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2015 ACC Conference Report

Confessing Christ in a Diverse Church

The 2015 ACC National Conference

Around 100 people gathered for the conference held at the beautiful and amenable Nunyara Conference Centre in the Adelaide Hills, Monday 14th – Wednesday 16th September.

An ACC conference has three main parts:
a)      Business and formal matters 
b)      Keynote addresses and bible studies
c)      Encouragement, especially through the state network meetings, groups and informal gatherings.
The conference started with worship and the first Assembly session with Rev Dr Hedley Fihaki (ACC National Chair and Minister of the Word at Mooloolaba Uniting Church leading the conference opening and Rev Rod James facilitating the business. 
After the opening session, members joined state network groups to share about their local ministries and discuss key questions raised as formal business (more later).
At the first keynote session on the opening night Peter Bentley (ACC National Director) presented a brief overview of the issues raised by Dr Keith Suter in his thesis on scenario planning for the future of the Uniting Church (Profiled in the December 2014 ACCatalyst), opening up for Rev Rod James reflection. Rod presented his first PowerPoint address with a full consideration on Where are we and where are we headed? Future Directions in the Uniting Church. Rod particularly explored how the UCA Assembly had moved to a liberal position on sexuality and where the future may lay (See his article in Powerpoint on the ACC website)
Rev Simon Dent (Minister of the Word at Coromandel Valley UC) presented a message for the conference bible study on 1 Timothy 1 on the second day, helping us to focus on God’s amazing grace.
The second keynote address was presented by Rev Dr Max Champion (founding ACC National Chair) on the Confessing Movement, helping our members to more fully understand the nature of being a confessing Christian today. A summary of Max’s address is provided in the December ACCatalyst issue.
The third keynote address was held during the worship time and rally. This was an especially significant night as members of the Emerging Leaders Camp events spoke about the significance of the Camp for their Christian experience and growth and their life within their local churches. Information about this key initiative from the SA ACC Movement has been reported in the ACCatalyst over the last 3 years.
Rev David Kowalick (Minister of the Word at Fishgate Community Uniting Church and a member of the SA ACC Committee) then addressed the Conference on the theme of Confessing Christ from the Basis of Union (in a diverse church), highlighting the foundation of an orthodox understanding of our faith for the Uniting Church.
Rev Ian Weeks is the ACC NSW Movement Convenor, and Minister of the Word at Belrose Uniting Church and delivered the Sermon at the Conference Communion Service on 16th October. Ian reminded us again of the power of the Gospel with his message It’s a Foolish Church that Forsakes the “Foolish” Message.
Emeritus Professor Pat Noller, the Convenor of the ACC Board of Communication helpfully concluded the conference with a wonderful overview of Pastoral Care in a Diverse Church.
Her presentation was summed up in the final slide from Ephesians 4:2-6 (NIV)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
A selection of papers (2 available as a PowerPoint resource) are now available at:
Making Decisions and the ACC future
The minutes of the meeting will be made available to congregations and members in the new year, but it is helpful to provide a brief overview of decisions.
The ACC AGM has the features of a normal AGM, including receiving the financial accounts, and reports from Commission and groups. The AGM is conducted in several sessions spread throughout the conference. Given that this was a conference held after the 14th Assembly, the focus for the business time was on possible future directions and a number of proposals were passed following plenary discussions and also feedback in the state network and group meetings. The overall context for these proposals was continuing as a confessing movement within the Uniting Church in Australia.
(Extract from the draft minutes of the 2015 Assembly of Confessing Congregations AGM)
  1. That the ACC prepare, in consultation with other evangelical and multicultural partners, a theological statement, building on our existing statements and connecting it with the Basis of Union, of the Uniting Church’s doctrine of marriage, in which it is made clear that Christian marriage is of the substance of the faith.
  2. That the National Council begin to explore and trial possibilities, and bring to the next AGM a proposal for further deliberation, for the establishment of an ACC School of Faith taking into consideration the following possibilities:
    1. identifying local campuses within ACC congregations that have a teaching ministry that clarifies and proclaims the faith of the Uniting Church.
    2. identifying teachers and preachers who are willing to be listed as a ‘faculty’ whose resources and gifts would be available to the ACC and to the wider Church as ACC School of Faith teachers and preachers.
    3. developing  an ACC on-line school facility which can be publicised and accessed by ACC and wider Church people.
    4. exploring the possibility of cross-links with other theological colleges on the ecumenical scene;
  3. That the ACC maintain its current identity and status as ‘The Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church in Australia’.
  4. That the ACC maintain its motto, ‘Confessing the Lord Jesus Christ, proclaiming the truth, renewing the church’.
  5. That the ACC undertake the following objectives over the next 3 years:
  1. reaching out to all other reformed/evangelical /orthodox groups in the UCA to explore ways in which we can ‘go forward together in sole loyalty to Christ the living Head of the Church’ and bear ‘witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural, economic, national and racial boundaries’[1].
  2. working to bring those groups (e.g., UAICC, the Migrant/ethnic Conferences, Hope Mission Network, 3D Network, EL 250, PNEUMA) to make a common witness under our resolve to unite in Christ.
  3. seeking to have the proposed biblical & theological statement on marriage held in common witness with the other groups named above.
  4. communicating to our ecumenical partners our desire ‘to live and work within the faith and unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’.
  5. encouraging each congregation and cluster belonging to the ACC to visit the leadership of the other Christian churches in their area and share with them our desire ‘to live and work within the faith and unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’.
  6. calling on all ACC congregations, clusters and individual members, and all of the above groups to earnest and persistent prayer, and that we ask the ACC National Prayer Network to prepare resources to assist in this work of prayer.
Memorial Minutes were presented and warmly received for Rev Dr Gordon Moyes AC and Rev Perry (Raymond) Smith. The memorial minute resolutions will be available in the formal minutes.
The ACC National Council was elected for the next term: 2015 – 2016.
Chair: Rev. Dr Hedley Fihaki (Qld)
Deputy Chair: Rev. Ian Weeks (NSW)
Secretary: Rev. Rod James (SA)
The following Council Members were elected (9):
Rev. Walter Abetz (Tasmania)
Rev. Dr Max Champion (Vic)
Bruce Fairhall (NSW)
Rev. Anne Hibbard (NSW)
Rev. Dr Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe (Victoria)
Rev. Lulu Senituli (Qld)
Rev. David Kowalick (SA)
Rev. Derek  Schiller (Qld)
Rev. Mike Fawcett (WA)
Appreciations to Council Members
The ACC expressed its deep appreciation to retiring Council members.
Rev Professor Ian Breward (Ian will continue as a theological consultant for the council);
Rev Shane Kammermann (past chair); and Dr Colin Adam (former treasurer)
Convenor and Network Appointments (2015-2016)
The AGM made the following appointment.
Board of Management –       Dr Colin Adam
Board of Communication –  Emeritus Professor Patricia Noller
Cross Cultural Commission – Rev. Lulu Senituli
Disciple and Evangelism Commission – Rev. Derek Schiller         
Theology and Ecumenical Relations Commission – Rev. Dr Max Champion
Prayer Network – Rev. Anne Hibbard
Thanks to God for our servant leadership in the organisation of the Conference
The conference was very blessed to have the SA ACC committee and local arrangements committee look after the local logistical arrangements. We were well served by the staff and at Nunyara Conference Centre, especially the catering team. Thank you Nunyara.
At different times up to 120 people gathered in fellowship, hearing from leaders in our movement, sharing wisdom, making decisions and supporting and encouraging each other to confess our Lord Jesus Christ. It is hoped that the 2016 conference will be held in Tasmania (probably later in the year), and it would be wonderful if you could plan to join the gathering. We encourage all ACC member congregations to send a representative and through reporting back more knowledge of the wider work of the ACC will be provided to local members and more understanding of what it means to be a confessing Christian in Australia and indeed in God’s world today.
Peter Bentley

[1] Quotations are from The Basis of Union of the Uniting Church in Australia.