IN LOOKING to the future of the Uniting Church, it is important to look at the lessons of the past.
Written 15 years ago, the 1996 Curtis Report (entitled On the Way) was the report of Synod Review Task Group initiated by the 18th Synod. It raised many issues similar to those facing the Queensland Synod today.
The Report spoke of the Mission and Service Fund’s continuing role in the life of the Uniting Church.
“The resources of the Fund are utilised to conduct those activities that are deemed to be a part of the Fund for the extension of the mission of the Uniting Church,” the Report said.
The Task Group reviewed the management structure, functions and responsibilities of the Synod and presbyteries to make recommendations about their effectiveness in resourcing and facilitating the ministry and mission of parishes and congregations.
The Report continues with several points about the Mission and Service Fund.
“The majority of the finance is pre-committed to basic activities and there has been little scope for inclusion of new activities in recent years.
“Parish income is growing slowly, and thus contributions to the Fund also grow slowly.
“The major contributions from the departments arise from U.C.I.S and insurance activities.
“The fund is regularly overspent.
“Much lengthy but generally fruitless effort has been directed to defining priorities.”
It also noted that in a supplementary report to the 10th Synod, the Management Consultancy Task Group observed that amongst important issues requiring further consideration was the need to devise “more effective ways of determining priorities with respect to the allocation of resources from the Mission and Service Fund”.
Although similar, current financial issues are significant: outstanding debt, a failure of investments compounded by the global financial crisis and deficits in the Mission and Service Fund budget.
This resource shortage restricts the Church’s ability to invest in new mission and areas of growth.
But as was also highlighted in the Curtis Report, the Uniting Church in Queensland is asset rich and cash poor.
“Scattered through the property portfolio are a range of ‘lazy assets’. By this the Task Group means assets which are not providing appropriate value to the current operation of the church,” the Report stated.
One of the ways that congregations, presbyteries, agencies and the Synod office can meet resourcing challenges is by identifying underutilised properties and encouraging the beneficial users to appropriately steward these assets to further God’s mission for the Church.
The current renewal process, Together on the Way, enriching community, is about engaging the whole Church in Queensland to consider the future of the Church.
Director of the Synod Finance and Property Services (FAPS) Robert Packer said the Together on the Way process can assist in reviewing how we utilise our resources.
“With a shared direction, spiritual, governance and financial issues could be addressed with more clarity,” he said.
“Setting priorities for mission and resourcing those activities will be informed by the vision and structures discerned by the whole of the Church.”
To find out more about the financial position of the Church, including responses to questions raised at the 28th Synod, visit the News & Resources page of www.faps.ucaqld.com.au.
To get involved in Together on the way, enriching community click here
Photo : FAPS Director Robert Packer. Photo by Holly Jewell