Category Archives: UC Forum News

Core values of the UC FORUM

Our statement of values is a working document that is open to change and further input. We base our work on the following three principles:

  • Acknowledgement of a diversity of beliefs and respect for those who hold them, with a consequent need to encourage actively creation of a diversified unity centred on Jesus, rather than continued self-centred-divisiveness.
  • Dedication to continued teaching, learning and spiritual growth by open and frank discussion of significant church, religious and theological developments at all levels of the church.
  • Recognition of the importance of listening to the church membership and taking them into the confidence of the church bureaucracy in discussion of new knowledge and new approaches to spiritual development.

We welcome comments about this statement and consider it subject to review and revision at all times.

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Award of Bursaries

Good news for two students of Trinity College in the Queensland Synod of the UCA.

They have been successful in their submission of essays on Progressive Christianity and each will receive a UC FORUM bursary to cover costs associated with their studies this year.

Bursary applications for 2019 will be advertised towards the end of this year.

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The UC FORUM’s Foundational Perspective

Looking at the formation of the UC Forum 10 years ago

Professor Rod Jensen, former chair of the Qld Ministerial Education Board and lifelong active layman in the Methodist and Uniting Churches, passed away on Sunday 23 August 2009.

Prof Jensen was an inspiration to many people who have wanted the church to engage more intentionally with contemporary society, to make appropriate adaptations and changes that would address the obvious fall in worship attendances and the aging of congregations.
After comprehensively researching ‘the problem’, he published his findings and reflections in Two Small Books on Laypeople and the Church in 2007. In essence, he called upon the laypeople of the Uniting Church to take responsibility for leading the church to position itself for a rapidly changing world.

He also challenged the clergy and leaders of the Christian church to come to terms with its decline in positive and effective ways. Many lay people heard this call and as soon as Rod’s book was released, they formed the Uniting Church Lay Forum (now UCFORUM, who under Rod’s leadership and encouragement identified the central themes for renewal of the Uniting Church as:
The need to present the Christian message in a manner consistent with the experience and insights of modern society. The need to appeal to the contemporary generations of younger groups. The need to eliminate the divisiveness of ideological splits in the church by the encouragement of diversity within and between congregations and in methods of ministry
The need to engage the laity in open and frank discussions of different theological developments and approaches to worship. The need to interpret the Christian message in the light of developments in modern science and technology. The need to cultivate spirituality rather than religion in our churches.

This enterprise had begun when Rod died in 2009 and Rod’s founding influence, commitment to working with all stakeholders in a supportive and sensitive way, his love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his writing and research and indefatigable faith in humankind has sustained and inspired the Forum for a long time and continues to attract more members.

In Rod’s own words the nucleus and momentum for change must begin with us (the lay people of the church).  Thank you Rod for your friendship, knowledge and example.

Note: The UCFORUM has a broader membership these days with many ministers, retired ministers, former moderators, lay people, theologians, friends from other denominations and many who no longer attend any congregation.

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Bursary Applications for students of theology in 2018 close 30th October

UCFORUM and Fresh Steps in Faith Pty Ltd Bursaries

We have posted application forms and other material to students who expressed interest in receiving assistance with their study expenses at Trinity Theological College in Brisbane in 2018.

It is not too late to make an application. Closing date is 30th October 2017 and successful applicants will be advised after 30th November 2017.

Application forms are available from Dr Paul Inglis

We are pleased with the amount of interest in this offer of up to $5000 for graduate studies and up to $500 for short courses.

We also welcome expressions of interest for grants in 2019. We will advise these people when applications can be made formally.

The condition for receiving assistance is the provision of a short essay: “My Response to progressive Christianity”

Important Note: The personal position of the applicant in favour or against arguments presented in the field of progressive Christianity is welcome and will not be used as a determinant of acceptance for a bursary. The award will be based on evidence of understanding. The purpose of the awards is to equip more students to have an awareness of the growing interest within many congregations of critical scholarship in the field of progressive Christianity.

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Bursaries to encourage progressive reading by theology students

A call for expressions of interest in proposed scholarships to support theological studies at Trinity Theological College, Brisbane.

Paul Inglis, 7th May 2017

It is clear that maPaul-150x150ny of today’s congregations include people who have been educated to think critically, have opinions and judge knowledge that is presented to them on its merits and their own life experiences and education. It is also clear that many congregations welcome people who ask questions and have doubts about many taken for granted theological shibboleths. It is always refreshing to hear a preacher say that what he or she is about to say is open to examination and critical study. Congregations of the future are likely to be more diverse in their thinking and require leadership that facilitates a safe environment for a range of perspectives. We want to support the development of this leadership.

The Uniting Church was quite adamant at its formation that there will be flexibility and more to learn about the scriptures as new scholarship emerges.

The Basis of Union stands as witness:

” PARAGRAPH 11 11. SCHOLARLY INTERPRETERS The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left the Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word. In particular the Uniting Church enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry which has characterised recent centuries, and gives thanks for the knowledge of God’s ways with humanity which are open to an informed faith. The Uniting Church lives within a worldwide fellowship of Churches in which it will learn to sharpen its understanding of the will and purpose of God by contact with contemporary thought. Within that fellowship the Uniting Church also stands in relation to contemporary societies in ways which will help it to understand its own nature and mission. The Uniting Church thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr. It prays that it may be ready when occasion demands to confess the Lord in fresh words and deeds.”

Through the generosity of the UCFORUM chairperson, Rodney Eivers, we will be maRodney2king available an annual sum of $10,000 to be distributed to students who are prepared to show evidence of reading, but not necessarily endorsing, the thinking of contemporary progressive theologians. The amount of individual bursaries is dependent on interest and further discussions with the Queensland Synod’s Board of Christian Formation. The manner of selecting these students will not be complex and involve writing a short reflection that makes reference to some progressive writers. A comprehensive reading list will be made available. Many of the authors are now represented in Trinity College library and other texts will be accessible from the UCFORUM.

More details will be made available in the near future, but in the meantime we are keen to gather expressions of interest from prospective and current students. We would like to have an email list of people we can send information to when the bursaries are launched. Perhaps you have some study plans yourself or know someone who would value being on our mailing list. Please pass on this information.

Please send your name and email contact details to: ucbursaries@bigpond.com

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Formation of the Progressive Christianity Network – Qld.

The Plan

In line with long held plans to ‘catch up’ with other States and have a Queensland Progressive Christianity group, this concept was boosted considerably on Saturday 11th March. The gathering at the Treston seminar stayed on to discuss a draft proposal prepared by the committee of the Modern church lookformer Progressive Spirituality Network. The plan is to transition the hundreds of members in the latter group into the proposed PCNQ while establishing a close relationship with the ever growing UCFORUM. Of course many of our members belong to both groups. Paul Inglis has accepted an invitation to chair the group in the formative stage.

We now also have many international links and are aware of a need to move forward with them in mind. At the same time, as the Common Dreams Conference proved, Queensland has a lot to offer the progressive movement and there will be much about the PCNQ that is distinctly us.

What’s in a name?

The name for the group is not yet finalised but we are keen to align and link to interstate groups for several reasons. Feedback at this meeting and emails I am still receiving will help us to make the ‘right’ decisions.

What is the purpose of such a group?

The scope and purpose of the group is still under discussion, but the following have been mooted:

  • to provide a safe place for progressive thinking Christians and others to come together and discuss the many issues in the life journey
  • to be an organising group for seminars and conferences
  • to continue the work of the former progressive spirituality network
  • to build links with non-Christian groups with strong interest in progressive spirituality and religion
  • to welcome atheists in the ongoing conversations about the meaning of life
  • to work with similar interstate groups when planning visits from keynote speakers
  • to publicise events related to our interests
  • to make appropriate commentary on contemporary matters
  • to explore the growing literature and scholarship in the field.

 

Some proposed initiatives

The planning team has already begun the process of setting up a Round Table group made up of representatives of all progressive and ‘explorer’ groups and individuals who can informally come together to find common ground and share in initiatives.  A draft paper on this proposal is available on request from Paul. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

We will be considering whether this is part of the brief for the PCNQ.

We want to reach as many interested people across the State as possible and an early challenge will be to find ways to support individuals in isolation from progressive groups. Already we have many members who correspond with us and receive reading lists and other information.

Watch for further developments and please continue to participate in our activities.

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Seminar Feedback

 

ReportParticipant Feedback Please

Our most recent seminar on Diversity generated a great deal of conversation about this important topic. Early feedback has given us some insights into the concerns of our growing membership. For instance, the question has been asked: Are we sufficiently hearing the female voice in a strong and influential way? and Is the Church willing to come to grips with its own historical and cultural retention of practices which reduce the possibilities for truly inclusive and welcoming communities?

If you were in the crowd participating in this seminar, we would like to have your feedback about any aspect of the content or process so we can continue to refine and improve on the delivery of our forums. We also welcome topics for future forums. Please send comments to Paul Inglis.

Report on Seminar One 2014

ReportOur first ‘forum’ for the year was a vibrant discussion with many people participating in addressing the topic of:

A Place for Progressives in the Church: Relevance for Today’s Followers of Jesus

Participants’ feedback:

The post seminar survey revealed a universal satisfaction and enjoyment with the forum and its venue which will always be kept under review. People felt safe to express themselves and said they would come to another one. The aspects most liked were the five speakers, the topics chosen, and the short succinct presentations receiving significant support, although some presenters felt somewhat restricted by the time limit on their presentations and the observation was made that more time for discussion with organized small groups would be beneficial. The way in which information was recorded on charts for later reference was appreciated. All aspects of timing will be addressed. There was a problem with sound delivery and some constructive suggestions will be taken up. Some of the inbuilt strategies were noted and appreciated – hospitality, welcoming, friendliness, facilitation/moderation of discussion, staying on task, the range of important issues, etc. However, as the first seminar for the series that was OK but it would be advisable to move to a particular aspect and develop it in greater depth next time. Some went to the UCA Café at the Kedron/Chermside for lunch and would recommend this as a way to informally extend the discussion and make friends. It was recommended that we explore ways to share the forum with others at a distance. Several people thought it would be good now to advertise the seminars and report more widely on the outcomes. Several participants offered to assist with the planning for the next seminar. The LF management team will look closely at all suggestions.

Directions (distilled action statements):

[These constitute a part of the conversation we hope to have at the appropriate time with the Synod and Congregations]

  • Start at the theological colleges and other education units in the church
  • In the congregational context shift from sermons to dialogue with participants
  • Continue to build a significant mass of critical thinkers by providing opportunities for dialogue and learning
  • Develop an inventory of progressive resources eg a contemporary lectionary, etc
  • Propose ideas for appropriate change and implement them
  • Justify the use of traditional practices that follow rituals long out of date
  • Facilitate and encourage diverse groups to operate within congregations
  • Challenge/change the dominant role of ministers as ‘controllers’
  • Review the purpose of the ‘On the Way’ initiative
  • Work from social issues applying faith tools rather than the reverse

Next Seminar:  Tuesday 9th April – The Why and What of Diversity? Information coming.