This year Pilgrim Theological College and United Theological College will be co-operating in the presentation of their respective units, "Uniting Church Theology and History" and "Uniting Church Studies" in mid-February (see dates below). Dr Damian Palmer and I will be leading the teaching, assisted by a variety of other presenters from various parts of the UCA. We'll be live-streaming into each others' classrooms and facilitating interaction between our respective cohorts of students.
We are very intentional about taking these units beyond being simply opportunities for denominational induction and/or enculturation. Instead, we are wanting to see them as a chance to explore the Uniting Church - its theology and history, its emerging identity, and its changing role and diverse places in Australian society and religion - as a topic of tertiary-level academic enquiry.
Relative to other 'mainline churches' (itself a designation which invites scrutiny), the UCA has a relatively short history. In many respects, and properly so, it is still a work in progress. Nevertheless, it has also now been around long enough to have generated significant amounts of critical reflection, commentary and debate. There is much to study and evaluate.
For logistical reasons we can only do four of the five days together. The fifth day will be in our separate cohorts exploring slightly distinct themes. On those first four days we'll cover the UCA's historical and theological roots, the content and status of its Basis of Union, and the various church-shaping debates and decisions about:
- women's ordination;
- being a multicultural/intercultural church
- its colonial entanglements, the covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and the adoption of the 'Revised Preamble';
- sexual diversity and same-sex marriage;
- innovation and tradition in liturgy; and
- its profile in matters of social justice.
- a significant decline in Christian allegiance (slightly slowed, but not arrested by the 'growing' churches);
- the swap in social and political influence between the churches once considered marginal and those once considered central;
- the growing cultural and linguistic diversity of Australian Christianity;
- the churches' collective complicity in child sexual abuse;
- the disproportionate presence of the churches in community services
- the growing public profile of other religions; and
- politically-charged debates about the relationship between 'Australian' identity and the so-called "Judeo-Christian tradition."