Synod 2017 members had perhaps more questions than answers on the move by the Uniting Church towards recognising sovereignty of the First Peoples in Australia.
The national Assembly meeting next year will consider this issue and asked for contributions from Victoria and Tasmania, which led to working group discussion on Tuesday
Facilitation team members Rev Rachel Kronberger and Paul Chandler presented an overview of comments from the groups back to the Synod general meeting on Wednesday morning.
Some working groups had debated whether terms such as “sovereignty” actually grasped the relationship of the First Peoples to the land and some wondered how much of the move had been initiated by Indigenous people.
Eight groups said sovereignty was a right relationship between First and Second Peoples.
Groups expressed their explicit sorrow, guild and sadness over the colonisation of First Peoples and their wish to demonstrate openness and humility in addressing this.
Feelings of unease were expressed about “getting things right” and worries that actions could appear tokenistic.
Some groups stressed that First Peoples could not be treated as a single identity.
A concern was voiced that First Peoples have lost more than land and had also been deprived of culture, language and their children stolen.
Some felt uncomfortable their churches and homes were build on Indigenous lands and one group said it was uneasy focusing on the past rather than fully looking at the challenges of the future.
In response to a question about history and identity some felt the wording was too general or didn’t go far enough.
Some believed there was too much emphasis on trauma creating a difficulty in moving forward.
There was a desire expressed to move beyond saying sorry to acting.
Some identified the problem of not being in relational contact with First Peoples and the need to listen and find out how Second Peoples can be forgiven.
In Victoria and Tasmania this meant being guided by Congress and Narana.
Groups also said there was to recognise the Church had been a colonising one and that post-colonial theology and education needed to be done, especially to identify and remove embedded racism.