Lent-meant

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This year I feel very unprepared for Lent which is a season for preparation. I am still struggling to work out what to give up, surrender or deny. I am also wrestling with what Lent is meant to be. I think of sackcloth and ashes, six weeks without chocolate or television, abstinence, holiness and humility. All these themes are easily misunderstood and unpopular. Dr Johnathan Cornford stimulated my thinking when he wrote “At the heart of the Lenten journey is the challenge to confront the truth about ourselves and the world we live in”. For me that means through the practice of prayer, fasting and meditation on Scripture we become better able to face the depths of human fallen-ness and suffering. This is a great prelude to appreciating the joy and hope that Easter triumphantly announces.

I started to think how I need Lent. Living in a culture that is so saturated by materialism and consumerism, a culture that at times seems to worship at the altar of person gratification, the season of Lent is a challenging corrective. The Lenten readings like Joel 2, remind us of “the day of the Lord”, a day of judgement. God is not smiling on our greed and indifference to world poverty, climate change and massive suffering and inequality. The Greek word that is often translated ‘judgment’ is the Greek word Krisis, it is the same word from which we derive our English word ‘crisis’. Maybe Lent calls us to examine the crisis moments in our world and in our lives. Victims of war, refugees, homeless, hungry, the unemployed, the sick, the powerless, the haves and the have-nots. We cannot hope to change the world if we are blind to its many crisis points. For some people there is a crisis of belief or meaning or significance. Lent challenges us to look deeper and further than we might normally do. Lent also calls us to turn around and turn back. Again Joel the prophet speaks to us, “return to me with all your heart…return to the Lord”. How self-absorbed we can become. How full of myself and devoid of love.

May the season of Lent help me and we to break our isolation and draw closer and more lovingly to our world and each other and our awesome God.

Have a blessed Lent.

Rev Steve Francis
Moderator

Uniting Church WA Synod appoints new General Secretary

6 February 2016

Dear Members of Synod, Congregations, Schools and Agencies

Thank you for upholding the church in prayer in the lead-up to the Special Meeting of the Synod of Western Australia, Uniting Church in Australia as we gathered today, Saturday 6 February to discern God’s will for us.

I am delighted to announce that the Synod decided by at least a two-thirds majority to appoint Rev David de Kock as general secretary of the Synod of Western Australia.

David is currently in placement at Lighthouse Uniting Church in Geraldton, a member of General Council and the chair of the Pastoral Relations and Placements Commission (PR&PC). He also served at Merredin Uniting Church for five years.

General Secretary Elect, Rev David de Kock

General Secretary Elect, Rev David de Kock

David brings to the role a life of prayer, a love of people, a desire to ignite passion in others to use their gifts and skills, implementation of programs in planning, strategy and direction, and proven experience in keeping financial costs and budgets in balance.

David has been admitted as an ordained minister from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA). He holds a Bachelor of Theology and a Bachelor of Commerce, as well as a Master of Business Administration. Prior to entering ministry, David worked in senior leadership positions, including as Managing Director, of large companies.

David is married with three adult children and moved from South Africa eight years ago.

At the 39th Western Australian Synod meeting held in September last year, I gave a verbal report as the General Secretary Selection Committee convenor and advised that the search for the best person to fulfil the duties, functions and responsibilities for the role of general secretary would continue.

Since September 2015, the Committee again advertised the position nationally and conducted interviews.

Members of the General Secretary Nominating Committee: Rev Cathie Lambert; Margaret
Martin; Dr Alec O’Connell, Scotch College headmaster; Rebecca Cody, principal, MLC; Vaughan Harding, Juniper chief executive officer; Rev Dr Andrew Williams, General Secretary NSW/ACT, advisor; and in consultation with Rev Sealin Garlett, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, have worked diligently on this important appointment and I thank them for their significant contribution.

Since the conclusion of Kay Dowling as General Secretary on 1 July 2014, we have given thanks to God for the faithful people, lay and ordained, staff and volunteers, who have been generous with their gifts and skills, as they have faithfully served the church in their local community, as well as through Synod, Presbytery and Assembly.

In particular, Bob Seinor who prepared the extensive background work for General Council.

I also acknowledge the enormous contribution of those that have acted in the role of general
secretary over the last eighteen months: Rosemary Hudson Miller, Rev Dr Ian Tozer, Rev John Dunn
and Rev Rick Morrell. In particular, Rosemary Hudson Miller acted in the role throughout 2015, as
well as for numerous months in 2014. Rosemary has sacrificially given her time, gifts and skills
throughout.

There are many dimensions to the role of General Secretary as they walk alongside and share the
love, faith and hope of the wonderful people within the Uniting Church family: congregations
and faith communities; schools and colleges; agencies; boards, committees and commissions;
as well as our partner churches and other faiths.

We pray this appointment will bring renewed life, health and unity within the Uniting Church in
Australia, Synod of Western Australia. We ask for your prayerful and practical love and support of
David as he grows into the role of General Secretary.

Grace and peace

Rev Steve Francis
Moderator

Pastoral Letter from the Moderator regarding support for asylum-seeker families at risk of offshore detention

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This week the High Court ruled that the government can now choose to forcibly deport asylum-seeker families, including 37 babies and 54 children to offshore detention.

As Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of Western Australia, I have written to the Prime Minister requesting that he act urgently to protect the children who are at risk of being deported to Nauru.

We have a longstanding concern that asylum-seekers and refugees are treated with compassion and in accordance with international law, as can be seen by resolutions made by our Synod over many years. We are aware that there are several families in WA who might be at risk of removal to Nauru as a result of this judgement.

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, of which the Uniting Church is a member, has asked its members to be part of an offer of sanctuary for asylum-seeker families.

The Synod of Western Australia was approached by the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly, to nominate a local church that would be able to offer sanctuary to asylum-seeker families affected by the High Court decision. We have approached Wesley Uniting Church in the City, who over a long period of time, have supported and advocated for asylum-seekers and refugees. The Western Australian Synod is now working closely with Wesley Uniting Church in the City as a result of the Uniting Church in Australia’s request.

In a statement released by the Uniting Church in Australia, the President, Stuart McMillan called upon the Prime Minister: “Mr Turnbull, I appeal to your sense of compassion. Please step in and make the moral decision to protect these vulnerable people. Returning families and babies to Nauru and Manus may be legal, but it is not humane. To send people, especially children and Australian-born babies, back to the place that has caused them such harm would be an outrage against human dignity.”

Mr McMillan and Rev Elenie Poulos of UnitingJustice have encouraged Uniting Church members to contact their local Federal Members of Parliament to express their concerns.

I invite you all to assist wherever you can and I pray for courage and persistence for all of us, as we seek to faithfully discern and respond to God’s call to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8)

Yours in Christ,

Rev Steve Francis
Moderator
Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Western Australia

Nb – If your congregation would also like to nominate as a place of sanctuary, please contact our Justice & Mission Officer at geoffrey.bice@wa.uca.org.au

Let Them Stay says Moderator

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The Moderator of the Uniting Church of Western Australia Rev Steve Francis has today 03/02/2016  written to the Prime Minister requesting that he act urgently to protect the children in immigration detention who are at risk of being deported to Nauru.

The Moderator says:

“The Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Western Australia has grave concerns for the safety of children in the care of the Immigration Department, following the High Court decision today 03/02/2016.

“We have a long standing concern that asylum seekers and refugees are treated with compassion and in accordance with international law, as can be seen by resolutions made by our Synod over many years.  We are aware that there are two families in WA who might be at risk of removal to Nauru as a result of this judgement.

“We note that The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has today issued a press release which “affirms that today’s High Court decision does not alter Australia’s international obligations towards people seeking asylum. The AHRC goes on to say that “The High Court has confirmed that third country processing is lawful under our domestic legislation, but it did not judge whether it complies with international law,” said Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“Australia has obligations under international human rights law to protect the safety and wellbeing of all people under our jurisdiction, including people seeking asylum. These responsibilities remain whether or not third country processing is authorised by Australian law.”

We remain extremely distressed at the stories of harm coming to people –especially children –who have been sent to Nauru. We now ask you urgently to protect the children in Australia  and thus not to send them to Nauru.

 We remind you of the words of Professor Triggs “Australia has obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration…“We are also obliged

to protect children from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

We ask you to use your powers available to you at your discretion to let these children stay in Australia”.