The 14th President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has urged church members to address the “unfinished business” of sovereignty and treaty for First Peoples in his final national message. Matt Pulford reports.
“I started my presidency with the Yolŋu words Bala limurr roŋyirr ŋorraŋgitjlil—‘Let us return to the white ashes of the fire’,” said Stuart.
“It was a call to reflect on the way all the people of God, First and Second Peoples have been sustained by the Holy Spirit in their own way.”
“I continue to invite church members to consider what it would mean for the practices of our church to honour First Peoples as sovereign in this land and what it means to stand with them in their pursuit of just terms treaties.
“The conversation continues and the movement for Treaty is stirring again as the ashes of my time are cooling.
“I pray that the Holy Spirit will rekindle the embers of the work done by both First and Second Peoples over the last three years so that we can together strive to achieve a more just church and nation.”
The theme Stuart chose for his triennium as president was “Hearts on Fire”.
A proposal to the 15th Assembly in July will ask the Uniting Church to affirm that the First Peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal and Islander Peoples, are sovereign peoples in this land.
Stuart said it had been a joyful, challenging and inspiring three years as president.
“I thank God for the great blessing of serving the church in this role,” he said.
In his message to coincide with the Uniting Church’s 41st anniversary on 22 June, the president also honoured church women and men who had stood together with First Peoples in their struggles for their rights, the Uniting Church’s international church partners and emerging young leaders in the church.
“The love of Christ shared in all these relationships, these fellowships of reconciliation, is life-giving.”
Quoting from Hebrews 10:24, Stuart urged Uniting Church members to fellowship wherever they may be.
“Beloved, let us continue to ‘consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, but encouraging one another’.
“In your place you are church, you are called to be a fellowship of reconciliation to shine the love and light of Jesus in your communities. I have been deeply blessed to share with many of you the ways in which you have been led to do this.”
The message will be available on Uniting Church in Australia social media channels on 1 June.