The Basis of Union, Manifesto for Renewal, and the China Christian Council

I’ve recently finished a revised edition of my very first book, Manifesto for Renewal (1986). Essentially this 30th anniversary edition is the same book that was published in 1986 but, I hope, a much better version of itself.

I’ve done several things to revise it. In the thirty years since Manifesto for Renewal was first published I’ve continued to research, write and teach about the subject – coming to understand the material better and accumulating much more information than I had then. So in this revision I’ve included a substantial new section on the development of missiology between 1945 and 1968. I’ve added some significant information about the discussion and decision-making that was internal to the Joint Commission on Church Union. I’ve tried to be much clearer about some of the key issues; for example, why the Basis of Union was completely rewritten in 1967-1968, and what was so distinctive about the understanding of ministry developed by the Joint Commission. And where I haven’t made significant changes or additions, I’ve tried to refresh the language of the book, using more of my own adult voice. This revised edition of Manifesto for Renewal is a longer book but, I hope, a clearer, better book to read.

One part of the first edition that will not make its way into the revised edition is the original Preface, by David Gill who was the Assembly General Secretary at the time and a member of my congregation. (It was David, as I recall, who suggested the title of the book when Hugh McGinley and I couldn’t come up with one.) But I have some misgivings about that because of a story David recounts in the Preface that has some very contemporary resonances:

“A couple of years ago, we had a historic visit from representatives of the church in the People’s Republic of China. One of the first requests of Bishop K.H.Ting, leader of the team, was: I want to meet with some people from the Uniting Church in Australia. Why? Well, we in China don’t want to go back to the old denominations we had before the Revolution. We can’t live forever in the very tentative Christian Council we have now. We’ve read you Basis of Union, we’re excited by it and we think that what your church is trying to do and to be may have much to teach us.”

I’d forgotten all about that story, until I re-read David’s Preface. And I was truly delighted to be reminded of it. The friendship with the China Christian Council has grown very strong in the last five years or so, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting with Chinese representatives both in Australia and in China. One of the things the CCC has been doing for us in this relationship is re-acquainting us with our foundational vision of a post-denominational way of being the church. I think I’ll send a few copies of Manifesto for Renewal to our friends in China just as soon as it’s published.

Reading proofs

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