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Uniting Church in Australia

Uniting Church History

The Uniting Church came into being on 22 June 1977, after three denominations – Congregational Union in Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia, and the Presbyterian Church of Australia – joined together.

 

In uniting, the members of those bodies testified to “that unity which is both Christ’s gift and will for the Church” (Basis of Union, para. 1).

 

Ecumenism remains a vital aspect in all of the Church’s life and work – in local congregations, national commitments to work together with other churches, and relationships and partnerships with churches of various denominations in Asia and the Pacific.

Uniting Church Calling

The Uniting Church’s commitment to love of God and neighbour has sometimes drawn it into controversial situations. It has long taken a role in the political arena, encouraging moral, social and ethical integrity. The Uniting Church has been at the forefront of Aboriginal rights issues including the Native Title debate and reconciliation. It has taken a stand on environmental issues and supports the equality and dignity of marginalised people such as ethnic minorities, disabled people and homosexual people. It is a multicultural church, striving to treat people on an equal basis, and seeking to give a voice to the poor, outcast and needy.

 

However only some of the Uniting Church’s discipling is viewed in public. Much of its role is to stand alongside the individual, inside and outside the church. Its congregations nurture spiritual, social and educational growth. Lay people are encouraged in leadership roles, including preaching of the Word and leading of congregational worship.

 

Our social justice advocacy work and community welfare services express our belief that God is committed to life now. It is our response to the Bible’s call to care for and protect the marginalised and vulnerable. Issues addressed include the environment, the rights and dignity of asylum seekers, the treatment and care of prisoners, inadequate gambling legislation, religious intolerance, multi- and cross-cultural issues, fair employment practices and much more.

 

The UCA is also the largest non-government provider of community services in Australia. We achieve this through our community services arm, Uniting Church. This is an umbrella of more than 400 agencies, institutions, and parish missions throughout Australia. Areas of service include aged care, children, youth and family, disability, employment, emergency relief, drug and alcohol, youth homelessness and suicide.

 

A key component of our justice work is the UCA’s efforts to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians together and to support the Indigenous community generally. Reconciliation, land rights and Indigenous leadership training are just some of the activities in which we are engaged.

 

We do this primarily through the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). Established in 1985 as the Indigenous arm of the UCA, the UAICC is dedicated to seeking the spiritual, physical, social, mental and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.

 

The Uniting Church recognises the pain and damage caused to our country’s native people through settlement and beyond. In 1997, recognising its past mistakes, the Uniting Church made a formal apology to the Stolen Generation. We participate each year in National Sorry Day.

 

Another clear focus of the UCA is its vast work and presence in remote and outback Australia. This is particularly true of Frontier Services Patrol Ministers and our rural congregations. Frontier Services provides community recovery and support and pastoral ministries that have ministered to people in some of the most isolated parts of the country since the early 1900s.The Uniting Church recognises that most people in Australia live in cities and towns, where they face a range of complex challenges. We are as engaged in sharing life with people in urban frontiers as we are in the more high profile outback ministries. Frontier Services’ involvement in more recent years in providing short term volunteer support, assisting farmers and communities in remote Australia. This activity touches the hearts and minds of the (mostly) city-based volunteers to the plights of farmers in remote parts and opens a dialogue and friendship that is often maintained for many years.

 

In accordance with the understanding that God loves all people equally and works in and through all God’s people, the Uniting Church’s approach to world mission has moved from a patriarchal model of “knowing and giving what we think is best” to a model of standing alongside those in need. We work with partner churches in regions such as the Pacific, Asia and Africa. We share together in a variety of ways including Bible translation, theological education, prison ministry, evangelism, empowerment of marginalised groups, justice advocacy, exchange of personnel and peace-building initiatives in areas of conflict.

 

In the spirit of uniting we:

• are committed to dialogue and cooperation with other churches and to participation in state and national ecumenical bodies and international bodies such as the World Council of Churches;
• are willing to explore the implications of being in a community with people of many faiths and what this means for the way we express and share our faith;
• accept women and men as equals in ministry, including ordained ministries, and encourage women in leadership;
• embrace diversity and are open to discuss controversial issues and what it means to be inclusive of all people and to respect differences; and
• involve all people in oversight and governance, seeking to make decisions together rather than being hierarchical.
• The Church’s mission co-workers immerse themselves in local culture, seek to hear the voice of the local people, and respond by offering support, encouragement and empowerment. This is particularly so in the area of human rights, where the dignity of all people must be respected, however different their way of life may be from the mission co-worker. This model has mutual benefits – mission co-workers learn about themselves as well as others through their experiences.

 

Inevitably mission co-workers discover new and life-changing aspects of God which they are able to share on their return to Australia. The Uniting Church constantly seeks to affirm its biblical and theological understanding that “Christians in Australia are called to bear witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and racial boundaries” (Basis of Union, para. 2).

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