Assembly Circles of Interest WELCOME PACK
Welcome to the Seeking Common Ground Circle.
I’m delighted you have taken this step to join us in the national work of the Uniting Church.
Our seven Circles of Interest are an opportunity to be informed, contribute and connect with others who are as passionate as you in this area of mission and ministry.
As a member of this Circle, you will be connected to the Circle via our emailed newsletter and you will have the opportunity to connect with other Circle members on social media.
The Circles thrive on the input, experiences and openness of their members, so I encourage you to jump in and get involved. Share your stories. Share what you have been reading or watching. Share your own experiences and ideas. Tell us what’s important in this space. Make connections with others.
Our experience is that the Circles have a life beyond themselves.
The learning and wisdom gained in the circles help to guide the Assembly, particularly for the work of the Assembly Resourcing Unit. Further, the energy and insights emerging from the circle flow into the wider life of the Church. There are also many opportunities for sharing between our Circles and for collaboration to take place.
Please read through the information in this Welcome Pack as a guide of what to expect.
We look forward to your participation in the Circle. Together, as we listen to where God is calling us, may we be a sign of the abundant grace and liberating hope we find in Christ.
Associate General Secretary
Assembly Resourcing Unit
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 – One Body, Many Members
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. … Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
Matthew 5:14-15 — Lamp on a Stand
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Matthew 14: 16-20 – Loaves and Fishes
Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was leftover of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
Among many Bible passages the three above remind us:
- Of the diversity and importance of all members of the body of Christ working and sharing together.
- When we share what might seem to be small, a lamp or a few loaves and fish, the light is spread and many can be fed.
These are just some of the images that inspire us to work together across the Church in Circles of Interest.
Connect with others in the Circle by joining the Facebook Group Seeking Common Ground - Uniting Church in Australia. Go to the page https://www.facebook.com/groups/seekingcommonground/ and click Join Group.
You must agree to the group rules before the administrator will add you to the circle. Through this group you’ll be able to connect with other members of the church who are passionate about Seeking Common Ground.
Seeking Common Ground
As a “Uniting” Church, the UCA has since its inception had ecumenism in its DNA. Furthermore, our view of God’s mission in the reconciliation of all people and the whole creation has motivated the Church to develop a significant and intentional ministry in interfaith relationships. In recent years, the UCA has also begun exploring the importance of engaging in partnership around the Common Good with the growing numbers of Australians who do not identify with any institutional faith.
The Seeking Common Ground Circle will bring together the work of the Assembly around these three areas of engagement, as we struggle with the question of what it means to witness to the God who was in Christ in the context of a culturally and religiously diverse nation.
The Seeking Common Ground Circle will be concerned with the following ministry and mission areas:
- Recognition of our common humanity and our commitment to work with those of goodwill toward the common good
- Exploration of the ways in which the Church can fruitfully engage with the search for spirituality and meaning of people who do not claim any institutional faith
- Development of alliances with faith and non–faith groups committed to the work of peace-making and justice–making and the maintenance of civil society
- Ecumenism including dialogues and relationships with other Christian denominations within and beyond Australia, including Uniting Church Partner Churches
- Theological reflection on the nature and purpose of ecumenical engagement
- Engagement with ecumenical councils nationally and internationally
- Theological reflection on inter-faith dialogue and relationships
- Positive relationships with other faiths including maintaining relationships, resources and opportunities for engagement
- Awareness of the presence of other faiths in the community, their particular needs and place in Australian society
One of the primary ways in which the National Church engages in its areas of responsibility, is through the support of, hosting of and/or organisation of National Events, often in collaboration with Synods, Agencies or other groups within the Church. In the case of this circle, events might include participation in ecumenical gatherings including World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches, World Methodist Council, Christian Conference of Asia, Pacific Conference of Churches, National Council of Churches in Australia; events focused on overseas partner Churches; opportunities to visit different faith communities and their worship centres, sharing hospitality including Iftar Dinners.
Members of the Seeking Common Ground Circle will:
Participate in Sharing – we want you to share with us
- Stories, photos and videos of local events or projects
- Experiences or knowledge of specific situations back to the Circle
- Feedback from events or training back to the Circle
- By the wider distribution of UCA activities, statements and resources to your networks
Provide Input – we want to hear from you
- By being invited to give feedback concerning the Church’s work on specific issues
- By suggesting new areas of work to be undertaken
- By being given the opportunity to input to the development of policies, resources or interfaith, ecumenical or civil society events
Be Informed – we want you to be well informed and a thought leader in our Church
- About UCA policies and statements and official dialogues with ecumenical, interfaith and civil society partners and allies
- About the latest thinking in the areas of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue
- About the theological underpinnings for the UCA commitment to ecumenism
- About the UCA’s theology of interfaith engagement and the practical guidelines which follow
- About the theological thinking which undergirds our care for all humanity and commitment to work together with people of goodwill for the common good
- By occasional expert input
- About upcoming opportunities for events, training or learning
Be Resourced – we want you to have access to the best resources
- With opportunities to participate in ecumenical or interfaith events, locally and nationally
- With invitations to join in events which celebrate common humanity, spiritual searching or common cause
- By receiving tools and resources for ecumenical or interfaith engagement
- To establish local groups or events for ecumenical or interfaith engagement
- To join civil society organisations or movements sharing common values or goals with the UCA
Be Collaborative – we want you to connect to other people
- By connecting to other Circles, Councils, Agencies, Congregations, Faith Communities or groups within the Church, on issues of shared concern, especially the Working for Justice and the Being a Multicultural Church Circles.
- By connecting with appropriate external groups in the field of ministry
- By encouraging and enabling groups of interested people within the Circle to work together on developing and implementing projects or events
Hopefully, like us, this gets you excited!
But first – a few words about values, respect and ethics.
Who we are as the Uniting Church in Australia
The Assembly Circles of Interest are an open place for people to enter into the national work of the Uniting Church. The Circles are not be heavily moderated or controlled for content – we want people to feel welcome and able to contribute from across the diversity of our Church.
However, we ask that in participating in these Circles you keep in mind who we are as the Uniting Church, our core values and how we live and work together.
For our Assembly Circles of Interest, the values that will impact on our sharing must include:
- Our ministry is built on the Lord Jesus Christ and Jesus is head over all things
- Our church is in Covenant with the First Peoples of Australia
- We have high regard for scholarship of the Bible and we continue to be open to learning from contemporary thought (Basis of Union, par 11),
- We are committed to the equality and mutuality of women and men
- We value the ministry of all the people of God
- We are an inclusive church where those of differing ability, age, gender, race and sexuality are welcomed
- We are a multicultural church, which rejoices in the diversity of cultures and languages
- We seek to be a safe Church where all people are cared for, nurtured and sustained
- We are committed to working ecumenically with other Christian denominations
- We work in partnership with churches across the world
- We seek strong positive relationships with people of other faiths
- We are committed to advocating for justice for all
- Our church honours the environment and supports a sustainable lifestyle
Values shared in the Seeking Common Ground Circle
In addition to the values above, particularly in this Circle, we ask that you uphold the following values.
- In our relationships with other faiths, we do not seek to change the other but to understand one another and appreciate our differences
- In our relationships with people of no faith, we seek to recognise our common humanity, shared values and the search for meaning
- In our relationships with other Christians and Churches we seek to be strengthened by the fellowship of the Christian Church.
Our Social Media Policy:
In order to uphold these values, the way we interact within our Circles must adhere to the Assembly Social Media Policy.
The Assembly Social Media Policy is available here.
Code of Conduct:
Additionally, we ask that all participants in our Circles of Interest agree to abide by our Code of Conduct.
Assembly Circles of Interest Code of Conduct
- UNDERSTAND WHY I AM HERE As a Member of the Assembly Circles of Interest, I understand I am participating in a national conversation of the Uniting Church in Australia in a specific area of mission and ministry. The intention is to share and learn together.
- STAY FOCUSED As a group member I will share and contribute to the conversation in ways that are relevant and meaningful to this area of work.
- APPLY ETHICS AND CONFIDENTIALITY I will apply the same values, ethics and confidentiality to Circle discussions as I would in other parts of my life and ministry. I will respect confidentiality of information shared when asked to do so.
- HONOUR DIVERSITY My contributions will be respectful of the diversity of cultures, languages, theological understandings and opinions across the UCA.
- BE POSITIVE I will contribute in a positive, constructive and open way and be respectful in the language and opinions I share. I will not vilify, threaten, intimidate, abuse, slander, defame or personally attack another person or their opinions.
- BE HONEST I will be honest about whether I am sharing my own work or quoting someone else. I will not share anything false or misleading. I will be careful about personal information that I share and not use information shared against someone else.
- NO SPAM OR INNAPPROPRIATE MATERIAL I will not post content that is inappropriate, explicit or spam. I will only promote products or services which are relevant to the Circle, for example events, books, resources, and will acknowledge any personal financial interest.
- SPEAK ON MY OWN BEHALF I will speak only on my own behalf, not for the Uniting Church in Australia or others, or assume other contributions are on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia unless identified this way.
- BE ENCOURAGED AND INSPIRED IN MY MINISTRY Be encouraged to take ideas, resources and inspiration from your conversations in this Circle into other parts of your life and ministry.
- SHARE IN THE MODERATION OF THE GROUP I will take responsibility to help enable conversations I am part of to honour these rules and their spirit. I will report any posts which are clearly against these rules to a Group Admin.
The Work of our Circles of Interest fits within the wider strategy of the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Read the full Assembly Strategic Plan.
Advocates and Panel Members
Each of the Circles is supported by an Advocate and a Panel. The Advocate for the Seeking Common Ground Circle is Rev. Dr Amelia Koh Butler. Get to know the Advocate and Panel members here
The Assembly Resourcing Unit
At an Assembly Level, the staff of the Assembly Resourcing Unit will be a primary point of contact for your participation in the circles.
The team is made up of:
Rob Floyd | Associate General Secretary
Rev Lindsay Cullen | National Consultant
Rev Charissa Suli | National Consultant
Rev Dr Apwee Ting | National Consultant
Rev Dr Ji Zhang | Assembly Theologian in Residence
Stuart McMillan | Assembly Consultant Covenanting
Rebecca Beisler | Communications and Resources Officer
Anna Catliffe | Executive Administrative Assistant
Our main points of contact will be:
Phone: (02) 8026 9724
Additional Resources for Your Participation
As you enter into the national work of the Church, we encourage you to read and become familiar with some of the foundational documents of the Uniting Church.
Basis of Union
The Basis of Union set the platform for how the Uniting Church came together in 1977. It states the central affirmations of the Christian faith and is a guide to what is central in the life of the Uniting Church.
In 1994 the Uniting Church in Australia entered into a Covenant with its brothers and sisters in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). The Uniting Church’s 7th President Dr Jill Tabart formalised the relationship by reading the statement to UAICC Chairperson Pastor Bill Hollingsworth who responded on behalf of the Congress.
A statement adopted by the 4th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia July 1985 acknowledging the many races, cultures and languages that make up the Uniting Church.
Living with the Neighbour who is Different
This theological resource adopted by the 9th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia in 2000 offers a number of theological affirmations as primary values and guiding principles for the Uniting Church's relationship with people of other faiths.
Friendship in the Presence of Difference
Commended by the 13th Assembly of the Uniting Church in 2013, this paper and Study Guide encourages UCA members and congregations to continue in the work of developing neighbourly relations with people within our multi-cultural society who are shaped by other faiths.