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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Has God Stopped Calling?

This paper investigates the response of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) to the decline in ordination candidates for its Ministers of the Word, using both Church reports and our own recent research within the Church. We highlight how the modern discourse of the business world is employed almost exclusively to deal with an issue of organisational decline that may in fact be resistant to a business solution. We suggest that beyond leaders' fear and anxiety about institutional decline, there is a deeper fear of organisational death due to a dimly perceived sense of God's abandonment of the present form of Church. The denial of grief in the face of this unspoken abandonment, drives the search for business solutions to the perceived problem of the decline of ministerial candidates. We use the insights of system psychodynamics to delve into these existential issues faced by the Church and find a fruitful dialogue can occur between the theories presented in that field and the insights of a contemplative theological tradition. We suggest that the Church can regain its sense of the gift of contemplation by moving away from business-based solutions to its spiritual dilemmas. Finally our paper will provide several ideas for ways to promote this reflective direction in the Church and suggestions, based on our research, of ways to renew and regenerate the Church's ordained ministry.