Our journey as a multicultural church
Written by Assembly National Consultant, Rev Dr Apwee Ting
The Uniting Church statement, ‘A Church for all God's People’, is founded on the belief that all are created in God's image and that together we share a common unity. The basis for our unity is not colour, language, ethnicity or race, but that through Christ we are members of the one household of God (Ephesians 2:19).
Unity is a gift of the Spirit of God, not creating uniformity but calling people from different races, languages, and cultures to share space, faith, and life together.
This belief is lived out when people from different cultural groups can worship in different languages and minister in different ways, while at the same time seeking to collaborate and enrich one another.
Everyone belongs to the Body of Christ, all are united by the same faith in the Triune God, and we celebrate together the diverse gifts that have been given.
Assembly Theologian-in-Residence Rev Dr J Zhang writes of the Trinity as a theological model for understanding our call to be an intercultural church. “ Instead of polarising unity and diversity as two logical opposites, the Trinity contains the affirmation of both unity and diversity. Our Triune God is not a numerical singularity, but the oneness refers to the interrelated community of three Persons.”
“In the same way, the Uniting Church envisions a relational unity in which our diverse peoples are called to make the space of Grace for each other in the Body of Christ and further seek mutual indwelling in the Spirit’s abundant and creative life.” Read the paper in full.
The ongoing journey of the Uniting Church towards becoming a genuinely multicultural community has had some key markers along the way.
At the Fourth Assembly in 1985 the Uniting Church declared, We are a Multicultural Church. This resolution placed the diverse, multicultural nature of the Church at the heart of its identity.
At that time the Assembly also used the term ‘intercultural’ and committed to undertake further work on how all cultures can participate in our worship, communication, polity, decision-making processes, and models of ministry
At the 11th Assembly in 2006, three further resolutions renewed this commitment to reshape our practice:
The 13th Assembly in 2012 adopted 'One Body, Many Members - living faith and life cross-culturally’, calling upon the Church in all its settings to live out the commitment made in 1985.
The 14th Assembly in 2015 received the report, 'Space for Grace - living in the ‘grace margin’ in respectful, empowering and inclusive decision-making', a resource for respectful conversations which embrace our full cultural diversity.
Though there is still work to be done, the Uniting Church rejoices in its racial, cultural and linguistic diversity as a gift of God's grace, calling on all members and councils of the church to become more fully intercultural, living our faith and life across cultures.
The Assembly uses the following definitions:
A multicultural/intercultural church – both these terms can be used to define a church that:
- accepts, supports and celebrates more than one cultural group
- intentionally encourages all cultural groups to engage in inter/cross cultural relationships that respect and celebrate each culture, and
- shares leadership, mission and ministry between the different cultural groups
A monocultural church is a church where one particular culture becomes the norm or dominant power in decision making.
A cross cultural church is a church that intentionally invites, engages with, and embraces other culture(s).
A bi-cultural church is a church where two cultural groups intentionally share cross culturally in leadership, mission and ministry.