Category Archives: News

Rights of Nature Australia 2020 – early notice

RONA2020 – “Rights of Nature Australia 2020” – is a national arts celebration, organised by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA). The National Exhibition will run from 12-17 October 2020 in Brisbane, in conjunction with AELA’s week of exploring and celebrating the Rights of Nature.

In 2020, the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) will be co-hosting a range of arts activities and events under the theme of “Voices of Nature”. This theme will encourage the exploration of the concepts of ‘voice’, ‘standing’, ‘representation’, and ‘agency’ of the natural world within human governance systems. The theme also promotes AELA’s desire to focus on sound art and acoustic ecology as key mediums for communicating and exploring nature’s voice(s).

AELA is excited to be partnering with the Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology (AFAE) to generate dynamic, cross-disciplinary interactions and projects for RONA2020. And we look forward to engaging with the science, technology, art, wonder, and acoustic expertise of the AFAE members.

For more information go to RONA2020

The Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) is a national not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to increase the understanding and practical implementation of Earth centred governance in Australia, with a focus on law, economics, education, ethics and the arts. AELA’s work is inspired by the theory and practice of Earth jurisprudence, which is a governance philosophy and growing social movement. Earth jurisprudence proposes that we rethink our legal, political, economic and governance systems so that they support, rather than undermine, the integrity and health of the Earth.

The need for new governance systems has never been greater: as we face a climate changed world and transition away from our destructive reliance of fossil fuels, human societies need to create new ways of working together and nurturing the wider Earth community.

AELA works to build long term systemic change, so that human societies can shift from human centred to Earth centred governance.  Our vision is to create human societies that live within their ecological limits, respect the rights of nature and enjoy productive, sustainable economies that nurture the health of the wider Earth community.

AELA carries out its work by supporting multi-disciplinary teams of professionals engaged in research, education, publications, community capacity building and creating new models of Earth friendly governance. Our team includes Indigenous community leaders, lawyers, economists, scientists, deep ecologists, artists and community development practitioners.  AELA works on a membership-participation model and is powered by committed volunteers, who work together as individuals and organisations across Australia.  All our work is driven by our members’ interests and commitment – so become a member and get involved!

AELA is a founding member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, which brings together more than 80 organisations around the world, who support Earth Jurisprudence and Rights of Nature.  AELA participates in the UN Harmony for Nature initiative, is an affiliate of the Earth Charter and a partner of the Global Footprint Network.

AELA’s Board of Management is comprised of lawyers, Indigenous leaders and professionals from around Australia.

AELA is run by volunteers who are committed to the philosophy and practical implementation of Earth Jurisprudence.

AELA is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee (ABN: 54 156 139 221)

Membership is open to all individuals and organisations with an interest in Earth Laws and AELA’s work. 

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Progressive Christianity is building a bigger table

A message from the Director of ProgressiveChristianity.org, Rev. Deshna Charron Shine

We’re Building a Bigger Table

The table is too small. These are crucial times for the planet we call home. The toxic and institutionalized systems of racism, tribalism, colonialism, culture appropriation, sexism, and the general oppression of marginalized people have been thrust to the surface of our society. While this is scary and disturbing, it is also a positive step toward the eradication of white privilege, white fragility, and an empiric worldview. I say this is positive because it is forcing those of us who are privileged to wake up to a systemic culture of greed and fear that has been part of daily life for people of color and marginalized people since the beginning of modern history. These are systems and beliefs Jesus faced and why he was crucified. So why is this necessary for us?

Because we need a bigger table.

We need a bigger table because people of privilege are looking for a way forward to experience repentance, reparation, healing and transformation.

As Progressive Christians, we are called to the work of transformation that we have witnessed in the incredible life of Jesus. We have been teaching these values from our pulpits, from stages, behind cameras and to our readership. We have been gathering around a table and breaking bread and pouring wine, but that table is too small. We have met a moment in history that demands more of us.

I am inviting you to join in this movement. To help us build a bigger table that makes room for the marginalized voices to be heard. Your year-end gift will help us accomplish this!

In 2020, ProgressiveChristianity.org will be hosting in-person conversations and virtual gatherings with leaders in race reparation and climate justice. I’m asking my team and our international community to come together to create three new Christian Reparations Resolutions that we hope will be adopted by progressive Christians and progressive churches all over the world.

We’re building a bigger table. And we need your help.

These Resolutions will focus on 3 main roots of disharmony and injustice plaguing our world and Christianity:

1. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for Indigenous peoples.

2. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for People of Color.

3. Repentance for harmful actions, attitudes, and lifestyles as well as reparations for harm to Creation.

Your year end gift will help us build a bigger table to have these discussions as we pursue the creation and adoption of these resolutions.

When you give it will also enable us to create and distribute digital trainings for faith communities who are ready to affect real change in their local communities.

Healing and positive transformation are our goals here. Closer to radical inclusion and unity. However, to move toward healing we must first acknowledge where our ancestors and where we have missed the mark or have caused harm. We begin by acknowledging, then we ask forgiveness, then we resolve to do better. We can then fully begin to envision a world that is better than the one we have been handed down. We can see into the future, where a rainbow tribe covers the earth, respectful and authentic, as Jesus would have envisioned.

Progressive Christianity as a movement has an opportunity in this moment in history — and we need your help.

For more information go to: The table is too small

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Death of Hymn Writer Shirley Murray

From the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada

“We were saddened to learn of the death today of New Zealand hymn writer Shirley Erena Murray, FHS. She was one of the most prolific and influential hymn text writers in the English speaking world, creating texts finely attuned to the issues facing people of faith today. They have appeared in more than 100 collections worldwide and have been translated into several other languages.

She was brought up Methodist, but spent many years as a Presbyterian, serving with her husband, the Very Reverend John Stewart Murray, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, as he pastored St. Andrew’s on the Terrace, Wellington, where many of her hymns were first sung.

An article in The Hymn (Autumn 2009) announcing that she had been named a Fellow of the Hymn Society included this observation: “Despite her frustrations with the Church, this writer remains committed to working on its behalf, and her positive, ebullient nature dominates her work. Her hymns are ecumenical in their theology and inclusive in their expression. They embody themes of justice, peace, human rights, nurture, and the integrity of creation.”

Shirley Erena Murray MNZM (born 31 March 1931 – died 25 January 2020) is a New Zealand hymn lyrics writer. Her hymns have been translated into numerous languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn collections.

Born a Methodist in Invercargill, she earned a Master of Arts degree with honours in Classics and French from the University of Otago. She later worked as a teacher and researcher.

After marrying Presbyterian minister John Murray in 1954, she eventually moved to Wellington where John was minister for the St Andrew’s on the Terrace from 1975 to 1993. Her hymn writing started in the 1970s and often used the congregation of St Andrew’s as a testing place for the hymns. Many different composers have put music to her hymn texts.

Her hymns have been translated into several European and Asian languages and are represented in more than 140 hymn books around the world. In addition to New Zealand, they are particularly used in North America.

Among her most known hymns are “Hymn for Anzac Day”, “Where Mountains Rise to Open Skies”, “Our life has its Seasons”, “Star Child” and “Upside Down Christmas”.

Professor and hymn writer Colin Gibson, who has set music to some of her songs, described Murray’s hymns in 2009 as “distinguished by their inclusive language and their innovative use of M?ori, their bold appropriation of secular terms and their original poetic imagery drawn from nature and domestic life, but equally by the directness with which they confront contemporary issues.”

In 2001, she became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for “services as a hymn writer”. In 2006, she became a fellow of the Royal School of Church Music. She received an honorary doctor of literature degree from the University of Otago in 2009. The same year, she was named a fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

Murray lived with her husband at Raumati Beach near Wellington. The couple had three children and several grandchildren.

Her hymns and carols address a wide spectrum of themes ranging from the seasons of the Church year to human rights, care of creation, women’s concerns and above all, peace. Methodist by upbringing, and ecumenical by persuasion, she has spent most of her life as a Presbyterian. She was married to a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of NZ, the Very Rev. John Stewart Murray, who passed away just recently (2017). She had three sons and six grandchildren.

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Does Australia need a religious freedom bill?

In the next few months the government will vote on a religious freedom bill. It’s been hugely controversial, and critics say instead of protecting vulnerable people, it could act as a licence for hate. David Marr and Paul Karp analyse how this bill could change Australia.

You can read David Marr’s opinion pieces on the right to expel gay children and Israel Folau’s sacking.

Paul Karp has written extensively on the Ruddock religious freedom review.

The Guardian provides independent editorials with open access journalism. See more and follow at: The Guardian.

If you only have time for a shorter summary go to: What will Australians be allowed to say and do?

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NCCA on Climate Change

The National Council of Churches in Australia has called for Climate Change Action now.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Media Release

A Call for unified National Leadership regarding Climate Change

The National Council of Churches in Australia urges the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, to convene a roundtable on climate change, shaping a bipartisan approach and drawing in civil society leaders. “Let us draw the line now under what is past,” says the council’s President, Bishop Philip Huggins. “Let us just get on with working together to prevent global temperatures rising further.” Bishop Huggins said it would be wonderful, if this could be done before the crucial next UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP25), next month, from December 2 to 13. “I came back yesterday from the Annual Pacific Church Leaders meeting in Suva to the discourse here about the awful bushfires. “In Suva, Church leaders from all over Pacific shared their current experiences of climate change: the trauma for communities displaced and forced to relocate inland and away from a swapped coast; the anguish then for traditional cultures of ‘leaving ancestors behind’; the dread of more frequent and more violent cyclones and even the monthly anxiety for places not far above sea-level at the time of a full and new moon’s impact on tides. Said folk from such places: ‘We don’t sleep so well those nights!’ “It is a global issue. Humankind must find a quite unprecedented and sustained level of cooperation.” Bishop Huggins said the human family could do with some places of hope where there was a unified national response. “We urge our PM and our Leader of the Opposition to meet together and shape a way forward, as soon as practicable. Let Australia be an island of hope! It is a matter now of intelligent and cooperative leadership.” Bishop Philip Huggins NCCA President

Anglican Church, Antiochian Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Chinese Methodist Church, Churches of Christ Congregational Federation Coptic Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Indian Orthodox Churc,h Lutheran Church, Mar Thoma Church, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Roman Catholic Church, Romanian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, The Salvation Army Uniting Church.

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Reforming the Catholic Church?

Geoff Taylor has drawn our attention to the ‘Amazon’ Synod and the debate that is going on in the Roman Catholic Church.

But not all the Cardinals are happy! Cardinal Muller, a German Cardinal without a portfolio is being very vocal on his concerns about the reforms posited by his German Cardinal colleagues who are not prepared to be limited by Rome. Even the reformist Pope Francis is concerned about the pace of the thinking about changes including an end of priestly celibacy, the ordination of women, the reform of sexual morality, and the democratization of powers in the Church. The Synod that is promoting all of this thinking will for the first time give equal voting rights to laity and clergy and almost certainly shake the church to its foundations.

For more about this go to: They have driven Jesus out of the Amazon Synod

From L’Espresso

And Cardinal Müller also sees worldliness in the way in which part of the Church has sided with environmentalist ideology:

“The Church belongs to Jesus Christ and must preach the Gospel and give hope for eternal life. It cannot make itself a protagonist of any ideology, whether that of ‘gender’ or environmentalist neopaganism. It is dangerous if this happens. I come back to the ‘Instrumentum Laboris’ prepared for the synod on the Amazon. In one of its paragraphs it speaks of ‘Mother Earth’: but this is a pagan expression. The earth comes from God and our mother in faith is the Church. We are justified through faith, hope, and love, not through environmental activism. Of course, taking care of creation is important, after all we live in a garden willed by God. But this is not the decisive point. What is is the fact that for us God is more important. Jesus gave his life for the salvation of men, not of the planet.”

To “L’Osservatore Romano,” which has published an obituary for the Icelandic glacier Okjökull, which died “through our fault,” Müller objects: “Jesus became man, not an icicle.” And he continues:

“Of course, the Church can make its own contribution, with good ethics, with social doctrine, with the magisterium, recalling anthropological principles. But the Church’s first mission is to preach Christ the son of God. Jesus did not tell Peter to concern himself with the government of the Roman empire, he does not enter into dialogue with Caesar. He kept himself at a good distance. Peter was not a friend of Herod or of Pilate, but he suffered martyrdom. Cooperation with a legitimate government is just, but without forgetting that the mission of Peter and of his successors consists in uniting all believers in faith in Christ, who did not recommend involvement with the waters of the Jordan or the vegetation of Galilee.”

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Making an important correction

Following my request to the President of the UCA for a clarification of the recent ABC TV, Radio and Online news other media reports that the Uniting Church had joined a small number of other denominations in presenting a petition to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader related to so called “freedom of religion” in the Israel Folau case, I have received the following:

“Hi Paul.

At our urging, the ABC has acknowledged, corrected the online story and apologised to us for its error. The SMH also corrected its story at our urging to distinguish between Dr Fihaki’s comments and any official position of the Church.

We are reminding news editors that the Uniting Church is not a signatory to any letter to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader seeking reassurances about freedom of religion.

The Uniting Church’s actual position on freedom of religion, as expressed to the Expert Panel of Religious Freedom in January 2018, is that “such freedoms are never to be self-serving, but rather ought to be directed toward the Church’s continuing commitment to seeking human flourishing and wholeness within a healthy, diverse society.” The full submission is available here.

Individual Uniting Church ministers and other members of the Church from time to time express a range of public views.


However, we expect ministers, lay leaders and others and the journalists who cover them not to misrepresent these views as official positions of the Church.

The only authorised spokespeople on the Church’s national positions are the President Dr Deidre Palmer or in matters of regional significance, the Moderators of Synods.

Thanks for your query.

Cheers

Matt/Assembly Comms “

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The UCA and the National Redress Scheme

In December 2018, the Uniting Church in Australia provided the Federal Government with its application and supporting documentation to participate in the National Redress Scheme for people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse.

The Church’s national council the Assembly submitted information from all six Uniting Church Synods to be covered through the UCA’s participation in the Scheme to the Department of Social Services in Canberra.

The submission followed months of work in cooperation with the Department and Uniting Church bodies across the country.

In that time the Church has established a national vehicle for dealing with redress claims for survivors of child sexual abuse.

The Department will advise in due course when the UCA will be an operational member of the NRS.

President Dr Deidre Palmer has affirmed the Uniting Church’s commitment to the National Redress Scheme and acknowledged the pain caused for survivors, who are waiting to access redress through the National Redress Scheme.

“For those who might have been concerned about our commitment, please be assured that we are working to make amends and to ensure that our Church has a strong and robust culture of child safety that empowers children and adults in our care.”

“For anyone who was abused in the care of the Uniting Church, in our churches, schools or agencies, I’d again like to apologise sincerely. I am truly sorry that we didn’t protect and care for you in accordance with our Christian values,” said Dr Palmer.”

If you need support, please contact the following 24-hour support services:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

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Death of John Bodycomb

We have learnt of the loss of our friend Rev Dr John Bodycomb.

Dr Val Webb, theologian and author, and friend of John had this to say:

So sad to hear of the death yesterday of Rev Dr John Bodycomb, Melbourne. John’s career in sociology, academia, church growth and pastoral care over half a century and his provocative challenges to the church at large have inspired many. Only last September, his latest book was published “Two Elephants in the Room: Evolving Christianity and Leadership”. Sympathies to his wife Lorraine Parkinson and their families.

As a contributor and friend of the UC Forum, we have valued his insights and experience and his huge contribution to progressive thinking. His works stand as continuing reference points for those wanting to take religious professionals into a new era. In his own words – My fear that we were programming men and women for failure – according to a model that belonged to another era…..

He has challenged many and influenced many more with his big question – In a world where we know we are seven million miles away in space from where we were this time last week, and in a universe nearly fourteen billion years old, what ever do we think we mean by the formula G-O-D?

I hope that we can continue to ask this question and openly do what John did – question the many assumptions that have not been challenged effectively. In that way we will be paying our respects to a great man.

[See an earlier post for details about his last book published in September.]

Paul Inglis 14th December 2019

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Pastoral Letter from the UCA President

Pastoral Letter – Post Fifteenth Assembly Update

To all Congregations and Faith Communities

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Greetings in this new year, that brings fresh opportunities, as we serve Christ together as the Uniting Church in Australia. I am greatly encouraged by the ways the Uniting Church is engaging in mission and exercising ministry through our local churches, Presbyteries, Synods, our Agencies, schools and the Assembly.

On this Sunday the 13th of January, six months will have passed since the members of the Fifteenth Assembly gathered in Melbourne to discern prayerfully the national priorities and directions of our Church.

Decisions of the Assembly
During this time, members of Synods, Presbyteries, Congregations and Faith Communities have heard about and discussed the decisions we made in Melbourne. In many parts of our Church, our members are living out the hopes and vision that relate to our decisions on domestic and family violence, sovereignty of First Peoples, care for creation, access for people with disabilities, and support for seasonal workers.

Our Decision on Marriage
In respect to our recognition of two statements of belief on marriage, there have been a variety of responses. Across our Church, there are many people who have embraced the decision as a wise way of moving forward as a Church, respecting the different views we hold on marriage, and giving freedom to Ministers and Congregations to hold to a view of marriage, that they believe is faithful to the Gospel of Christ. Leaders in our Church have journeyed alongside those Uniting Church members, Congregations and Presbyteries, who have difficulty in living with the decision of the Assembly.

In 2009 an additional Clause 39 (b) was approved by the Assembly, which allows Presbyteries and Synods to ask the Assembly to reconsider a decision it has made.

Clause 39 (b) of the Uniting Church Constitution states:

(i) If within six months of a decision of the Assembly, or its Standing Committee, at least half the
Presbyteries within the bounds of each of at least half the Synods, or at least half the Synods, notify the President that they have determined that in their opinion

• a decision includes a matter vital to the life of the Church; and
• there was inadequate consultation prior to the decision

the President shall notify the Church that the decision is suspended until the Assembly has undertaken further consultation.

Six Presbyteries chose to exercise their right to notify me as President, that, in their opinion, the matter was
“vital to the life of the Church and there was inadequate consultation prior to the decision.” There were five
Presbyteries in Queensland and one Presbytery in the Northern Synod. On Saturday the 5th of January 2019, the Presbytery of South Australia met, and decided that the majority of members did not support the proposal that the Fifteenth Assembly marriage decision was a “matter vital to the life of the Church and there was inadequate consultation prior to the decision.”

This means that the threshold for the suspension of the Assembly decision has not been reached.

As a result, the Assembly decision on marriage stands, and will continue to be lived out in our Church, in various faithful expressions.

At this time, I would like to acknowledge with deep gratitude, the many Uniting Church members who have listened to one another with open hearts, and who have entered into challenging conversations, as you have responded to the Assembly decision and what it means for your particular community – and in many cases for your families and friends.

During this first six months as President, I have had many opportunities to meet with Uniting Church members, Congregations, Presbyteries and leaders of National Conferences and listen to their concerns and their hopes for our Church. Some of our conversations have focused on Assembly decisions, including our decision on marriage. Our broader focus has included the ways we can witness to God’s reconciling love, which is beyond measure and has power to transform people’s lives and the life of our society.

I know that there are Uniting Church members who have been hurt and have felt distress – either by the decision on marriage, or the possibility of the suspension of the decision. Let us remain conscious in the weeks and months ahead that this is a time for us as a Church to pastorally support one another, to act compassionately toward one another, and to hear Christ’s invitation to love each other, as Christ loves us, with grace, healing and hope. This call for us to love as Christ loves is at the heart of God’s mission.

A Prayerful and Loving Community

After the Fifteenth Assembly, I noted that I was proud of the way our Assembly members modelled a loving Christian community, by holding together and caring for each other as they exchanged strongly and faithfully held views from different theological and cultural perspectives.

In the months ahead, I pray that we will reflect the marks of the Christian community that Paul speaks of in his letter to the church in Philippi: “encouragement in Christ, consolation from love, sharing in the Spirit, compassion and sympathy.” (Philippians 2:1-3).

I invite you to pray for the Uniting Church, and for each other, that we may faithfully embody the Gospel of Christ in all we do and say. I have included a prayer for our Church, that I invite you to pray in your congregations and faith communities.

May we all know God’s abundant grace and liberating hope as we seek to journey together, shaped by God’s reconciling love.

Grace and peace.

 

Dr Deidre Palmer
President
Uniting Church in Australia Assembly

11 January 2019

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