Mission in the Uniting Church
A fundamental aspect of the way the Uniting Church thinks about ‘mission’ is that mission is something which arises from the character and action of God, rather than just something the Church does. The Missional God is constantly at work in the world and invites the Church to come alongside and join God in that work.
The Uniting Church often uses the phrase “the reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation” (based on the Basis of Union, paragraph 3) as a shorthand way of describing God’s mission in the world, and as a result the Uniting Church sees ‘mission’ as more than simply preaching or seeking to convert people. While we certainly want to invite people to become followers of Jesus, as we are, we also see mission as all the ways in which we join with God in the reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation.
And because we believe God is actively at work in the world, not just through the Church, we see an important part of our task is pointing out the ways in which God’s work of reconciliation and renewal is being achieved in the wider community.
So the Uniting Church has always had an emphasis on working with others of good will – “Uniting for the Common Good”, as one slogan puts it.
This is a part of our motivation to seek common ground with our fellow Christians, with those of other faiths, and those of no identified faith commitment. This is the area of work explored by our Seeking Common Ground Circle.
New Ways of Being Church
Throughout the Scriptures, God’s people are often told to “sing a new song”, and the reason for this is that God is constantly doing new things to draw forth our praise.
In the same way, the Uniting Church, following the teaching of the Reformers, seeks to be a Church which is ever ready to confess the Lordship of Christ “in fresh words and deeds” (Basis of Union para 11) and to be a “pilgrim people” (para 3), constantly on the way, and constantly looking to the Spirit for guidance and correction (paras 3 and 18).
The clear goal of those who charted the course for Church Union was that the Uniting Church should not be an amalgamation of three previous traditions but, drawing on the strengths of those traditions, that the Uniting Church would be a new Church, arising from a desire to better serve God’s Mission.
So innovation is part of the DNA of the Uniting Church and we are always open to exploring new ways to respond to God’s calling to live out reconciliation and renewal.
Sometimes this involves new and exciting activities and programs developed and run by an existing congregation. But another important part of this openness is the desire to enable new faith communities and congregations to be developed in ways which are directly relevant to the changing cultures within our society and shaped by the needs and desires of those who do not yet belong to any faith community.
These may look very different to the inherited traditions found in many established congregations, but they share in our fundamental desire to be people following Jesus and taking part in the Mission of God through our worship, witness and service.