Sunday, November 11, 2007

COMPASS: THE UNITING CHURCH

Australia's third largest Church, the Uniting Church, is struggling to adapt in the face of a changing Australia, this fascinating documentary airing on Sunday 11 November @ 9.25pm takes an indepth look at the organisation.

Born in the Australian religious community in 1977, it was a bold new experiment in Christian unity and was a culmination of three separate churches: the Presbyterian Church, the Congregational Church (with their roots in the European reformation), and the Methodist Church, derived from 18th century Britain.

Overnight, the Uniting Church has become Australia's third largest denomination with two million members, standing for social justice, human rights and religious liberty. From the start, it was not afraid to mix religion and politics. The faith opposed racism, supported Aboriginal Land Rights and lobbied for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. It was a community that revelled in its diversity.

However, over the past decade, its constituency has divided and fractured over questions of theology and sexuality, with many different expressions of faith now living under the one church banner. Also, like other Christian churches, it has an ageing and declining congregation.

Compass takes a look into the current challenges faced by the Church and asks whether this uniquely Australian institution can survive the division taking place in its community. We also speak with John and Marion Morrison, who were with the Church from the start, as well as visiting two Uniting congregations: The Uniting Church at Bondi Junction's Market Place and St. James Uniting Church in Canberra.