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Church firms relationship with indigenous wing


Two proposals affirming the relationship between the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and the rest of the Uniting Church were carried by consensus on day two of the church’s 11th Assembly.

One endeavours to create a space in Assembly meetings where Congress members feel free to make meaningful contributions and exercise genuine leadership within the church.

The other commits the church to renewal of the Covenant, the 1994 apology for past wrongs and pledge to work in solidarity with Congress. The proposal notes that Assembly will continue to explore and facilitate national discussion with Congress, give thanks for the covenant, and arrange to develop resources for use by the church.

The proposals, presented by Assembly General Secretary the Rev. Terence Corkin and UAICC National Administrator the Rev. Shayne Blackman, affirmed conversations between Congress and the Assembly since the 10th Assembly.

Mr Corkin said the process of conversation with Congress was important and had opened people’s eyes to the pain that some indigenous people had felt in the church.

“It was a gift of their generosity that they shared the pain experienced in some meetings,” he said. “What came through was that we as a community of people had not wrestled hard enough with the question, ‘What is helpful to our brothers and sisters?’

“We knew what was helpful to us, but this conversation with Congress made it clear that we were not living out what it meant to listen to Aboriginal and Islander people.”

Mr Corkin said the process was about indigenous people “seeking to honour our needs as much as we wish to seek to honour theirs”.

Mr Blackman said the meetings proposal, removing time restrictions on Congress speakers, was an opportunity for indigenous people to participate equally in the workings of the church, regardless of language.

In response to a question from the floor on people operating without time limits, Mr Blackman said it was a matter of language difficulties as well as Congress wanting to speak as one voice.

“For a great number of Congress members here, English is a second language. In terms of communicating clearly sometimes it will take a little longer.”

Mr Corkin responded to multicultural members’ questions about a similar process being incorporated for all people for whom English was a second language. “I think we can continue to have conversations with other communities and have the best practice we can,” he said.

The proposal committing the church to true renewal of the covenant notes that the Assembly will continue to explore and facilitate national discussion with Congress, to give thanks for the covenant, as well as arrange to develop resources for use by the church.

Mr Blackman said the process of discussions between Congress and the Assembly Standing Committee had been difficult at times.

“The journey we have been on has been one of discovery for UAICC and myself personally.

“There have been times I thought it would be better to get Terence [Corkin] in a head lock!”

Congress had hoped to bring more proposals to Assembly but realised more time and discussion was needed.

“We needed to understand more in depth what it means to be a part of this covenant.”

The Rev. Robert Johnson (Synod of Victoria and Tasmania) was the only member to speak to the proposal, saying there was more to be done than passing a proposal at Assembly.

“We are doing this because we believe it to be a sign of the reconciliation that has to happen to honour Jesus Christ. As a nation what does it mean?”

The session was closed with President the Rev. Gregor Henderson giving thanks for the sisters and brothers in Congress. He hoped for further exploration, that the covenant was truly renewed and that Uniting Church members could “live more deeply and with greater integrity than ever before”.

Read more about the 11th Assembly HERE.