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Presbyterian Church of Australia Implements Restriction on Indigenous Ceremonies During Service

“It was determined by the Presbyterian Church of Australia that an Acknowledgement of Country or Welcome to Country would not be deemed appropriate.” The decision was made at the church’s general assembly in Sydney, where it was concluded that these Indigenous ceremonial practices were not compatible with Christian beliefs. John McClean, a spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church, stated that the assembly had the authority to dictate the conduct of worship services, and anything inconsistent with the Bible should not be included. However, this ban does not extend to “other circumstances” outside of worship services held at Presbyterian churches. The church’s 700 congregations will no longer perform these ceremonies. The ceremonies have been criticized for being overused or tokenistic, and individuals such as Lyle Shelton, former director of the Australian Christian Lobby, believe they are incompatible with Christian practices. Indigenous advocate Noel Pearson also noted that the ceremonies could be overused and called for a more sensible approach to rituals in public life. On the other hand, Safina Stewart, an Indigenous Wuthathi and Mabuiag Island woman, and a storytelling coordinator at the non-denominational Christian group Common Grace, expressed disappointment with the decision, viewing it as a demonstration of how Indigenous spirituality is used against Indigenous people. The decision by the Presbyterian Church has sparked debate and differing opinions on the compatibility of these ceremonies with Christian beliefs as well as the significance and meaning behind them.

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