Uniting Church in SA Strategic Plan
For several months last year I had the privilege of convening a committee which steered the development of the Strategic Plan process for the South Australian Synod of my denomination, the Uniting Church in Australia.
The purpose of the Strategic Plan is to be an overarching framework to help the church to focus and steward its resources and energy into those areas which required particular attention for the next chapter of our mission and ministry.
It’s also a guide for congregations, as they seek to discern their specific direction.
The church had adopted four key directions, and our committee had the task of fleshing out the specific areas of focus under each. It was a comprehensive task involving many focus groups, online surveys, workshops, extended submissions, prayer and discernment.
As you may imagine, in a large and diverse denomination, this is not a straightforward task. It resulted in 65 pages of data, which was then prioritised, measured and discerned down to a comprehensible, focused framework.
This is the plan adopted at the annual Synod meeting in November. I highlight one element below.
As a personal reflection, it’s really worth highlighting the issue of Evangelism. We simply must do better at enabling the proclamation of the gospel clearly, contextually & prayerfully in today’s world.
In keeping with the key direction (foundational values and core activities of the UCA) this is a direct expression of Mission.
The Basis of Union of the Uniting Church says we are a people who are ‘Committed to serve the world, witnessing in word in action’ and ‘Proclaiming Christ the risen crucified one, calling all people to respond in faith’
It’s my view that we require:
- Widespread training across the whole church on ways to boldly & contextually share faith
- Initiatives to specifically increase gospel & core doctrinal understanding & conviction with all ages
- Specific identification, coaching and empowering of those people with the gift of evangelism
- To act upon the significant calls for urgent widespread prayer to God for renewal across the church
- Initiatives that enable proclamation of the gospel distinct from our social action
This last point is an important one, easily misunderstood. In no way does it place gospel proclamation against social action.
No question, we as the Uniting Church are most comfortable in the practice of social action, compassion and justice. It’s a real strength.
But, frankly, we’re not as strong in our proclamation of the gospel. We are not as confident in the call of Christ to bear witness, and make disciples.
But if we limit and subsume most of our gospel proclamation under social action, we run the risk of only witnessing to those within that scope, and our witness can risk becoming pejorative.
We need to become better emboldened to proclaim the gospel into spheres of society which do not require our social action. It may be accompanied by social action or compassion, but it is not conditional on such.
This is why, in my view, a call to evangelism must accompany initiatives to increase gospel understanding & conviction. Christians are called to share the gospel based on their faith, and gratitude to God, not on the earned or proven merits of their social action.
Clarity on the gospel is itself an interesting and important topic, which again the Basis of Union hits upon in noting the need for reformation witnesses,
“…so that the congregation of Christ’s people may again and again be reminded of the grace which justifies them through faith, of the centrality of the person and work of Christ the justifier, and of the need for a constant appeal to Holy Scripture.
In future posts I will pick up a couple of more points for further reflection.