AFTER THREE days of discussions and deliberations members of the 28th Synod could not pass the proposal regarding changes to the preamble to the Constitution of the Uniting Church in Australia by consensus or agreement and moved to formal procedures.
Consequently 220 people voted to support the changes to the preamble, 68 people did not support the changes and two people did not vote.
The changes were made after much discussion at the 12th Assembly meeting in July last year.
On day one of business at the 28th Synod meeting Congress Chair Rev Ken Sumner and Rev Dr Chris Budden spoke on the proposed changes. Mr Sumner said the changes to the preamble spoke of the history of all people in Australia.
“This speaks of our history, both First peoples and Second peoples,” he said. “So as a people together the preamble is a way that we can move forward together.
“Aboriginal people want to be liberated from the past. Non aboriginal people also need to be liberated because of the generational blame that continues.
“We need to end blame so that first and Second peoples and their offspring can find freedom together.”
Mr Sumner said the preamble is an “institutional call to the church to put right” errors of the past. However he said it meant more than just agreeing to something on paper.
“We must write them on our hearts.”
“It excites me that I am involved in this renaissance.
“It keeps me dreaming of what kind of church we want our children to grow up in.”
Some Synod members were uncomfortable with the language of “First peoples” and “Second peoples”.
To this Mr Sumner replied, “It’s not my fault my people were here first”.
“Let us focus as the Church on what unites us rather than what divides us.”
To comments that Aboriginal people could not have known God before white settlers introduced them to Christianity Mr Sumner said Aboriginal people believed that God spoke their language too.
“It would be pretty tough trying to understand a God who knows every inch of me but speaks in a language foreign to me,” he said.
Rev Dr Chris Budden said the preamble called us to repentance, not remorse. He said the changes to the preamble represent the true history of this nation.
“A central mark of the Church is that we are a community that encourages and sustains truth telling,” he said.
Dr Budden said those First peoples who had become Christian have looked back on their history and said they believed that God was at work in their life and history before they knew Christianity.
“There is only one God. God can only be known as God chooses to be revealed.”
Michelle Cook said most people could relate to that. “Standing this side of Christ I can look back and see where God was working in my life.
“I can say that about my Celtic heritage. So Indigenous people can also say that.”
Photo : Congress Chair Rev Ken Sumner addresses the Synod. Photo by Osker Lau