In his moving retiring address, ex-President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney spoke joyfully of the direction of the Uniting Church in Australia into the future, receiving a standing ovation from members of the 14th Triennial Assembly.
Rev. Prof. Dutney’s three year term as President concluded on Sunday 12 July 2015.While he acknowledged the aging and decline in mainstream, largely monocultural congregations, Rev. Prof. Dutney reminded the Assembly that this is only part of the story.
“It really concerns me that the traditional mainstream of the church is so mesmerised by its own decline that it can’t lift its eyes to see the wonderful thing that the Spirit is doing in gathering the church afresh – from the edges,” he said.
He believes that God is calling the Uniting Church to a vibrant and diverse ministry. The covenant between the Uniting Church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress is a vital part of this, which is continuing to shape the church.
“God is calling us to be a church which is culturally and linguistically diverse at its core – not essentially British with add-ons from other cultures,” he emphasised.
In the global south, the church is in steady growth. Rev. Prof. Dutney feels this is an inspiring movement, where Uniting Church partnerships are building meaningful relationships that have been established over many years in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.
“Personally, I’ve begun a ‘fast’ from the theological books from the global north,” he said. “I’m trying to allow my imagination to be nourished instead by the theology drawn from the life of the church in the global south. It’ll probably prove to be a little uncomfortable, but it is the kind of church God is calling us to be.”
Rev. Prof. Dutney shared his thanks and gratitude to many people who have supported him through his three year presidency. He thanked his friends, his varied resource staff within the Uniting Church, and his wife, Heather.
“Thank you for giving me the privilege of seeing for myself that the Holy Spirit is already making us into the church God calls us to be,” he said.
“I turn to the next phase of my ministry encouraged and energised by the wonderful movement for reconciliation and renewal that the Spirit of God has drawn us into.”
Rev. Michelle Cook and Rev. Ian Price, members of the Assembly Standing Committee, concluded by thanking Rev. Prof. Dutney for his inclusive sense of community, creativity, courage and character.