The Branches: News Items

·        HopeNet Connection: 22 September 2018

·        UCA President’s Pastoral Letter

·        ACC 2018 Conference

·        HopeNet Connection: A Strong Future In Christ

·        Assembly decision on Marriage – Branches Statement

·        Prayers in Parliament?

 

HopeNet Connection: 22 September 2018

 

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ACC Conference. Let me tell you the Conference was wonderful. It was packed at Wesley Mission conference centre. Many I had never met before across Australia, young and older, indigenous, multicultural, brothers and sisters. Stirring, believing, worship of our Lord God, the Saviour of the world. It was plain that there was a strong stirring to lovingly confess Christ in word and action. There was no heart for ‘just waiting to see’ or dallying. Rather our heritage in credal truth was joyously celebrated with determination not to just ‘stand aside’ from the problems but to forge ahead in belief and hope.

The music was glorious. We sang our way around the business and prayed it through. There was almost resounding unanimity with the decisions. And even the few questionings were helpful and warmly acknowledged because they helped us see the strength and seriousness of the resolves. Everyone was a positive part of it.

You can read the decisions here.

What does it mean for HN churches? Many HN churches have been waiting and watching for ACC’s position intending to stand and move together in solidarity.

1.     There will be some things to sort through with other councils of the church as well, which must be addressed not legalistically but in grace for the building up of Christ’s congregations and for His Kingdom. These are unchartered waters.

2.     ACC as you see from the decisions claims it is ‘of’ the UCA, that is, its belief stand is totally consistent with the Basis but because of the unprecedented circumstance caused by the Assembly decision ACC is offering to give covering in the place of the Assembly in the critical area of doctrine to its member churches (and others) who wish it. This is now in place and congregations may elect to accept the offer.

3.     Besides the other suggestions that came out of the August 7th HN General meeting, like signage etc. it will take a while to submit ideas to church councils and congregations going forward. Driver River suggested we plan a general meeting in new year after hay cutting, harvest (yes we have many rural churches) and January break to bring it all together and move ahead as one. Exec has agreed to that idea. Meanwhile just keep following and growing in Jesus!

4.     There are more groups suggesting ideas, new networks, possible coalitions plus Assembly and Synods inquiry into what all this may mean for the denomination. The big thing is going forward in humility, singularity of purpose learning to love as Jesus loves us, taking every Kingdom opportunity no matter how seeming small, learning from our Lord all the way. There may be some amazing surprises ahead in this journey. To God be the glory!

Welcome new members into HN fellowship. We warmly welcome  Ministers and Pastors: Ted Curnow, Phil Marshall, Tony Johnson and Robert Bailey. Blessed to have you join and minister with us.

The Great debate. If you are down from the country at Adelaide Uni and looking for Christian fellowship on campus, here’s an intro.

A brief update on religious freedom efforts: There are still many MPs on both sides that remain either largely ignorant of issues at hand and/or unaware of the degree of concern amongst religious communities and others.
Folk are encouraged to take the release delay as an opportunity to make an appointment to see your MP now, when  the Ruddock Report is release, potentially late October, and when MP’s are about to vote. To gain more help and information contact Kudzai Zvenyika  0423 496 850. See also the helpful AFC  site on this important matter.

Patrick Sookhdeo will be speaking and leading a discussion on this topic detailing its effect on Gospel ministry at Burnside CC, UCA Portrush Rd, Nov 10th 2018, 9.30 am.

China leads the world?  279 Chinese pastors issued a public declaration on 12 September 2018 calling on the government to allow full religious freedom. These Chinese church leaders have shown remarkable courage in speaking truth to power. Their declaration concludes, “For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses – even the loss of our freedom and of our lives.” Read the full Declaration.

What’s happening?  Check this summary calendar ‘towards unity’ of evangelical events upcoming in SA .  A feast of opportunities. Note the Franklin Graham Adelaide event with preparation gatherings for ministry team leaders and pastors. Pastor Dean Whittaker invites to hear this prophetic evangelist, Darren Canning, on Monday 24th September at 6.30pm at their church at 17 Bedwin Street Salisbury North. And of course the much talked about Living Water Men’s Conference Oct 5-7 Balaklava. Rego here.

Quote:  My grandfather used to say that once in your life  you needed a doctor, lawyer, priest and policeman, but every day, three times a day, you need a Farmer.” From Karoonda HN bulletin

Quote: Christ carried an earnest of our resurrection along with him into heaven. Moreover, how weak and fragile would this hope be, had not this very flesh of ours in Christ been truly raised up, and entered into the kingdom of heaven. Tertullian. 

HopeNet

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UCA President’s Pastoral Letter – 21/9/2018

Following is a “Pastoral Letter from the President – Governance” from the UCA President, Dr Deidre Palmer.

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TO MEMBERS OF THE UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA

Greetings in the name of Christ,

In recent days there has been some public commentary made about the possible creation of alternative conciliar and related structures within and outside the Uniting Church in Australia.

These statements have suggested, among other things, a “replacement” Assembly, a separate College for the training of ministers, and the creation of alternative Presbyteries.

I am concerned that members and those in specified ministry who adopt and/or subscribe to these statements, inadvertently or otherwise, will place themselves outside the Church’s formal governance structures.

I am particularly concerned to ensure the continuity of oversight, guidance and various practical protections that the Uniting Church currently provides.

I have been speaking with Moderators and General Secretaries in all Synods and the Assembly Officers, who share my concern.

From preliminary consideration of the proposed changes, it appears that it will not be possible to operate with the alternative conciliar and related structures that have been suggested, without compromising the nature and responsibilities of our various Councils.

The Assembly is seeking advice from a number of sources so that it can clearly articulate the impact on the Church’s polity as a whole, and any potential consequences for ministers and congregations who are unwilling to work within the existing formal processes and structures of the Church.

We will work to provide this advice in a timely manner to all Uniting Church members, working collaboratively across the Church.

I thank all the members of the Uniting Church, who have expressed their convictions about the Assembly decision on marriage, with respect, love and care toward their sisters and brothers in Christ and with respect for the leaders of the Assembly, Synods and Presbyteries.

As we respond to these difficult conversations in our Church, the Uniting Church continues to be a Spirit led community, centred in Christ, courageously living out God’s hope and reconciliation in the world.

Yours in Christ,

Deidre Palmer
President
Uniting Church in Australia

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ACC 2018 Conference – 21/9/2018

The following is a copy of an email sent on 19/9/2018 from Peter Bentley, ACC National Director, to provide a summary of the ACC Conference held in Sydney, 18-19 September 2018.

 

Dear ACC Contact for Congregations, Clusters and Groups

 

The 2018 ACC Conference has now concluded. Over 250 ACC members and interested UCA members attended the conference and AGM, encouraging one another in the faith and true belief, and being exhorted and encouraged by our speakers.

Rev Dr Keith Garner AM: Signs of a Healthy Church

Monica Doumit: Challenges for the Church Post Plebiscite

Rev Professor James Haire AC: Facing the challenges of confessing the faith within the unity of the one holy catholic and apostolic church.

Rev Dr Max Champion: Why do our churches need faithful confessors? Because “a church which is unable to confess its faith is a lame and withered church.”

Bishop Michael Stead: “Living and working within the faith and unity of the one holy catholic and apostolic church.

Rev Dr Hedley Fihaki: Preacher at the communion service.

Papers and video (Note: as made available and approved by the speakers) will be provided on the ACC website and YouTube site and members will be notified by email when this material is available.

Given the focus of the Assembly AGM on the matter of the ACC’s future, and noting that the proposals were provided to members beforehand, the unconfirmed minute extract of the final decision on the Future of the ACC is provided now for information.

 

Extract from the Unconfirmed Minutes of The Annual General Meeting of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations Inc. Held 17th -19th  September 2018

5.1    Future of the ACC

Resolved: That the Assembly of Confessing Congregations Inc:

a)       receive the Discussion Paper on the Future of the ACC dated 23 August 2018, and;

b)     change the words  within the Uniting Church  in Australia”   to   of  the Uniting  Church in Australia”, and that the Constitution be changed accordingly.

c)     determine that, until such time as the Assembly of the UCA repents of its apostate decisions and returns to the faith of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as that faith is described in the Basis of Union, the Assembly of Confessing Congregations humbly, and in dependence upon God alone, offers to Congregations the role of a replacement Assembly in matters vital to the life of its Confessing Congregations.

d)     encourage ACC member congregations and clusters to join an existing orthodox Presbytery that has rejected the UCA Assembly decision, and invite those presbyteries to realign themselves with the Assembly of Confessing Congregations, and;

e)     affirm the ACC National Council working with other networks seeking to establish orthodox non-geographical presbyteries for those congregations that are not part of an orthodox presbytery, and;

f)       affirm that the make-up of the ACC National Council be broadened, where the National Council considers it appropriate,to include up to three (3) members from those Presbyteries, groups and networks who have a similar purpose to the ACC regarding the direction of the UCA,and;

g)     encourage the ACC School of Faith to negotiate with like-minded evangelical theological and bible colleges in order to develop an alternative pathway for the teaching and training of candidates for ministry, ministry leaders and ministers, and;

h)     authorise the National Council to develop a support network for ACC ministers and leaders; and commit the ACC to provide support, encouragement and counsel to ministry agents, Congregations, clusters and groups who find it difficult to pursue evangelical, reformed and orthodox ministry; and ,

i)       amend the ACC Constitution to accommodate Resolution 5.1 (a) along with the Amendment to Section 25.3 as outlined in Appendix A of the AGM Papers.

j)       in light of Resolutions 5.1 (b) & (c), the ACC accepts the responsibility for the spiritual and doctrinal oversight of its member Congregations; and encourages its member Congregations to advise the UCA Assembly of their Congregation’s support for this action.

 

Over the next week or so, further information will be provided for the information of congregations and members. There is much to consider in these resolutions and it is recognised that this is a significant change for the ACC and that members will need to prayerfully reflect on the decision. Please pray for all members and especially the council who will be working through the changes.

 

Peace and grace

Peter Bentley

National Director

Copyright © 2018 Assembly of Confessing Congregations, All rights reserved.

 

 

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A Strong Future In Christ – 7/9/2018

Following is a pastoral letter from HopeNet Executive to all HopeNet congregations explaining the proposed action in response to the Assembly decision on Marriage.

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“A strong Future in Christ”  HopeNet proposal for next step forward.

Dear members of our HopeNet congregations,

The grace mercy and peace of our Lord be with you.

On August 7th the HopeNet General meeting discussed a number of ideas for dealing with the 15th Assembly’s decision on marriage. Your congregational reps and leaders will have received copies of the meeting’s suggestions and many of our congregations have had or are having meetings to assess their way forward. Many too have expressed support and desire for HopeNet to give leadership. We embrace this prayerfully in concern for our churches.

One of the ideas put up  was a Non-geographic Presbytery (NGP) while ‘standing aside’ from the Assembly. It was felt this was not going far enough and a number of questions and concerns were raised about it.  After carefully considering these concerns, and addressing them in the form of this new proposal for HopeNet, we believe that a NGP can be part of a way forward in which we can both reject the erroneous decisions of the Assembly on marriage, and continue absolutely steadfast in upholding the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, fulfilling our Gospel mission in our communities to the fullest extent. This proposal is quite different from what was formerly discussed on the 7th. It can be viewed on Hopenet website here.

This proposal would be the next step in our progress to be joined together with a clear spiritual, Scriptural and moral covering both freeing us in the present and fortifying us for the future. Added to this we prayerfully anticipate the ACC Conference, September 17-19 which has attracted record registrations and which will result in further advances on a national level involving HopeNet and other similar entities.

In the meantime following ideas  from the HopeNet general meeting some churches have begun modifying their church signs usually by omitting the word Uniting and the logo. Others are taking decisions on finances. We suggest incorporating the word ‘Hope’ into church name to develop solidarity amongst HopeNet congregations. The HopeNet or ACC logo may be used.

May our congregations be full of Gospel joy and overflow into our communities with hope and God’s help.

God bless you as you discern this proposal and discuss Christ’s kingdom matters in your congregations.

 HopeNet Executive

 

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Assembly decision on marriage – 16/7/2018

A statement by The Branches

At the 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, held in July 2018, a new doctrine of marriage was introduced. A summary of the decision was provided in a pastoral letter from the Assembly President, Dr Deidre Palmer.

The new doctrine is that “marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life.” This does not, we are told, replace the old doctrine that “marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life”. Rather both the old and new are retained and members of the UCA are effectively asked to freely choose which of the two doctrinal positions they wish to adopt, according to their conscience.

The Branches completely rejects this decision of the Assembly, instead maintaining that marriage according to the Scriptures is exclusively between a man and a woman, and that any alternative understanding is false. The Branches notes that while this decision by Assembly may “honour the diversity of Christian belief among our members”, it does not honour the Lord God nor His Word.

The implications of this Assembly decision go far beyond the doctrine of marriage into the Biblical revelation of the sovereignty of the resurrected Jesus Christ, the authority of Scripture and the heritage of the Christian Church.

As a consequence of this decision by Assembly, The Branches Community Church is reviewing its relationship with the UCA in general and Assembly in particular.

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Prayers in Parliament? – 7/7/2018

Outgoing  Greens senator wants (again) to ban prayers at opening of Senate.

1.     Some senators are unbelievers, why should this be imposed upon them?

Answer: It’s not imposed, they are not forced to pray. More importantly it’s not about them anyway. It’s about us who they represent. We want our lawmakers to acknowledge ‘humble dependence on the blessing of Almighty God’ (Australian constitution preamble). That’s how we prefer to be governed.

2.     We are multicultural and shouldn’t use a Christian prayer.

Answer: Yes we should, because the possibility of a peaceful, ordered just multicultural society plus all the rest of the structures and benefits of our free democratic society are directly attributable to the influence and ideas of the Bible embedded in our heritage. At the very least it is a matter of courtesy, honour and respect of our heritage to accept the privilege of using it.

3.     Prayers are obsolete, a relic of a church dominated society.

Answer: Wrong.

Prayer is one of the most quoted and used phrasings in Australia today; in hospitals, personal visitation, in faith schools, in prisons, in private longings and aspirations and yearnings, and yes, in churches. And it is a direct quotation from the lips of the Christ, not some church decree or ordinance.

4.     Praying might offend Muslims or Buddhists or people of other religions.

Answer: This is not true.

If you were really genuine about the matter of offence you would not offend and sadden many Christians by such a suggestion.

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