Leadership in the Uniting Church Centre

While Rev David de Kock, General Secretary of the Uniting Church WA, takes leave, Rev Andrew Syme will serve in the role of Acting General Secretary. He shares with us his thoughts on this important role.

Rev Andrew Syme pictured standing outside the Uniting Church Centre in Perth, takes on the role the important role of Acting General Secretary.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce myself as I briefly take over the role of Acting General Secretary at the Uniting Church WA for a couple of months, while Rev David de Kock takes leave.

I have been a Minister of the Uniting Church since ordination in Sydney in 1990 and served all my ministry to this point in church schools.

My last two positions were as Headmaster of Scotch College and Principal of Caulfield Grammar School in Victoria. I currently serve the Uniting Church WA as the Executive Officer: Schools and Residential Colleges.

My wife Joan and I have been delighted to return to WA and we are members of All Saints Floreat Uniting Church.

I am excited about some of the work going on in the Uniting Church WA at the moment, with members of the Presbytery Standing Committee, Synod Standing Committee and the Uniting Church Centre collaborating on three large pieces of work for our collective futures.

This group of about 18 people are co-operating in preparing some project plans for the review of the current Strategic Plan (where we are going and how we are going to get there); a review of the values of the church (the values and behaviours we want to encourage within the church) and a delegated authority document which describes which parts of the church have the responsibility for certain decisions (and who needs to be consulted in making such decisions).

These are three very large pieces of work and are only designed to prepare the group to go out into the church for more fulsome conversations and dialogue.

The days of ‘top-down’ decision making no longer fits either our polity as a church, or frankly is appropriate for a contemporary organisation.

I stress in this post that the group who is overseeing the process is committed to a rich dialogue with church members, our agencies and our schools in planning our future together.

I have found in leading some schools that a significant part of the work of leaders is hidden from the members of the organisation or church.

I want you to be assured that the planning is underway in a meaningful way to develop and strengthen the Uniting Church WA for the future that God has for us. There are some very significant challenges for us to face as a church.

The term ‘existential crisis’ has been used recently in regard to the bushfires here in Australia.

We in the church face our own existential crisis as we seek God’s direction and renewal.

The reality of diminishing congregations and ministry placements threatens the very existence of the Uniting Church WA.

The contemporary world of social media and the ‘keyboard warrior’ can develop a culture where it is normative to criticise leaders and decisions with the easy laziness of a few keyboard strokes. However, the actual path of leadership is made for those who have a dual vision.

Leaders look for the hoped-for Kingdom of God in the future and yet are simultaneously attentive and receptive to the real concerns of the individual/s before us in the moment.

This ‘dual vision’ is a critical competency of leadership in the church.

Such was the life of Jesus who continues to inspire and guide.

I feel honoured to be working in the Uniting Church Centre.

It is a particular honour to have been invited by the Synod Standing Committee to take on this important responsibility as Acting General Secretary for this brief period, and I look forward to continuing to serve the church and the mission of God in WA.

Rev Andrew Syme
Acting General Secretary
Executive Officer: Schools and Residential Colleges

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