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New President committed to the community

The new president of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Rev. Gregor Henderson, hopes the theme “God’s Word, God’s World” will call members of the church’s 11th Assembly back to the basics of their faith.

The Assembly — the church’s national council — is meeting in Brisbane from July 5 to 11.

“Our primary calling is to be a church at worship and at mission,” says Mr Henderson.

“I’m excited about the desire in our church to get on with being the church at mission. I feel like there’s a desire for us to say, ‘We recognise we are facing serious disagreements, but we are not going to let that hold us back from being the church at mission.’

“I think there’s a new sense of desire and commitment from many congregations to be involved in their local community. It excites me to think we are putting first things first.”

Mr Henderson is currently a minister in placement in the Canberra Central Parish, which includes two congregations: Wesley, a large vibrant congregation in Forrest; and the smaller suburban congregation of St Aiden’s in Narrabundah.

He will be only the second president of the Uniting Church to be in parish ministry at the time of his presidency, a situation he sees as being helpful in keeping him grounded in the “the realities of the essential life of the church”.

In the 35 years since his ordination, Mr Henderson has spent 20 years in parish ministry in various settings. “I see myself as a local congregational minister,” he says. That’s what I see as my primary calling.”

Yet the church has often had other ideas, calling him to 12 years as general secretary of the Assembly from 1989 to 2000, and now to a term as president.

Mr Henderson enters his term as president with a strong understanding of the Uniting Church and also a strong ecumenical understanding, having been part of the planning group for the formation of the National Council of Churches Australia in 1994.

He is also a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, elected to a second term in Brazil earlier this year — a commitment he describes as an “enormous privilege”.

“I know just how many of the churches around the world are having to address the question of sexuality and leadership, just like we are. Many churches are facing the same downturn in membership over the last 40 years. And I’ve been involved in solidarity visits to churches overseas.

You can read more about the 11th Assembly HERE.