The UCA 15th Assembly meeting was held in Melbourne during the week of 8th to 14th July and I attended as a member from Riverina Presbytery along with Rev Keunil Ko. The membership of the meeting came from across the entire country including every Presbytery and Synod and members of various committees and agencies of the UCA. Thus the meeting was attended by over 300 members.
During the week of the Assembly, members shared in worship and fellowship, Bible Studies, small group discussions about proposed resolutions, praying, whole group discussions and discerning.
As is usually the case with meetings there were proposals that were agreed to with little or no discussion beyond the presentation of them. However there were also many proposals that elicited varying amounts of discussion for and against. Most were dealt with using consensus, although some of them were amended before they were agreed to. However there were also a number that were discussed and deliberated over a great deal before a decision was made – and some were then referred to the Standing Committee for further consideration, debate and decision. No decisions were made lightly.
The debates and discussions held on the floor of Assembly demonstrated the full diversity that the Uniting Church embraces, with members representing a large number of cultural and theological backgrounds. Despite such diversity, they also demonstrated our unity within that diversity. This is what I really appreciate about the Uniting Church – our ability to embrace diversity! We do not insist that everyone have identical understandings of Scripture but rather acknowledge ‘that the Church has received the books of the Old and New Testaments as unique prophetic and apostolic testimony, in which it hears the Word of God and by which its faith and obedience are nourished and regulated.’ (BoU par 5).
One topic that received a lot of attention during the week was the Uniting Church’s position on marriage since the Federal Government changed the law to allow same gender marriage late last year. Initially there were 8 proposals relating to this topic but after 5 days of discussion, debate and deliberation we had one proposal which was agreed to by a significant majority in a written secret ballot and 3 others that were consequently withdrawn by the proposers. Sessions were held in private so as to do all that was possible to maintain a safe space for the debate.
The final proposal was brought together by a small group of people which included the proposers of the various proposals and set out to enhance unity within the church by allowing for acceptance of diverse theological and personal views. It was recognised throughout that whatever was decided there would be people that would not agree but that this was what was discerned by the Assembly as the way to go.
While Assembly rightly devoted a lot of time to discerning the way to go regarding same gender marriage, it was not the only matter of importance that was dealt with during the week.
Some other agenda items that were covered were: –
- Installed the new President Dr Deidre Palmer
- Elected the President-elect – Rev Sharon Hollis.
- Elected the new Assembly Standing Committee.
- Consensus on a statement denouncing domestic violence.
- Agreed to ‘not consider’ a proposal related to the topic of Voluntary Assisted Dying which had been put forward after Victoria had passed law to allow it.
- Referred a proposal relating to the role of Presbytery Standing Committee to the Assembly Standing Committee.
- Acknowledged and affirmed the sovereignty of Australia’s first peoples
- Received a variety of reports on the work of Assembly committees and agencies over the past triennium.
Thank you for the privilege of being a member of the 15th Assembly. Let me assure you that no decision about the life and polity of the Uniting Church is made without a great deal of prayerful deliberation by the members.
(if you wish to visit the Assembly web site please click here, added by webmaster)