Reclaiming Christ

 

Urgent Prayer Needed in response to Media release on 2nd December 2016

Urgent prayer is needed for the Uniting Church in Australia as we hit shocking headlines in newspapers in NSW and around the world  in a way I believe we haven’t since 2003.   This time its not about same gender relationships,  its about the more covert  mentions of “Christ” and removal of our UCA logo from our Community service agency in NSW-ACT called “Uniting”.  Please note that the UCA in Australia has not removed overt religious symbols and open mention of Christ from the whole church as the media has seemingly portrayed.  However it is true that the NSW-ACT community service agency of the Uniting Church called “Uniting” has done this with the blessing of the NSW-ACT synod.  For many within the UCA this is concerning.

PRAY that :

  • Jesus Christ would be reclaimed and would not be wiped from the UCA.
  • That we as the UCA would not lose our faith.
  • That in the UCA we would hold to the centrality of the work of Christ upon the cross in word and deed.
  • That the Lord would somehow work for good in this in our own life, and in the UCA to bring us to our knees in repentance leading up to our 40th
  • We would have fear of the Lord not fear of people through all of this and we would trust in the Lord’s redemption and forgiveness.
  • The Lord would one day restore our partnerships with other churches that have been radically affected through what was accounted today in the media and would restore us to the one Holy, Apostolic Church.
  • The Lord would restore the damaged trust the community has in us because of sexual abuse in our institutions without denying our faith in Christ.

 In today’s Media (2nd December).

 Sydney Telegraph

 Today on the front page of the Daily Telegraph in Sydney (Friday 2nd December 2016) the headline reads “JESUS WIPED”

NOT OUR CROSS TO WEAR.  TOP CHURCH LOSING ITS RELIGION.

Laura Banks and Anthony de Ceglie (2016, front page) write

Australia’s third biggest church is wiping religious symbols from logos and even avoiding using the word “Christ” in advertising in a desperate bid to distance itself from child sex abuse scandals”

They says there is an “unholy war” erupting because of the decision within the Uniting Church to get rid of “overt” religious language.  There has been criticism of this within the Uniting Church.

It goes on to say that in NSW Peter Worland, executive director of Uniting has tried not to use the word “Christ” because of the negativity in the community towards faith-based organization  since the royal commission.   Uniting also doesn’t use the Uniting Church logo any more.

In the editorial on page 68 of the Daily Telegraph it speaks about the covertness of the new branding and tongue and cheek says of the Uniting  Church  “Just so long as there’s nothing too overtly Jesus-based.  That would be exclusionary and divisive.”.

Tim Blair, Telegraph Blog

Tim Blair (Dec 2, 2016),  in his blog post  at 3:15 am. this morning writes

“Some time ago I joked about the Uniting Church tolerating gays, atheists and Muslims – but drawing the line at Christians.  Can’t find that piece now, but it doesn’t mater.  The Uniting Church has brought my old gag back to life.”

Blair also warns the Uniting Church that if we want to want to totally get rid of our religious faith then we need to be ready for two things.  Firstly there would be an exodus of people who hold to their Christian faith as their cornerstone.  And secondly, we may need to say goodbye to tax exemptions.

ABC Radio

The ABC radio interview with Fran Kelly 6 am.  (Dec 2, 2016),   reports that Peter Worland, said that “a religious focus isn’t the ambit of Uniting”.

About NSW but Media makes sweeping statements.

Although what has happened  is in unique as far as I know to NSW, there are sweeping statements in the media about the Uniting Church nationally.   This is even being picked up by international media with the UK daily mail Martha Azi  (Dec 2, 2016)  making these headlines “Australia’s Uniting Church is removing religious symbols and the word ‘Christ’ from logos and advertising to avoid being linked to child sex scandals “

PRAYER URGENTLY NEEDED.

I am asking you to please urgently pray for the Uniting Church in Australia,  firstly for the NSW Synod for which this is directed but also for the impact that it will have on the whole of the Uniting Church.

Pray for sensitivity for those survivors of sexual abuse along with holding to our faith.

Please pray that whilst having a sensitivity,  accountability and deep repentance of ways as a church we have handled sexual abuse in our UCA institutions in the past, we may not lose our identity as Christian.   Pray that we may not be ashamed of Christ and the wonderful good news of the gospel.   Pray that we as a church in losing references to Jesus, may not be a little  like “scrapping bats in cricket or chicken from KFC” (editorial Telegraph pg 68 Friday 2nd December 2016).

Judging with righteousness and delighting in the fear of the Lord

This week in our Isaiah reading from Isaiah 11 we have a picture of the Messiah who rises up from the stump of Jesses. V 1 Even as he judges the poor with righteousness (v4)  his delight is in the fear of the Lord (v 3).

Pray that all our leaders would open themselves to the fear of the Lord in this time of public crises in our church.

Media and the Uniting Church  –  Pray for wisdom this time.

If I am correct, the last time when the Uniting Church was blazed across the front page of papers in such a controversial and shocking way  was in 2003.  At that time we lost 5,000 people, many of them leaders.

Pray that we can be wiser this time round.  That time it was about same gender relationships.  This time even more is on the line.  It is about the centrality of Christ in all we do as a church.

Pray for our UCA Leaders

Please especially uphold Stuart, Colleen and Deidre at this time for wisdom and discernment.  Pray also for the NSW moderator and acting general secretary and Uniting NSW including Peter Worland.

Dividing chaff and grain – allow him to reign

In our gospel reading from Matthew 3,  Jesus comes with a winnowing fork in his hand to divide the chaff and the grain.  Pray that we may move aside and allow him to reign.

he-will-baptise-you“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  Matthew 3:11-12

John the Baptist calls the people to repentance.  In our own strength we can call people to live a good life of justice and care for others.  However John the Baptist also knew that there was one coming so much more than he.  He could only baptize people in water but the one to come, the Lord Jesus Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  The word “Baptize” means to immerse.  Jesus will immerse us in a purifying flame.  We may feel content with the concept of being washed clean by Jesus with the symbol of water. That is a beautiful symbol.  But are we feeling confident to allow him to immerse us in his holy flame.  This flame will burn up the chaff in our life with unquenchable fire.  Christ is the head of the church.  He comes, assesses and deals with us not just as individuals but also as the whole of the Uniting Church.  This is so that we can live and endure through the changes of history through the news of His completed work on Calvary.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father,  we thank you for Jesus Christ your son who comes not always to bring unity but sometimes to separate.  Help us when we find this very difficult.  Teach us to delight in the fear of the Lord as Christ did.  Baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Immerse us in the purifying flame not only as individuals but also as a church. Separate that which is in us that is grain and that which is chaff.  Burn up the chaff and purify us to shine in holiness, joy and undivided love  for you in this coming age.   In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

References:

Azzi, Martha. 2016.   “Australia’s Uniting Church is removing religious symbols and the word ‘Christ’ from logos and advertising to avoid being linked to child sex scandals”  Daily Mail.  2 Dec 2016.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3990540/Australia-s-Uniting-Church-removing-religious-symbols-word-Christ-logos-advertising-avoid-linked-child-sex-scandals.html#ixzz4ReEJmwtu     accessed 2nd December 2016.

Banks, Laura, De Ceglie Anthony. 2016  “Not our Cross to Wear: Top Church Losing its Religion – Jesus Wiped” The Daily Telegraph Dec 2, 2016.  Front Page, 6.

Blair, Tim. 2016. “The Uniting Church not so Churchy these Days”  Tim Blair Blogs. 2nd December 2016.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/blogs/tim-blair/uniting-church-not-so-churchy-these-days/news-story/aa4fd3e87d7f29d084f6f736eef3ef7f

Kelly, Fran. 2016.  “Services arm of Uniting church to remove religious symbols from logos”

ABC RN Breakfast 2nd December 2016.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/services-arm-of-uniting-church-to-remove-religious-symbols/8086386

Other references:

Ten News  “Uniting Church to remove Christ and all religious symbols to avoid being linked to child abuse” 2nd December 2016.

https://tenplay.com.au/news/national/december/uniting-church-to-remove-christ-and-all-religious-symbols-to-avoid-being-linked-to-child-abuse

Sun Herald:  “Why Church avoids using Word “Christ’ “

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/uniting-church-under-fire-for-disowning-the-past-over-child-sex-abuse-and-avoiding-religious-symbols/news-story/23455f1073f95d56216c8b45c78abe3e