by Rev Professor Andrew Dutney
God is calling us to be a Church shaped and reshaped in the covenant between the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and the Uniting Church. The Church is called “to be a fellowship of reconciliation” (The Basis of Union, par 3) and nowhere is reconciliation more needed in this nation than between First and Second peoples.
Congress, the covenant, sharing property and paying the rent, our new preamble, the week of prayer and fasting and About FACE are a start but we still have much to achieve in reconciliation and fellowship in Christ. It’s hard and it’s taking a long time, but this is the kind of Church God is calling us to be.
God is calling us to be a Church which is culturally and linguistically diverse at its core – not essentially British with add-ons from other cultures. The Church is called to be “a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole” (The Basis of Union, par 3) and that includes the “diverse gifts” showered upon us through being a multicultural church.
To release this diversity of gifts we’ll need to grow the UCA “ethos” to reflect the wisdom of our whole fellowship – giving prominence to faith sharing and outreach, to prayer and Bible study, to the dynamic of church planting and church growth. The stuff that our members and congregations from the Pacific, Asia and Africa know is at the heart of Christian identity.
We’ll need to address the Euro-centric assumptions we bring to matters like recognising new congregations, receiving ministers from other denominations, and educating our leaders both lay and ordained. We’ll need to address the accident of history that almost all the material resources the Uniting Church has inherited is in the hands of one cultural-linguistic group, the English-speaking community. There’s nothing easy about this, but this is the kind of Church God is calling us to be.
God is calling us to be a Church oriented towards the growing, flourishing, suffering church of the global south. The church is called to be “an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself” (The Basis of Union, par 3) like that vital, inspirational Church of the global south where most of the world’s Christians now live.
Our deepest personal relationships are there already – with our partner Churches in the Pacific, Asia and Africa. But our imagination is still captive to the global north – causing us to constantly defer to the insights and agendas that come from Britain and North America.
Personally, I’m going to “fast” from the theological books from the global north to allow my imagination to be nourished by the theology drawn from the life of the Church in the global south. It’ll probably be uncomfortable, but this is the kind of Church God is calling us to be.
God is calling us to be a Church which receives its diversity as the precious gift of the Holy Spirit that it is; a foretaste, sign and instrument of “that reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation” (The Basis of Union, par 3).
Reconciliation doesn’t mean everyone being the same.
It doesn’t mean one version of being human or being Christian replacing all the others.
It means people and groups that are different and divided from each other being brought together in Christ to respect, value, trust and serve one another – in all our annoying, embarrassing, frustrating and sometimes frightening diversity.
That’s profoundly challenging. It’s sharply counter-cultural. But it is the kind of Church God is calling us to be.
Taken from an article originally published in 2015 but so still relevant today.