Uniting Church in Australia

Last updated

Uniting Church in Australia
UCA-logo.svg
UCA logo
Classification Protestantism
Orientation Calvinism and Methodism
Polity Presbyterianism, Connexionalism and Congregationalism
President of the Assembly Deidre Palmer
Distinct fellowshipsUniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress
Associations NCCA, WCC, CCA, WARC, World Methodist Council, Pacific Conference of Churches
Region Australia
Origin1977
Merger of Methodist Church of Australasia, Presbyterian Church of Australia, Congregational Union of Australia
Congregations2,000 [1]
Members243,000 (2016) [1]
Nursing homesUnitingCare
Aid organization UnitingCare UnitingWorld
Uniting Church members as a percentage of the total population in the 2011 census, divided geographically by local area Australian Census 2011 demographic map - Australia by SLA - BCP field 2763 Christianity Uniting Church Persons.svg
Uniting Church members as a percentage of the total population in the 2011 census, divided geographically by local area

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) was founded on 22 June 1977, [2] when most congregations of the Methodist Church of Australasia, about two-thirds of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and almost all the churches of the Congregational Union of Australia united under the Basis of Union. [3] According to the church, it had 243,000 members in 2018. [1] In the 2016 census, about 870,200 Australians identified with the church; [4] [5] in the 2011 census, the figure was 1,065,796. The UCA is Australia's third-largest Christian denomination, behind the Catholic and the Anglican Churches. [6] There are around 2,000 UCA congregations, [1] and 2001 National Church Life Survey (NCLS) research indicated that average weekly attendance was about 10 per cent of census figures. [7]

Contents

The UCA is Australia's largest non-government provider of community and health services. Its service network consists of over 400 agencies, institutions, and parish missions, with its areas of service including aged care, hospitals, children, youth and family, disability, employment, emergency relief, drug and alcohol abuse, youth homelessness and suicide. [1] Affiliated agencies include UCA's community and health-service provider network, affiliated schools, the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, Frontier Services, and UnitingWorld.

Organisation

St Michael's Uniting Church, Melbourne (pictured) was formerly the Congregational Union Australia Church. St-Michael's-at-Night.jpg
St Michael's Uniting Church, Melbourne (pictured) was formerly the Congregational Union Australia Church.
Albert Street Uniting Church, Brisbane, 2020.jpg
Port Adelaide Uniting Church Port Adelaide Uniting Church-2005.jpg
Port Adelaide Uniting Church
Scots Uniting Church in Albany, Western Australia Scots Uniting Church.jpg
Scots Uniting Church in Albany, Western Australia

The UCA is a national, unincorporated association of councils, each of which has responsibility for functions in the church. The councils are congregations (local), presbyteries (regional), synods (state) and an assembly (national). [8]

The membership of each council is established by the constitution. Each council includes Women and Men, lay and ordained. The offices of president of assembly, moderator of synod (who chair these councils) and other offices are open to all UCA members.

The UCA is a non-episcopal church, with no bishops. Leadership and pastoral roles are nominally performed by presbyteries, but in reality by individuals.

Assembly

The UCA assembly meets every three years, and is chaired by the president. [1] The 14th Assembly met in Perth from 12 to 18 July 2015. The 15th Assembly, hosted by the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania in Box Hill, met in July 2018. Assembly business between meetings is conducted by the Assembly Standing Committee, which meets three times per year (usually in March, July and November). Membership is drawn from throughout Australia, with 18 members elected at each assembly.

President

Deidre Palmer, UCA President, 2020-02-23 Deidre Palmer UCA 2020-02-23.png
Deidre Palmer, UCA President, 2020-02-23

The current president is Deidre Palmer, who succeeded Stuart McMillan at the start of the 15th Assembly on 8 July 2018. [9] Palmer is the second woman in the role, following Jill Tabart (1994-1997). [10] Palmer was the moderator of the Presbytery and Synod of South Australia from November 2013 to November 2016. [11] Sharon Hollis, moderator of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania at the time of her election in 2018, is the president-elect; Hollis will become president at the beginning of the sixteenth assembly, which will be held in Queensland in 2021. [12]

Synods

Synods are UCA councils which roughly correspond to state boundaries. Each synod meets about once per year, with a standing committee to represent it between sessions. Synod responsibilities include the promotion and encouragement of the church's mission, theological and ministerial education, and overseeing property matters. [13] There are six synods: [14]

Presbyteries

Each synod generally consists of a number of presbyteries. Western Australia has a unitary presbytery-synod model. South Australia also had a single presbytery and synod for 15 years, until 2019. These large presbyteries enable groups of congregations to work together, based on geographic location or similar interests or characteristics. Selection of ministerial candidates and the placement of ministers are decided at the presbytery level.

Congregations

There are about 2,000 UCA congregations, with 243,000 members and adherents. Congregations range in size from a dozen to hundreds of members. [1] They are the local church, the setting for regular worship (generally on Sundays). Many churches also conduct worship services at other times, such as a monthly weekday service, a late-night service for day-shift workers, a "cafe church", or Friday- or Saturday-evening services.

A Meeting of the Congregation must be held at least twice each year. The meetings typically consider and approve the budget, local policy matters, property matters (ratified by the presbytery and synod) and the "call" (employment) of a new minister or other staff.

Congregations manage themselves through a council. All elders are members, as are ministers with pastoral responsibility for the congregation; there may also be other members. The council meets regularly, and is responsible for approving worship times and other matters.

Narooma Uniting Church, a 1914 example of Federation Carpenter Gothic architecture NaroomaUnitingChurch.jpg
Narooma Uniting Church, a 1914 example of Federation Carpenter Gothic architecture

Some united congregations exist. The UCA has joined with other churches, such as the Baptist Union and the Churches of Christ, in some locations. There are also cooperative arrangements where supplying ministry to congregations is impossible, particularly in remote areas. This includes arrangements with the Anglican Church, where ministry and (sometimes) property resources are shared.

Faith communities are less structured than congregations. They are groups of people who gather together for worship, witness or service and choose to be recognised by the presbytery. Local churches are sometimes also used by congregations of other denominations; for example, a Tongan Seventh-day Adventist congregation may make arrangements to meet in the building on a Saturday. The UCA is committed to inclusivity, and there are a number of multicultural ministry (MCM) arrangements in which Korean, Tongan and other groups form congregations of the church.

Co-operating congregations

Co-operating congregations, typically in rural areas, have several denominations worshiping as one congregation and rotate the denomination appointing its next minister. They are known as union churches in some places, with several denominations using the building at different times.

Frontier Services

A Frontier Services ministry is available to residents of the outback, with ministers and pastors visiting families by air or four-wheel drive vehicles. Visits are normally arranged in advance so adjacent families can travel for significant events, such as baptisms. These "padres" are based in a major town or city, and the local synod is normally their organisational and funding body.

Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress

The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC, sometimes known simply as the Congress), is constitutionally recognised as having responsibility for oversight of church ministry to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

A Synod may at the request of a Regional Committee of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress prescribe that the Regional Committee may have and exercise all or specific rights, powers, duties and responsibilities of a Presbytery under this Constitution and the Regulations (including ordination and other rights, powers and responsibilities relating to Ministers) for the purpose of fulfilling any responsibility of the Regional Committee for Uniting Church work with Aboriginal and Islander people within the bounds of the Synod. [21]

Agencies

Wayside Chapel, Potts Point WaysideChapel.JPG
Wayside Chapel, Potts Point

UnitingCare Australia, the country's largest provider of social care,[ citation needed ] is its largest operator of aged-care facilities. Other activities include shelters and emergency housing for men, women and children; family-relationships support; disability services, and food kitchens.

Education

The UCA provides theological training through a number of theological colleges:

Training generally takes five years, and includes supervised practical experience.

Youth

The National Christian Youth Convention is a national UCA activity during school and university holidays, every two or three years in a different city. NCYC 2007, "Agents of Change", was held in Perth. [23] The 2009 "Converge" was held in Melbourne. NCYC 2011 was held from 29 December 2010 to 4 January 2011 at the Southport School on Queensland's Gold Coast. Yuróra NCYC 2014 was held in North Parramatta, Sydney from 7 to 10 January 2014. [24] Yuróra NCYC 2017, "Uniting Culture", was also held in Sydney in January 2017. [25]

International aid

UnitingWorld is the church's international-aid agency. [26] It receives funding from the government of Australia to implement development and poverty-alleviation programs in the Pacific, Asia and Africa. [27] UnitingWorld works in partnership with 18 overseas denominations to support over 180,000 people annually through sustainable community development projects. [26]

Ministry

The role of the laity is valued in the UCA, which recognises that ministry is a function of the entire church. However, "specified ministries" are defined. [21] Of these, the roles of elder and pastor are open to lay members. The church has two orders of ordained ministry: minister and deacon.

When it is not possible (or desirable) to have an ordained minister, a lay preacher or lay ministry team may act in their place (similar to a Methodist local preacher). Lay preachers are required to participate in training and examinations conducted by each synod, and must be approved by the presbytery. [13]

Culture

1905 church in Mundijong Uniting church mundijong gnangarra.JPG
1905 church in Mundijong

The UCA was one of the first Australian churches to grant self-determination to its indigenous members through the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. Partnerships exist with South Pacific and Asian churches, especially those which share a Congregational, Presbyterian or Methodist heritage. An increasing number of ethnic churches worship in their own languages as well as in English. Five to seven per cent of the membership worship in languages other than English, including Aboriginal languages. [28]

The UCA advocates for social justice. It has taken stances on issues such as native title for indigenous people; the environment; apartheid; refugee status, and safe injection facilities for drug users. The church is similar to other united and uniting churches, which maintain a cultural identity in their own country and practise ecumenical fellowship with other Christian denominations worldwide. [29] Between 1991 and 2013, UCA attendance declined by 41 per cent. In 2013, about 97,200 people attended weekly worship services throughout Australia. [30]

Liturgy

The church is liturgically varied. Practices range from experimental liturgies, informal worship reminiscent of the Jesus movement to conventional Reformed services. Music also varies from traditional and contemporary hymns in the Australian Hymn Book and Together in Song , through Hillsong and contemporary Christian music to hard alternative and metal.

Liturgical dress in the UCA is generally lenient, and is optional for ministers and other leaders of worship. [31] When liturgical dress is worn, it most commonly consists of a white alb and a stole (for ministers and deacons) or scarf (for lay preachers). The colour of the scarf or stole is often related to the liturgical calendar, such as purple for Lent or red for Pentecost.

Decision-making

St David's Uniting Church, Haberfield Haberfield St Davids Uniting Church.JPG
St David's Uniting Church, Haberfield

Since 1997, most councils and agencies have used the consensus decision-making procedures outlined in the church's Manual for Meetings . The procedures may use orange ("support") and blue ("do not support") cards, which may also be displayed times other than voting.

Theology

The UCA's theological range is broad, reflecting its Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational origins and its commitment to ecumenism. Its theology may be described as mainline Protestantism, with a commitment to social justice. The church's perspectives are evangelical, left (or progressive), and liberal. Morality, faith, and (in particular) sexuality have been debated. Concerns focus on biblical understanding and accommodation to the broad culture.

Uniting Network Australia is "the national network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender people, their families, friends and supporters within the Uniting Church in Australia." [32] The establishment of Evangelical Members within the Uniting Church in Australia (EMU), the Reforming Alliance and their merger with the Assembly of Confessing Congregations (ACC) illustrate conservative opposition to the ordination of gay and lesbian candidates and the influence of the Confessing Movement (not to be confused with the anti-Nazi Confessing Church).

Homosexuality

Issues debated since early in UCA history are the role of gay and lesbian people in the church, their possibility of being ordained and the blessing of same-sex unions. The church permits local presbyteries to ordain gay and lesbian ministers, [33] and extends the local option to marriage; a minister may bless a same-sex marriage.

The fairly broad consensus has been that a person's sexual orientation should not be a bar to attendance, membership or participation in the church. More controversial has been the issue of sexual activity by gay and lesbian people and the sexual behaviour of ordination candidates. In 2003, the church voted to allow local presbyteries to decide whether to ordain gay and lesbian people as ministers. [34] Ministers were permitted to bless same-sex couples entering civil unions even before same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia in late 2017. [35] In July 2018, the national assembly approved the creation of marriage rites for same-sex couples. [36]

Since 1997, some ministers living in same-sex relationships have come out without their ordination (or ministry) being challenged. In 2011, the church approved the blessing of same-sex unions. [37] Seven years later it allowed local congregations and ministers to decide whether to perform same-sex marriages, and ministers may now do so. [38]

Theologians

Assemblies

No.DatePresidentGeneral secretaryLocation
1June 1977 Davis McCaughey Winston O'Reilly Sydney
2May 1979Winston O'ReillyO’Reilly (until December 1979)Melbourne
3May 1982 Rolland Busch David Gill (from January 1980)Adelaide
4May 1985 Ian B. Tanner David GillSydney
5May 1988 Ronald Wilson David Gill (until July 1988)Melbourne
6July 1991 D'Arcy Wood Gregor Henderson (from January 1989)Brisbane
7July 1994 Jill Tabart Gregor HendersonSydney
8July 1997 John Mavor Gregor HendersonPerth
9July 2000 James Haire Gregor HendersonAdelaide
10July 2003 Dean Drayton Terence Corkin (from January 2001)Melbourne
11July 2006Gregor HendersonTerence CorkinBrisbane
12July 2009 Alistair Macrae Terence CorkinSydney
13July 2012 Andrew Dutney Terence CorkinAdelaide
14July 2015 Stuart McMillan Colleen Geyer (from January 2016)Perth
15July 2018 Deidre Palmer Colleen Geyer Box Hill, Victoria (Melbourne)

See also

Related Research Articles

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Mainline Protestant (religious) denomination

The Christian Church is a Mainline Protestant Christian denomination in the United States and Canada. The denomination started with the Restoration Movement during the Second Great Awakening, first existing during the 19th century as a loose association of churches working towards Christian unity, then slowly forming quasi-denominational structures through missionary societies, regional associations, and an international convention. In 1968, the Disciples of Christ officially adopted a denominational structure at which time a group of churches left to remain nondenominational.

Presbyterianism Branch of Protestant Christianity in which the church is governed by presbyters (elders)

Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism, which traces its origins to Great Britain, specifically Scotland.

Presbyterian Church (USA) Mainline Protestant Christian denomination in the USA

The Presbyterian Church (USA), abbreviated PC(USA), is a mainline Protestant denomination in the United States. A part of the Reformed tradition, it is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the US, and known for its relatively progressive stance on doctrine and ordains women and LGBT community as elders and ministers. The PC(USA) was established by the 1983 merger of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, whose churches were located in the Southern and border states, with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, whose congregations could be found in every state. The similarly named Presbyterian Church in America is a separate denomination whose congregations can also trace their history to the various schisms and mergers of Presbyterian churches in the United States.

Presbyterianpolity is a method of church governance typified by the rule of assemblies of presbyters, or elders. Each local church is governed by a body of elected elders usually called the session or consistory, though other terms, such as church board, may apply. Groups of local churches are governed by a higher assembly of elders known as the presbytery or classis; presbyteries can be grouped into a synod, and presbyteries and synods nationwide often join together in a general assembly. Responsibility for conduct of church services is reserved to an ordained minister or pastor known as a teaching elder, or a minister of the word and sacrament.

Church of Scotland National church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland, also known by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is the national church of Scotland. It is Presbyterian, having no head of faith or leadership group, and adheres to the Bible and Westminster Confession; the Church of Scotland celebrates two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, as well as five other rites, such as confirmation and matrimony. It is a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is a mainline Protestant Lutheran church headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The ELCA was officially formed on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three Lutheran church bodies. As of 2019, it has approximately 3.3 million baptized members in 8,972 congregations.

Presbyterian Church in America Conservative Reformed Christian denomination in the United States and Canada

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is the second-largest Presbyterian church body, behind the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the largest conservative Reformed denomination in the United States. The PCA is Reformed in theology and presbyterian in government. It is characterized by a blend of Reformed practice and broad evangelicalism.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church is a Presbyterian Christian denomination spawned by the Second Great Awakening. In 2015, it had 70,810 members and 709 congregations, of which 51 were located outside of the United States. The word Cumberland comes from the Cumberland River valley where the church was founded.

United Church of Christ Protestant Christian denomination

The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination based in the United States, with historical and confessional roots in the Congregational, Reformed, Lutheran, and Anabaptist traditions, and with approximately 4,852 churches and 802,356 members. The United Church of Christ is a historical continuation of the General Council of Congregational Christian churches founded under the influence of New England Pilgrims and Puritans. Moreover, it also subsumed the third largest Reformed group in the country, the German Reformed. The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957 to form the UCC. These two denominations, which were themselves the result of earlier unions, had their roots in Congregational, Lutheran, Evangelical, and Reformed denominations. At the end of 2014, the UCC's 5,116 congregations claimed 979,239 members, primarily in the U.S. In 2015, Pew Research estimated that 0.4 percent, or 1 million adult adherents, of the U.S. population self-identify with the United Church of Christ.

Rodney Dean Drayton is a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and was President of the UCA Assembly from July 2003 to July 2006. He lectures on a part-time basis in missiology at Sydney's United Theological College (UTC).

Church of South India Union Protestant churche in South India

The Church of South India (CSI) is a united Protestant Church, being the second-largest Christian church in India based on the number of members; it is the result of union of a number of Protestant churches in South India.

Blessing of same-sex unions in Christian churches

The blessing of same-sex marriages and same-sex unions is an issue about which Christian churches are in ongoing disagreement. Traditionally Christianity teaches that homosexual acts are gravely sinful and that holy matrimony can only exist two persons of the opposite sex. These disagreements are primarily centered on the interpretation of various scripture passages related to homosexuality, sacred Tradition, and in some churches on varying understandings of homosexuality in terms of psychology, genetics and other scientific data. While various Church bodies have widely varying practices and teachings, individual Christians of every major tradition are involved in practical (orthopraxy) discussions about how to respond to the issue.

Presbyterian Church in Canada Protestant Christian denomination in Canada

The Presbyterian Church in Canada is a Presbyterian denomination, serving in Canada under this name since 1875. The United Church of Canada claimed the right to the name from 1925 to 1939. According to the Canada 2001 Census 409,830 Canadians identify themselves as Presbyterian, that is, 1.4 per cent of the population.

Presbyterianism and homosexuality

Attitudes in Presbyterianism toward homosexuality vary, ranging from outright condemnation to complete acceptance.

The Indonesian Christian Church is an Indonesian Church of Presbyterian denomination. The church's theology is Calvinist.

LGBT clergy in Christianity Christian clergy who are LGBT

The ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) clergy who are open about their sexuality, are sexually active if lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or are in committed same-sex relationships is a debated practice within some contemporary Christian Church communities.

Christianity and transgender people Attitude of Christianity to gender identity and transgender people

Within Christianity there are a variety of views on the issues of gender identity and transgender people. The many Christian denominations vary in their position, ranging from condemning transgender acts as sinful, to remaining divided on the issue, to seeing it as morally acceptable. Even within a denomination, individuals and groups may hold different views. Furthermore, not all members of a denomination necessarily support their church's views on transgender identities.

Denise Mary Champion is an Aboriginal Australian deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia who serves as an outreach worker. She was the first Aboriginal woman from South Australia to be ordained in any Christian denomination.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Submission to the Review of the ACNC Legislation" (PDF). Uniting Church in Australia. February 2018.
  2. https://nswact.uca.org.au/about-us/our-history/
  3. "Uniting Church in Australia Assembly - About the Uniting Church in Australia". assembly.uca.org.au. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  4. Krajevitch, A.; Blot, P.; Cara, M. (1975). "[Transport of newborn infants. Apropos of 114 cases]". Annales de l'Anesthésiologie Française. 16 Spec No 1: 135–142. ISSN   0003-4061. PMID   2071.
  5. 2016 Census of Population and General Community (Sheet G14) Australian Bureau of Statistics
  6. "Cultural Diversity in Australia". abs.gov.au. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  7. "Census vs Attendance (2001)" National Church Life Survey
  8. "Uniting Church in Australia Assembly" . Retrieved 18 January 2020.
  9. "Dr Deidre Palmer: God's abundant grace shapes and reshapes us". Insights Magazine. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  10. President-Elect announced, Uniting Church in Australia, 16 July 2015
  11. "President-Elect announced". Uniting Church in Australia. 16 July 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  12. "Sharon Hollis named as UCA President-elect". Uniting Church in Australia. 12 July 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  13. 1 2 "The Uniting Church in Australia Regulations" (PDF). pp. 75–78. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  14. "Uniting Church in Australia Assembly - Home". uca.org.au.
  15. "Uniting for the common good". Synod of NSW and the ACT.
  16. "The Uniting Church in Australia Queensland Synod".
  17. "Uniting Church SA - Uniting Church. Uniting People".
  18. "Uniting Church in Australia, Western Australia".
  19. "Uniting Church in Australia. Synod of Victoria and Tasmania".
  20. "Uniting Church in Australia Northern Synod".
  21. 1 2 "Constitution of the Uniting Church in Australia (2004)" Uniting Church Assembly Website
  22. Commission for Education for Discipleship and Leadership, Annual Report 2018
  23. "NCYC 2007: Agents of Change" . Retrieved 9 January 2007.
  24. "NCYC 2014". Archived from the original on 26 February 2015.
  25. "Yurora 2017". National Christian Youth Convention. Archived from the original on 5 February 2017.
  26. 1 2 "UnitingWorld Annual Report 2018" (PDF). UnitingWorld Governance and Structure.
  27. "List of Australian accredited non-government organisations (NGOs)". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  28. "Wesley Mission - The Uniting Church". www.wesleymission.org.au. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  29. edited by Helen Richmond and Myong Duk Yang (2006). Crossing borders : shaping faith, ministry and identity in multicultural Australia. Sydney: Openbook Australia. pp. 138–146. ISBN   1864072474. OCLC   224450283.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  30. "2013 Uniting Church Census of congregations and ministers - Headline Report" (PDF). National Church Life Survey Research. p. 4. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  31. Gribben, Robert. "Liturgical Dress in the Uniting Church" (PDF).
  32. "Uniting Network Australia" . Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  33. "Global Trend: World's oldest Protestant churches now ordain gays and lesbians". ucc.org. United Church of Christ. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  34. O'brien, Kerry. "Nile quits church over gay ordination decision". abc.net.au. ABC. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  35. Hiatt, Bethany. "Uniting Church may overhaul rules of marriage". au.news.yahoo.com. AU News. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  36. Sandeman, John (13 July 2018). "Uniting Church to hold same sex marriages". Eternity. Australia. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  37. UnitingNetworkAustralia Archived 2011-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
  38. "Uniting Church to allow same-sex marriages". SBS News. Retrieved 13 July 2018.

Official websites

Other websites