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The big questions: What is the Basis of Union?

This year Journey explores questions from the pews, namely from a (fictitious) person exploring faith and the Uniting Church.

This month our (fictitious) church goer, Nova B. Lever, asks: What is the Basis of Union?

I WAS PUZZLED about our denomination’s name.

There are plenty of ‘united’ churches around the world.

Considering there’s been no sign of anyone else joining in the last 34 years, I wondered about the adjective ‘Uniting’.

So I asked one of our elders after a service.

He pointed me toward Jesus’ prayer in John chapter 17: “That they may be one,” and the idea in the book of Hebrews about being a pilgrim people moving on toward our real home.

He suggested a process, a journey and the idea of being in Australia, but not of it.

My mentor suggested I read the Basis of Union.

We were overheard by one of the old timers who has filled the same seat every week since 1977.

Basis of Union?” He rolled his eyes.

“I’m still waiting for church union!”

I’m new and want to make an informed decision about becoming a member.

Yet when I asked around, it seemed almost no one in the congregation had read the Basis of Union.

At only 18 paragraphs, it’s not a big read.

On the foyer shelves I also found the 1963 version of The Church, its Nature, Function and Ordering along with the proposed Basis of Union (someone paid six shillings for that back in the day.)

Mouldering next to that was Reports of the Joint Commission on Church Union: “The Faith of the Church”, published in 1959.

Behind decades of denominationalism I discovered centuries of tradition “within the faith and unity of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church”.

That rang a bell – a phrase projected on the wall during a baptism.

The Basis of Union pointed me back to the first centuries and Nicene and Apostle’s creeds, encouraging me to dig into them for instruction in the faith.

So what about the Bible, the word of God?

While I was taken by a rather stern injunction which laid “upon members the serious duty of reading the scriptures”, I kept noticing ‘the Word of God’.

Not mere words on a page or from a pulpit, but Christ as “the Word of the God who acquits the guilty, who gives life to the dead and who brings into being what otherwise could not exist.”

If there’s a wow-factor to the church with the seventies logo, it’s not so much the history, but the hope outlined in its essential document.

We’re “living and enduring through the changes of history”, awaiting “with hope the day of the Lord Jesus Christ on which it will be clear that the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever.”

The Basis of Union is available online in the Resources section. To view click here