56 Major Strategic Review
That the Assembly resolve:
To request that the Assembly Standing Committee establish a Task Group to undertake a Major Strategic Review of all areas constituted and regulated as responsibilities of the Assembly with the primary intent of exploring new ways for the UCA to flourish and thrive.
David de Kock
The forthcoming Assembly provides the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) with the opportunity to consider where we are now as a denomination and where we would hope to be into the future. It is essential that another Triennium does not go by without work being done on the most fundamental issue facing the UCA, namely, “How will the Uniting Church be renewed for its mission in the face of its continual decline?”
The UCA has been going for more than 40 years. During this time there has been no major review of its core structure, polity, culture and missional effectiveness. Furthermore, during the life the UCA there has been a constant decline in membership within the Church. This has created serious difficulties in sustaining a structure and polity established 40 years ago.
Therefore, a national major strategic review of the UCA is essential if we seek to be renewed and set up for sustainability, innovation and growth over the next 40 years. It is the Assembly that must undertake this major strategic review. Whilst the UCA Constitution does not directly prescribe who is responsible for a national review, it does suggest that the responsibility of the Assembly is “to act in all matters in respect of which exclusive authority is not vested in any other council by this Constitution.” (para 38 viii).
The scope and parameters of a major strategic review would need to be set by a review team and not pre-empted here. However, it could be assumed that the following could form some of the broad areas considered in the review:
- What would renewal for mission in the UCA look like?
- How could we increase our missional effectiveness?
- Where are things working and what can we learn from these?
- What changes in our culture, polity, structure and decision making are needed?
This proposal for a national major strategic review is a proactive step that seeks to move the UCA into a season where the purposes, identity and capacity of the Church are realigned and renewed into the next 40 years. It would be a mechanism to explore new possibilities within the constituted fabric of the UCA’s life. Our forebears took on the challenge to imagine a new way, and so it sits with us to continue in this imaginative process of transformation. Furthermore, other movements akin to the UCA have undertaken major strategic reviews in the face of decline and the need for renewal. For instance, a significant review has taken place and is being implemented in the United Church of Canada which led to substantial changes in polity and missional capacity. The decline of the Church without transformation of its structure and polity can no longer be tolerated by the Councils of the Church, including the Assembly. As Andrew Dutney named for us in 2014, “…that while the UCA has a number of strengths and areas of vitality and growth that were confirmed by the Census, the data also confirms that we are not the church of the 1970s – even though many of our structures, Regulations and habits of mind assume that we are.” [Uniting Church in Australia Assembly Standing Committee - Minutes 18–20 July 2014].
Those who will lead the ministry and mission of the UCA in the next 20-40 years need to be given the opportunity to innovate and explore new structures and possibilities of being and doing church for the sake of the gospel. Of course, the UCA holds to the truth that Christ renews the church, and so changing structures will not essentially bring about renewal. However, “new structural wineskins” will provide significant ways in which the UCA can hold the renewing work of Christ in its ecclesial life whilst furthering the call to worship, witness and service.