Local religion sleuth, Barney Zwartz, uncovered the story of the “new faith” being peddaled by Rev. Francis Macnab, the “minister for life” of St Michael’s Uniting Church here in the city of Melbourne.
This excited some discussion in my circles. Would the Uniting Church react to the proclamation of such an obviously unorthodox message in its name? There is, after all, a fairly active and influential alliance of groups in the Uniting Church – known variously as “The Confessing Movement”, the “Reforming Alliance”, or the “Evangelical Movement in the Uniting Church” (known by the acronym “EMU”) – who would be less than impressed by Macnab’s new found faith.
Still hot on the trail, Barney has a follow up article in today’s edition of The Age: “Gentle rebuke over ministers new faith”. Here’s the guts of it:
THE “new faith” launched last week by Uniting Church minister Francis Macnab seems a departure from Christianity, moderator Jason Kioa told the church’s state synod yesterday. It is as close as the church leadership can come to calling Dr Macnab a heretic without a disciplinary hearing, for which it first needs a formal complaint.
…Mr Kioa told the synod at La Trobe University: “The views expressed by Dr Macnab in the media last week discard much of what has been accepted for 2000 years as orthodox Christian belief. …It also concerns me that Dr Macnab’s expression of a ‘new faith’ as reported in the media appears to be outside the teachings of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
But Mr Kioa also obliquely called for restraint by outraged church members, saying it was important to be aware how public statements would be perceived within and beyond the church. “I remind all members that we are called to be a fellowship of reconciliation,” he said.
Following St Paul (Col 3:15), the Uniting Church in Australia has adopted “eirenicism” as one of its chief “virtues”, and for that they are to be praised. It is a “gift” which perhaps they could offer to Catholics (a famously fractious mob) in the great “exchange of gifts” which John Paul II proposed, and Pope Benedict recently re-proposed to us in his meeting with ecumenical leaders in Sydney in July.
Nevertheless, one suspects that sooner or later someone from the Confessing Movement or the EMU’s will bring Barney’s “Singular Case of the Heretic in the Uniting Church” to the table for adjudication. Then things will become interesting.