Category Archives: News

UC FORUM News

  1. Our friends at the Progressive Christianity Network Q are very pleased with the response to the advertised seminars with Professor Joe Bessler, Professor of Theology at Phillips Theological College in Tulsa Oklahoma. The good response to the half day of two sessions and morning tea at the Uniting Church, New Farm, includes many first timers. There is clearly a growing interest in Progressive Christianity and we continue to challenge traditional thinking and encourage contemporary and practical understandings of the Jesus Way. A well stocked bookshop will be operating at this seminar. It is not too late to register for this Saturday’s program (See earlier posts in this Forum) or at other venues. Just send me an email message if you are coming: Paul Inglis . PCNQ can be followed on Facebook .
  2. Planning for the next Common Dreams Conference in Sydney is well under way. The fifth Common Dreams conference will be held in Sydney on either 4 – 7 July or 11 – 14 July 2019(the exact dates will be determined when the availability of the venue is negotiated). Matthew Fox has been booked as the distinguished international keynote speaker. Matthew is a well-known writer & inspired speaker with at least 30 books to his credit. Professor Bessler is part of the build up to CD5 and is visiting several state capitals as well as New Zealand.
  3. The UC FORUM has just awarded two students at Trinity Theological College in the Queensland Synod of the UCA with study scholarships of $2500 each. They were successful in meeting the criteria associated with writing an essay on Progressive Christianity. The scholarships are part of a gift from Rodney Eivers the chairperson of the UC FORUM. Negotiations are advanced for much larger annual grants commencing later this year and managed through the Synod Foundation. We would welcome others contributing to these awards. Watch for further announcements.
  4. Mark Gregory Karris the editor of Divine Echoes: Reconciling Prayer with the Uncontrolling Love of God, referred to by Len Baglow in a recent post has made a generous offer. He says: I am very excited this book is making an impact all over the world! For those who are interested, and who purchase the book or audiobook, the publisher has given me permission to give away the workbook selling on Amazon for free. Just let me know if you bought it, and I will email you the workbook with over 100 questions of reflection. Many are using the workbook individually and in small groups. I also love to field questions or just know your experience of the book, so don’t hesitate to reach out!   Peace, Mark  Email: markgkarris@gmail.com 
  5. The UC Forum Executive meets monthly in the café space at the Queensland Synod for a 90 minute session of informal conversation about emerging issues in our fields of interest. if you would like an invitation to join us please let me know: Email Paul
  6. Our friends at the Milpara Project are currently discussing the growing phenomenon of House Churches. There are many aspects to the trends that we are seeing…some are the result of a movement away from the institutional church and others are staying well inside the tent but offering alternatives to congregational worship and fellowship. Indeed, some are clearly quite progressive. And some are down right scary! You can subscribe to as well as contribute to this discussion by visiting the Milpara site.

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Caloundra Explorers growing within and beyond

Now ten years in operation the Explorers Group at Caloundra Uniting Church has grown from within the congregation and an additional 100 + subscribers from across the Sunshine Coast. It is a group with representation from many denominations and none. With a team approach to leadership the group has a sophisticated set of protocols for ensuring continuous development and a welcoming profile. 2018 is going to be packed with great events and studies:

In his report to the Church Council, John Everell had this to say –

1. Book Study Discussion Groups:
a) First Semester – period February – March 2018 concentrated on discussions arising from the book “Honest to GOoD” by Rev John W.H. Smith with the sub-title “ Discerning the Sacred in the Secular”. His story of his unusual theological career opened up much discussion such as ‘family influence’; theological training’; ‘spirituality and disability’; ‘healing narratives’ and ‘Faith Communities of the Future’.
b) Second Semester will run for six weeks from 11th September to 16th October. The “book” will be Rev. Dr. John Bodycomb’s just completed but unpublished work “Twelve Healing Words”. John is very ill and it is unlikely that this work will ever be published. However, he has made it available to the Caloundra Explorers Group as a special gift to acknowledge the strong relationship that he and his wife, author Rev. Dr. Lorraine Parkinson have had with our Group. It is a lovely thought and very much appreciated by us. We continue to keep John in our thoughts as he endures what will be his last period in his life’s journey. We will prepare this into a six period Study for the second Semester. Suitable for the broad Congregation: Minor Printing and Folder costs will be recoverable. It has Chapters such as:
“Grief without Despair”; It’s hard to Forgive; do we know why?”; “When It’s hard staying positive”;
The grace of gratitude”; ”Enjoying who you are”; How’s your sense of Humour?”;
“Big challengers for truth seekers”; “Truth about things mad, bad and sad”.”Ever want to get away from it all?

2. “Gatherings”:
a) April 15th Gathering: Led by guest Dr. Paul Inglis of Dayboro Uniting Church and CEO of the UC Forum on the Synod website. He spoke on the results of a major survey by the SE QLD Progressive Network as to “The Progressive Call to Action-Revisioning the Church for the 21st Century”. His information and ten point summary became the basis for serious discussion and further interaction with the speaker. Meditations from Michael Morwood’s new book “Prayers for Progressive Christians” were introduced by Margaret Landbeck. Good attendance including strong “Friends” attendance.
b) June 17th “Gathering”: Theme “Parables and Politics – A Reflective Exploration “ Leader-Margaret Landbeck . Includes discussion periods and light byo community meal. Those attending this Gathering will be asked to bring their bibles as a resource for several reflective periods within the service.
The Explorers are extending a special Invitation to the church’s other three Bible Study groups and also the Congregation to join in this particular evening, as there will be much commonality to be celebrated around the theme of Jesus’ use of Parables.
c) August 19th “Gathering”: Theme “ What have we learnt from our ‘Exploring’? to be led by Anne and Pieter Hoogendoorn.
d) October 21st “Gathering”. Theme “Matrix, Memory and Midrash”;. Leadership Team under development.

3. Seminars:
Annual Seminar: Our 9th Annual Seminar will be held on Saturday 29th September with the Guest being Rev. Glennis Johnston, Counsellor, international voluntary worker and retired UC parish minister. She was the Spiritual Director of a multi-faith residential community in Melbourne before retiring to Dorrigo NSW where she leads individual and group Retreats at ‘Fernbrook Lodge’. She is the author of “Turning Points of the Spirit”- ‘a journey from institutional religion to authentic spirituality’. This will be a quite different theme for our Annual Seminar and we are working closely with the “Sunday Conversations” group from St Mark’s Anglican Church Buderim to have both our full day Seminar and their next day “Sunday Conversations’ feature Glennis. She is known to several of our clergy advisors and highly recommended.

4. Library: Four new books have been added to the Library, and quite a number of Explorers have also taken the opportunity to purchase their own copy within our order:
– “Turning Points of the Spirit” by Glennis Johnston
– “The Wind Blows where it Chooses” by Kevin Treston ( Catholic Education Leader– Brisbane)
– “Prayers for Progressive Christians” by Michael Morwood.

5. Church Profile: The following summary – “The Explorers Group” -has been developed to help the Church Council provide informed information on the philosophy, mission, and activities of the Explorers Group for the Church Profile and, particularly, for subsequent support for discussions with potential ministry placement applicants. It may also assist new Councillors in a more detailed understanding of the Explorers place and Mission within in the Caloundra church family .
The Explorers Group:
The Explorers Group, now ten year old, has a strong contact group within the congregation  whose spiritual journeys find comfort and support within the ‘progressive Christianity’ strands of theology.
They express their purpose as: “The Explorers Group is set up to enable people to experience some of the challenge and intellectual stimulation available from the growing breadth of contemporary theology and emerging biblical scholarship. We get together to explore, discuss and debate within a safe, non-judgmental and structured environment, recently published writings and lectures from contemporary theologians, eminent scholars and others.”
The Explorers Group has three activities supporting their ministry:
a) Book Discussions/Studies in two six week Semesters during the year- Tuesday afternoon group in the Hall and a Thursday night group in a private home in Pelican Waters. Attendances range from 16 to 24.
b) “Gatherings” –{set evening services – 3rd Sunday in every 2nd month}. These “Gatherings” allow a much greater flexibility in style and theme and particularly for a liturgy more appropriate to its underlying ‘progressive’ influence. A byo light meal is part of the liturgy. The “Gathering’s” discussion opportunities are the favoured interactive segments in the evening’s format. A ‘Theme’ has proved very popular. Usually led in turn by Explorers Leaders. Attendances range 25 -40.
c) “Seminars”- two to three a year, with the major effort being an Annual Seminar {the 9th Annual Seminar will be held on Saturday 29th September 2018}. Speakers are leading Australian or International theologians and authors. Attendances range from 50 to 75(capacity).
The Explorers Group’s “Friends of the Explorers” is a specific Ministry to people beyond this congregation. It’s contact ministry uses the regular “Gatherings” and, particularly the Seminars, to engage with (and provide support to) other ‘progressives’ from the Sunshine Coast and Hinterland, many of whom seek support not available in their own regions. Contact list has over 100 people registered. We also link with UC Forum and other SE Qld ‘progressive’ networks.
Our current Faith And the Modern Era series (FAME) concept is providing enthusiasm and inspiration as we look at the Explorers moving beyond ‘ simply learning’ and putting ‘knowledge into action’.

If you would like to be connected to this group, contact John Everell.

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Lloyd Geering turns 100

On 26th February Sir Lloyd George Geering ONZ GNZM CBE turned 100.

Geering was born in Rangiora, Canterbury, New Zealand, and “embraced” the Christian tradition in 1937. He holds a Doctor of Divinity from the University of Otago and a master’s degree in mathematics. He was a minister in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) and turned to theological teaching in 1956.

In 1967 Geering gained a high profile when he was charged with “doctrinal error” and “disturbing the peace and unity of the (Presbyterian) church”. The case was brought before the 1967 General Assembly of the PCANZ, and dismissed without being much discussed. The charges were brought by a group of conservative laymen and a conservative minister. During his church trial he claimed that the remains of Jesus lay somewhere in Palestine and that the resurrection had been wrongfully interpreted by churches as a resuscitation of the body of Jesus. He also rejects the notion that God is a supernatural being who created and continues to look over the world.

Geering is a member of the Jesus Seminar and a participant in the Living the Questions program, an alternative to the evangelical Alpha course, which he views as dangerous indoctrination sadly growing among even mainstream churches. He is also a member of the Sea of Faith Network (New Zealand), and St Andrew’s On The Terrace as well as Principal Lecturer at St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion and Society.

He was honoured in 1988 as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2001 as Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In the 2007 New Year Honours List he was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand. In 2009, his status as a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit was re-designated to that of Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Geering is a patron of the Coalition for Open Government.

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Congratulations to Greg Jenks

Sunday 4th June 2017

Bishop Sarah Macneil, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton, has announced that the Reverend Canon Dr Gregory C. Jenks has been appointed as Rector of the Parish of Grafton and Dean of the Cathedral Church of Christ the King.Greg Jenks2

The official announcement is being made this morning in the Cathedral Parish and in the Parish of Byron Bay, where Canon Jenks is currently serving after returning to Australia from Jerusalem earlier this year.

Dean Jenks will take up his appointment as the eighth Dean of Grafton later this year, and will continue to serve as the locum priest for the Anglican Parish of Byron Bay until that time.

The Cathedral of Christ the King has both local and diocesan mission responsibilities. The Cathedral is the parish church for the Anglican Parish of Grafton, which includes the northern half of the city as well as two nearby rural centres: Copmanhurst and Lawrence. At the same time, the Cathedral has a prophetic mission to the city of Grafton, and within the Northern Rivers more generally, as well as its ministry within the wider life of the Diocese.

Greg Jenks is married to Eve James, who is manager of the Roscoe Library at St Francis Theological College in Brisbane. They have two adult daughters.

For Canon Jenks this is a return to his roots in the Northern Rivers, as he was born and raised in Lismore.

Dr Jenks is a Canon Emeritus of the Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr in Jerusalem, and was previously the Dean of St George’s College in Jerusalem. Prior to his appointment in Jerusalem, Dr Jenks was Academic Dean of St Francis Theological College  and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University.

Canon Jenks values his close links with Palestinian Anglican communities in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Haifa. He looks forward to developing mission partnerships and pilgrimage opportunities between the Cathedral and these faith communities in the Holy Land.

Dr Jenks is a co-director of the Bethsaida Archaeology Project in northern Israel, where he also serves as the coin curator for the dig, and is also the founding director of the Centre for Coins, Culture and Religious History. His research interests focus on the coins from the Bethsaida excavations, as well as other coins that illuminate the role religion has played in shaping human culture.

Dr Jenks is the author of several books and numerous published essays. His most recent books include Jesus Then and Jesus Now (2014) and The Once and Future Bible (2011).

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Religious Studies rapidly growing in England and Wales

Entries for Religious Studies A level rising faster than for any other Arts, Humanity or Social Science

The key outcomes of the 2015 A level results in England and Wales for Religious Education are as follows:

  • 23,372 RS A level entries were recorded, an increase of 6.5% on 2014 and more than double the number is 2003 (11,132 entries were recorded in 2003)
  • The number of entries for RS A level has increased by 110% since 2003, more than for any arts, humanity or social science subject (the nearest subject is Political Studies with an increase of 62%). Among all subjects, only Further Maths has seen a more rapid growth than RS
  • 23.3% of entries for RS A level were awarded an A or A*
  • There were 37,365 entries for RS at AS level, an increase of 5% on 2014 and more than double the number in 2003 (15,482 entries were recorded in 2003)

The contextual evidence shows the growing status of RS as a subject for Higher Education entry:

  • The Russell Group of top universities has made it clear that RS A level provides ‘suitable preparation for University generally’
  • Both Oxford and Cambridge University include Religious Studies in the top level list of ‘generally suitable Arts A levels’
  • Applicants with Religious Studies A level were more likely to gain admission to study History at Oxford University in 2012 than those with A levels in many ‘facilitating’ subjects
  • 20% of students admitted to Oxford University to study mathematics in 2012 had an RS A level (more than those with Economics, Physics and Business Studies A levels)
  • Research from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University on the comparative difficulty of different subjects at A level showed that RS was ‘in the middle difficulty range, similar to Geography and more demanding than English’ {1}

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Bishop Jeremy Greaves

Congratulations to Rev Jeremy Greaves, Rector, St Marks, Buderim, who will become Bishop of the Nor07d23821thern Region of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane from mid February 2017.

The consecration ceremony will be held at St Johns Cathedral, Brisbane at 7pm on Friday 24th February.

Jeremy led our team over three years of planning for the very successful Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane this year. His guiding hand kept a large team with diverse backgrounds and skills working in unity for this long period.

Jeremy brings extensive and varied experiences to his new role:

He has been Parish Priest at Buderim since May 2013. Currently he is also Archdeacon for the area.

Before coming to Buderim, Fr. Jeremy was Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Darwin where he presided over the rebuilding of the cathedral badly damaged by cyclone. He has worked in parishes in Adelaide and remote South Australia as well as Katherine in the Northern Territory.

He has passion for ministry with people, often thought of as being on the margins. He will also maintain a strong interest in the developing Progressive Christianity movement.

Fr. Jeremy is married to Josie and together they have three children.

His administrative region covers all parishes on the northern side of the Brisbane River to Bundaberg and he hopes to reside on the Sunshine Coast where the Greaves children attend schools.

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Progressive Christians offering sanctuary to refugees

More than ten Australian Churches across Australia are offering sanctuary to refugees who may be transferred to detention on Nauru. Now 10 Anglican and Uniting churches around the country have offered sanctuary to the asylum seekers who are at risk of being returned.

The Churches, all with strong progressive values, are invoking the historical concept of sanctuary, opening their doors to asylum seekers facing removal back to offshore detention centres.

Key points:

  • ‘Sanctuary’ concept yet to be tested under Australian law
  • High Court rejects challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention centres
  • 270 asylum seekers in fear of being returned to Manus Island or Nauru

The High Court has rejected a challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention centres, a ruling that means nearly 270 asylum seekers who came to Australia for medical treatment could be returned to either Nauru or Manus Island.

One of Australia’s senior Anglican leaders, Rev Dr Peter Catt, said places of worship were entitled to offer sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.

Peter Catt is Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane. From 1997 to 2007 Peter was the Dean of Grafton. He helped establish and run the International Philosophy, Science and Theology Festival, which wPeter Cattas held at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton. He holds a PhD in evolutionary microbiology from the University of NSW and a BD from the Melbourne College of Divinity.

His interests include Christian Formation, liturgical innovation, the interaction between science and religion, and Narrative Theology . He is a member of a number of environmental and Human Rights organisations and has serves on Anglican Social Justice Committees at both Diocesan and National level. He is the current chair of The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s new report reveals what Ms Narayanasamy describes as the “alarming impacts of detention on children”.

The report is based on interviews and medical testing of children at Wickham Point detention facility, many of whom spent time on Nauru.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is under increased pressure to allow asylum seekers to remain in Australia following claims the overwhelming majority of former child detainees are at risk of serious mental health issues.

Labor MP Melissa Parke has lashed out at her party for supporting the Federal Government’s “utterly repugnant” offshore processing regime following a High Court ruling upholding the policy of detaining asylum seekers on Nauru.

A woman who was held in detention on Nauru before giving birth to a son in Darwin last year after complications during the pregnancy has described today’s High Court decision as a nightmare.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton said the government would not be “dragging people out of churches” but insisted that the people’s cases would be individually considered on medical advice.

As well as St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane other churches and affiliated chapels offering sanctuary were:

  • St Cuthbert’s Anglican church, Darlington, Western Australia
  • Wesley Uniting church, Perth
  • Gosford Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pilgrim Uniting church, Adelaide
  • St John’s Uniting church, Essendon
  • Paddington Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pitt Street Uniting church, Sydney
  • Wayside Chapel, Sydney

Acknowledgement: Material taken from several ABC News bulletins and The Guardian News.