In association with UnitingCare and the University of Heidelberg’s Institute for the Study of Christian Social Service, Pilgrim Theological College is hosting a conference on the relationship between agencies and congregations. Though ecumenical in nature, the idea for this tripartite discourse came from the structural changes currently underway within the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Cultural shifts, such as secularisation, have meant that church and religious bodies now occupy a different space in relation to service provision. Funding models often place ambiguous pressures on service providers, especially those with a ground within religious belief. We in Australia are in the middle of a significant period of transition. Change has become a necessary factor. Models that worked twenty years ago no longer do. Continual reflection on structures within a competitive environment is a given.
There is, however, a deeper question: why are we in this business in the first place? Do we have a vision capable of supporting and directing this mission of the church in this period of transition? This is exactly the question posed within the University of Heidelberg’s Institute for the Study of Christian Social Service. Over an extended period, this institute and its director, Prof. Dr. Johannes Eurich, have studied the key issues facing service provision in the German context, the role of congregations within this and the theological ground of Christian involvement.
To be sure, Germany and Australia are different contexts with different histories and different church/state relations. But much is also similar, especially when it comes to the professionalisation of social service. The discussion seeks to encourage thinking about the changes underway. Without a solid theological and theoretical ground, structural changes alone may succeed only in church based providers being directed by agendas not their own. Now, as we are in the middle of a transition, is the time to be doing the hard thinking.
In this spirit, John Flett invites you to participate in the ROS conference in Melbourne, 2-4 September, 2016.
For more information, including the speaker list, abstracts, and to register, please visit: www.rosconference.org.au