Basis of Union

Basis of Union

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THE BASIS OF UNION

1992 Edition

The historic text of the Basis of Union was prepared at a time when the desire for genderinclusive

language was only just emerging. By the early 1990’s some people were finding

aspects of the language of the Basis to be rather curious and at certain points jarring and even

alienating. The Assembly Standing Committee therefore approved the publication of the

1992 edition, which incorporates relatively conservative changes to the language of the Basis,

while seeking to retain its meaning.

HEADINGS have been added to each section of this printing of the Basis of Union for ease of

reference but do not form part of the Basis of Union approved by the Churches.

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BASIS OF UNION

1. THE WAY INTO UNION

The Congregational Union of Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia and the

Presbyterian Church of Australia, in fellowship with the whole Church Catholic, and

seeking to bear witness to that unity which is both Christ’s gift and will for the Church,

hereby enter into union under the name of the Uniting Church in Australia. They pray

that this act may be to the glory of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They

give praise for God’s gifts of grace to each of them in years past; they acknowledge

that none of them has responded to God’s love with a full obedience; they look for a

continuing renewal in which God will use their common worship, witness and service

to set forth the word of salvation for all people. To this end they declare their readiness

to go forward together in sole loyalty to Christ the living Head of the Church; they

remain open to constant reform under his Word; and they seek a wider unity in the

power of the Holy Spirit. In this union these Churches commit their members to

acknowledge one another in love and joy as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, to hear

anew the commission of the Risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, and daily to

seek to obey his will. In entering into this union the Churches concerned are mindful

that the Church of God is committed to serve the world for which Christ died, and that

it awaits with hope the day of the Lord Jesus Christ on which it will be clear that the

kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of the Christ, who

shall reign for ever and ever.

2. OF THE WHOLE CHURCH

The Uniting Church in Australia lives and works within the faith and unity of the

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Uniting Church recognises that it

is related to other Churches in ways which give expression, however partially, to that

unity in faith and mission. Recalling the Ecumenical Councils of the early centuries,

the Uniting Church looks forward to a time when the faith will be further elucidated,

and the Church’s unity expressed, in similar Councils. It thankfully acknowledges that

the uniting Churches were members of the World Council of Churches and other

ecumenical bodies, and will seek to maintain such membership. It remembers the

special relationship which obtained between the several uniting Churches and other

Churches of similar traditions, and will continue to learn from their witness and be

strengthened by their fellowship. It is encouraged by the existence of United Churches

in which these and other traditions have been incorporated, and wishes to learn from

their experience. It believes that Christians in Australia are called to bear witness to a

unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and

racial boundaries, and to this end the Uniting Church commits itself to seek special

relationships with Churches in Asia and the Pacifi c. The Uniting Church declares its

desire to enter more deeply into the faith and mission of the Church in Australia, by

working together and seeking union with other Churches.

 

3. BUILT UPON THE ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST

The Uniting Church acknowledges that the faith and unity of the Holy Catholic and

Apostolic Church are built upon the one Lord Jesus Christ. The Church preaches Christ

the risen crucifi ed One and confesses him as Lord to the glory of God the Father. In

Jesus Christ “God was reconciling the world to himself ” (2 Corinthians 5:19 RSV). In

love for the world, God gave the Son to take away the world’s sin.

Jesus of Nazareth announced the sovereign grace of God whereby the poor in spirit

could receive God’s love. Jesus himself, in his life and death, made the response of

humility, obedience and trust which God had long sought in vain. In raising him to

live and reign, God confi rmed and completed the witness which Jesus bore to God on

earth, reasserted claim over the whole of creation, pardoned sinners, and made in Jesus

a representative beginning of a new order of righteousness and love. To God in Christ

all people are called to respond in faith. To this end God has sent forth the Spirit that

people may trust God as their Father, and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. The whole work

of salvation is effected by the sovereign grace of God alone.

The Church as the fellowship of the Holy Spirit confesses Jesus as Lord over its own

life; it also confesses that Jesus is Head over all things, the beginning of a new creation,

of a new humanity. God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit

as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in

view for the whole creation. The Church’s call is to serve that end: to be a fellowship

of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the

building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear

witness to himself. The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection

and the fi nal consummation of all things which Christ will bring; the Church is a

pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the Church does not

have a continuing city but seeks one to come. On the way Christ feeds the Church with

Word and Sacraments, and it has the gift of the Spirit in order that it may not lose the

way.

4. CHRIST RULES AND RENEWS THE CHURCH

The Uniting Church acknowledges that the Church is able to live and endure through

the changes of history only because its Lord comes, addresses, and deals with people in

and through the news of his completed work. Christ who is present when he is preached

among people is the Word of the God who acquits the guilty, who gives life to the dead

and who brings into being what otherwise could not exist. Through human witness in

word and action, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ reaches out to command

people’s attention and awaken faith; he calls people into the fellowship of his sufferings,

to be the disciples of a crucifi ed Lord; in his own strange way Christ constitutes, rules

and renews them as his Church.

5. THE BIBLICAL WITNESSES

The Uniting Church acknowledges that the Church has received the books of the Old

and New Testaments as unique prophetic and apostolic testimony, in which it hears the

Word of God and by which its faith and obedience are nourished and regulated. When

the Church preaches Jesus Christ, its message is controlled by the Biblical witnesses.

The Word of God on whom salvation depends is to be heard and known from Scripture

appropriated in the worshipping and witnessing life of the Church. The Uniting

Church lays upon its members the serious duty of reading the Scriptures, commits its

ministers to preach from these and to administer the sacraments of Baptism and the

Lord’s Supper as effective signs of the Gospel set forth in the Scriptures.

6. SACRAMENTS

The Uniting Church acknowledges that Christ has commanded his Church to proclaim

the Gospel both in words and in the two visible acts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Christ himself acts in and through everything that the Church does in obedience to his

commandment: it is Christ who by the gift of the Spirit confers the forgiveness, the

fellowship, the new life and the freedom which the proclamation and actions promise;

and it is Christ who awakens, purifi es and advances in people the faith and hope in

which alone such benefi ts can be accepted.

7. BAPTISM

The Uniting Church acknowledges that Christ incorporates people into his body by

Baptism. In this way Christ enables them to participate in his own baptism, which

was accomplished once on behalf of all in his death and burial, and which was made

available to all when, risen and ascended, he poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Baptism into Christ’s body initiates people into Christ’s life and mission in the world,

so that they are united in one fellowship of love, service, suffering and joy, in one

family of the Father of all in heaven and earth, and in the power of the one Spirit. The

Uniting Church will baptize those who confess the Christian faith, and children who

are presented for baptism and for whose instruction and nourishment in the faith the

Church takes responsibility.

8. HOLY COMMUNION

The Uniting Church acknowledges that the continuing presence of Christ with his

people is signifi ed and sealed by Christ in the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Communion,

constantly repeated in the life of the Church. In this sacrament of his broken body

and outpoured blood the risen Lord feeds his baptized people on their way to the fi nal

inheritance of the Kingdom. Thus the people of God, through faith and the gift and

power of the Holy Spirit, have communion with their Saviour, make their sacrifi ce

of praise and thanksgiving, proclaim the Lord’s death, grow together into Christ, are

strengthened for their participation in the mission of Christ in the world, and rejoice in

the foretaste of the Kingdom which Christ will bring to consummation.

9. CREEDS

The Uniting Church enters into unity with the Church throughout the ages by its use

of the confessions known as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. The Uniting

Church receives these as authoritative statements of the Catholic Faith, framed in the

language of their day and used by Christians in many days, to declare and to guard

the right understanding of that faith. The Uniting Church commits its ministers

and instructors to careful study of these creeds and to the discipline of interpreting

their teaching in a later age. It commends to ministers and congregations their use

for instruction in the faith, and their use in worship as acts of allegiance to the Holy

Trinity.

10. REFORMATION WITNESSES

The Uniting Church continues to learn of the teaching of the Holy Scriptures in the

obedience and freedom of faith, and in the power of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit,

from the witness of the Reformers as expressed in various ways in the Scots Confession

of Faith (1560), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Westminster Confession of

Faith (1647), and the Savoy Declaration (1658). In like manner the Uniting Church

will listen to the preaching of John Wesley in his Forty-Four Sermons (1793). It will

commit its ministers and instructors to study these statements, so that the congregation

of Christ’s people may again and again be reminded of the grace which justifi es them

through faith, of the centrality of the person and work of Christ the justifi er, and of the

need for a constant appeal to Holy Scripture.

11. SCHOLARLY INTERPRETERS

The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left the Church without faithful

and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have refl ected deeply

upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word. In particular the Uniting

Church enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientifi c enquiry which

has characterised recent centuries, and gives thanks for the knowledge of God’s ways

with humanity which are open to an informed faith. The Uniting Church lives within

a world-wide fellowship of Churches in which it will learn to sharpen its understanding

of the will and purpose of God by contact with contemporary thought. Within that

fellowship the Uniting Church also stands in relation to contemporary societies in ways

which will help it to understand its own nature and mission. The Uniting Church

thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet

and of martyr. It prays that it may be ready when occasion demands to confess the Lord

in fresh words and deeds.

12. MEMBERS

The Uniting Church recognises and accepts as members all who are recognised as

members of the uniting Churches at the time of union. Thereafter membership is

open to all who are baptized into the Holy Catholic Church in the name of the Father

and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Uniting Church will seek ways in which

the baptized may have confi rmed to them the promises of God, and be led to deeper

commitment to the faith and service into which they have been baptized. To this end

the Uniting Church commits itself to undertake, with other Christians, to explore

and develop the relation of baptism to confi rmation and to participation in the Holy

Communion.

 

 

13. GIFTS AND MINISTRIES

The Uniting Church affi rms that every member of the Church is engaged to confess the

faith of Christ crucifi ed and to be his faithful servant. It acknowledges with thanksgiving

that the one Spirit has endowed the members of Christ’s Church with a diversity of gifts,

and that there is no gift without its corresponding service: all ministries have a part in

the ministry of Christ. The Uniting Church, at the time of union, will recognise and

accept the ministries of those who have been called to any task or responsibility in the

uniting Churches. The Uniting Church will thereafter provide for the exercise by men

and women of the gifts God bestows upon them, and will order its life in response to

God’s call to enter more fully into mission.

14. MINISTERS, ELDERS, DEACONESSES AND LAY PREACHERS

The Uniting Church, from inception, will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to

recognise among its members women and men called of God to preach the Gospel, to

lead the people in worship, to care for the fl ock, to share in government and to serve

those in need in the world.

To this end:

(a) The Uniting Church recognises and accepts as ministers of the Word all who

have held such offi ce in any of the uniting Churches, and who, being in good

standing in one of those Churches at the time of union, adhere to the Basis of

Union. This adherence and acceptance may take place at the time of union or

at a later date. Since the Church lives by the power of the Word, it is assured

that God, who has never failed to provide witness to that word, will, through

Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, call and set apart members of the

Church to be ministers of the Word. These will preach the Gospel, administer

the sacraments and exercise pastoral care so that all may be equipped for their

particular ministries, thus maintaining the apostolic witness to Christ in the

Church. Such members will be called Ministers and their setting apart will be

known as Ordination.

The Presbytery will ordain by prayer and the laying on of hands in the

presence of a worshipping congregation. In this act of ordination the

Church praises the ascended Christ for conferring gifts upon men and

women. It recognises Christ’s call of the individual to be his minister;

it prays for the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to equip the minister

for that service. By the participation in the act of ordination of those

already ordained, the Church bears witness to God’s faithfulness and

declares the hope by which it lives. In company with other Christians

the Uniting Church will seek for a renewed understanding of the way in

which the congregation participates in ordination and of the signifi cance

of ordination in the life of the Church.

(b) The Uniting Church recognises and accepts as elders or leaders those who

at the time of union hold the offi ce of elder, deacon or leader appointed

to exercise spiritual oversight, and who, being in good standing in any of

the uniting Churches at the time of union, adhere to the Basis of Union.

It will seek to recognise in the congregation those endowed by the Spirit

with gifts fi tting them for rule and oversight. Such members will be

called Elders or Leaders.

(c) The Uniting Church recognises and accepts as deaconesses those who at the

time of union are deaconesses in good standing in any of the uniting Churches

and who adhere to the Basis of Union. It believes that the Holy Spirit will

continue to call women to share in this way in the varied services and witness

of the Church, and it will make provision for this. Such members will be called

Deaconesses.

The Uniting Church recognises that at the time of union many seek a

renewal of the diaconate in which women and men offer their time and

talents, representatively and on behalf of God’s people, in the service of

humanity in the face of changing needs. The Uniting Church will so

order its life that it remains open to the possibility that God may call

men and women into such a renewed diaconate: in these circumstances

it may decide to call them Deacons and Deaconesses, whether the

service is within or beyond the life of the congregation.

(d) The Uniting Church recognises and accepts as lay preachers those who at the

time of union are accredited lay preachers (local preachers) in any of the uniting

Churches and who adhere to the Basis of Union. It will seek to recognise

those endowed with the gift of the Spirit for this task, will provide for their

training, and will gladly wait upon that fuller understanding of the obedience of

Christians which should fl ow from their ministry. Such members will be called

Lay Preachers.

In the above sub-paragraphs the phrase “adhere to the Basis of Union” is understood

as willingness to live and work within the faith and unity of the One Holy Catholic

and Apostolic Church as that way is described in this Basis. Such adherence allows for

difference of opinion in matters which do not enter into the substance of the faith.

The Uniting Church recognises that the type and duration of ministries to which

women and men are called vary from time to time and place to place, and that in

particular it comes into being in a period of reconsideration of traditional forms of

the ministry, and of renewed participation of all the people of God in the preaching of

the Word, the administration of the sacraments, the building up of the fellowship in

mutual love, in commitment to Christ’s mission, and in service of the world for which

he died.

15. GOVERNMENT IN THE CHURCH

The Uniting Church recognises that responsibility for government in the Church

belongs to the people of God by virtue of the gifts and tasks which God has laid upon

them. The Uniting Church therefore so organises its life that locally, regionally and

nationally government will be entrusted to representatives, men and women, bearing

the gifts and graces with which God has endowed them for the building up of the

Church. The Uniting Church is governed by a series of inter-related councils, each of

which has its tasks and responsibilities in relation both to the Church and the world.

The Uniting Church acknowledges that Christ alone is supreme in his Church, and

that he may speak to it through any of its councils. It is the task of every council to wait

upon God’s Word, and to obey God’s will in the matters allocated to its oversight. Each

council will recognise the limits of its own authority and give heed to other councils of

the Church, so that the whole body of believers may be united by mutual submission in

the service of the Gospel.

To this end the Uniting Church makes provision in its constitution for the following:

(a)

 

The Congregation is the embodiment in one place of the One Holy Catholic

and Apostolic Church, worshipping, witnessing and serving as a fellowship of the

Spirit in Christ. Its members meet regularly to hear God’s Word, to celebrate the

sacraments, to build one another up in love, to share in the wider responsibilities

of the Church, and to serve the world. The congregation will recognise the need

for a diversity of agencies for the better ordering of its life in such matters as

education, administration and fi nance.

(b)

 

The Elders’ or Leaders’ Meeting (the council within a congregation or group

of congregations) consists of the minister and those who are called to share with

the minister in oversight. It is responsible for building up the congregation in

faith and love, sustaining its members in hope, and leading them into a fuller

participation in Christ’s mission in the world.

(c)

 

The Presbytery (the district council) consists of such ministers, elders/leaders

and other Church members as are appointed thereto, the majority of elders/

leaders and Church members being appointed by Elders’/Leaders’ Meetings

and/or congregations, on a basis determined by the Synod. Its function is to

perform all the acts of oversight necessary to the life and mission of the Church

in the area for which it is responsible, except for those agencies which are directly

responsible to the Synod or Assembly. It will in particular exercise oversight

over the congregations within its bounds, encouraging them to strengthen one

another’s faith, to bear one another’s burdens, and exhorting them to fulfi l their

high calling in Christ Jesus. It will promote those wider aspects of the work of

the Church committed to it by the Synod or Assembly.

(d)

 

The Synod (the regional council) consists of such ministers, elders/leaders and

other Church members as are appointed thereto, the majority being appointed by

Presbyteries, Elders’/Leaders’ Meetings or congregations, on a basis determined

by the Assembly. It has responsibility for the general oversight, direction and

administration of the Church’s worship, witness and service in the region allotted

to it, with such powers and authorities as may from time to time be determined

by the Assembly.

(e)

 

The Assembly (the national council) consists of such ministers, elders/leaders

and other Church members as are appointed thereto, the majority being

appointed by the Presbyteries and Synods. It has determining responsibility

for matters of doctrine, worship, government and discipline, including the

promotion of the Church’s mission, the establishment of standards of theological

training and reception of ministers from other communions, and the taking of

further measures towards the wider union of the Church. It makes the guiding

decisions on the tasks and authority to be exercised by other councils. It is

obligatory for it to seek the concurrence of other councils, and on occasion of

the congregations of the Church, on matters of vital importance to the life of the

Church.

The fi rst Assembly, however, will consist of members of the uniting Churches,

appointed in equal numbers by them in such manner as they may determine,

and is vested with such powers as may be necessary to establish the Uniting

Church according to the provisions of the Basis of Union.

Until such time as councils other than the Assembly can be established, the Uniting

Church recognises and accepts the various agencies for the discharge of responsibility

which are in existence in the uniting Churches. It invites any such continuing bodies

immediately to enter a period of self-examination in which members are asked

to consider afresh their common commitment to the Church’s mission and their

demonstration of its unity. The Uniting Church prays that God will enable them to

order their lives for these purposes.

16. PARTICULAR FUNCTIONS

The Uniting Church recognises the responsibility and freedom which belong to

councils to acknowledge gifts among members for the fulfi lment of particular functions.

The Uniting Church sees in pastoral care exercised personally on behalf of the Church

an expression of the fact that God always deals personally with people, would have

God’s loving care known among people, and would have individual members take upon

themselves the form of a servant.

17. LAW IN THE CHURCH

The Uniting Church acknowledges that the demand of the Gospel, the response of

the Church to the Gospel, and the discipline which it requires are partly expressed in

the formulation by the Church of its law. The aim of such law is to confess God’s will

for the life of the Church; but since law is received by human beings and framed by

them, it is always subject to revision in order that it may better serve the Gospel. The

Uniting Church will keep its law under constant review so that its life may increasingly

be directed to the service of God and humanity, and its worship to a true and faithful

setting forth of, and response to, the Gospel of Christ. The law of the Church will speak

of the free obedience of the children of God, and will look to the fi nal reconciliation of

humanity under God’s sovereign grace.

18. THE PEOPLE OF GOD ON THE WAY

The Uniting Church affi rms that it belongs to the people of God on the way to the

promised end. The Uniting Church prays that, through the gift of the Spirit, God

will constantly correct that which is erroneous in its life, will bring it into deeper unity

with other Churches, and will use its worship, witness and service to God’s eternal

glory through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.