. To prepare for this, the meeting has asked EFM to provide it with a national map of:
a) faculty members and their disciplines
b) core courses for candidates
c) non-academic formation programs
d) intensive courses
e) on-line courses in lay education

The meeting has also asked the Queensland MEB to provide a report on possible national collaboration between UCA theological libraries.

The second consultation also recognised that there are no impediments to Synods negotiating Synod-to-Synod agreements to cooperate in theological education. Neither are there impediments to a Synod, through its MEB, sourcing all or part of the academic course for candidates from another Synod while retaining the non-academic formation program.

Andrew Dutney
Chairperson
Education for Ministry Working Group

APPENDIX A EDUCATION FOR MINISTRY WORKING GROUP

MANDATE

RESPONSIBLE TO: The Assembly

REPORTING ARRANGEMENTS: The Assembly and the Assembly Standing Committee

VISION STATEMENT: Education for ministry in the Uniting Church will:
foster the centrality of the Scriptures in the life of the Church and the work of ministry; as described in the Basis of Union;

inspire the participation of the people of God in the mission of God revealed in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit;

strengthen resiliency, passion and competence for ministry in the 21st century;

stimulate lifelong learning and formation in the Christian life for all people;

celebrate the shared ministry of people of God

MISSION STATEMENT: To advise the Assembly and the Assembly Standing Committee on the standards of formation, education and training for the ministry of the Word, ministry of Deacon, ministry of Pastor, and ministry of Lay Preacher in the Uniting Church.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES

1. Advise the Assembly on:
➢ policies relating to standards of formation, education and training for the specified ministries in the Uniting Church, including continuing education, professional development and supervision;
➢ requirements for the recognition of an approved centre for training for ministry.

2. Facilitate regular national consultations of the faculties of approved centres for training for ministry and synod lay education and leadership development agencies, including maintaining awareness of federal government requirements for the higher and vocational education sector and how Synods manage the relationship for the sake of ministry

3. Facilitate cooperation and the sharing of expertise and resources for education for ministry between the synods and with ecumenical partners.

4. Encourage regular national networking of key leaders in formation, theological education, continuing education for ministry, lay education and leadership development, including MEBs and other Assembly agencies.

MEMBERSHIP
• A Chairperson appointed by the Assembly
• 10 people, appointed by the Standing Committee, who have a balance of academic and practical experience and with specific expertise in
➢ Strategic, innovative thinking about the future of the church
➢ Theology
➢ Missiology
➢ Ministry Practice
➢ Formation for Discipleship and Ministry
➢ Higher Education
➢ Vocational Education and Training
➢ Distance Education
➢ Culturally contextual education
➢ Practice of theological education
including one person from each Synod, and reflecting the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Uniting Church.
• Two persons appointed by the UAICC
• Up to 4 co options

Approved by Assembly Standing Committee, November 2013

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