well I'm back from our church's national assemby. no doubt some have been following the news in the press. the assembly website seems to have gone into meltdown, so there must be a fair bit of interest...
sexuality was the big issue on the agenda, but before I get to that....
great weather in Queensland (their minimum temp higher than our maximum some days), good to visit my old university, and great to catch up with many friends from around the country.
a host of significant matters were overshadowed by sexuality - the 21st anniversary of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and a committment to continue to work on covenanting, overseas visitors including church leaders from West Papua, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines, a statement about multi-culturalism. And a move to bring lay ministry roles under one umbrella with more accountability and ongoing training. I'm the bunny who gets to chair the working group which will work out the details!
departing president dean gave a great serve to the government on many issues.
the other highlight, so to speak, was a last night performance by "Bruce Mullan and the Pacemakers" at Grace College. thanks to Bruce, Foxy, Duncan, and Peter for taking part. Andrew's harmony vocals, sound effects and assorted impersonations made the evening very special. I'm hoping someone took photos.
as for sexuality and leadership...... the assembly had received a number of proposals - one set affirming 'traditional' beliefs and rejecting gay people in leadership, another set with an opposing view, so to speak, and several wanting to church to continue to live with a diversity of opinion and allow for local decision making.
we looked at these resolutions in working groups of about 8 people, and the strong preference was for the third option, for whatever reasons. so from there. as a whole assembly we focused on the latter path. there was a resolution to ask the whole assembly to take a determining vote on the matter, which was supported in the end by about 1/3 of members.
I have to say that I supported this. At the time I was of the opinion that it would actually help us as a church to have an indication of how this Assembly viewed the matter, and then work through the consequences. but the resolution wasnt passed, and to some extent this was complicated by (helpful) ongoing discussion about whether sexuality and leadership was a doctrinal issue or a polity issue.
at any rate, we got rather bogged down after that, as we made very slow progress trying to draft a statement (with 260 people), while some who clearly opposed this path seemed to use every opportunitiy to challenge it. while I certainly respect the differences of opinion, it did get extraordinarily tedious.
in the end, the statement of sexuality and leadership, which essentially doesnt change the position of the last Assembly, went to a formal vote (as we were unable to achieve consensus) and was supported by about 3/4 of those present.
although the statement is a bit of an amalgamation of quite a few proposals, it's a pretty good summary of where the assembly is 'at'.
there were quite a number of south australians among those who opposed it, which I think is an indication that we will continue to have struggles within the synod.
news about it all here. the official version of the statement is supposed to be released with a pastoral letter from the President before Sunday.
the postscript is that there was a two day gathering of the conservative "Reforming Alliance" following, and they've just issued a statement to say that they plan to form as "Assembly of Confessing Congregations", whatever that means. the UCA President has just issued a brief press release expressing some disappointment and asking them to come and meet with him.
that's a fairly objective report i hope. the whole debate was nowhere near the ugliness of some debates at earleir assemblies. there was a good spirit of graciousness in the struggle, but at the same time, frustration all round. it's very hard to work out what unity means around an issue like this.
I'm still processing it all in my own mind and gut, I'm not sure what it all means for the church. perhaps with a few days distance from it all I'll be able to make sense of it all.