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Theology for Pilgrims: Selected Documents of the Uniting Church in Australia

Uniting Church Press
RRP $69.99

One of my abiding passions about the Uniting Church is our Basis of Union – our faith-statement of who we are as God’s people. It offers us a Christ-centred vision of our pilgrimage.

Theology for Pilgrims gives us a very helpful look into the journey of three denominations travelling towards the union in 1977.  21 Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian theologians – lay and ordained – were entrusted with the awesome responsibility of drafting a basis on which to unite.

They chose not to look for ways in which the union would be an amalgam of those denominations – which would have been an exercise in ‘ecclesiastical carpentry’.

Rather, they asked us to go back to the sources of our faith in Jesus Christ: in the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Reformation Confessions, John Wesley’s Sermons, and the faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture through the ages.

All that we might confess our faith in fresh words and deeds for our own time and place.

A new church, they said, had to begin afresh with a re-commitment to the Gospel.

They offered their work to the uniting churches saying that “Faith comes by hearing, and our hope is that people may hear afresh.”

Theology for Pilgrims gives us the background to their journey – and ours. Their work was published in two documents: The Faith of the Church [1959] and The Church: its Nature, Function and Ordering and Proposed Basis of Union [1963].

Theology for Pilgrims gives us the texts of those documents, which are still for us important background to our Basis of Union. Introductions to them – and the Basis of Union that we know – are invaluable helps to understanding and appreciation the formation of the Uniting Church.

Since 1977, we have travelled through many issues that have required of us that we respond theologically, with faith that is open to be informed by the Gospel.

Many of the theological papers produced to help us discuss, understand and respond to the issues are in Theology for Pilgrims – with very helpful introductions setting out the contexts of the issues under discussion in the Uniting Church.

Among the papers are those on Ministry and Ordination in the Uniting Church, Lay Presidency at the Sacraments, Understanding and Using the Bible, Baptism, being a Multicultural Church, the Covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress.

I’ve sometimes heard people say that the Uniting Church does not have any clearly-stated theology. The documents in Theology for Pilgrims gives a vey different view – they invite us to go back to the sources of our faith and inform our understanding of who we are as the pilgrim people of God.

Thanks, Rob and Geoff – you offer us an invaluable resource for our journey of faith.

Reviewed by Rev Don Whebell, Secretary of the Queensland Synod Ecumenical Relationships Committee.