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Presbytery & Synod Meeting // UC e-Update

Adelaide West Uniting Church // Thursday 23 - Saturday 25 November, 2017

UC e-Updates are designed to ensure members of the Uniting Church SA are informed of the various decisions made and information shared during Presbytery and Synod meetings.

Friday 24 November

In this update:

  • Opening devotions and Bible study
  • Annesley College presentation
  • Beneficiary Fund presentation
  • Assembly Report
  • Uniting Leaders presentation
  • Matters of vital importance to the life of the Church
  • Conversation on sovereignty and treaty
  • Recognition of Paul Glazbrook
  • Detention of refugees on Manus Island (continued)
  • Philippines partnership
  • Review of Presbytery and Synod committees, boards and councils
  • Uniting College presentation
  • Government decisions affecting Aboriginal people
  • Recommendations and decisions for ordination
  • Recognition of ministry service
  • Prayer points

Opening devotions and Bible study

Uniting Church SA Moderator Rev Sue Ellis welcomed members to the second day of the meeting. A choir from Westminster School led the gathering in song, before a brief message was shared by Rev Phil Hoffmann, the Interim Chaplain at Westminster.

Craig Mitchell led members in a Bible study based on John 15:1-17. He spoke about discipleship and abiding in Christ.

Annesley College presentation

Principal Luke Ritchie provided a lively update about Annesley Junior School. He emphasised that Annesley is proud to be a Christian, Uniting Church school, and outlined the school's mission and vision. Read more about Luke and Annesley in the June/July 2017 edition of New Times (page 15, online here).

Beneficiary Fund presentation

Kieron Paris from Mercer Financial Services spoke about the Beneficiary Fund, member services, super reforms, key changes, the Australian economy and an update on investments.

Assembly Report

Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan and General Secretary Colleen Geyer presented the 2017 Assembly Report. Stuart spoke about the 40th anniversary and what it means to be the Uniting Church in Australia. Members watched Stuart's 40th anniversary message (available online here; transcript available here).

Colleen spoke about a Uniting Church statement on climate change that is being prepared by theologians, scientists and others, which will be released in 2018. She also detailed this year's developments in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Finally, she spoke about the future of the Uniting Church and its wonderful diversity.

Uniting Leaders presentation

Uniting Church SA CEO/General Secretary Rev Nigel Rogers and Rev Stu Cameron, the Lead Minister from Newlife Uniting Church in Queensland, spoke about Uniting Leaders. Stu will be the Director of the Uniting Leaders project, which will run over the next three years as a collaboration between the SA and Queensland Synods. Uniting Leaders will offer conferences, courses and consultancy to grow, encourage and equip leaders in the Uniting Church.

Matters of vital importance to the life of the Church

Rev Jonathan Button and Christy Rayner presented Proposal 11, titled "Matters of vital importance to the life of the Church". This proposal requests that the Assembly seeks the concurrence of all Synods, Presbyteries and congregations in relation to any decisions to alter the doctrine or practice of marriage, as a matter of "vital importance to the life of the Church".

Questions and comments were taken from the floor, some referring to the Uniting Church Constitution and asking whether the Synod meeting is the correct place for this conversation to occur. Members decided to conclude debate on this proposal.

Conversation on sovereignty and treaty

Stuart McMillan introduced the conversation on sovereignty and treaty. He encouraged members to read Rev Dr Chris Budden's Sovereignty and Treaty Paper (available online here) to guide discussions taking place in working groups, in congregations, with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and at the 2018 Assembly.

Members broke into working groups to discuss the paper. Feedback will be provided to Assembly in preparation for discussion of this issue at the 2018 Assembly meeting.

Recognition of Paul Glazbrook

Rev Diane Bury, on behalf of Rev Ashley Davis and Janet Woodward, presented Proposal 9. This proposal asks that the Presbytery and Synod place on record its appreciation of Paul Glazbrook (MOP) for his ministry with Frontier Services Parkin-Sturt Remote Area Ministry Patrol. It was passed by consensus. Paul has reflected on the conclusion of his time with the Parkin-Sturt Patrol in the article here.

Detention of refugees on Manus Island (continued)

In light of changes to the situation on Manus Island, Rev Sandy Boyce presented an altered version of Proposal 22. This conversation was a continuation of the discussion that took place during the Thursday session of the meeting. A number of people shared questions and suggestions from the floor during today's session.

Each of the four paragraphs of the proposal were put for decision separately. Paragraph 1 was passed by consensus. Paragraph 2 was the subject of most of the discussion; some changes were made to this point before it passed by formal majority, with four people against the decision. A slight change was made to Paragraph 4. Paragraphs 3 and 4 passed by consensus. The changes to the second and fourth paragraphs will be noted in the minutes, to be made available online here in the coming weeks.

Philippines partnership

Rev Christa Megaw and Rev Sandy Boyce presented Proposal 24, which is about the SA Synod's partnership with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). Christa detailed the human rights abuses being faced by people in the Philippines, including leaders and members of the UCCP. The proposal was passed by consensus.

Review of Presbytery and Synod committees, boards and councils

Rev Andrew Hogarth and Rev Nick Patselis presented Proposal 23, which requests a review of Presbytery and Synod committees, boards and councils. The proposal's rationale asks a lot of questions about how people are feeling about the way different parts of the Presbytery and Synod currently function.

After hearing the rationale, the members broke for afternoon tea. They returned to the discussion after the Uniting College presentation (see below), and an opportunity was given for questions from the floor. There was much discussion, but the proposal did not progress further.

Uniting College presentation

Past and present students of Uniting College for Leadership & Theology were interviewed by College staff members on stage for this presentation. They spoke about the awards and scholarships available through Uniting College, and the graduate and postgraduate opportunities available.

Principal Rev Prof Andrew Dutney spoke about the Mission and Leadership Development ministry centre and the direction of the College. He detailed the many ways members can connect with the College's offerings, and encouraged people to listen to God's urging.

Rev Christy Capper, Director of Missiology, led the presentation and provided some final comments, particularly emphasising the importance of discipling and encouraging others in ministry.

Government decisions affecting Aboriginal people

Dr Marelle Harisun and Peter Russell introduced Proposal 27, which encompasses two submitted proposals related to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This statement includes a call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. The Australian Government recently decided that there will not be an elected consultative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national advistory body to the government on issues that affect those peoples.

Proposal 27 was written in response to the Government's decision. President Stuart McMillan and Rev Dennis Corowa, the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress National Chairperson, released a statement about this decision earlier in November (online here). After several questions, two minor changes were made. The proposal then passed by consensus.

Recommendations and decisions for ordination

Rev Prof Andrew Dutney presented Proposal 25, which relates to recommendations and decisions for ordination. The proposal seeks to encourage people into ordained ministry by making processes less protracted. A number of questions and statements were offered by members. This proposal will be referred to Standing Committee for further discussion.

Recognition of ministry service

Tongan singers opened the recognition of ministry service, which included the ordination of Katalina Tahaafe-Williams as a Minister of the Word in the Uniting Church.

After leading the gathered members in an Acknowledgement of Country, Rev Sue Ellis welcomed the Seeds Uniting Church band to the stage for a time of worship.

Sue spent time recognising the ministry and service of Elizabeth Finnegan, who served as the sixth Moderator of the SA Synod from 1987-89. She was the first lay person and the first woman to hold the office of Moderator. Elizabeth passed away on Sunday 24 September, 2017. (Read more about Elizabeth in the Moderator's Pastoral Note here.) A memorial service for Elizabeth will be held at Clayton Wesley Uniting Church at 2pm on Monday 27 November.

Sue then called Pastor Graham and Kay Ingram to the stage to recognise their wonderful ministry, particularly in rural locations. Graham was the only retiring minister to be recognised in this service. Sue offered prayers and blessing for Graham and Kay as they move into the next stage of their lives.

Lay preachers were the next to be recognised by the gathering. Max Howland, the Chairperson of the Lay Preachers Committee, spoke about the importance of lay preachers in the life of the Church. Those recognised included people celebrating 30 years of lay preaching (Pat Crouch), 40 years (Craig Bailey, John de Rooy, Shirley James, Laurence Joyce and Janet Munro), 50 years (Don Sarre) and 60 years (Peter Bird, Iain Kilpatrick, Malcolm Potter and Milton Rowe).

The ordination part of the service then began, and featured contributions from the Tongan singers. Rev Prof Andrew Dutney shared a sermon based on Romans 10:9-17 and John 21:15-19. Members heard the story of Katalina's journey to ordination - the challenges she has faced, her role models and her hopes for ministry. Katalina currently serves as Programme Executive Mission and Evangelism in the World Council of Churches based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Rev Jim Peacock was also recognised as he celebrates 50 years since his ordination.

Members celebrated Katalina's ordination, and the service concluded with song, liturgy, prayer and Holy Communion.

Prayer Points

We pray for:

  • Paul Glazbrook - for his ministry and service as he concludes his time as the Parkin-Sturt Patrol Minister for Frontier Services
  • people in the Philippines - for peace and safety for those facing human rights abuses and for the United Church of Christ in the Philippines
  • Graham and Kay Ingram - for their faithful service and ministry
  • lay preachers - for them to be supported in their ministry to congregations across the state
  • Katalina Tahaafe-Williams - for strength as she continues ministry as an ordained Minister of the Word
  • Uniting Church schools - that they maintain a strong focus on faith, mission and vision
  • decision-making - that together members will hear and respond to the Spirit
  • support staff - for all those supporting the meeting in administration, hospitality, minute taking and more

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