Considering Afresh

“…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.”

Paragraph 15, Basis of Union

The Act2 Project is a major whole-of-Church change project led by the Assembly focussed on discerning and deciding on the future of the Uniting Church. As a Church we are living through a time of change, opportunity and challenge. We are not the Church we were at the time of Union in 1977. The size, shape and demographics of our Church have changed. The society in which we participate in God’s mission has also changed. Our structures, practices and culture need to change too.

As a Church we have courageously considered our life afresh. We have prayed together, listened broadly, discerned deeply and spoken honestly. Behind the processes and the numbers are the hopes, fears and yearnings of the people of God. Through exploring and testing new ideas and new ways to shape our life we have grappled with how to centre our lives on Jesus Christ.

Since the 16th Assembly the work has been organised into four workstreams:

  • 1. Local communities of faith and discipleship
  • 2. National identity
  • 3. Governance and resourcing
  • 4. Theological culture and education

Act2: The Gift of the Spirit, the report of the Act2 Project to the 17th Assembly, is a culmination of all this work. It draws the streams together into a set of reflections, findings and conclusions (Chapters 2 to 6). It also sets out a way forward through an integrated set of proposals and an implementation roadmap (Chapter 7 and 8).

The 16th Assembly affirmed the importance and urgency of this work. Since the reconvened meeting of the 16th Assembly a sense of engagement, momentum and anticipation has built within the Church. After a time of prayer, listening, discernment and discussion, now is the time for decision. Now is the time to courageously listen to the leading of the Spirit. Now is the time to consider the proposals prayerfully and carefully to decide on the way forward for the sake of the gospel. Now is the time for the Church to reimagine the shape, ordering and culture of our life.

The journey so far…

In 2024 the Act2 Project will move into its fourth year. In March 2020, the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) commissioned the Project to identify and implement sustainable structures, practices, and ways of working that would position the Uniting Church to grow into its calling in the decades ahead.1

An ASC task group carried the work forward between 2020 and 2022. It issued two national surveys, consulted broadly and hosted six national conversations. The Project released its first report in October 2021, Act2: Considering Afresh our Life Together, alongside a series of studies, Our Life Together: Reflection on the Basis of Union, to foster reflection on our identity.

In March 2022 the ASC delivered Act2: On the Way, its report and proposals to the 16th Assembly meeting. At its reconvened meeting in May 2022, the Assembly passed a resolution affirming the importance and urgency of Act2 and directing its focus. The ASC was asked to establish a new national Steering Committee and a staffed Project Unit to carry the work forward to the 17th Assembly.

Phase One: Exploration (November 2022 to May 2023)

Exploration was the first phase of the Project following the 16th Assembly decisions. It involved one of the Assembly’s most comprehensive consultation processes, using tailored surveys, direct engagement and national travel to understand the current state of our life as the Uniting Church. It gave the Project insights into:

  • The true size of our Church nationally.
  • The things that give us joy and the identity markers of which we, as a Church, are most proud.
  • A clear desire to claim back energy and love for discipleship and mission.
  • The serious challenges many Congregations are facing in size, energy, capacity and direction.
  • The mixed nature of relationships between the councils of the Church.
  • The fractures and inefficiencies of our current governance system.

Act2: In Response to God’s Call, released in June 2023, was the report of this phase. It reflected major findings, interpreted insights theologically and put forward a set of Directions and a diverse range of Options for consideration.

Between the end of Phase One and the beginning of Phase Two, the Project held Uniting in Prayer, a 26-day period of prayer which included daily prayers from across the Church, a national prayer chain, worship resources and an online prayer gathering.

Phase Two: Collective Discernment (June to November 2023)

The release of Act2: In Response to God’s Call launched Phase Two, a time of intensive collective discernment focussed on seeking responses to the report and to the Directions and Options in particular. Every part of the Uniting Church was invited to participate. The Project Unit developed a series of response forms for councils, committees, governing bodies, communities and individuals to engage. This invitation was shared regularly through both broadcast and direct communication channels.

The opportunity to respond remained open for the whole Phase. Alongside this, other activities of the Project during this time included:

  • Regular outreach to 1,672 local communities of faith.
  • Direct outreach to all Presbyteries and engagement with 12 Presbyteries.
  • Attendance at every Synod in session.2
  • Engagement with the Assembly Standing Committee and Assembly Executive.
  • Engagement with Uniting Church agency CEOs; UnitingCare Australia Board and UnitingCare Australia Leaders Forum.
  • Outreach to Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) regional committees and attendance at the UAICC National Conference.
  • Outreach to all Synod multicultural networks and meetings with four networks.
  • Direct outreach to National Conference Chairs.
  • A second series of online Focus Groups with 12 groups of leaders in a diverse range of communities of faith.
  • Five online National Forums focussed on key areas of the Church’s national life and work, with video recordings and written summaries made available.
  • Fortnightly ‘Going Deeper’ sessions hosted on Zoom and open to all.

Response forms and submissions

  • Responses from 223 discernment groups representing 2,028 participants across the Church Councils, Synods, Presbyteries and the Assembly:
    • Church Councils (115 discernment groups, 1,080 participants).
    • Presbyteries (39 discernment groups, 428 participants).3
    • Synods (63 discernment groups, 499 participants).
    • Assembly (6 discernment groups, 21 participants).
  • 77 written submissions from Church Councils, Synods, Presbyteries, the Assembly, theological colleges, individuals, agencies and networks:
    • 17 from Church Councils/Congregations.
    • 3 from Presbyteries.
    • 6 from Synods.
    • 2 from the Assembly.
    • 7 from agencies.
    • 4 from theological colleges.
    • 5 from networks.
    • 33 from individuals.
  • 108 written responses from individuals.

Theological culture papers

In May 2023 the Project issued a call for papers on the theological culture of the Uniting Church. Thirty-seven contributions were received, totalling almost 100,000 words; these were published weekly on the Act2 website. This work was part of Workstream 4 on Theological Culture and Education and aimed to foster a vibrant and honest conversation about our theological life as a Church. Contributions covered a range of topics including lay and ordained ministry, the centrality of Jesus, the different voices of theology, social justice, church property, church union, preaching, mission, discipleship, worship, evangelism, grace and more.

National Gathering on Theological Education 

In early December 2023 the Project hosted a two-day national gathering on theological education. With every Synod represented, it brought together key leaders in theological colleges, leaders in the work of ministry formation and lay education, emerging scholars and First Nations theologians.

Phase Three: Recommendations for Action (December 2023 to July 2024)

Phase Two: Collective Discernment ended on 30 November 2023 and the Project moved into Phase Three: Recommendations for Action. The Project team comprehensively analysed the discernment and feedback from across the Church about the Directions and Options, including all written submissions and response forms, feedback from direct engagement and insights from various engagement opportunities offered in Phase Two.

The Project team has worked to interpret the breadth and depth of feedback in a spirit of deep listening and openness to both the leading of the Holy Spirit and the discernment of the Church.

Drawing on the insights from the engagement process, further work was then undertaken to guide and shape an integrated set of proposals to the 17th Assembly.

This report provides a comprehensive summary of the work across the four workstreams. It should be read alongside the previous reports of the Project, particularly Act2: In Response to God’s Call. It is primarily a report to the 17th Assembly to assist the Assembly in its consideration of the proposals contained within Chapter Seven Go Forward Together: A Way Forward.


  1. ASC Minute 20.29, Planning for the 16th Assembly (March 2020), https://act2uca.com/about/asc-resolutions↩︎
  2. The Northern Synod postponed its meeting of the full Synod in Session to April 2024. However, the Act2 team attended both Presbytery meetings in October 2023 which included engagement with the Synod leaders.↩︎
  3. In addition, there was qualitative feedback on the Directions from a Presbytery representing 80 participants. ↩︎
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Shaping the future Uniting Church.

We acknowledge the sovereign First Peoples of the lands and waters where we live and work across the country, and pay our respects to Elders past and present who have cared for these lands for millennia. We are committed to walking together seeking justice and reconciliation.