The Uniting Church began in 1977 with the union of three denominations – Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian. In the 2016 census, more than 870,000 people identified with the Uniting Church, while in 2011, approximately 100,000 people attended a Uniting Church congregation in a given week. The Basis of Union sets out the Church’s beliefs, way of living and being.
The Uniting Church is committed to relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and acknowledges the sovereignty of the First Peoples of Australia. First and Second Peoples walk together, seeking to build a church and nation of justice and reconciliation.
The Uniting Church has a history of commitment to those in need and those who have been marginalised, standing alongside them in day-to-day ministry as well as through advocacy in the political arena.
Engagement with ecology
The Uniting Church has an ecological commitment, both because social justice and ecological integrity are linked, and because the Creation has intrinsic value. The Church believes that God, as the Creator of the universe, calls humanity into a relationship of mutuality and interdependence with the Creation. God’s will for the Earth is renewal and reconciliation, not destruction by human beings.
The Church is particularly concerned about human-induced climate change. Climate change is a serious threat to the integrity of life on Earth, now and for future generations. The Church is especially engaged in supporting vulnerable neighbours in the Pacific.
Interlinked crises (including climate change, militarism, the energy crisis, the food crisis, and the global financial crisis) confront human and ecological wellbeing, and are deeply rooted in our social, political, and economic systems. In all the ways that we live and interact in this world, we are called to participate in a vision of flourishing, abundant life, of peace and reconciliation, justice and transformation, love and inclusion for all creation.
The Uniting Church’s ecological engagement is considerable, for example, through statements and resolutions, production of worship materials and resources, activities of congregations, ecumenical involvement, and advocacy by its members and staff.
In recent years, the national body of the Uniting Church (Assembly) and each state Synod have divested from fossil fuel extraction and called upon church members to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and to advocate for government to implement policies to reduce Australia’s dependence on fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy. The Church is an active supporter of the climate strikes.
“God in Christ [seeks]... that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. The Church's call is to serve that end.” (Basis of Union)
“We affirm our belief that the natural world is God's creation; good in God's eyes, good in itself, and good in sustaining human life. Recognising the vulnerability of the life and resources of creation, we will work to promote the responsible management, use and occupation of the earth by human societies. We will seek to identify and challenge all structures and attitudes which perpetuate and compound the destruction of creation.” (Statement to the Nation)
“We support the attribution of rights not only to humans but also to nature, God's creation, and we reject the view that animate and inanimate nature are mere objects which stand at the arbitrary disposal of the human.” (The Rights of Nature and the Rights of Future Generations)
“The First Peoples had already encountered the Creator God before the arrival of the colonisers; the Spirit was already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony.” (Preamble to the Constitution)
Text Provided by Dr Miriam Pepper from FEN
Image sourced from an article in the South Sydney Herald
Personal video reflection
Full version (40 mins)
Abridged version (18 mins)
square parenthesis indicate a direct link to the video tracks for the [full | abridged] versions.
Opening Scripture (full version only)
Miriam reflects on Ecclesiastes 3:16-22
The Basis of Union
Jess reflects on the Uniting Church's founding document, and its vision of the reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole Creation, not just humans.
Listening to the Sciences
Various panellists reflect on the outcomes of the Uniting Church entering "into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry which has characterised recent centuries."
Listening to Aboriginal Spirituality and theology
Pastor Ray Minniecon reflects on Jesus as a tribal man, and the need to see salvation as including the whole Earth family, of which we are a part. Extracted from a longer video.
Listening to Tongan Spirituality (abridged in abridged version)
Lofa shares some insights from Tongan spirituality and theology, and in the full version Miriam and Jess reflect on how the UCA has been enriched theologically by listening to people connected with the Pacific Islands, especially as they are on the frontlines of climate instability.
Anxiety and Action (full video only)
Jess argues that anxiety and action are not opposites, but rather taking action helps address the very rational anxiety that anyone who has their eyes open to the ecological crisis will feel.
The role of wonder (full video only)
Lofa, Miriam and Jess reflect on the role of wonder in encouraging action
Religious motivations for Environmental Advocacy (abridged in abridged version)
Lofa, Miriam and Jess (and Jason in the full version) discuss their religious motivations for living as better members of God's Earth family.
Pastor Ray Minniecon is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of South-East Queensland. He has been a leader in the UAICC and is pastor with Scarred Tree Ministries on the Country of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation in Sydney.
Dr Miriam Pepper is a founder of and currently secretary of the Uniting Eco Group, and has worked as a Uniting Earth Consultant in NSW/ACT. Miriam prepared the two-page summary of the UCA’s engagement with biodiversity on the FEN site, and she also joins us from Sydney.
Jessica Morthorpe is the founder and director of the Five Leaf Eco-Awards, an Ecumenical environmental change program for religious organisations. She has worked as a Uniting Earth Advocate in NSWACT, and joins us from Dja Dja Wurrung country in Bendigo Victoria.
Rev. Tau’alofa Anga'aelangi is a UCA minister, and a University Chaplain, who has written and preached on the ways in which Tongan theology challenges the western church to a better relationship with the rest of our Earth family. She is on Biripi Country, Port Macquarie NSW
Visit UnitingJustice and the Uniting Church Assembly site for national statements and resources. In the NSW/ACT Synod, Uniting coordinates the Church’s ecological action, including the recent climate action conference
The Climate Pastoral Care conference videos are here
For a history of Uniting church ecological engagement, see Pepper, M. & John, J. (2014) “Ecological Engagement”, in Emilsen, W. (ed) An Informed Faith: The Uniting Church at the Beginning of the 21st Century, Mosaic Press, pp. 189-213.
The video from which Pastor Ray's content was included is here: