Rev Don Whebell. [Don is one of the few people still living that were actively involved in the process of coming into Union that formed the Uniting Church from three previous denominations. As well as a minister, he was a Queensland Synod Moderator and taught the subject ‘Basis of Union’ for many years at Trinity Theological College in the Queensland Synod].
“That question had been in front of me for some time for at least three reasons:
- There was a time when, as a Christian Education and Youth Worker, I had responsibility for a program of education for the participating denominations in North Queensland. Having been involved in studies in the first Basis [and disappointed at its rejection by the Presbyterian Church] my task was to try to help people to understand it in ways that would make sense to them in their journeys.
“I was frequently disappointed at what I saw to be the superficial responses a lot of people were making to the whole issue and a general unwillingness to grapple with the theological basis of what it means to be the Church.
“Most seemed to be just wanting some ‘ecclesiastical carpentry’ to glue the three denominations’ organisations together – or wanting a Church under another name that was vey similar to what they already had….
“2. In my roles as a Presbytery Minister and as Moderator, I was frequently confronted by the same sort of thing in the 80s and 90s that I had encountered in the 70s.
“Many people were often just not willing – or motivated – or able – to do the theological work, wanting a simple way of being the Church that made few demands on their thinking, believing and acting….
“Concerned that the Basis of Union was not being given its intended role, status and authority in the Uniting Church, the Council of Synod asked Duncan Harrison and I to write some studies on the Basis for people in Congregations, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Inauguration of the Uniting Church. And to encourage people to re-engage in a search through the Basis and rediscover the sources of their faith. It’s called A Hitchhiker’s Trip through the Basis of Union.…
“3.The third area of my concern was aroused – say the least – when, at a Presbytery Ministers’ Conference a many years ago, The General Secretary of the Assembly announced that there was a growing problem with the place of the Basis in the UCA.
“He said something like:
“There is an emerging viewpoint among some that holds that The Basis of Union does not have the relevance for the Uniting Church that it had for the three denominations that were negotiating the Church Union proposals that led to the inauguration of the Uniting Church in 1977.”
“That is to say that The Basis of Union belongs to the pre-union denominations, and is no longer relevant to the Uniting Church. A historical archive, that served its purpose in the forming of the UCA, but of no real continuing significance.
“This is no new issue….”
Don’s work on re-appraising the Basis of Union is at last being made publicly available. He has kindly offered his work to the UCFORUM’s readers to reflect on.
You can follow this work at: The Basis of Union re-examined. This is a work in progress. The first six sessions are available and many more are to follow. So come back to this site when you can.
Don welcomes ideas and opinions and although he is battling some serious health issues you can email him at: Don Whebell.