EASTER MESSAGES FROM AUSTRALIAN HEADS OF CHURCHES

Catholic Church in Australia

CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!

Dear Friends,

This joyous Easter message is the same every year, but it always echoes just a little bit differently given the world in which we live. Across the globe in 2017, there is political upheaval and wars and rumours of war. We pray that our political and civic leaders be blessed with wise and compassionate hearts. May they avoid all rhetoric and decisions that divide people. Christ in his costly death and resurrection has made us all one! That is why we privileged citizens of a richly blessed country like Australia are all called to generously reach out to be guardians of life to those in need.

Our mission is to protect those who are vulnerable and give special tender care to refugees, the poor, the unborn, the aged and our children. We ask forgiveness when we fail in this sacred duty. Especially in recent weeks, we Catholics in Australia have all been deservedly shamed and saddened at the extent of the crimes, damage, pain and harm done by too many ministers of our Church. Our need for repentance and a renewed commitment to be vigilant and proactive in protecting our children has never been more urgent.  Yes, the Cross of Christ is very real. Even within our own families, we often have challenging times of disagreement, despair and perhaps even depression.

But the Easter season reminds us that our struggles are not the final word. The final word is new life in the Risen Christ. When we join the crosses that we bear every day – those small deaths in our everyday lives – with the cross of Jesus, we have the Risen Christ’s promise of new life. The Risen Christ no longer lives in a tomb but he lives in our hearts and in our world and in the church of sinners, which is his body today. It’s critical during this Easter season that we recognize that the Lord Jesus suffered and died for us. He has come to bring us mercy. The mercy that the Risen Christ gives to us – and which we embrace – helps us to accept God’s forgiveness, to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. If we truly do that, then we can celebrate the new life of the Risen Christ during the Easter season.

Archbishop Denis J Hart, President

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

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Catholic Church in Australia

EASTER’S LIGHT AND DARKNESS

It is said that that the medieval artists perfected the style called “chiaroscuro”.  It contrasts light and darkness to produce an almost three-dimensional dramatic form. Masters such as Da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt perfected this art form. It can often elevate a rather simply work of art into a masterpiece.

Easter is a kind of “chiaroscuro” too. There is the darkness of Good Friday. The darkness of sin and alienation are nailed onto the Calvary Cross. But the lamb led to the slaughter is not the end of the story. There is the light of Easter. The slain lamb becomes the Risen “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”!  The light/darkness (chiaroscuro) of Easter becomes the central tenet of our faith. Our redeeming God has made it into the Christian masterpiece!  Let us be chiaroscuro people too! When in darkness may we await in Christ for the light of Easter to dawn upon us. When in the light of Christ we know that not even future darkness can “ever separate us from the love of Christ.”   Alleluia!

Archbishop Christopher Prowse

Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn

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Churches of Christ in Australia

In any one year, over 2 million Australians will have an anxiety disorder. Among young people in Australia, one in six is currently experiencing an anxiety disorder. Even these horrifying statistics do not factor in the distressing, but non-clinical levels of anxiety experienced by many.

We can readily blame externals like job insecurity, house prices, family breakdown, international conflict and terrorism for this malaise. I suggest swirling beneath this is an unnamed spiritual anxiety. We have unresolved and often unnamed questions deep within our souls. Does my life have any meaning, how do I deal with a vague sense of guilt or unworthiness, how do I respond to all that seems wrong in the world, how can I find inner peace, how can I find lasting love, and if we simply live and die, what is the point of it all?

At Easter time we proclaim anew the ancient message: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.” Do not be afraid; because Jesus has absorbed guilt and shame through his death. Do not be afraid; because through his resurrection Jesus promises eternal life Do not be afraid; because Jesus has established a community of love. Do not be afraid; because in joining with Christ your life has a staggeringly important purpose: redemption of the whole world as a place of peace and justice.

The Risen Christ met his disciples with the simple words “Peace to you”. My hope and prayer is that you will encounter the Risen Christ in a fresh and personal way this Easter, and experience deep inner peace through him.

Rev Janet Woodlock, Federal Coordinator

Churches of Christ in Australia

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The Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand

THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

According to tradition, when in 1781 the British surrendered to the Americans at the Siege of Yorktown in the War of Independence the British band played a tune: The World Turned Upside Down. No wonder: with the defeat of their powerful army by an irregular bunch of colonist rebels their world had indeed turned upside down.  While the song was appropriate to the occasion, it was written 150 years previously as a protest when the English Parliament outlawed traditional English Christmas celebrations. In England of the 1640s and 50s the world had been turned upside down, with civil war, a king executed, and all the familiar landmarks or society and religion swept away. But the accusation “They have turned the world upside-down” was not invented then either. It appears in the Bible, when Paul and Silas were preaching in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). There was a riot. “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also… and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

You can see why the Roman world was confused about the Christians. They refused to accept a Caesar, ruler of the known world who protected and fed them as their saviour, claiming for their saviour an unheard-of convicted and executed criminal from an obscure province. They claimed to belong to a kingdom that no-one could see.

Jesus’ world was a world turned upside down. He rejected at the start of his ministry a material path in favour of teaching leading to his final sacrifice. He would not accept a worldly crown or resort to public stunts to impress people. “Away from me, Satan!” he said. “For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10) Physical presence did not impress him. When he was shown the splendor of the buildings in Jerusalem, he saw beyond them. “There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24: 2) For him, the adulations of Palm Sunday were bitter because the praises of the crowd were unimportant. The humiliation and pain of crucifixion were a triumph because his death led to eternal life.

If the world around us today seems dominated by suffering, injustice and pain, if the forces of hate and fear seem to be overwhelming tolerance and acceptance, we should not be swept up in the emotions of the moment. We should have the moral courage to stand forth and call things for what they are: life destroying, hope destroying, evils that divide communities and countries and paralyse people who would do good if they could overcome the fear.

May we like Jesus turn our world upside down.

Dr Joe Goodall, Moderator

The Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand

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Uniting Church in Australia

SHARE THE LOVE OF GOD

In John 13 we read that in the hours before he was crucified Jesus shared a meal with his close followers, his friends, and during this meal he washed their feet, this was done as a selfless act of love. In this Easter story we are reminded of the full extent of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.

The Easter story is an outrageous love story of a Creator God who wants to reconcile the brokenness of his creation and to make peace. The Risen Crucified One accomplishes this. God’s love compels us to put the needs of others first, to love as God loves, and to serve. God invites us to do likewise through selfless action and radical hospitality that enables reconciliation and healing.

Easter is a time for new beginnings for each of us personally. It is also an opportunity for our nation to compassionately reframe and renew policy approaches for those in need: like single parent families, as the Senate was so poignantly reminded in recent weeks; for asylum seekers and refugees; for sovereign First Peoples; and in so many other ways to share with greater equity and in a spirit of generosity, the wealth of this lucky country.

I pray we each take every opportunity to share the love of God, shown us in Christ, with others. On behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Easter.

Stuart McMillan, President

Uniting Church in Australia

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Message from the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches

Description: Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs

Dear friends

As I write this last message for 2016,the words of Dag Hammarskjold, come to my mind, For all that has been, Thanks, for all that will be, Yes!  There is so much for which to be thankful.  2016 has been a very significant year in the life of the national Council of Churches in Australia. Our forum took place giving us a new President, a new constitution, a new Board of Directors, and a new Assembly. Our commissions and networks continue to commit to ensuring our churches work together and grow in understanding of each other. The NCCA staff is beavering along – with generosity and commitment. Act for peace are completing the requirements for accreditation. These few sentences completely understate what we are doing together. To each person who is involved, who has gone the extra mile, Thank you.

As I look back on the life of NCCA, I think of our member churches. I’m guessing that many churches when they look back on the past year, thoughts may be less positive. I appreciate that churches have faced a number of troubling issues. Perhaps the issue that continues to distress us most is the situation of people suffering persecution for their faith, people seeking refuge and asylum.  Our hearts ache for them. Our hearts grieve for our nation. I give thanks for the many people who are giving voice to many people whose voices are not heard who are striving to enable people be at home.

People seeking asylum and refuge especially speak to me of hope. as the situation of so many comes to mind, I think of the hope that must enable each to leave all they know, to leave home, to move into the unknown, facing innumerable difficulties, so that they may have a home that is safe.

As God’s people we are called to make Christ’s message of hope real for them. WE are God’s hands, feet, heart.  May we have the courage to be a reason for hope for many.

As we live Christ’s message each day – living it in the reality of our homes and communities, saying ‘Yes’ to God in the ordinary and the extraordinary – may we know Christ in our lives in ever new ways.

May we be at home in Christ as he makes his home in us.

 

Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs

General Secretary

Message from the President of the National Council of Churches

 

Description: Bishop Philip Huggins

Just recently I witnessed the value of good friends. About 150 people turned up for lunch on Saturday last in Teasdale. The Revd Tim Smith and the Belmont parishioners were absolutely wonderful hosts, so well organised, gracious and kindly, opening their doors and hearts to a number of recently arrived Iraqi Christians. It was truly beautiful to see the happiness surrounding our Iraqi friends. They had come from such desolation and misery and shared with us what ISIS has done to their former homes and Church.   We sang “We three kings of orient are”, and noted the legend that Iraq is where the magi came from, following the Bethlehem star. A number of clergy present have written to me since to say how much they valued their conversations with our guests.

One next contribution is to link these Iraqi Christians with folk who can help with English conversation, matching families with kids around the same age, to assist with conversational language skills. We all know that the acquisition of the local language is crucial to education, employment outcomes and belonging. We are awaiting information in order to make these connections. One of the Revd Will Orpwood’s Highton parishioners is happy to coordinate this and also swimming lessons for these people who have never lived near the ocean.

Parishioners from Christ Church and Eltham areas are seeking to help in like fashion as similar families join their community. The practical goodwill and Christian care of our clergy and parishioners is vivid in all this. This has poignantly raised our ministry of reconciliation as “Ambassadors of Christ”. Reconciliation, the love of Jesus compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14-20), reconciled and reconciling, “a sign of the coming unity of the whole human family”. (World Council of Churches): That is our high calling as Church, disciples of Jesus! The necessity for our ministry of reconciliation, in the grace of Jesus, could not be plainer, not only amongst our-selves but as agents of reconciliation in the local, national and international community. Wherever one turns, the necessity for deep reconciliation is vivid. If we look at the world through the eyes of children, what do we see?

My suggestion is that we make Reconciliation an Advent theme for study and prayer. It fits with the deep themes of Advent – life, death and eternity. To this end, ahead of the normal time, can I commend the 2017 worship and study material for the World Council of Churches Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Produced by the German Churches, with their parallels to our Australian setting in the context of the Reformation Anniversary, it is a timely and insightful resource.

As we read in 2 Corinthians 5, God in Christ has reconciled us and now gives us the ministry of reconciliation. We are given this ministry of reconciliation and it is entrusted it to us! “So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making God’s appeal through us.” (v 20) Yes, the love of Jesus for the whole human family compels us to give our all to this high calling.

In the past week I have been attentive to various parish conflicts whilst also, like you, being aware of sadness in Syria, South Sudan, amidst our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and also the fears sparked by news of a new global arms race, including in South Asian our Region (the opportunity cost of which will cause more of the poor to starve).

You will have your own litany of other sad and unreconciled matters. The point is, Advent is a season for going deeper. Our prayer, fasting and acts of reconciliation are needed. “The love of Jesus compels us.”  May I commend this theme to you and those for whom you care.

Bishop Philip Huggins

President

National Council of Churches in Australia

 

Uniting Church WA Synod Appoints New General Secretary

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6 February 2016

Dear Members of Synod, Congregations, Schools and Agencies

Thank you for upholding the church in prayer in the lead-up to the Special Meeting of the Synod of Western Australia, Uniting Church in Australia as we gathered today, Saturday 6 February to discern God’s will for us.

I am delighted to announce that the Synod decided by at least a two-thirds majority to appoint Rev David de Kock as general secretary of the Synod of Western Australia.

David is currently in placement at Lighthouse Uniting Church in Geraldton, a member of General Council and the chair of the Pastoral Relations and Placements Commission (PR&PC). He also served at Merredin Uniting Church for five years.

General Secretary Elect, Rev David de Kock

General Secretary Elect, Rev David de Kock

David brings to the role a life of prayer, a love of people, a desire to ignite passion in others to use their gifts and skills, implementation of programs in planning, strategy and direction, and proven experience in keeping financial costs and budgets in balance.

David has been admitted as an ordained minister from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA). He holds a Bachelor of Theology and a Bachelor of Commerce, as well as a Master of Business Administration. Prior to entering ministry, David worked in senior leadership positions, including as Managing Director, of large companies.

David is married with three adult children and moved from South Africa eight years ago.

At the 39th Western Australian Synod meeting held in September last year, I gave a verbal report as the General Secretary Selection Committee convenor and advised that the search for the best person to fulfil the duties, functions and responsibilities for the role of general secretary would continue.

Since September 2015, the Committee again advertised the position nationally and conducted interviews.

Members of the General Secretary Nominating Committee: Rev Cathie Lambert; Margaret
Martin; Dr Alec O’Connell, Scotch College headmaster; Rebecca Cody, principal, MLC; Vaughan Harding, Juniper chief executive officer; Rev Dr Andrew Williams, General Secretary NSW/ACT, advisor; and in consultation with Rev Sealin Garlett, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, have worked diligently on this important appointment and I thank them for their significant contribution.

Since the conclusion of Kay Dowling as General Secretary on 1 July 2014, we have given thanks to God for the faithful people, lay and ordained, staff and volunteers, who have been generous with their gifts and skills, as they have faithfully served the church in their local community, as well as through Synod, Presbytery and Assembly. In particular, Bob Seinor who prepared the extensive background work for General Council.

I also acknowledge the enormous contribution of those that have acted in the role of general secretary over the last eighteen months: Rosemary Hudson Miller, Rev Dr Ian Tozer, Rev John Dunn and Rev Rick Morrell. In particular, Rosemary Hudson Miller acted in the role throughout 2015, as well as for numerous months in 2014. Rosemary has sacrificially given her time, gifts and skills throughout.

There are many dimensions to the role of General Secretary as they walk alongside and share the love, faith and hope of the wonderful people within the Uniting Church family: congregations and faith communities; schools and colleges; agencies; boards, committees and commissions; as well as our partner churches and other faiths.

We pray this appointment will bring renewed life, health and unity within the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Western Australia. We ask for your prayerful and practical love and support of David as he grows into the role of General Secretary.

Grace and peace

Rev Steve Francis
Moderator

WCC expresses concern over exodus of Christian community in Mosul, Iraq

In an official statement issued on 21 July, the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed deep concern over the exodus of the Christian community from the Iraqi city Mosul occurring due to threats from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Tveit called these developments a “tragedy” for both Christians and Muslims.

Churches call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza

 

Churches call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in GazaGaza City, 18 July. Photo: Mohammed Badarin

22 July 2014

Expressing grave concern over the escalation of military operations in Gaza, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said, “Hostilities must cease. Israel, Palestine and the surrounding region must be offered the hope of peace: a peace based in justice, a lasting peace that may lead toward reconciliation”.

. On behalf of the 345 member churches of the WCC, Tveit appealed to “all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law” which condemn and prohibit all kinds of indiscriminate and disproportionate killing of civilians. Tveit shared the WCC’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza. He urged lifting of restrictions on the movement of persons and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip so that urgent humanitarian needs can be dealt with. In the statement, WCC also called for the resumption of direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution along internationally recognized borders. Tveit said that the “latest resort to armed conflict – and the consequent intolerable suffering inflicted on families and communities – can do nothing to promote a just and sustainable peace for Israelis and Palestinians”. He added that “peace in Israel and Palestine will come only through the restoration of compassion between human beings, through seeking together common paths towards justice and peace, and through a genuine commitment to creating the basis for future generations of Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace.”

Read full text of the WCC general secretary’s statement

 WCC member churches in the Middle East

Pope: Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare

2014-06-09 Vatican Radio   “Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare”, the courage “to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity”.

This was Pope Francis message to his guests Sunday evening – the Israeli and Palestinian Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas – as he welcomed them to his home for an Invocation for Peace in the Holy Land.

Act for Peace – Prayer Point for month of June

Pray for continuing peace and reconciliation in Myanmar.

Read this month’s story from the Thai-Myanmar Border Refugee Camps where promotion of farming and nutrition in the camp through The Community Agriculture and Nutrition Program (CAN) program, provides a livelihood to refugees and builds community self-reliance.

http://www.actforpeace.org.au/Get-Involved/Become-a-partner/Peace-mail

A gift of $35 can help equip a refugee with a gardening kit and vegetable seeds to both feed their family now, and start to prepare them for a future beyond the camps.

If you would like to give today or become an Act for Peace Partner with regular monthly gifts, visit http://www.actforpeace.org.au

Make an impact and help change lives during Refugee Week, 15-21 June – take part in our ‘Ration Challenge.’

Help make a difference to people living in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border by making sure they have enough to eat, and showing them that after all they’ve been through, they are not alone.  For further information of how you, your family and friends or church can be a part of this new initiative from 15-21 June during Refugee Week, visit – www.actforpeace.org.au/rationchallenge

Tributes flow as Bishop Michael Putney’s Ecumenical Journey Ends

The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) pays tribute to Bishop Michael E Putney, an outstanding ecumenist, who ended his journey with cancer in the early hours of 28 March 2014. Diagnosed with cancer in December 2012 Bishop Putney was the sixth President of the NCCA. Last week Michael Putney acknowledged that his ecumenical journey began as a 16 year old when he entered Pius XII Seminary, Banyo. As a student he participated in an oratory competition where he spoke on the life and message of Paul Couturier who is the father of the modern form or the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Michael won the competition but he says more significantly he found ecumenism as a deep spiritual commitment for his life. “Bishop Michael Putney has been an ecumenical giant who has championed the importance of dialogue between churches both in Australia and internationally. His contribution as the Co-chair of the International Roman Catholic – World Methodist dialogue has been greatly valued for many years .Equally significant is his four years as President of the NCCA where he upheld the importance that the ecumenical space is the place where the real agenda of the churches was able to be discussed together” said Reverend Tara Curlewis, NCCA general secretary. Bishop Putney was highly respected for his wise contributions to the work of Christian unity, as the news of his death is realised tributes flow from his ecumenical colleagues around the globe..  Curlewis concluded “This week marked the thirteenth anniversary for him as the Bishop of Townsville and last week on 20th March Bishop Michael launched his book “My Ecumenical Journey”. The timing is extraordinary that the last week of his life is marked with these two significant events as if to neatly close his journey.”

Bishop Michael E Putney will long be remembered for his contribution to his own church, the people of Townsville, the Australian churches and the wider ecumenical movement. His witness has inspired many to imagine in new ways what a healthy reconciled Church could look like.

Rev Tara Curlewis is available for Interview  –  Media Enquiries: 0419 224 935