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Members of the National Council of Churches in Australia in Adelaide last week (Supplied)

In its 30th anniversary year, the National Council of Churches in Australia held its 11th National Forum in Adelaide last weekend, writes Stephen Downs. Source: The Southern Cross.

The forum’s theme was “Messages of Hope in a complex world” and a general aim of the gathering was to reflect on a statement of purpose and values to guide the ongoing life of the council.

Attending the forum were the board and staff of the council, several national church leaders, delegates of most of the member churches from across Australia and Indigenous representatives. 

Bishop Michael McKenna, chair of the Bishops Commission for Christian Unity and Inter-religious Dialogue, and Bishop Greg Homeming OCD were among the Catholic Church representatives.

The council connects with numerous international, national and local ecumenical councils and bodies that have emerged over the past 100 years or more. 

The initial impetus for this movement was the desire to see “separated Christians” united for the sake of the evangelisation of the world.

Through them, churches have engaged together in a process of mutual understanding, responded to disaster, advocated for vulnerable people and sought justice and peace.

There are now 18 member churches in the council and together they form a rich community of Australian Christian communities. There is much to celebrate. And yet this is a time when many familiar institutions are facing significant change and a future with greater uncertainty than in the past.

This is certainly true for the Australian Ecumenical Movement and for our churches and faith communities. 

In his welcome address, Council president Rev John Gilmore expressed the desire for the forum to move past a focus on the institutional life of the council and its member churches and into our deeper purpose, asking: What is the Christian message that we bear and will carry individually and collectively?

Stephen Downs is chair of the Adelaide Diocesan Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission.


National ecumenical forum looks to deeper purpose (By Stephen Downs, The Southern Cross)