The Assembly Circles and Act2: Reflections
As part of a wide consultation process taking place through the Act2 project, the Assembly President and General Secretary held a series of conversations with the Assembly Circles to explore the work of Act2 through the lens of each area of the Church’s work. We invited participants in these conversations to share their reflections and insights.
Rev Cyrus Kung, Being a Multicultural Church Circle
Why is it that we are so drawn to the big, the powerful and the jaw dropping things that are beyond ourselves?
It is in this context of powerful institutional organisms that I see the multicultural documents of the UCA emerge. It is the gentle caress of a well-meaning body of Christians hoping to influence and change the hearts of those in our local congregations and institutions. But, do aspirational documents coming out of our little corner of the world really spur the church of the 21st century to live out its multicultural mandate? Is this how the Church will participate in the call to see the kingdom of God here on earth, now as it is in heaven?
35 years on from the original statement released by the UCA stating that we are a multicultural church, we still find ourselves squabbling over how we are to engage with power dynamics and inequalities of Church politics and building occupancies. These documents have set out to address inequality in our local contexts, however anyone that is engaged with any of the ‘multicultural UCA congregations' around Australia will see we are still a long way away from living out the cultural mandate of Revelation 7.
BUT...God is still faithful and the spirit is continually at work in all of our lives. In the midst of this overarching struggle of the 'multicultural church', we have seen the small wins of local congregations and neighbourly interactions come to fruition. These interactions have formed many strong kingdom-orientated relationships within our midst. Friendships, cross cultural learnings and hospitality has been a mark of many local UCA congregations.
However, when looking at the wins from these fruitful communities, my questions is, “how much of it can be attributed to nicely formed documents? Or is it that these communities arise out of some other movement, some other means of seeing the multicultural mandate of Revelation 7, a movement more grass roots and less statement and policy driven.
It is in this conflicting context that I want to ask, controversially but also sincerely, "Is placing our resources in crafting well-formed statements and well-articulated policies adding to the call for diversity in the kingdom? OR is it simply adding to the power of our own western empire building uniformity?" The golden age of the church institution is long gone and the statements provided are significantly less potent in the political arena now than it was 50 years ago. These documents rely on the power of our institution in the world and in reality its effectiveness is quickly declining as the institution is growing weaker.
So what does this mean?
My reflections here is that as we craft these idealistic and hopeful statements we must not forget the power of Christians growing out of grass roots contexts. I wonder as our policy-making institution dwindles, if an effective movement of young leaders and people that are emerging from the grass roots of the majority world are going to be taken seriously and given opportunities to see the 21st century Christian church grow. Policies have traditionally done this in the UCA but are there also people who are emerging that can do this with different and creative means? Is this where we might see the Spirit emerge in the 21st century?
People are natural border crossers, we do it all the time, institutions however find border crossing much more difficult. In fact, it could be argued that institutions are the ones that create the borders in the first place. In our increasingly divided world, we will need border crosses to show us the unity that can be found in the diversity of the Spirit working in the world. Christ is a person who crosses borders. Christ is relational in nature. It is in His relational border crossing nature that we find unity.
How do we reimagine the Church of the 21st century in a way that is relational whilst being good stewards of the institution of the UCA we have all inherited?
Maybe the grass roots church of the majority world has something more to teach us...
Maybe this is the kingdom arriving on our doorstep...
Maybe the Kingdom is not the empire of institutional powers we have built...
Maybe the Church of the 21st century needs to shift its focus from policy to people.
This is an edited extract from a blog post Cyrus has originally shared here
Rev Amanda Nicholas, Discipling the Next Generations Circle
This year I celebrate 44 years as a UCA member, 10 years of my ordination and 20 plus years involved in ministry within the church I call my home. In recent years I have found myself pondering the question, where did Jesus go?
Members of the Discipling the Next Generations Circle were recently invited to reflect on the Act2 Project in conversation with the Assembly President and General Secretary. Feeling timid but convicted, I asked my question: ‘where did Jesus go?’ We take seriously the calling of the Basis of Union and yet it seems we still have work to do to root this in our discipleship. Considering the Uniting Church’s strong reputation for acts of justice, compassion and solidarity, some would argue my question is ill placed and offensive. They might argue that Jesus is so in our DNA, he is at the centre of all we do. Yes. Yes, he is. There is no argument here.
However, a time comes when the implicit needs to be spoken of publicly and explicitly. We need to turn our eyes upon Jesus. We must do the work of discipling disciples for no other reason than the desire for each to have a deep and real connection with God through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. How? We teach them how to discover Jesus for themselves.
I recall many moments in younger years seeking to know Jesus more. Yet I was frustrated. No one had shown me where or how to find Jesus for myself. We live in a world where our engagement and learning has moved from ‘tell me what to know’ to ‘show me where and how to find out’. This shift must also flow into our discipleship practices. Voices of the young(er) generations must be heeded and respected, not just heard.
If we are truly doing the work of building the church of the future, we must listen to those generations. Theirs is the gift to the church of the now and the future. Their words have experience, wisdom, and knowledge. Don’t discard them as the foolishness of youth. Listen for God speaking through them. Respect their wisdom and hear God’s word to us all in them. This is how we consider afresh our future; we listen to the future church as it leads us into that time and place.