Stuart McMillan talks to ABC Sunday Nights

This is a transcript of Stuart McMillan’s interview with the ABC Sunday Nights program that aired nationally on ABC Local Radio on Sunday 21 June 2015.

The transcript is of the Podcast that’s available for listening and download on the ABC Sunday Nights website.

 

John Cleary: Welcome to this podcast on ABC Local Radio. I hope you enjoy the program.

Noel Debien (Presenter): Stuart McMillan – he’s the new leader of Australia’s Uniting Church. Stuart’s from the Northern Territory and he’s got some very interesting things to say as he takes over leadership for the next few years of one of Australia’s great churches.

(music – From Little Things Big Things Grow, Paul Kelly)

Noel Debien: From Little Things Big Things Grow – the choice of our guest in this hour, Stuart McMillan, next President of the Uniting Church throughout Australia, starting July 12th. Stuart McMillan welcome to the program.

Stuart McMillan: Thanks Noel it’s good to be here.

Noel Debien: The song – let’s start there. Why do you like that song and why did you choose it?

Stuart McMillan: I like that song because it tells a great story of hope – that Vincent Lingiari led his people off Wave Hill Station in ’66 before Aboriginal people were citizens in this country and I think it tells the story of a man with a courageous heart, and the fact that they were prepared to sit down for eight years and to wait. In the book of Romans we’ve got a story where Paul writes and says that from suffering comes perseverance, and from perseverance comes character, and from character comes hope. And if anybody in this day and age has emulated that then Vincent Lingiari has by the way in which he led his people with the perseverance to continue to talk to people all over the country and eventually for the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to famously pour that sand into his hand in 1975. It was a wonderful story of hope.


Noel Debien:
Here’s the land back. That story and that song of course is thematic to a lot of what you’ve done in your work within the Uniting Church. You’ve been elected President. You’re a lay man but you will head a national church, but you’ve taken a very particular interest in the indigenous part of the nation and that’s been where a lot of your work has been in the Northern Territory. In fact you live there don’t you?

Stuart McMillan: I do. I’ve been there for 33 years. My wife and I grew up in Sydney. But for a long time there was a stirring in my spirit to learn and understand and grow alongside Australia’s indigenous people. And so in ’82 we went to Darwin…

Noel Debien: What was your link by the way? I’m always interested. I remember meeting Mum Shirl as a kid for example. Who did you meet? What happened?

Stuart McMillan: I didn’t have an Aboriginal link at that point. At that point the link was the Rev. Jim Downing who had worked on the Block here in Sydney and then Jim had gone to Alice Springs and with Yami Lester had begun the Aboriginal Institute for Development, and then Jim had gone up to Darwin and was working in Darwin. And I was part of Chester Street congregation at Epping – a Congregational Church that became Uniting Church. Jim used to send us telegrams and say we need to advocate with the Prime Minister about this, or we need to be more outspoken about this particular issue. So there was that kind of inspiration. Another inspiration for me at the time was the things that Galarrwuy Yunupingu was involved in in Aurukun, and I think Ian Viner was Fraser’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister at the time.

Noel Debien: Remind listeners where Aurukun is exactly.

Stuart McMillan: Aurukun’s on the western side of Cape York about halfway up. Very remote. Very isolated. Interesting history – both Cook and Matthew Flinders sailed up the river and met with Aboriginal people up there well before Australia was colonised really.

Noel Debien: A very old connection, an old interaction.

Stuart McMillan: Yeah, yeah. So they were kind of inspirational things about land rights and so forth …

Noel Debien: It was the idea that indigenous people were disenfranchised, or what was it?

Stuart McMillan: I had in my heart and in my spirit from a very early age some kind of desire to be with Aboriginal people, to learn more, to be alongside them – and it wasn’t just Aboriginal people. I mean I was interested in what was happening for African-Americans. I was interested in Martin Luther King Jr and that whole struggle in the States. I’ve always been interested in the ANC and then Mandela and what was happening in South Africa. There’s just something in my being that has drawn me to this time with Aboriginal people. And I say to people today – you know I’ve been there 33 years – what’s been my formation for this time that I’m coming into as President of the Uniting Church – and I’ve been formed by the Aboriginal leaders, by their spirituality, by their identity with the land in ways that formal training couldn’t have formed me in the same kind of way.

Noel Debien: The indigenous part of the Uniting Church is an intriguing part of it for those outside it, those who are not involved in the Uniting Church directly. Because I know in many ways it’s a very faithful and organised part of the Uniting Church but in some ways socially – conservative maybe, could you say? For example same-sex marriage when that comes up the Aboriginal and Islander Congress was not in favour whereas other parts of the Church might have been. How do you negotiate the distinctiveness of the indigenous part of your Church? You’re not indigenous yourself, but how do you negotiate that, because it’s complicated too isn’t it?

Stuart McMillan: It can be. It can also be as simple as the way in which we engage in relationship, and the way in which we engage in respectful relationship. And so – yes it’s true to say that those that have progressive views within our Church around that particular issue of same-gender marriage would normally have been also the strong advocates in social justice matters and matters of indigenous rights, and so…

Noel Debien: They cross over in fact, don’t they?

Stuart McMillan: They do. And indigenous people and those people that are progressive within our Church have been closely aligned so this is an issue where they take different views. Where we’re at as a Church is we’re engaging in a respectful conversation and my experience of what’s happened up to this point in time through the Mission history and so forth is that, certainly in Arnhem Land and in other parts of Australia where people are still first language speakers, Mission history prevented Aboriginal people from having conversations about marriage, and so…

Noel Debien: Why was that? That’s interesting. Why?

Stuart McMillan: Because polygamy was common. And so I think one of your other questions is about clergy, indigenous clergy…

Noel Debien: Well there are… you have indigenous clergy.

Stuart McMillan: We do.

Noel Debien: You have friends who’ve been leading Uniting Churches and that’s distinctive about your Church. The Lutherans are the same. They have managed to establish indigenous clergy. It’s taken root in the culture, hasn’t it?

Stuart McMillan: And partly that’s been because of the way we’ve engaged with people. Respect for language and respect for culture has enabled people to candidate and to come fully into the life of the Church.

Noel Debien: Well you don’t just speak English either I seem to remember.

Stuart McMillan: I speak – very poorly – I speak Gupapuyngu which is one of the Yolŋu nation languages from north-eastern Arnhem Land.

Noel Debien: So that’s the interesting thing I notice about the Lutherans too at Hermannsburg and Alice Springs that the missionaries and people who worked with indigenous people did the courtesy of learning the language and it must build a bridge instantly.

Stuart McMillan: Absolutely. Absolutely. And for me when I first went in ‘82 the Church was no longer teaching language. Prior in the 70s the first thing that happened in the first three months you were there you learnt language. I was instructed to learn world view and not worry about language. Ten years into my time there I recognised that I couldn’t have the deep level conversations – that people couldn’t have the deep level conversations with me that they wanted to have and I couldn’t engage deeply with them, and so at that point, I seriously engaged in language learning.

Noel Debien: Give us a taste though because I’m not sure how often Yolŋu’s gone on to air on the ABC. If we were to say, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” how would you do it?

Stuart McMillan: Well let me just say that my language is a professional legal language because most of my engagement with people from north-eastern Arnhem Land has been around land rights – and about economic development and about land rights.  And so I’ve been taught by old men about the law and about practices with respect to land and proprietorship with respect to land. So I haven’t spent a good deal of time in the theological indigenous languages.

Noel Debien: So you wouldn’t necessarily lead a service in that language?

Stuart McMillan: No. No. I might use contextual theological understandings…

Noel Debien: We want to hear it though. Give us an example, because we want to hear!

Stuart McMillan: Bala limurr roŋyirr ŋorraŋgitjlil – “Let us return to the white ashes of the fire”.

Noel Debien: Which means? Why the white ashes of the fire? What does that mean?

Stuart McMillan: Because the fires, these white ashes, these fires have sustained our community for generations, and something in that white ash is pure. We know that from health systems. We cauterise wounds and all sorts of things. But if we blow on that fire – and for us within the church we think of the Holy Spirit as the wind – if we blow on that fire we think of the Holy Spirit as fire. We blow on that white ash and we put a stick or something on that fire then it’ll burst into flame.

And so one of the things that the leaders have said is, “Let us return to the white ashes of the fire, and know the place for the first time, and then move forward from that understanding”. So how is it that we’re connected to our ancestors? How is it that we’re connected to the land? How has this fire been important to us and sustained us, and how will it be important and sustain us into the future?

So Bala limurr roŋyirr ŋorraŋgitjlil – “Let us return to the white ashes of the fire” is the beginning of my message at the Assembly in July.

Noel Debien: When you take up the helm as it were?

Stuart McMillan: Uh-huh.

Noel Debien: You’re not only talking about these things too. Because you’ve been long connected to these communities. I believe I could call your skin name would be red kangaroo?

Stuart McMillan: Bulany. That’s correct.

Noel Debien: Bulany. How do you get that? A skin name? Just remind us what a skin name means?

Stuart McMillan: OK. So I’d been there for a little period of time and a man came to me who I’d had a lot to do with in that first year that I was there – and he said to me “I’d like to adopt you as my brother.  I’ve spoken to other people in the clan and elders and so forth and they’re happy for you to be adopted into our clan”. And so I accepted that invitation to be adopted into the clan. So that meant I was Birrkili Gupapuyŋu. Gupapuyŋu is a clan and Birrkili is – it’s a large clan and it has various sections. Bulany is a skin name, and within each clan there are skin names for men and women and they define appropriate marriage relationships and those kinds of things.

Noel Debien: Who you can marry? Who would be appropriate?

Stuart McMillan: Who’s the appropriate person…

Noel Debien: But you’ve already done that, haven’t you, red kangaroo. You’re already married, I think.

Stuart McMillan: I am married.

Noel Debien: So you won’t be needing to do that more.

Stuart McMillan: No! And my wife’s adopted into a clan as well. Fortunately the clan she’s adopted into is… my adoptive brother’s wife is my wife’s sister so that works well for us and for our children.

Noel Debien: It might be labouring the point but I know from friends who work around Alice Springs and in other indigenous communities further south in your state that that adoption, that skin name, means there’s a real relationship developed here. That’s why it’s important.

Stuart McMillan: That’s exactly what it’s about. It’s about relationship, and people will be adopted and you can take that as seriously as you wish to. In my case I tried to follow the respectful protocols that came with that adoption. So I wouldn’t talk to my mother-in-law even though she was my boss’s wife…

Noel Debien: Oh?

Stuart McMillan: …because that’s a formal avoidance relationship within that structure. But those relationships also help you to relate to First Peoples in other parts of the country.

Noel Debien: That’s about appropriateness really – about not putting a foot wrong as it were, isn’t it?

Stuart McMillan: Absolutely. People then understand who you are and how to relate to you.

Noel Debien: Well your boss was also indigenous wasn’t he? Djiniyini Gondarra was one of the leaders of the Church?

Stuart McMillan: He was the first indigenous Moderator of the Uniting Church, yeah.

Noel Debien: He was your boss too.

Stuart McMillan: He was my boss for 12 years, yeah.

Noel Debien: Tell us about the relationship with him, because again that’s leadership. That means the Church has not only said “We’d like you all to be Christian with us and join our community” but it’s handed on leadership to the indigenous people who then call the shots. And then you’re the employee, you’re not the boss. That’s a turnaround of the old missionary idea, isn’t it?

Stuart McMillan: It is. For me it was the most wonderful 12 years. It was the time Mabo had just happened…

Noel Debien: You were connected to Wik as well though, weren’t you?

Stuart McMillan: …and connected to Wik. There are two arms to the indigenous part of the Church in the Northern Synod – to the Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress – that is, a community development arm and a congregational ministry-based arm. I worked for both arms and Djiniyini was over both arms of the Church during those years. And so in the community development area we were working to prepare materials around the Wik case and the subsequent Native Title legislation.

Noel Debien: Did you meet Paul Keating yourself?

Stuart McMillan: I didn’t personally meet Paul Keating, no. My colleagues did. Djiniyini and Richard Trudgeon who wrote “Why Warriors Lie Down and Die”.

Noel Debien: So your boss did? Just you didn’t.

Stuart McMillan: My boss did, yeah.

Noel Debien: (laughs)

Stuart McMillan: I did a lot of the writing and I did a lot of the leg work, but no I didn’t meet with him.

Noel Debien: That’s right in the thick of it! I’m interested to ask… the last time I was in Darwin I went there for the episcopal ordination of a friend, a very old friend. There’s a new Bishop up there, Anglican Bishop Greg Anderson.  It’s not the biggest place in the world the Northern Territory. Have you run across Greg and Annette Anderson at this point?

Stuart McMillan: Greg’s a good friend. Greg’s a good friend. I knew the Bishop when he was first in the Northern Territory at Numbulwar. He went to Numbulwar for 12 months or so, and learnt language while he was there. So he’s another language speaker.

Noel Debien: He’s quite good. He shocked me. At the end of his consecration service he was standing at the back swapping from Kriol then to another language and then back to English, depending on who was coming out the back. It was quite striking.

Stuart McMillan: It was wonderful. It a wonderful… I didn’t notice you there Noel!

Noel Debien: We were in the room. We were in the room.

Stuart McMillan: I brought greetings on behalf of the Northern Territory Council of Churches. Because the indigenous people of the Northern Territory, regardless of denomination, whether they’re Catholic or Baptist or Lutheran or Uniting – they were so joyful that Greg and Annette were returning to the Northern Territory and that the Anglican Church had decided to consecrate him as their Bishop.

So in terms of my greetings to Greg and Annette on behalf of the Northern Territory Council of Churches, I welcomed him also on behalf of many many Aboriginal people across the Territory who were  just overjoyed that he was returning to the Territory.

Noel Debien: It’s worth another mention there, because here’s a very famous college there for those who are interested in indigenous affairs, and that’s Nungalinya, where of course Greg has taught and Annette teaches, I think, currently.  I wonder if you’ve had connection to that College as well, that theological college?

Stuart McMillan: I was on the Board of that College for a while. Djiniyini had a position by virtue of the Constitution but he could delegate. So he delegated me to be on that Board for some time. It’s an ecumenical college – Uniting, Catholic and Anglican churches are involved in that theological college. It has a lot more than theology these days. We’ve got a media department. So we produce programs – or Nungalinya produces programs like this one.

Noel Debien: In language as well?

Stuart McMillan: In language as well. There’s a wonderful Youtube clip of the Rev. Rronang Garrawurra, who I know you’ve met before…

Noel Debien: Indeed.

Stuart McMillan: …and Rronang tells his story. They’ve filmed it. Put it up on Youtube, and it’s an excellent job. The students in the media program did that.

Noel Debien: In some ways it’s a world apart, because I was really struck being in Darwin’s Anglican Cathedral, for example, to see the extraordinary mix of Australia. It was not a white congregation. Forget that. Darwin is much more complex and an obvious indigenous presence everywhere – a much more I suppose striking presence of the indigenous people. The thing about it though is your church is “Uniting.” Now you mentioned Nungalinya works with Catholics, Anglicans, Uniting. The Uniting Church started its life on a mission to unite. Now how does that go for you in this area where you are now, and how are you going to bring that now to the national scene?

Stuart McMillan: I think it’s a really prime part of Christ’s ministry that is left with us…

Noel Debien: The scandal of division, it’s called sometimes. How could anybody take Christians seriously when they’re all fighting over patches?

Stuart McMillan: Absolutely. And I think at this particular Assembly meeting we’ll have a paper that comes from the Anglican-Uniting Church dialogue. That’s one of the ways we’ve dealt with it in subsequent years. We have significant dialogues with other denominations, progressing our common understandings and discussing those things where we differ. We’ve got those same dialogues with some other faith communities. So we have a dialogue with the Jewish community, and we have some dialogues with the Islamic community – and those dialogues are important to our living in harmony as a community. But more importantly with our ecumenical friends it’s those dialogues that move us closer to the oneness of Christ rather than pushing us…

Noel Debien: Into our brands, as it were.

Stuart McMillan: …apart, because of the things we don’t agree on.

Noel Debien: We should take a piece of music. We’ve covered a fair bit of ground. But you’ve chosen Treaty. Why did you choose Treaty? I think I know but tell us.

Stuart McMillan: Well one of the things in my mind was Barunga (Festival) again. Just recently on the 7th and 8th of June the Barunga Festival has been out of Katherine. It was at Barunga in 1988 that Bob Hawke declared there would be a treaty, and this weekend in June again, indigenous people have called for a treaty.  So that was one of the things in my mind in selecting Treaty. It’s interesting – Treaty is one of the 30 Australian best songs of all time. The late Dr Yunupingu the lead singer of that band, Yothu Yindi, I’m in a father relationship with. And so I have enormous respect and regard for him, not only as a man who was able to take political positions and cultural positions through the band Yothu Yindi to the world, but also as the man who was the principal of the local school in Yirrkala and held education for children as a really significant thing… a member of the Uniting Church.

Noel Debien: (laughs) Not that we’re claiming patches!

Stuart McMillan: No, we’re not claiming patches at all! And Witiyana Marika, the guy that people remember with the dreadlocks and the clapsticks – the bilma – in that band is a good friend. I relate to him as my wife’s brother and he still works – he’s worked with us in cultural awareness training for a long time. He still works with Richard Trudgeon and the Why Warriors group in cultural awareness training.

(music – Yothu Yindi, Treaty. Lyrics – This land was never given up. This land was never bought and sold. The planting of the Union Jack never changed our law at all…)

Noel Debien: Treaty then – the choice of Stuart McMillan our guest in this hour – who’s the next President of the Uniting Church, 12th of July. A church which has, I think 1 in 20 Australians are a member of that Church. It’s about 5% of the nation. It formed with the idea of uniting or pulling Christians together. That was its aim. Stuart McMillan can we go then now to the broader Church. It’s fascinating to hear of the local churches that you’ve been connected to and which you bring into this national leadership role. But of course you’re taking on the leadership of a Church which has lots of issues in front of it, like every other Church has lots of issues. Church-going is declining within the nation. There are issues of internal management like whether or not we’re going to say same-sex is OK or not OK, whether or not we’re going to be evangelical or not evangelical – how we’re going to do things. What do you think are your priorities as you come into a leadership role now? What are the three things that are on your mind that you think you’re going to put your shoulder to?

Stuart McMillan: One of my priorities is that we truly become an intercultural community. 30 years ago the Uniting Church declared itself a multicultural church. We were talking before about Darwin being very multicultural.

Noel Debien: Oh it sure is.

Stuart McMillan: But if you look at the Uniting Church and you look at the northern suburbs of Sydney, yes you will see the declining Church that you’ve referred to.

Noel Debien: But I’ve met your Tongan community. Now that is… I went to your Tongan congress and literally… there were thousands of people there. My jaw was on the ground as I saw it. You’ve got these huge communities inside as well.

Stuart McMillan: We do. We’ve got 12 national conferences of different cultural backgrounds that happen within the life of the Church, and those national conferences, or those different cultural backgrounds are growing. So for example the South Sudanese community within the Uniting Church is a growing part of the Church…

Noel Debien: South Sudanese? Those Christians…

Stuart McMillan: …and that’s what I wanted to talk about, that’s what I wanted to say. Whilst we might… in the Anglo-Celtic parts of our Church there’s a decline and an ageing constituency of wonderful faithful people, let me say – the vibrant life within our Church is in the growing culturally and linguistically diverse communities of the Church.

Noel Debien: Now what do they bring in though? What have you noticed? Because, for example when I was with the Tongan community they’d just ordained a young woman. So there’s an acceptance now of female ordained leadership among Tongans who were once much more conservative than that. They weren’t going to go there. Has that happened in indigenous communities for example? Has that happened in Sudanese communities? How do you manage those things?

Stuart McMillan: Well you manage those things, as we said before, with respectful conversations… and the multicultural community themselves talk about the space for grace.

Noel Debien: Right.

Stuart McMillan: And where do we find that space? We find that space – as we’ve talked already today – in relationship. So you put relationship first. You put community building first.

Noel Debien: That does sound slow for policy agreement…

Stuart McMillan: It’s slow by Anglo-Celtic kind of views of the world. But you know I’ve seen our multicultural communities move and make some fantastic decisions at the end of four days, when they may have spent three days building community, touching on those things but not seeking to deal with them until the last day of the meeting, and being able to make those decisions and make them in strong agreement because of the relationship-building and the community that they’ve constructed.

Noel Debien: Can I dig in on that a little bit? You keep using the word relationship – and for some people that will bring up 1960s pop psychology “Let’s build something together” – but there’s another word I’m sure that you half mean as you’re saying that word and that’s koinonia or communion, because communion is a very Christian word. But it actually means relationship doesn’t it? Is that what you’re talking about?

Stuart McMillan: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. We use the word fellowship too. That’s a kind of a Church-easy type of word. That’s exactly what it is – the communion of people – and as we gather in that communion there’s a lot greater space for grace, and then for moving forward together. So I’m finding the conversations with culturally and linguistically diverse people in our Church not only enlivening and enriching but transforming. And I believe our Church will be transformed in the years to come because of the cultural diversity and the richness of that cultural diversity.

Noel Debien: I wonder… I once heard a Bishop say – I won’t name him but it was a Roman Catholic Bishop who said “Oh you know, the Skippy Church is dead. The future is in our ethnic congregations,” he said. Now he’d never say that on the record because that’d upset the Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Celt part of the Church. But is that a fear that you have – that you might lose the older Scottish/Irish/English antecedents of the Methodist Church, of the Congregational Church. Are they going and being replaced? Or is this something new which is developing in relation to the new ethnic congregations as well?

Stuart McMillan: No. Look, as I gather with… at the National Christian Youth Convention last year that is held within the life of the Uniting Church, and at the National Young Adult Leaders Conference earlier this year which is a Uniting Church gathering, a diverse group of people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds including Anglo-Celtic backgrounds – young people that are passionate and enthusiastic about justice issues, young people that are growing in their faith that are seeking – the thing that I hear commonly – is young people seeking intentional mentoring from their elders. I’m seeing amongst the CALD communities and the First Nation people an increasing respect from the young people – respect for elders, and I’m seeing from the elders an increasing support and calling forth of young people into leadership to contribute to the life of the Church. Now that’s new. You mentioned women in ministry before. That’s new and we’ve had within in our CALD communities issues between second generation and next generation – young people born in Australia, parents born overseas…

Noel Debien: It’s melding, you’re saying. It’s not replacement. It’s actually melding is what you’re arguing…

Stuart McMillan: I’m seeing the change. And you talked about Tonga before. On the same weekend as Barunga the 7th and 8th of June, the Tongan Conference was held in the Blue Mountains. 800 people at this year’s conference. But the young Tongan community provided so much leadership in that conference – the colour, the light, the sounds, but also the intellect was welcomed and enriching for all of those Tongans that gathered from across our nation.

Noel Debien: I think it might have been St Gregory the Great writing to another friend who’d just been made a Bishop – he wrote “Better dead than a Bishop,” he said, meaning the job of a leader in the Church is not an easy one. How do you feel coming in? President? Leader? Closest you’ve got to a Bishop, really isn’t it?

Stuart McMillan: Well there’s some anxiety about that.

Noel Debien: Yep.

Stuart McMillan: And I think if I wasn’t somewhat anxious about it. If I thought I had it all sewn up then I wouldn’t be the person for the job. I think “In God We Trust” is pretty important in those kind of leadership roles and in the role that I’m coming into. On the other hand there’s some wonderful, wonderful leaders in the life of the Church. You know Christ is the head… and I’m part of a leadership that is spread broadly across the Church.

In March this year I met with the National Multicultural Ministry Reference Committee. In January this year I went to the Congress conference and met with national leaders as well as members of Congress from across Australia. We’ve got a broad depth of leadership and our Church believes completely in the people of God, the ministry of all believers, and the gifts that God gives to different people for different tasks – and so, what I’m saying in that, is that I don’t feel alone as a leader within the life of the Uniting Church.

Noel Debien: How much is this about patience? You talked earlier about relationship or communion… relationship – let’s stick with the common English word. You settled at Humpty Doo. You’ve been around a lot of indigenous communities. How much has it been about learning patience for you? And how much has it been about sharing that understanding of patience?

Stuart McMillan: That’s an interesting question. I haven’t reflected on it before. But I think it’s certainly one of the areas that I’ve grown in in my time. If I’ve learnt anything from indigenous people it is how to conduct yourself in a process that is very patient, and that enables everybody to tell their story, and is respectful of the right for people to tell their story and to have their say. And in the Uniting Church we have something called consensus decision-making, so we don’t vote…

Noel Debien: Drives some of your people crazy though. They want action! They want decisions!

Stuart McMillan: It does drive people crazy and people would like to say yes or no and move on… but it’s the place of grace. If that’s done well it’s the place of communion, because the gathering is able to discern what the Spirit is saying to the Church at that point in time around that particular issue. So my reflection is that my indigenous brothers and sisters have taught me well, patience.

Noel Debien: Stuart McMillan, incoming President of the Uniting Church in Australia, thanks for being on the program.

Stuart McMillan: It’s been great to be here Noel.

Noel Debien: You’ve chosen “Until the Twelfth of Never”. Now there’s one to go out on if we’re going to have consensus decision-making!

Stuart McMillan: Well that’s my personal reflection. I was engaged on the 12th of September in 1973 to my wife and that’s our song, because our relationship is until the 12th of never – forever.

(music – The Twelfth of Never – Johnny Mathis. Lyrics – I’ll love you till the poets run out of rhyme, until the 12th of Never, and that’s a long long time…)  

John Cleary: This has been a podcast on ABC Local Radio. Thank you for listening.

ENDS