The development of the understanding of ministry in the Australian church union negotiations 1957-1971
Barely three years after the formation of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Assembly Standing Committee urged the Commission on Doctrine to 'give first priority to matters relating to ministry'. This urgent request was made in spite of the fact that questions concerning the understanding and ordering of ministry had been given close consideration during the twenty years of negotiation prior to union. In this paper we investigate the notion of 'ministry' as it was expressed in the Basis of Union, the foundation document of the UCA. A study of the development of the understanding of ministry during the period between the setting up of the Joint Commission on Church Union (1957) and the publication of their finally revised Basis of Union (1971) is required in order to substantiate the exposition of this understanding in the Basis. Accordingly, six aspects of the development are discussed. (i) An account is given of the evolution, during the decades prior to 1957, of the new perception of the ecumenical task in Australia with which the Commission began their work and which conditioned their development of an understanding of ministry. (ii) A detailed review and analysis of the Commission's two Reports (1959 and 1963) is conducted. (iii) The Commission's understanding is set in its wider context through a discussion of the convergence of missiological and ecclesiological thought between the Whitby Meeting of the IMC and the Mexico Conference of the DWME. (iv) The reception of the Commission's proposals is evaluated through a study of surviving published responses. (v) The Australian 'ecclesiastical climate' in the late sixties is assessed, and a theological response to that 'climate' is identified, as conditioning the Commission's revision of their proposals. (vi)The revised Basis of Union is analysed in detail. In conclusion, four characteristic emphases of the Basis are identified as determinative of the understanding of ministry in the Uniting Church in Australia.