Equipping all members for their particular ministries—a reflection on Act2


Carolyn McAllister

About the Author

Carolyn McAllister is a member of O’Connor Uniting Church in the Australian Capital Territory and a former Editor of Viewpoint, the magazine of the Canberra Region Presbytery. This reflection has also been published in Viewpoint


Section 6 of the Assembly’s Report Act2: In Response to God’s Call is named ‘Options for Workstream 3: Governance and Resourcing’ and begins with the following quotation from the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) Basis of Union, Paragraph 13:

“…will order its life in response to God’s call to enter more fully into mission.”

This quotation is taken from the end of Paragraph 13 which follows on from the paragraph on Membership in the UCA Basis. This helps me begin to understand the context.

Functionally, I understand that membership has to do with a deeper sense of belonging—a two-way relationship between the church as a whole and an individual member of the church. In paragraphs 13 and 14(a), the Basis of Union describes what we can expect in regard to this relationship. I cannot see any room for compromise.

13. Gifts and Ministries

“The Uniting Church affirms that every member of the Church is engaged to confess the faith of Christ crucified 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.”

Paragraph 14 (a) is a strong statement about the significance of the ministry of the Word in equipping all members “for their particular ministries”:

14(a) “… 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.”

There’s no indication in these paragraphs that the Minister should be expected to do everything in the congregation, nor is there any suggestion of a lay-led congregation without a Minister of the Word. Where either of these is happening then from what I read in the Assembly report, it seems there is a tendency for burnout.

With a shortage of Ministers of the Word, is there a renewed need for a revelation of God’s mission of grace to the church, described in paragraphs 13-14(a) of the Basis in terms that are relational, pastoral, focussed on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and releasing each and every member into ministry? Is the outcome of this mission a special love for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as that ministry, in a multitude of ways, begins to fill homes, congregations, workplaces etc—wherever each member is called to be?

I am grateful for the Assembly’s report and for the openness and opportunity to share these thoughts.