Peter Phillips, Deputy Clerk (published on 7 October 2023)
We give praise and thanks to God our Father that the 2023 General Assembly was again opened with worship and the induction of the incoming Moderator, Rev Ian Hutton, in The Scots’ Church Melbourne. Rev Hutton’s Moderator’s address ‘Living in Exile’, based on selected passages from 1 Peter, was timely and much appreciated by the large congregation, and the uplifting singing was led by members of his family.
The second sitting on Tuesday morning commenced as usual with worship and the Lord’s Supper. The service was led by the Moderator, and the recently inducted Moderator-General, Rev David Burke, Assembly Expositor, led the Assembly in the first of his Assembly expositions, ‘Loved to the End’, based on John 13:1-20. Rev Burke continued his expositions of selected passages from John’s Gospel on Wednesday morning (‘Words of Reassurance and Comfort’ based on John 14:1-6) and Thursday morning (‘Pruning for removal, pruning for fruitfulness’, based on John 15:1-7). His preaching was illuminating, encouraging and searching, and a great blessing to all in General Assembly.
The Assembly recognised Bruce Meyer’s 50 years of service as an elder of the church. Ordained as an elder in the Kaniva Presbyterian Church in April 1973 by Rev Harry Quick, he has served in the Kaniva – Nhill charge as Session Clerk, in preaching and in pastoral care since that time.
The Assembly also remembered the life and ministry of Rev Cor Vanderhorn, Rev Keith D W Allen, Rev K Graham Hamill, Rev Dr Robert (Bob) L Carner and Rev Dr Dallas Clarnette, promoted to glory in the past year.
The Assembly at various times also welcomed a number of visitors and special speakers, including:
- Rev Lesleigh J F Hall, Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
- Rev Kevin Murray, APWM National Director, whose missions’ presentation was as fresh, informative and challenging as ever.
- Mrs Kathryn Gatt, PCV Women’s Ministry Facilitator, who brought the Assembly up to date with thework of the Women’s Ministries Victoria Committee.
- Mrs Fiona Bligh, PCV Safe Church Facilitator, who launched the one day online intensive course, ‘Understanding childhood development for the sake of the gospel’.
- Mrs Dawn Penny, CEO, Korus Connect, who spoke on the opportunities for gospel work in chaplaincy in schools and other places and the need for suitable workers.
- Dr Scott Marsh, recently inducted principal of Scotch College, who spoke of himself and the college.
- Mrs Roslyn Brown, President, PWMU and Mrs Alison Stanley, PWMU Secretary; Mrs Brown addressed the Assembly on the work of the PWMU.
- Mr Ashley Saunders, Head of Operations Barnabas Fund (Australia) Ltd, who spoke on the work of Barnabas Aid.
Each speaker expanded our horizons, increased our understanding and encouraged us in the many faceted nature of gospel ministry in word and in deed and the breadth of God’s kingdom work in the world.
Responding to its committees
A major task of a General Assembly is to deal with committee related business. Some of the more significant decisions taken (more or less in the order in which they were taken) include1:
- Encouraging women to attend the closest On the Road conference on Discipleship’ in 2024 to be built up in their faith and to strengthen the bonds of fellowship across women in the denomination.
- Encouraging sessions to identify women and encourage and support them to attend the WMV training day in October 2024 ‘Women’s Ministry: Why it Matters, Where to Get Started, and How to persevere’.
- Adopting a revised ‘Sex, Gender and Marriage’ statement (find it on the PCV Website).
- Endorsing the intention of the Church Planting Committee to adopt various strategies that might help more churches in the PCV to become church planting churches.
- Encouraging the people of the church to inform the State News Committee of items of interest to the PCV and to subscribe to Fellow Workers through the sign-up form on the PCV Website.
- Approving a revised ‘PCV Code of Conduct for members of the church in the context of the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 (the Act) (again, find it on the PCV Website).
- Encouraging sessions to consider the opportunities for ministry presented through the Health and Community Chaplaincy Committee for suitable and willing members of their congregations.
- Affirming that:
- deacon is an office that is biblical, perpetual, spiritual, and practical;
- deacons serve on behalf of the congregation and are primarily concerned with ministering to the physical and material needs of the congregation;
- the office of deacon is not one of teaching or governance but has the necessary authority appropriate to the nature of the office and is open to suitably qualified men and women.
- Requesting all members to prayerfully seek out potential candidates for appointment to the Enactment of Presbyterian Care Victoria Ltd committee (contact: Iain Bramley).
- Encouraging and urging presbyteries and congregations to put forward candidates for ADF chaplaincy.
- Encouraging all church members to avail themselves of the missionary poster.
- Encouraging congregations to
- take an active interest in our diaspora missionaries working in Australia through prayer, giving, and personal contact.
- personally invite missionaries on home assignment or in diaspora ministries to share in their regular worship services.
- Encouraging those congregations who do not yet include world mission as part of their annual budget to consider adopting a missionary or missionary family in the coming financial year.
- Requesting the Selection Committee to seek out a highly motivated and appropriately skilled convener for the Presbyterian Youth and Children Committee.
- Thanking God for leading the Archive Committee to see 690 Elgar Road, Box Hill North as a possible home for the PCV Archive, and for his providential guidance that led to moving-in 1 July this year, and encouraging attendance at the Opening and Dedication Service (yet to be announced).
The Assembly Clerk plays a vital role in the preparation and smooth operation of each General Assembly and the life of the PCV. The Clerkship Committee reported that with deep regret it had received advice from the Clerk of Assembly, Rev Dr John Wilson, that he is not seeking a renewal of his contract past 31 December 2024 in order to make way for a younger generation of leadership to take up the reins and to guide the General Assembly into our next era.
Two very important Assembly appointments were made by the 2023 General Assembly.
- The first was the appointment of Rev Peter Hastie as Principal of the Theological College. The TEC reported that certain difficulties had left it without the capacity to advance the search for a new Principal, and recommended that Mr Hastie’s appointment be extended for 12 months, to the end of 2024
- The second was the appointment of Rev Cameron Garrett as Assistant to the Clerks. Mr Garrett had been appointed as Acting Assistant to the Clerks to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Mr Dean Carroll, and he had served with distinction in this role; we are grateful for his gifts and graces and willingness to serve and wish him God’s richest blessings as he continues to serve in this way.
At the conclusion of a happy Assembly, a General Assembly marked by the wisdom from above which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, the Assembly commended its Moderator, Rev Ian Hutton and his wife Ann, to God with prayer for his blessings and empowerment for them both during the coming year, and the Assembly was dissolved with the singing of the doxology and prayer.