At its theological centre The Basis of Union points us to the gospel by summarising the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Across paragraphs 5-10, it points us to where we continually encounter this gospel: the biblical witnesses, the sacraments, the creeds, and the documents of our Reformation and Wesleyan traditions.
In paragraph 11, however, it directs us to contemporary theological, literary, historical and scientific enquiry, ecumenical contexts and the communities in which the church is situated. It concludes with these words: The Uniting Church thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr. It prays that it may be ready when occasion demands to confess the Lord in fresh words and deeds.
The 15th Assembly in Melbourne in 2018 resolved to explore whether such ‘continuing witnesses’ could be found in contemporary confessions of faith from other Christian traditions. The Assembly noted that some reformed churches adopt confessions of faith from outside their own church.
Its resolution wondered how such a practice might bring inspiration, challenge and nourishment to us in the Uniting Church. It asked if we could listen in them for a fresh witness to Christ from outside our own context.
Building on the work of the Continuing Witness Task Group set up after the 15th Assembly, the 16th Assembly’s reconvened meeting in 2022 requested the Task Group to invite presbyteries and other interested groups to consider three confessions of faith and to offer their feedback and reflections. These confessions will be considered for formal adoption by the 17th Assembly as ‘Continuing Witnesses’ in the Uniting Church.
The three documents for consideration in the current triennium are
- The 1986 Confession of Belhar from South Africa;
- Laudato si’, the 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis; and
- The 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, the product of Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue.
The Task Group hopes that through these continuing witnesses to the faith, the Church is built up and supported to confess Christ in fresh words and deeds.
For each of the three confessions, the Task Group has developed liturgical resources for presbytery worship, together with background information and questions for discussion. (See the links below).
Rachel Kronberger, Convenor, Assembly Continuing Witness Task Group