Milestone 50th Dialogue with Uniting Church

November 27, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The National Dialogue of The Uniting Church in Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry met for the 50th time this week.

 The Dialogue began in 1991, as a result of tension between the Church and the Jewish community and the belief by the Presidents of the respective organisations, Leslie Caplan z”l of the ECAJ and Rev. Dr D’Arcy Wood of the UCA, that there was a need for a relationship which went beyond coming together only when there were problems.

The delegations at the 50th  meeting were Chaired by Jeremy Jones AM and Rev. Matthew Wilson. Jeremy Jones has Chaired the Jewish delegation since 1992 and Rev. Wilson has Chaired the UCA delegation since 2012.
Jeremy Jones noted that this was the first of the formal Dialogues in Australia to be established between the peak organisations of the Jewish organisations and any other group. It has not only served as a learning experience and template for other dialogues but also has produced at least one flourishing offshoot, the dialogue between the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Uniting Church in that State.

The discussion at the 50th session focused on “Technology and Changes to Religious Life and Society” with the delegates considering issues such as changing sources of information and authority, the proliferation of ideas which may previously have only limited audiences, communication within faiths and a number of issues related to adapting to public health requirements during the pandemic.

Rabbi Ralph Genende made the opening presentation, covering a wide range of social and ethical issues which have been addressed by faith communities over the past two millenia. 

Rev. Wilson led the presentations from the Uniting Church, flagging a number of challenges for religious leaders who have no longer been able to maintain traditional connections with their followers. 

These opening presentations were followed by contributions from each of the Jewish and Christian participants, with the way human beings have both adapted technology and been changed by technology an overriding theme.

The ECAJ delegation comprised Jeremy Jones as Chair, Rabbis David Freedman, Ralph Genende and Jeffrey Kamins, Frances Prince and Sharyn Mittelman from Melbourne and Josie Lacey, Julie Nathan and Peter Wertheim from Sydney. 

The Uniting Church delegation consisted of Rev. Matthew Wilson, Edwin Carter, Tara Curlewis, Graham McAnally, Rob McFarlane and Alison Bleyerveen.

Reflecting on the meeting Rob McFarlane commented “As always, the commonalities and the contrasts were equally engaging” and noted the “openness and warmth” which is a hallmark of the Dialogues.
The other delegates agreed that this unique forum for exchange of knowledge and perspectives has had an impressive past and gives no indication that it is losing momentum.

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