Tag Archives: Uniting Church in Australia

(A bit of) what you need to know about UC elders…

Reading
Luke 19.1–10

 

Let me tell you about the first time I went to church after I gave my life to Jesus. Some of you will know that it was the church of my best friend at school, and that it was an Open Brethren congregation. He’d invited me, and I was glad to go.

I’d been brought up as a nominal Anglican, rarely setting foot inside a church.

The Brethren have a particular style of worship, which includes a weekly Memorial of the Lord’s Supper. So I’m sitting in church, and the bread and wine (real wine!) were passed around the pews. I receive the Lord’s Supper.

Unbeknown to me, this causes quite a flutter of consternation. Who is this teenager who comes to church for the very first time and partakes of the Lord’s Supper?

After the service, my friend comes to me. ‘The elders’ have taken him aside. They want to know who I am. Is your friend a Christian? they ask him? He says he thinks so. He then tells me I have to go and talk to them.

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Filed under Baptism, ministry, RCL, sermon, Uniting Church in Australia

UCA Anniversary (24 June 2012)

The Uniting Church celebrated 35 years last Thursday, 22 June. Here is a reflection:

A Basis for a direction

Readings
Ephesians 2.19-22
John 17.1-11

On Saturday 22 June 1977, I was walking along the beach at Caloundra with some friends. Our spirits were buoyed up by the creation of the Uniting Church in Australia that very day.

I wasn’t part of the Uniting Church back then. I wasn’t a Methodist or a Presbyterian. I wasn’t a Congregationalist. I was looking in from the outside and it was all very inspiring to me.

It wasn’t long before I was reading the Basis of Union, the document that the three churches who came into union agreed to. It excited me. (If you don’t think the Basis of Union could excite anyone, may I suggest you take the time to actually read it?)

Since 1977, the Uniting Church has become a source of joy and pain to me and to many. How could it be any other way? If you love something or someone, if you open your heart to them, you become vulnerable. I certainly feel ‘vulnerable’ to the Uniting Church.

Sometimes, though, I can’t quite identify with the ‘pain’ some other people talk about. For example: people have accused the Uniting Church of failing to stand for anything. I joined because the Uniting Church stood for active Christian unity, because it cared about the place of women in the Church and because it was passionate about justice.

But still there are those who have said our Church has no real identity. Sorry, but if a passion for unity and justice aren’t an identity, I don’t know what is.

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Natural Disasters: Lament, community and the death of theodicy

Last week, I came across an article by Rev Dr Andrew Dutney, President-elect of the Uniting Church in Australia, with the provocative title: Does God hate Queensland? This was before the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power disasters of Japan.

We had a bad summer with floods and cyclones; the photo at the top of the page was taken across the road from our house to show how high the water came during the flood. Japan is faring far worse than us.

How do Christians respond?

Theologians have classically gone for theodicy, the justification of God in the face of evil and disaster. Why does God let these things happen?

There are two broad kinds of theodicy: one which says with Augustine that the creation fell from perfection with Adam; the others says with Irenaeus that the world began in an immature state, and that suffering is necessary for us to mature.

Dutney points out that

theodicy works for some but not all cases. There are far too many examples of suffering which are so grotesque or so excessive that they make it impossible to devise an explanation that is both rational and morally tolerable. In any case, it would be offensive even to try to explain such suffering away.

He also makes the very important point that ordinary Christians haven’t gone all the way with the theologians in trying to justify God’s ways. Rather for them,

the experience of suffering does not challenge belief in God as such, but rather forces the question, Where in this suffering is the God in whom I believe?

Theodicy has a limited place. The scriptures allow far more lament than we have allowed for ourselves in our services until recently. Thumb through the Psalms for example upon example, or read Lamentations; Uniting in Worship 2 has put lament into the ‘mainstream’ of the Church’s worship. For Dutney it is simply that:

There is suffering which will not be explained into quietness by church leaders, philosophers or theologians.

In the floods in Brisbane, people were bowled over by the number of people who came to help. And community is another discovery in disaster:

It turns out that our possessions are less important than our family, friends and neighbours. It turns out that we can trust strangers to enter our (shattered) homes and deal gently with our treasures – in fact we rely on them to do so. It turns out that my neighbours need does matter more to me than my own in this situation. It turns out that sitting in the rubble of the lives that we’d worked so hard to create we can laugh and experience genuine joy in the inexplicable gift of being alive – together. It turns out that when we look up and see what natural disaster means in Haiti and Pakistan we do recognize in a new way the responsibilities – the opportunities to help – that go with the advantages enjoyed by Australians and New Zealanders even in times of devastation. Who knew?

None of this justifies or minimises human suffering. But we survive—and we survive together.

Read Andrew’s article for yourself.

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Filed under Church & world, Liturgy, Lord have mercy, reflection, Uniting Church in Australia

Al Macrae on our need for prophets

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Al Macrae, has written in the ABC’s Religion and Ethics page that we need prophetic political leadership. He is so right! Read the whole thing, but here is a sampler:

Biblical wisdom tells us that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” If this aspect of leadership is neglected then leaders will inevitably seek lowest common denominator approaches which, in time, diminish any community.

From within the Jewish and Christian traditions there are many examples of courageous visionary leaders – Moses, Esther, King David, St Paul and, of course, Jesus himself. I’m sure we can all remember leaders in national and local political life who called us, often in the face of strong opposition, to the higher values of justice, peace and compassion.

But what seems to be happening in the current election is something different. The candidates seem a little too willing to capitulate to our less generous, more self-centred selves.

Australians like to think of themselves as generous-hearted people, predisposed to giving people a “fair go.” So why would leaders not appeal to these values?

The debate about asylum seekers is a perfect example. The policies of both major parties assume that most of us are fearful and mean-spirited, incapable of empathising with the plight of people seeking sanctuary in this land of abundance.

Jews know the biblical admonition to care for the stranger and the sojourner. Christians likewise will recall that Jesus himself was a refugee. Our leaders could remind us that the vast majority of our forebears arrived here seeking new life and opportunity, fleeing famine or war.

They could remind us that, at both solemn and proud civic occasions, we sing our national anthem which proclaims “we’ve boundless plains to share.”

They could call us to be who and what we claim to be.

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While you’re on the site, bookmark it. Brisbane-based theologian Scott Stephens edits this page, and he’s doing a great job.

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Graduation

Last night was my graduation from Griffith University as a PhD—a lot of fun, even though I spent half the morning with a case of the vomits. (Too much information? Ok, no more then…)

The thesis was titled, Presbyteral Rites of Ordination, 1977-1995: The Uniting Church in Australia ‘within the faith and unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’. I’m tossing up putting the synopsis up on the blog, if there”s any interest. For now, a pic of me with my wonderful wife:

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New ordination services for the Uniting Church in Australia

On 17 November I posted that I was back from Sydney, where one of the things I did (on behalf of the Working Group on Worship) was to present the Assembly Standing Committee with new services of ordination and induction for ministers of the Word—presbyters in many other churches—and deacons.

They take effect from 1 January, and they’ve now been posted! You can find them on this page; they are services 1-4. (Services 9 & 10 are the current ordination services.)

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A Short Guide for Daily Prayer (3)

Some people have reported difficulty printing A Short Guide with printers that are capable of printing both sides of the booklet automatically—the odd and even pages come out upside down relative to each other. (I didn’t realise the problem earlier, as I have to feed the sheets into my printer twice, even pages first then odd.)

In the Printer settings, if you go to Duplex Printing and then click the short-side stapling radio button before you print, this seems to fix the problem if you want to print automatically. Happy to hear if this doesn’t work for you (or if it does!).

You can download it here.

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