Category Archives: UC Forum News

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.

Invitation to our first seminar for 2014

Number 1 in the Lay Forum 2014 Seminar Series

“The timidity – apprehension, fearfulness – of some mainline Protestant and Catholic clergy to convey their richer understandings of the Bible and Christianity has contributed to the decline of Christianity in our time. There are millions of people who cannot accept the beliefs of “common Christianity.” Let conservative Christianity have a monopoly on ‘common Christianity’. But those of us who care about Christianity and its future should not imitate that.”

Marcus Borg


Tuesday 4th February 2014

9.30am morning tea – 10am to noon seminar

Venue: Wavell Hts UC Hall – 147 Rode Road, Wavell Hts, North Brisbane, Q.

Invitation to members and friends of the Lay Forum.

Registration please to Paul Inglis:

Catering and hall hire suggested donation: $5 at the door.

This is not an official UCA Synod event.

Safe, friendly and inclusive

Back again!

Thanks to the team in Canberra we have our site up again. Postings on the way include reports from last week’s seminar at New Farm led by Professor Peter Fensham marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of JF Robinson’s “Honest to God”.

Gold Coast Progressive Faith Community Group Conversation with Paul Inglis

A very lively and fully participative discussion took place at the November meeting of the Gold Coast Progressive Faith Community group. Representatives from local Christian churches and the Baha’i movement focussed on the topic of what it means to be Church in the real world. Guest facilitator was Dr Paul Inglis, EO of the Lay Forum.

Paul explained that the concept ‘lay’ has been given the wrong meaning and the Lay Forum has addressed this by using it as a very inclusive concept expressed as it was applied in the New Testament, referring to all people, without any distinction related to status or office and dissociated from the way in which ‘lay’ has been used to mean ‘not clergy’, with overtones of uneducated, untrained and disempowered. As a result the Lay Forum has attracted many subscribers from ordained and non-ordained backgrounds. The term ‘forum’ has been applied to refer to the aim to draw progressive thinking members of the Uniting Church into open, safe and constructive dialogue that brings into focus the diversity of thinking that exists but has not readily found expression in the church or every congregation.

The conversation moved through five elements identified as essentials for a church to be acknowledged as a part of the real world. These were initially distilled from Paul’s own experience in ministry in an urban/rural fringe community together with a lifetime of active involvement in the Uniting and Anglican Churches in Australia.
1. A determination to be relevant
2. Genuinely caring about people, the community and the world
3. A governance that is participative, open and responsive
4. Being innovative, diverse, inclusive and experimental
5. A quality control that is self-critical and reforming

1. Relevance
This involves a determination to be relevant and focussed on Jesus as the example for living and can be demonstrated in several ways. A primary or best way is to respond to the needs of the community – for them rather than from them. The community has to be understood and that cannot be done by assumption but by analysis, that is, by doing a real study of the local community. Demonstrating an awareness of the real nature of the community helps to build trust. At the same time being generous and giving to the community rather than taking from it establishes a powerful presence for the church in the community. The key element here is the desire to learn from, be associated with, rather than expect the community to come and conform to the behavioural standard of the congregation. The latter can certainly grow a large church but not always a relevant one that is truly a part of its wider community.

2. Caring
Caring about people, the community and the world demonstrates the agape love that Jesus showed. This involves more than platitudes about caring but calls for real models of compassion, environmental concern, intentionally inclusive strategies, pastoral partnering with professionals and service groups, the development of a friendly reputation, provision of happy and uplifting environments and experiences and interactive and relational behaviours beyond the gathered congregation.

3. Governance
Today’s people are more aware than ever of how their lives are managed by others. Consumer education starts early and today there is less likelihood than ever that they will accept being left out of the decisions and the changes. The governance of an effective church needs to be truly participative, responsive and open. Decisions made by the whole group are endorsed and support by the whole group. Reforms that come quickly as a response to expressed concerns grow support for the leadership. A slow and complicated decision-making process does not keep up with the pace of change in the modern world. There has to be an intentional aim to manage change, involve everyone and encourage flexibility and tolerance. The challenge is to think small rather than big – when the small church stops trying to be a mega church, good things happen. There is real strength in the intimacy of knowing each other and this is difficult in a big church. Leadership that is close and friendly and ‘hands on’ with the congregation’s projects, produces greater harmony and constructive caring than that which is distant and efficiently delegating.

4. Innovation
Multi-level approval processes block innovation. We need to be aware of the diversity of perspectives held by any group of people these days. This generation has been encouraged to think as individuals and to be as different from each other as possible. This does not deny the fact that we look for people with some common thinking to ourselves and associate with what appears to be people with similar outlooks, but don’t look too hard or you will find that your best friend has some very different values from yourself. The church that develops relationships beyond the congregation is likely to have a stronger influence in its community. These relationships should include virtual ones. There is no room for complacency and the life of the congregation should be one of continuous experimentation. Failed projects should be abandoned willingly and everyone encouraged to move on. Leaders need to be able to say NO to those who want to hold onto tired practices and to justify this decision publicly. There needs to be a mood of ‘moving forward’ or progressing. The more traditional you are, the less you will value experimentation. Unfortunately many congregations become successful through experimentation but then become complacent and stop experimenting.

5. Quality Control
Critically thinking communities develop tolerances and attitudes of willingness to learn. Personal agendas are reduced once a collaborative and cooperative climate is established. The corporate or group agenda becomes dominant. Leadership that engages with the questions and concerns of the group or individual, that honestly tries to understand what concerns people, what their world views are, what connections and networks they have – produces a remarkable lot of cooperative and willing talent. Questions are the substance of living. They don’t have to be answered immediately and answers evolve through the experience of an open and accommodating congregation. But everything needs to be kept under review with the use of reflectors and opinion sharers can be most beneficial.

Overall, an attitude of drawing the circle larger to accommodate the diversity within any community while making the case for, and living the example of the Jesus way, brings endless rewards.