The Uniting Church in Australia was formed on June 22, 1977, as a union of three churches: the Congregational Union of Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia and the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
In uniting, the members of those bodies testified to "that unity which is both Christ's gift and will for the Church" (basis of union, para. 1). Ecumenism remains a vital aspect in all of the church's life and work - in congregations, national commitments to work together with other churches, and relationships and partnerships with churches of various denominations in Asia and the Pacific.
The Uniting Church's beliefs are drawn for the Bible and from the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. The church also takes heed of the Reformation Witness in the Scots Confession of Faith (1560), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), the Savoy Declaration (1658), and of the preaching of John Wesley in his Forty-four Sermons (1793).
It affirms the place of ongoing theological, literary, historical and scientific study. The church's Basis of Union (1971) brings together aspects of these writings and traditions and sets out the church's way of living and being.
In accordance with the understanding that God loves all people equally and works in and through all God's people, the Uniting Church's approach to world mission has moved from a patriarchal model of "knowing and giving what we think is best" to a model of standing alongside those in need.
The church's mission coworkers immerse themselves in local culture, seek to hear the voice of the local people, and respond by offering support, encouragement and empowerment. This is particularly so in the area of human rights, where the dignity of people made in the image of God must always be respected, however different their way of life may be from that of the mission coworker.
This model has mutual benefits - mission coworkers learn about themselves as well as others, through their experiences. Inevitably, they have revealed to them new and life-changing aspects of God which they are able to share on their return to Australia.
The Uniting Church constantly seeks to affirm its biblical and theological understanding that "Christians in Australia are called to bear witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and racial boundaries". (basis of union para 2)
"The Uniting Church acknowledges that Christ has commanded his Church to proclaim the gospel both in words and in the two visible acts of Baptism and the Lord's Supper" (basis of union, para. 6). It baptises those who confess the Christian faith and children presented for baptism. It takes responsibility for their instruction and nourishment in the faith. It ordains those it believes God has called to be ministers of the word and deacons. It commissions lay people it believes God has called to be elders, lay preachers, youth workers and community ministers.
The Uniting Church's commitment to love of God and neighbour has sometimes drawn it into controversial situations. It has long taken a role in the political arena, encouraging moral, social and ethical integrity. The Uniting Church has been at the forefront of Aboriginal rights issues including the Native Title debate and reconciliation.
It has taken a stand on environmental issues, and supports the equality and dignity of marginalised people such as ethnic minorities, disabled people and homosexual people.
It is a multicultural church, striving to treat people on an equal basis and seeking to give a voice to the poor, outcast and needy.
However, only some of the Uniting Church's discipling is viewed in public. Much of its role is to stand alongside the individual, inside and outside the church. Its congregations nurture spiritual, social and educational growth. Lay people are encouraged in leadership roles, including preaching the Word and leading congregational worship.
The Uniting Church is the third largest Christian denomination in Australia. It has around 2,800 congregations, 51 presbyteries and seven synods. Uniting Church members number 300,000 while 1.3 million Australians claim an association.
Uniting Churches are found throughout Australia.
The church has a special ministry, through Frontier Services, to the people of the outback - some of its ministers are "patrol padres" and "flying padres".
The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress is the Aboriginal arm of the church, with 10,000 to 15,000 Aboriginal and Islander people involved.
From 5-7 per cent of Uniting Church members worship in languages other than English, in 25 different language groupings plus various Aboriginal tribal languages.
The church is diverse, with a range of views and practices in theological and spiritual emphasis, worship style, social opinions and mission focus.
It has 48 schools, ranging from long-established schools with large enrolments to small recently established low-fee schools.
More than 20,000 people are employed by the church in community services work, particularly in aged care, Lifeline, hospitals, nursing, family support services, youth services, and care for the homeless.
A national agency guides the way the church tries to live with understanding, peace and harmony with people of other faiths.
The church is an active member of the National Council of Churches in Australia, the World Council of Churches http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/english.html, the Christian Conference of Asia, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches http://warc.ch/, and the World Methodist Council.
For further information about the Uniting Church in Australia contact the synod office in your state http://uca.org.au/synods, a parish minister (listed under Uniting Church in your White Pages) or the National Assembly email@example.com.