Pictured from left to right: Vicki Waters, David Sexton, Glen Powell and Albert Olley – members of the School Project Team.
After consideration in discernment groups and questions, the Synod meeting has voted to accept a proposal to build a new Uniting Church school with an attached congregation in Western Sydney.
The motion went to a formal majority vote after consensus could not be achieved. 86 percent of the Synod members in attendance voted in favour of the proposal.
The decision means that the Synod will now proceed in consultation with Standing Committee in preparing a new Uniting Church school in Western Sydney, with a new attached congregation and community hub. The current plan is for the school to be opened in 2025.
According to Dr Glen Powell, the school will be attached to, “a contemporary, inclusive, Gospel-centred church.”
The school would be paid for using a series of loans from Uniting Financial Services (UFS). It would be a K-12 co-educational school. There would be some 70 scholarships and bursaries for students.
The proposal was previously introduced to the Synod meeting on Wednesday 2 June by General Secretary Jane Fry.
There was robust debate over whether or not to proceed and Moderator Rev. Simon Hansford said that there would need to be consideration of those who had been opposed to the proposal.
“Help us hear the voices who are uncertain,” he said during his prayer for the Synod.
In keeping with the usual processes, Synod members asked questions about the proposal. Jason Masters suggested that the proposal would need to make explicit what was meant by “inclusion”. Another speaker arguing against the proposal suggested that the school would be establishing a space for “privileged people.”
As the issue of public education funding arose, a number of participants suggested that there was room for the church to lobby government on the issue of school funding, and advocate for public schools to receive more and better funding.
“I think we have a responsibility to step up when the government has poor policy, and a responsibility to (advocate for)…better policy,” Dr Powell said.
Rev. Dr Amelia Koh Butler said that she would prefer funding to be spent on other ministries within education.
“I would probably prefer that we spent $10-$20M on how we work in public schools, TAFEs, and Universities … but a school will do for the moment,” Rev. Dr Koh Butler said.
The proposal will now go back to Synod Standing Committee, who will consider the next steps.
The Uniting Church’s process for meetings seeks to gain consensus for proposals, and then in some cases calls for a vote if this cannot be achieved.