26/10: Pastoral letter regarding Synod 2003 from Moderator Rev Dr Graham Humphris

Dear Friends

Over the last five days it has been very evident that Synod 2003 has been covered in prayer. We have really appreciated the prayers of thousands of people across our state and nation.

The 400 or so of us who gathered made a number of significant decisions for the mission of our church. These included faith sharing initiatives, missional use of property and the involvement of young people in the church. Further information on these and many other decisions is on the Synod Website and will be in the November New Times.

We also made several important decisions on Membership, Ministry and Sexuality. These are referred to in the unconfirmed minutes attached to this letter. As we discerned the will of God together, I am pleased to report our conversations were filled with grace and respect. It was clear we all shared a deep concern for one another and a strong desire for our church to be effective in mission.

Throughout the Synod meeting we were constantly reminded of the theme, "Go and make disciples". I am excited about the adventure ahead for our church as we together seek to fulfil Jesus’ command.

Once again, thank you for your prayerful support.

Please continue to pray.

Rev Dr Graham Humphris, 23 October, 2003


It was agreed that the Synod:

1. Acknowledge the high level of anguish and distress experienced and expressed by Ministers and people within the Uniting Church as they have grappled with the issues and outcomes arising from Assembly Resolution 84. This high level of anguish has been exacerbated by:

a. a lack of information about the proposals prior to Assembly;
b. the proposals not being referred to Congregations and Presbyteries;
c. the implications of the proposals not being adequately conveyed to members of the Church;
d. what seems to some people to be a denial by the Assembly of the ongoing anguish and concern within the Church.

2. Recognise that among the members of this Synod and the Church there are:

a. some who believe that the anguish can only be ended with a statement that opposes the ordination of people in same gender relationships;
b. some who feel that Resolution 84 was a proper expression of the Uniting Church’s position on leadership and sexuality;
c. some who struggle with the issue and believe we must try to live together in ministry and mission without trying to make further doctrinal statements at this time;
d. some who struggle to remain within the Uniting Church.

3. Acknowledge ongoing concern within the Church about:

a. the lack of information and the spread of misinformation leading up to and arising from the Assembly decision;
b. unhelpful and ungracious comments by some people;
c. some people feeling alienated from and within the Uniting Church;
d. the way this issue has distracted the Church from its mission.

4. Request the Council of Synod to consider how the Synod might financially support Congregations of the Uniting Church which are impacted financially because of Resolution 84, and to do this on a case by case basis as identified by Presbyteries.

5. Request the Council of Synod to provide pastoral support for Ministers, leaders and members as it deems appropriate.

6. Recognising that for some there is conflict between the integrity of their convictions and the requirements of the Code of Ethics, 3.1 Relationships with Colleagues, which requires that they ‘respect the call and placements of other Ministers’,

a. call upon all Ministers to conduct themselves in a way that expresses Christian community and commitment to rational debate based on evidence and argument, not personal attacks and mere assertion of opinion. (Code of Ethics 3.3(c)).
b. also ask Congregations to conduct themselves in ways that reflect the Code of Ethics for Ministers.
c. ask the Assembly Standing Committee for clarification on the obligation of Ministers in such conflict.

7. In light of:

a. the unforseen response to and significant fallout from Assembly Resolution 84;
b. a pastoral concern for the whole Church;
c. the need to encourage the Church to focus on God’s mission;
d. a desire to maintain the unity of the Church;

strongly urge the Assembly Standing Committee to refer Resolution 84 to other Councils of the Church to determine their responses.

8. Suggest that Congregations, Faith Communities and Presbyteries be the Councils from which the Assembly Standing Committee seeks responses - such responses to be provided by the last meeting of the Assembly Standing Committee in 2004.

9. Encourage and facilitate the use of appropriate educational resources for Ministers, Members, Congregations and Presbyteries regarding sexual ethics and UC polity.


a. Request the Council of Synod to engage in conversation with Congregations and Presbyteries who are deeply concerned about issues surrounding Resolution 84, to explore ways forward for them to remain within the Uniting Church. Such exploration to include the possibility of a non-geographic Presbytery or some similar structure.
b. Request the Council of Synod to report the outcome of these conversations to the next Synod.


It was agreed that the Synod include the whole text of the statement made by UAICC (SA) Regional Committee in the minutes as follows:

"We, the members of UAICC (SA) Regional Committee assert that, as we understand the gospel and our cultural beliefs, we cannot accept same sex relationships in leadership positions in the Uniting Church.

We, the members of the UAICC (SA) Regional Committee reaffirm the statements made by Congress at the National Assembly held in July, 2003.

We have a deep concern that the wider church respect our decision, cultural integrity and who we are, and we do not wish to be drawn in or used in further debate on this issue.

We draw attention to the Basis of Union in paragraph two, that the Uniting Church

"...believes 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. ...recognising that there are many who have different cultural, economic and racial identities.... It also accepts the particular challenge to witness with Aboriginal people who have been dispossessed by our occupation and disadvantaged by our policies and activities as a nation" [and as a church].

We are saddened that the Uniting Church is willing to put at risk the covenantal relationship with UAICC (SA)."

Source: http://www.sa.uca.org.au/pages/events/synod2003_pastoral/ Close window