About the Uniting Church in Australia
The Uniting Church is the third largest Christian denomination in Australia and the first church to be created in and of Australia. On any Sunday more than 2,500 congregations worship at a Uniting Church including many congregations that worship in languages other than English. Our churches can be found deep in the heart of our cities, or in our most isolated and outback towns. Many congregations have existed for years while others are new and worship in different ways. Even though our congregations can be vastly different, each is a community in which people seek to follow Jesus, learn about God, share their faith, care for each other, serve the local community and seek to live faithfully and with real joy. This is the kind of engaging church that we are. If you would like to attend a Uniting Church service you will find a church here
The Uniting Church’s beliefs are drawn from the Bible and from the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. The Church also heeds the Reformation Witness in the Scots Confession of Faith (1647), the Savoy Declaration (1658), and the preaching of John Wesley in his Forty Four Sermons (1793). It affirms the place of ongoing theological, literary, historical and scientific study. The UCA’s Basis of Union(1971) brings together aspects of these writings and traditions and sets out the church’s way of living and being.
The Uniting Church confidently believes that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God brings us into right relationship with God, whereby in faith we can:
- live in a close, loving, personal, dynamic relationship with the living God;
- participate in the worshipping, caring and serving community of Christians;
- receive God’s gifts so that life can be what God means it to be – loving, purposeful, joyful, eternal; and
- tell others of this good news and live it out in acts of compassion, service and justice in the community.
The Uniting Church came into being on 22 June 1977, after three denominations – Congregational Union in Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia, and the Presbyterian Church of Australia – joined together.
In uniting, the members of those bodies testified to “that unity which is both Christ’s gift and will for the Church” (Basis of Union, para. 1).
Ecumenism remains a vital aspect in all of the Church’s life and work – in local congregations, national commitments to work together with other churches, and relationships and partnerships with churches of various denominations in Asia and the Pacific.
As a people journeying together we affirm our calling under God:
- to preach Christ the crucified and risen one and confess him as Lord;
- to bear witness to the unity of faith and life in Christ, rising above cultural, economic, national and racial boundaries;
- to engage in fearless prophetic ministry in relation to social evils which deny God’s active will for justice and peace;
- to act with God alongside the oppressed, the hurt and the poor;
- to accept responsibility for the wise use and conservation of the finite resources of this earth for the benefit of all;
- to recognise, treasure and use the gifts of the Spirit given to all God’s people for ministering; and
- to live a creative, adventurous life of faith, characterised by openness, flexibility, hope and joy (based on a statement from the inaugural worship service of the Uniting Church in Australia, June 1977).
OUR FAITH IN ACTION
The Uniting Church’s commitment to love of God and neighbour has sometimes drawn it into controversial situations. It has long taken a role in the political arena, encouraging moral, social and ethical integrity. The Uniting Church has been at the forefront of Aboriginal rights issues including the Native Title debate and reconciliation. It has taken a stand on environmental issues and supports the equality and dignity of marginalised people such as ethnic minorities, disabled people and homosexual people. It is a multicultural church, striving to treat people on an equal basis, and seeking to give a voice to the poor, outcast and needy.
However only some of the Uniting Church’s discipling is viewed in public. Much of its role is to stand alongside the individual, inside and outside the church. Its congregations nurture spiritual, social and educational growth. Lay people are encouraged in leadership roles, including preaching of the Word and leading of congregational worship.
OUR JUSTICE AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
Our social justice advocacy work and community welfare services express our belief that God is committed to life now. It is our response to the Bible’s call to care for and protect the marginalised and vulnerable. Issues addressed include the environment, the rights and dignity of asylum seekers, the treatment and care of prisoners, inadequate gambling legislation, religious intolerance, multi- and cross-cultural issues, fair employment practices and much more.
The UCA is also the largest non-government provider of community services in Australia. We achieve this through our community services arm, UnitingCare. This is an umbrella of more than 400 agencies, institutions, and parish missions throughout Australia. Areas of service include aged care, children, youth and family, disability, employment, emergency relief, drug and alcohol, youth homelessness and suicide.
A key component of our justice work is the UCA’s efforts to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians together and to support the Indigenous community generally. Reconciliation, land rights and Indigenous leadership training are just some of the activities in which we are engaged.
We do this primarily through the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). Established in 1985 as the Indigenous arm of the UCA, the UAICC is dedicated to seeking the spiritual, physical, social, mental and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.
The Uniting Church recognises the pain and damage caused to our country’s native people through settlement and beyond. In 1997, recognising its past mistakes, the Uniting Church made a formal apology to the Stolen Generation. We participate each year in National Sorry Day. For more information on justice and community services in the Uniting Church visit the UnitingJustice website or the UnitingCare Australia website.
Another clear focus of the UCA is its vast work and presence in remote and outback Australia. This is particularly true of Frontier Services Patrol Ministers and our rural congregations. Frontier Services provides community recovery and support and pastoral ministries that have ministered to people in some of the most isolated parts of the country since the early 1900s.
INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS – UNITINGWORLD
With the understanding that God loves all people equally and works in and through all God’s people, the Uniting Church’s approach to world mission centres on partnerships that are mutually transforming. Our International Partnerships agency is called UnitingWorld, connecting people and church communities to partner in God’s mission. UnitingWorld’s vision is to see transformed communities where people honour God, experiencing hope and well being as they live free of poverty and injustice.
UnitingWorld works through two distinct units with partner churches here in Australia and throughout the Pacific, Asia and Africa. Relief and Development projects include health, education, livelihood development and partnering women for change. Church Connection work includes Christian Leadership development, theological training and ministry with people on the margins. UnitingWorld also equips the local church in Australia to connect with international partners, providing resources for congregations to reflect, connect and act during Lent (Lent Event), encouraging people to spend time in Asia, Africa or the Pacific through InSolidarity visits and offering skills at the request of partners through an Experience Volunteering program.
In the spirit of uniting we:
- are committed to dialogue and cooperation with other churches and to participation in state and national ecumenical bodies and international bodies such as the World Council of Churches;
- are willing to explore the implications of being in a community with people of many faiths and what this means for the way we express and share our faith;
- accept women and men as equals in ministry, including ordained ministries, and encourage women in leadership;
- embrace diversity and are open to discuss controversial issues and what it means to be inclusive of all people and to respect differences; and
- involve all people in oversight and governance, seeking to make decisions together rather than being hierarchical.
The Uniting Church constantly seeks to affirm its biblical and theological understanding that “Christians in Australia are called to bear witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and racial boundaries” (Basis of Union, para. 2).
The Uniting Church is organised not by a hierarchy, but by groups of women and men, lay and ordained, consulting together, usually making decisions by consensus, in each area of the church’s life.
The church is committed to being a series of inter-related councils — local churches, regional presbyteries, state synods, and the national Assembly. Each council has its distinct tasks, and each council recognises the limits of its responsibilities in relation to other councils. Hierarchy occurs when a group decides it knows what is best and has the power to impress that decision on others. The Uniting Church is committed to a more shared process … and realises the need to keep working at it.
Uniting Church congregations throughout the country are caring communities to which all people can belong. There are around 2,500 congregations with 243,000 members and adherents. A congregation may have hundreds of members or be a tiny community of a dozen people. They can be found deep in the heart of our cities, or in our most isolated and outback towns.
Congregations have many faces. There are older people and young, families and single people, people of one culture or many. At least forty different languages are used in worship in the Uniting Church each week.
There are congregations that have existed for many years and new and very different ones – café style churches, groups that find it better to worship on Wednesdays than Sundays, or who minister across a region rather than a local area.
While our congregations can be vastly different, each aims to embrace all people and unite them with each other and with God. This is expressed in part in our having an open table for Holy Communion to which all baptised people are invited, welcoming children for baptism and being willing to marry those who are divorced.
Our congregations are communities in which people seek to follow Jesus, learn about God, share their faith, care for each other, serve the local community and seek to live faithfully and with real joy. This is the kind of engaging church to which we belong.
A presbytery is a council of the Uniting Church which has oversight of congregations, ministry and programs within a region. The Uniting Church in Australia’s presbyteries have responsibility for oversight of the church’s life and work in their region, especially for the settlement of ministers; establishment, amalgamation and disbanding of congregations; mission strategy; and support of congregational life.
A presbytery is the council to which ministers of the word and deacons are responsible. It has the duty of caring for them and ensuring their work is carried out faithfully. Presbytery meetings include ordained ministers, lay pastors and elected lay persons from every congregation.
A synod is the state council of the Uniting Church. The word ‘synod’ also describes the annual meeting of representatives of the state-wide Uniting Church.
Six synods of the Uniting Church in Australia are responsible for overall support and resourcing of the church in their area — especially in community services, mission planning, theological education and other educational services, administration relating to ministers and to property, financial services. The elected head of each synod is the Moderator, and a General Secretary is usually appointed as the chief executive officer.