The sun has set on a long but rewarding day three at the 37th Synod meeting of the Uniting Church in Queensland. It was a day filled with rich discussions, deep reflection, and exciting stories of small green shoots around the Church.
Opening Worship & Bible Study
Pastor Katie Iles joined the Synod from South Australia’s Journey Uniting Church for this morning’s bible study. Drawing on insights from creation into the character of God and the nature of renewal, Katie entertained, inspired, encouraged, and provoked. With a tour through cellular biology, Ms Iles observed that in the renewal of any given body, new growth, differentiation, and necessary endings are three necessary and intertwined elements. “Part of renewal is understanding what necessary endings look like,” she said, “so if we want to renew the church, we need to look at what needs to grow, what needs to change, and what needs to die.” Katie’s reflection on renewal was offered against the overarching question, drawn from Acts 13:36, of whether we are serving the purposes of God in our generation.
General Secretary Appointment
Rev Dr Adam McIntosh has been affirmed as the new General Secretary for the Synod of Queensland. Rev McIntosh has most recently served as Associate Director of Mission with UnitingCare Queensland, after earlier terms of service in presbytery and congregational contexts in Victoria. A member of Redcliffe Uniting Church with his wife Nicole, Adam brings a depth of commitment to the Uniting Church matched only by the breadth of his professional experience both within and outside the Church. Adam’s character, creativity, competence, commitment, and capacity were affirmed by the Church.
Rev Dr McIntosh paid tribute to his family, colleagues at UnitingCare Qld and outgoing Moderator Rev Andrew Gunton and General Secretary Rev Heather den Houting. He went on to reflect on the challenges facing the church in what he described as a “demanding and complicated environment.”:
“Despite these interesting times,” he said, “I’m feeling hopeful. Hopeful and trusting in the Spirit’s renewing power. God has not left us. Whatever shape we are moulded into I have confidence we will not only endure through this moment of history, but flourish as we attend to the sometimes gentle and sometimes loud voice of Christ awakening, renewing, and addressing us as God’s people. May the flame of hope of the gospel encourage us, transform us, and propel us forward to a daring faith for this new season.”
Adam will take up the role of General Secretary from November 2023.
Reports: Wesley Mission Queensland & UnitingCare Queensland
Wesley Mission Queensland and UnitingCare Queensland shared both the blessings and the challenges of their work in serving Queenslanders. Policy and governance reform, recommendations from Royal Commissions, and rising costs of operation are impacting both organisations and their respective teams of staff and volunteers. Each is focused on renewal, growth, and organisational transformation to meet these and other anticipated challenges as the Uniting Church’s mission agencies.
Assembly President Rev Sharon Hollis and General Secretary Colleen Geyer have joined the Synod this week. They shared today of the work of the Assembly including the work of UnitingWorld, Frontier Services, and UnitingCare Australia. Significant work in the current Assembly triennium includes the release of the Being an Intergenerational Church report, advocacy regarding the recent national referendum and international ecumenical work.
Reports: Past Moderator Rev Andrew Gunton
Drawing to a close his service spanning three tumultuous years as Moderator of the Queensland Synod, Rev Andrew Gunton shared the signs of good news from his travels around the state. He also challenged the Synod to make sure that opportunities for renewal in our midst are not stifled by our “if only” and “I remember” statements. The Synod received Rev Gunton’s report and a subsequent minute of appreciation by acclaim.
The Synod’s shared Plenty strategic journey continues in response to the Church’s direction to focus on discipleship, transforming communities, being fit-for-purpose and on our life together. Manager of Mission Engagement, Mr Steve Drinkall, shared from a new progress report, identifying six core efforts consistent across each area of Plenty’s work. Mr Drinkall encouraged the Synod to persist, noting that true, lasting transformation comes as a result of doing true, honest, Godly work and sticking with it for as long as it takes. Reaching the shared objectives of Plenty will take time and slow, patient, persistent work.
Led by the Assembly, the Uniting Church across Australia is engaged in a transformational change process known as Act2. Analogous to the Queensland-oriented Plenty project, Act2 is exploring issues of significance facing the church and pathways into the future. Currently, in a discernment phase, Act2 recently released a report entitled In Response to God’s Call. The report canvasses the four workstreams of the Act2 project, four directions being explored concerning congregational and faith community life and outlines four potential new approaches to governance relationships in the life of the Church.
Inspiring stories of green shoots and new life were shared by Presbyteries as part of their report this afternoon. Renewed life at St Lucia, a new church plant at Uniting Life Sunshine Coast, a new church building project at Proserpine and the exciting beginnings of Newlife Moreton were all celebrated. The support of the wider church, creative and energised leadership, and generous support were all celebrated. Tribute was paid to outgoing presbytery ministers David Busch (South Moreton) and Rev Mark Cornford (Moreton Rivers).
Reports: General Secretary Rev Heather den Houting
Rev Heather den Houting delivered her final report as General Secretary of the Queensland Synod. She paid tribute to her key leadership team, the staff of the Synod office, and the broader leadership community of the church in Queensland. Rev den Houting recognised the changes and challenges that have characterised her time in the role, saying “I am proud of the transformation that has occurred in the Synod office since I have been General Secretary. And I am very proud of my team.” The report further highlighted priorities and work focus for the office of the Synod during the current term of Synod.
The Synod expressed its thanks to Rev den Houting for her dedication and commitment to serving God through the Church. A Minute of Appreciation recognising the extensive and transformative body of work she has led since June 2016 was received with acclamation. The minute noted Heather’s extraordinary change management and leadership skills, deep and abiding hope in the church, relentless determination, and deep personal faith. Heather will take up a ministry role in rural Victoria from early 2024.
Reports: Synod Standing Committee
The Synod received the report of the Synod Standing Committee, including reflection on directions and achievements, challenges, and headwinds. Topics such as Synod resourcing, the future of public hospital chaplaincy, Uniting Early Learning, the Disability Royal Commission, support for the Northern Synod and property utilisation strategies were explored. The Synod will have further opportunity to discuss the report later in the meeting.
Monday October 23
The 37th Synod continues Monday morning. Themed “Growing, not Building”, day four includes worship and bible study, further reporting and general business discussions, Yarning Circles, an address from the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and concludes with a night of prayer.