Church Union in Australia: Those who stayed out; a Continuing Congregationalist Perspective
The 22nd of June 1977 marked a significant change in Australian church history with the formation of the Uniting Church of Australia. This amalgamation of Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches gave birth to Australia’s ‘first indigenous church’, which is now its ‘third largest Christian denomination’. This magnificent achievement of union, or ‘reunion’ as some have seen it, may have made good sense to the ‘average Australian’ and
those who united, however, a minority of churches chose to ‘stay out’.
Amongst this group were a comparatively small number of churches that continued to ‘fly the congregational banner’. Of these churches a number stayed independent, others joined the ‘Congregational Federation’ and around twenty-seven churches in NSW, who somewhat regard themselves as the ‘remnant of the congregational church’ in Australia, formed the Fellowship of Congregational Churches (FCC).
Much has been written about the formation of the Uniting Church in Australia from a proponent’s perspective, some of which has touched on the reasons why certain churches chose not to unite. The Presbyterians have produced various publications from their perspective. However, virtually nothing has been written from a Continuing Congregational
perspective, particularly of those churches that joined the FCC.
This paper will therefore be a start in filling that void. Over the course of this paper, under four basic headings – background, the road to union, the Continuing Congregationalist perspective and the Fellowship of Congregational Churches – I will present their perspective on church union, seeking to identify their reasons for staying out, the potential factors that contributed and the path they walked in aiming to preserve not only their congregational heritage, but also, in their eyes, an evangelical response to the Basis of Union and the formation of the Uniting Church.