After more than a year in preparation, the Synod endorsed the Strategic Plan 2017-2020 last weekend. Plans however need to be put into practice, so where do we go from here?
It is however, first worth taking another look at the core principles of the Strategic Plan. Our vision is to be a Christian community for everyone by uniting in God’s mission to the world; growing communities of Christ-followers; and being grounded in our worship of God, our witness to God’s grace and our service to others.
That sentence states both our vision and our purpose and these are intricately interconnected. It also reflects, in a practical sense, how we, as the Uniting Church Western Australia can carry out both Jesus’ Great Commission (To go out into the world to make disciples) and the Great Commandment (To love both God and our neighbour).
The Uniting Church is, in my view, quite distinct in its approach to community.
Our core value is inclusivity – deep at the heart of who we are, is the call to a ministry of reconciliation. We are inclusive, we open our doors, we should not discriminate. This too, is at the heart of the gospel. God came among us in Christ, to bring together both Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female – for we are all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28)
Sadly though, the church through the ages has discriminated on various issues of law and Biblical interpretation – are you baptised RIGHT? Do you RIGHTLY interpret Scripture? Do you RIGHTLY honour the Sabbath? The Communion Table? The Second Coming? Leadership in the church? Many of these things are legal interpretations and lead us into the realm of Law. But this is not the Gospel.
The Gospel is open. Yes, there are boundaries but these are not exclusions, simply ways to understand the infinite extent of God’s love.
As the Uniting Church we live in the tension of these things. We seek to understand the Gospel within the tension which exists in the supreme call of Christ and the selfishness of our human frailty. This is our ethos – we don’t always do it well, but our heart is right. Sometimes we become critics ourselves – we stand in judgement of others, but this is not our default position.
Instead, we are “A Christian Community for Everyone” and our desire is to join with God in the mission to reach the world with good news of God’s reconciling action in Christ. We are working WITH GOD to make disciples who are grounded in worship of God, in witness to God’s grace revealed in Christ and service to others for the glory of God.
The development of the Strategic Plan sought to incorporate all these things.
In God’s eyes, this is not an impossible tension. Indeed, it is the way God intended the church to be.
- We will seek to build community!
- We will seek to join with God in the mission to the world!
- We will seek to grow communities of Christ-Followers!
- We will worship God as our first priority!
- We will witness to God’s grace revealed in Christ Jesus!
- We will serve others for the glory of God!
So how does this happen right NOW, in our present context?
We begin by understanding that God, in Christ, has given to all people in the church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal, which is the end view for the whole creation. The church’s call is to serve that end so that, by the Spirit, people may trust God as their Father and acknowledge Jesus as Lord (Basis of Union, Para3).
Beyond this however, is the world which lives apart from God. For many within Western culture today, religion has no place and the number of those seeking to live faith-based lives is in decline. Church is seen as outmoded and out of date, and for some, even a source of hurt and pain.
And yet, Christ’s call to us is unchanged. We may have misinterpreted it, but the call is still there; to share faith, build lives and to care for each other, for others and for creation. This is strong in Africa, Asia and South America, and growing. In our own context we see this in the immigrant communities of our multicultural congregations.
When our worship of God, our witness to God’s grace and our service to others is at the forefront of our lives, we will indeed become a Christian Community for Everyone.
NEXT WEEK: More on Collaborating Communities as the essence of the Strategic Plan 2017-2020.
Rev David de Kock