After considerable thought, I have chosen to make a statement in this issue of Journey regarding the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations (ACC).
At this point in time we do not have all the information we need, but my comment here is based on the material that has been made available so far and on my participation in a dialogue with representatives of the Steering Committee for the proposed ACC.
The Confessing Movement is very active within a number of mainstream American Protestant denominations, including the United Methodist, Presbyterian, and the United Church of Christ. Information about this movement is readily available over the internet.
Influential Methodist theologian and scholar, Thomas Oden, is a key figure in the Confessing Movement. For those willing to make the effort, some of his more recent published works provide an excellent introduction to the major tenets of this Movement.
It is very significant for those of us within the Uniting Church that the Confessing Church Movement is committed to an active presence and participation within the denominations in which it has been formed.
So we should note the statement in this regard made on 25 August by leaders from within the proposed ACC: "We are persuaded that, at this time, Christ is best served by making our confession from within the UCA. Therefore, we encourage members to remain within the UCA and to work for its reform under the Word of God by supporting Synods and Presbyteries in everything that serves the Gospel and the well being of his Church.”
I welcome this statement of positive intent. It is my hope that this spirit will imbue and influence all that is said and done in the future.
If it does, then I have no doubt that the proposed ACC could provide a robust and significant presence within the life our church, and I would personally welcome it.
Of course, remaining within the Uniting Church can only be on the basis that applies to all of us, which means that we only ever speak and act within the parameters and discipline provided by the Constitution and Regulations.
I do find it somewhat ironic, given the earlier negative response of leaders from within the Reforming Alliance and EMU, that what is now being proposed regarding the Assembly of Confessing Congregations reflects very much the spirit and intention of the proposal that I, supported by Jenny Tymms, took to the Assembly meeting in July.
I wonder what might have been achieved at Assembly if there had been a willingness to work on a common proposal at that time?
I also have a concern at the present time that the declared spirit and intention of the proposed ACC is at odds with the only draft of its charter that I have seen to date, the language of which is confusing, confronting and aggressive.
I have expressed my hope to those representatives of the ACC Steering Committee with whom I have spoken that in its final form the Charter will clearly express the reality that the ACC cannot presume to speak and act on behalf of the whole church or of its various councils, but only on behalf of its own members.
Some of you may be aware that the Reforming Alliance sought and received legal opinion asserting that Resolution 84 of the 2003 Assembly was invalid.
I am not at liberty to divulge any other information about this other than to inform you that the Assembly Legal Reference Committee, having examined the material provided, has rejected the validity of the legal advice provided to the Reforming Alliance.
In any case, it is quite inappropriate to contemplate resorting to the civil courts to resolve doctrinal or theological issues.
I strongly support the words of our President encouraging congregations and individuals to carefully and thoroughly think through the issues and implications before moving to any decision about affiliation with the proposed ACC.
It is perfectly reasonable to defer any decision until such time as all the necessary information is available and outstanding questions have been answered to your satisfaction.
We should also remember that the Assembly is committed to an ongoing process of study and conversation regarding the way in which our Reformed and Evangelical tradition should inform and guide us in our further deliberations on sexuality and leadership in the life of the church.
I hope that as many of you as possible will seek to be active participants in that process, regardless of whether or not you choose to join the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations.
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.