The Uniting Church was formed in 1977 by a union of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Australia. The largest component of its initial membership was Methodist, as sections of the other two churches remained outside of the union.
As indicated by the deliberate choice of its name, the Uniting Church has a strong ecumenical ethos. It is an active participant in world church forums, including the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the World Methodist Council. It acts in partnership with 32 churches in Asia and the Pacific, and has long associations with Methodist and United churches in Papua New Guinea, India, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. In Australia it is in national dialogue with nine other churches, although none of those relationships are expected to result in further union in the near future.
The Uniting Church is the third largest church in Australia with approximately 2,000 congregations and 240,000 members and adherents. In common with other „mainstream‟ Australian churches it is faced with the challenge of diminishing numbers as secularism continues to grow.
Government of the church follows an inter-conciliar model. The national Assembly is headed by the church‟s president, elected to office for a period of three years. Six synods, corresponding largely to the states of Australia, are the largest administrative bodies; they are headed by moderators who are elected for terms of 1-3 years. The Presbyteries, or district bodies, only some of which have their own staff, are headed by elected chairpersons.
Among the main features of the church are: An increasing multi-culturalism, five percent of the membership worships in languages other than English; The “Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress” provides for Aboriginal Christians to exercise oversight with respect to ministry with Aboriginal people. The UCA has been in a covenant relationship with Congress since 1985. A vast community service operation, which makes it the largest non-government provider of services in Australia, constant action on social justice matters, including strong stances on Aboriginal rights, disarmament, human rights and economic justice; a growing effort to transform congregations into “outposts of local mission and evangelism” through a ten-year thrust under the banner of “Forward Together;” commitment to the theological scholarship, with a network of six theological colleges, most of which are associated with universities.
A permanent ordained diaconate, established in 1992, plus new ministry orders of community minister and youth worker are now contributing significantly to the church‟s mission.
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