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It was much more than a meeting

A GREAT DEAL of information regarding the recent Assembly has already been distributed and you will find more at www.journeyonline.com.au.

As you will see elsewhere, the whole week was notable for the quite superb planning and organisation provided by members of the local Planning Team, worship leaders, light and sound technicians, Synod staff, and a not-so-small army of volunteers from within the Queensland church.

Their individual and collective contributions were exceptional and I thank them on behalf of the whole church.

As I anticipated in my most recent article for Journey, the Assembly addressed a wide range of issues relating to its national and international responsibilities.

The significance of the decisions made will unfold in the coming months, not least for those engaged in one or another of our specified lay ministries.

As expected, however, attention to the richness and breadth of our life and witness as a national church was overshadowed by a further debate on the issue of sexuality and ministry.

In all, nearly nine hours was given over to this matter. Our meeting procedures were carefully followed at all times.

There was ample opportunity for conversation and debate. Deeply felt convictions were shared both passionately and respectfully.

The outcomes have been widely reported.

Conversations are continuing and the Assembly is committed to undertake further work with assistance from the Working Group on Doctrine.

There is no doubt in my mind that this Assembly, like the three that preceded it, is firmly resolved to maintain its position that the unity, which is both Christ’s gift and command, is the foundation on which all our life together is established.

It is within the strength of that unity that we address particular issues about which there are significant differences of opinion and conviction.

Being the church of Jesus Christ is not, in the first instance, about difference and diversity, in whatever ways we may experience that.

What matters most is the identity we have in Christ and the obligations that identity lays upon us.

For that reason the statement made by the UAICC to the Assembly was a source of great encouragement and inspiration.

It reminds us that we can hold to what we believe with great sincerity and conviction and continue to live and work together in a respectful and fruitful relationship for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the life and witness of the church.

The conclusion reached by the Congress, and the manner in which it was shared, is an example to the whole church.

It is too easy to shift responsibility for conflict to those with whom we disagree. Difference does not assume or create disunity. It is what lies in our hearts, and the way we behave, that has the power to divide us.

Into the turmoil and conflict that characterised the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote, “I decided to know nothing among you except for Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

This was the recurring theme of a number of conversations in which I shared in the months preceding the Assembly and during the meeting itself.

The decisions of this Assembly continue to respect and protect the existing rights and responsibilities of congregations and presbyteries.

Given the realities of the situation in which we find ourselves, I believe we do have a choice to make.

We can remain enmeshed in the debate and the feelings it induces in us, or we can commit ourselves to the excitement and challenge of mission.

We can be caught up in criticising and blaming, or we can focus on living and sharing our faith.

Through the many reports and stories I heard at Assembly I know that all around this nation of ours there are individuals, congregations and agencies that are focussed and committed in regard to their discipleship.

They are living and sharing the love and grace of God in many different ways. They are making a difference in the name, and for the sake, of Christ.

That is what the Uniting Church stands for. That is the church I belong to and through which I live out my discipleship.

I invite you to do the same!