Issues in the Uniting Church in Australia


My contribution to debates on the ordained ministry and constitutional questions has centred on the role of the Basis of Union as the foundation for a commitment to catholicity.

The controversy concerning homosexual partnerships and ministry, in which I was involved some years ago, is an issue that I have hoped we could leave aside, at least for the time being, because I think it has been given more prominence than it ought to have from a doctrinal and pastoral point of view; and I decided in 2002 to give less attention to it in public discussion and on this web site. In retirement I wish to leave such questions of future church policy to younger men and women.

At the same time, I believe there has been a failure of leadership, for which I must take some responsibiltiy together with those in official positions with whom I have contended, in which the mission of the church has been seriously damaged as minority social and political interests have taken prioity over the substance of the faith.


The Commitment to Catholicity in the Basis of Union

One of the issues which has been a subject of national debate in the Uniting Church in Australia in recent years is the role and status of the Basis of Union under which the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches agreed to unite in 1977. Controversy arose especially in the light of Constitutional changes made at the 1991 Assembly concerning ministry and ordination which many saw to be inconsistent with the Basis and a departure from the commitment to remain within the holy catholic church. Some errors were corrected at the 1994 Assembly and a reference to the Basis was incorporated into the Constitution at the Assembly in 1997, but the role of the Basis in the life of the Church continues to be a matter of debate. The linked document refers to papers which are some of the contributions I have made in these discussions, with a 2001 addition on the kind of diversity that is compatible with the Basis of Union in the light of the Constitutional changes.

Foundations for a Theology of Community Service

A paper which contributed to the development of Synod policy recombining word and deed in the social services of the Uniting Church with more than 300 agencies in Victoria. It takes up in a different way some of the issues of witness and effective service within a dominant culture that is often more hostile than is acknowledged, and where the distinctiveness of what the church offers to society needs to reconsidered.

Vocation and Alternative Employment for Ministers

I spent many years in alternative forms of employment while an ordained minister. Research was conducted and reports prepared for official bodies over a period of more than thirty years on the ministerial vocation and various forms of employment, oversight and pastoral care of ministers who were engaged in ministry beyond the normal parish structures. A linked report to the Synod of Victoria in 1996 summarized the many efforts made to introduce new structures and made recommendations which were adopted by Synod that year and introduced to the Regulations following Assembly 1997.

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Last Updated 7 May 2015 by David Beswick