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Uniting in Christ

THE 28TH SYNOD affirmed a five line Call for the Uniting Church in Queensland in discerning the future of the Church.

This is the first of a series of discussion starters that will explore what each of the five phrases in the Call mean to different people. This edition we look at the first phrase: Uniting in Christ.

Rev Allan Thompson, Together on the way, enriching community steering committee secretary, said Uniting in Christ immediately identifies us with Jesus Christ the living head of the Church (Basis of Union para. 1).

“The phrase is reminiscent of biblical teaching affirming that we are baptised into Christ, united with Christ in baptism, and are made one in Christ.

“This concept of being united with Christ is thus a key Christological affirmation and its inclusion in our mission statement quite rightly grounds the life and directions of our Church in and under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

“Uniting in Christ is also a strong missional statement,” he said.

“The baptismal illusion takes us to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.

“Seen in this light Uniting in Christ also has an evangelical imperative.

“We affirm that it is the will of God that all people are united in Christ, and it is the Church’s task to serve that end.

“In committing ourselves to be uniting in Christ we share in the unfinished work of God in uniting all people.

“Further, Uniting in Christ gives expression to the ecumenical commitment of the Church and our vocation of breaking down the barriers which divide humanity.”

But for Burdekin minister Rev Paul Clark the statement does not go far enough.

“I love the intent – just not the delivery,” he said.

“For those already in the Church it sounds like so much that we have already heard.

“It does not confront us and smack us between the eyes and make us go, ‘That’s new or different or radical’.”

“As Peter Hobson said, it’s comfortable – and we can no longer afford to be comfortable.”

Mr Clark said the call to true unity is very radical but there is a danger in that being the aim.

“If unity becomes our all encompassing purpose, the very things we do to achieve that – water down the boundaries, becomes all things to all people, accept anything – will ensure it never happens.

“When we fix our eyes on Jesus, unity will take care of itself.

Mr Clark defined “radical” as “going back to the core”.

“Perhaps the first thing a Uniting Church has to do is dismantle its denomination and become a movement again?”

He also said the Church remains in denial about its place in society.

“The future of the Church lies in giving up its privileged position in society. We have to own our irrelevance in today’s world.

“At its core Uniting in Christ is a clarion call to radical discipleship for the Church, but sadly it is a call that could easily be missed.”