QCT is a membership organization. This means that all the work undertaken by QCT is done on behalf of its members. In order to reach consensus about what they want, the members meet regularly, represented in each case by delegates of their choice. This takes place in monthly Executive meetings and twice a year in so-called General Meetings. Each of these meetings is a rich exercise in ecumenical dialogue. QCT's structure, in other words, creates many spaces for dialogue between its various members.
Each year QCT elects a new president. The President is a member of QCT's Executive Committee. The annual change of presidents ensures that all active members of QCT are able to fill this leadership role at some time. Our current president is Rev Stephen Nuske.
The staff facilitate joint action of the members of QCT in various fields, in consultation with the governing bodies and commissions.
QCT is a membership organization. This means that all the work undertaken by QCT is done on behalf of its members.
QUEENSLAND CHURCHES TOGETHER:
A Potted History
1. The early 20th Century – churches hardly together
In the first half of the 20th century, relations between Christian denominations
in Queensland were marked by disrespect, suspicion, antipathy, and downright
denunciation at worst, and by very occasional co-operation at best.
I can vividly recall the songs which we State School kids sang at the Convent
Sitting on logs
as if they’re chocolate frogs"
And their song in reply:
Ring the bell
Go to hell!"
We learned the lyrics from our parents.
We've come a long, long way since then.
QCT: A Potted History 2
Two important signposts along the way were:
• The World Council of Churches was inaugurated in 1948, embracing many
churches in the Protestant and Orthodox traditions;
• Vatican 2 in the 1960s, which confronted Protestant churches with a different
attitude from Rome. Pope John XXIII was winning universal respect and
affection among us all.
In Queensland, ecumenical activity was practised by the Anglican Church as
well as ecumenically-minded Protestants in the Congregational, Methodist and
Presbyterian Churches. Nevertheless within each of these three churches there
were people who nursed an underlying prejudice against anything that smacked
of 'Romish practices' - and for some, that included the Anglican Church!
2. The Queensland Ecumenical Council of Churches (QECC)
The emergence of the Queensland Ecumenical Council of Churches (QECC) in
the 1960s was, however, a response in Queensland to the ecumenical
imperative of the Gospel - particularly with awareness of the prayer of Jesus in
That body had connections to the Australian Council of Churches, which in
turn was connected with the World Council of Churches (WCC).
QECC included the Anglican, Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian
Churches, as well as the Society of Friends (Quakers).
Some Protestant churches - like the Baptist Church and Churches of Christ in
Qld - chose not to belong to the QECC, which was perceived as being too
liberal. Attempts to bring these churches into conversations with the QECC
failed, and they formed their own coalition with the name Queensland Council
of Churches (QCC).
At this time, the Roman Catholic Church was not part of any of the ecumenical
councils that were associated with the World Council of Churches, the
Australian Council of Churches or the Queensland Ecumenical Council. Nor
was the Lutheran Church. Yet both the Catholic Church and the Lutheran
Church had Observer Status in the QECC.
Both of these churches have been member churches of Queensland Churches
Together since its inauguration (1991, see below).
From the 60s onward, the situation in Queensland and elsewhere changed
dramatically following the new stance of Roman Catholics after Vatican 2.
Shared services and shared witness became increasingly common, and there
was some sharing of facilities between Roman Catholics and churches related
to the ACC and the WCC.
QCT: A Potted History 3
In the 1960s there were the first moves that led in 1977 to the inauguration of
the Uniting Church with the merging of the Congregational, Methodist and
Presbyterian Churches (some congregations of the Presbyterian Church chose
not to join, as did some Congregationals).
3. The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) is born
The Uniting Church adopted an agreed Basis of Union which commits its
members to working for closer relationships and union with other churches in
seeking for that unity which is Christ's gift and will for his Church.
The UCA became a member of QECC at its foundation.
The spirit of the World Council of Churches and its counterparts in Australia
was a great encouragement to Australian Protestants involved in the UCA and
to the national and state ecumenical bodies. It also encouraged them to seek
closer relationships with the Roman Catholic Church at national, state, regional
and local levels.
4. Training together for ministry: the Brisbane College of Theology
In 1983 the Brisbane College of Theology was formed.
Under this arrangement, people preparing for ministry in the Anglican, Uniting
and Roman Catholic Churches undertook their theological studies together.
This was a significant step in Queensland ecumenism and aroused much
interest at national and international levels. This arrangement continues until
5. Striving for one ecumenical body
Early in 1988 Bishop Jim Cuskelly, on the advice of the Brisbane Archdiocesan
Commission for Ecumenism, proposed to a meeting of the Catholic bishops of
Queensland that they should look for a way of setting up a single structure in
Queensland which would be more representative of the churches than the two
This proposal was subsequently put to a combined meeting of the Queensland
Anglican and Catholic bishops. Both parties supported it.
In the same year, QECC invited all the churches in Qld to appoint
representatives to a working party which would draft a constitution for a new
State Church body which all churches would feel able to join. It was to replace
QECC and perhaps also QCC. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese and Lutheran
District of Queensland appointed representatives to the working party. Some
more cautious member churches of QCC did not participate.
QCT: A Potted History 4
The working party worked through 1989 and into 1990 to design a structure
which would be acceptable to as many churches as possible. The drafters hoped
that the Baptist Union, the Churches of Christ and the Presbyterians might
eventually participate. That has not yet happened, but various links with
During this time your Commission for Ecumenism of the Catholic Church,
through its many contacts in the parishes and by means of its newsletter, was
keeping the people of the Archdiocese aware of what was happening.
In May 1991 each participating church sent a delegation of four to a
consultation which was to formally respond to the draft constitution.
The delegation from the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane was:
Bishop James Cuskelly, Mrs Elizabeth Harrington, Father Michael Putney, who
was Chair of the Commission for Ecumenism and Vice Rector of Pius XII
Seminary, and Brother Eric Blumenthal FMS, Executive Officer of the
Commission for Ecumenism.
Bishop Cuskelly was also representing the other four Catholic Dioceses of
The consultation met over three days and recommended to their respective
churches that they accept the constitutions. It was proposed that the new
structure be called Queensland Churches Together, and a date was set as the
date for the inauguration of the new body: 1 December, 1991.
The name was chosen because it has a more dynamic ring to it than one which
spoke of a 'Council of Churches' - and probably because the word 'council'
evoked memories of past difficulties and conflicts.
6. Queensland Churches Together (QCT)
On 1st December 1991, the inauguration of the new body was held in the
chapel of St Peter's Lutheran College with a very encouraging attendance.
It was an inspiring service built around the theme of light and water. Each
participating church had prepared a banner which was carried in procession
into the Chapel and tied symbolically to a large paschal candle. Catholic
Archbishop Francis Rush gave the homily, in which he focused on Christian
unity and the work of Queensland Churches Together, referring to it as a "long
and costly endeavour...The reconciliation that we aim at, like our Lord's
redemptive work, can be achieved only through suffering and the cross.
"Our journey to glory, like that of Jesus Himself, can only be through Calvary."
The heads of churches were all represented in the service and washed each
other's feet in an act symbolising service to each other.
QCT: A Potted History 5
7. Regional ecumenism: Rockhampton Churches Together
On Wednesday, 11 December 1991, a service to celebrate the inauguration of
QCT was also held in Rockhampton. St Paul's Anglican Cathedral was packed.
Leaders and worshippers from the Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and
Uniting Churches throughout the city affirmed their support for this new and
exciting step towards ecumenism.
In his address to us, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rockhampton, the Rt Revd
Brian Heenan, emphasised our oneness in Christ, that we are truly brothers and
sisters no matter what denomination we may belong to.
He prayed that the churches would foster Christian unity through prayer,
worship, dialogue and direct action.
Soon after, Rockhampton Churches Together was born. It continues to be
represented personally at QCT meetings by Dorothy Demack.
The leaders of the participating church continued - and still continue - to meet
together regularly, as do their counterparts in Brisbane (Heads of Churches
meetings, held bi-monthly).
8. The Members of QCT
The churches which originally formed QCT were:
The Anglican Church of Australia
The Antiochian Orthodox Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church
The Greek Orthodox Church
The Indian Orthodox Church
The Lutheran Church of Australia
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
The Roman Catholic Church,
The Romanian Orthodox Church and
The Uniting Church in Australia.
The Queensland Congregational Fellowship joined in 1993.
The Salvation Army and the Churches of Christ participated as Observers.
While the Churches of Christ have since ceased to participate in the life of
QCT, the Salvation Army became a member in 2004.
QCT: A Potted History 6
QCT’s newest member is the Coptic Orthodox Church, which has only recently
joined us (2007). This brings the number of members to twelve.
9. The first staff and office-bearers of QCT
On Sunday 31 May 1992, a service of worship for the commissioning of Revd
Helen Mills as QCT General Secretary was held at Seton College Chapel, Mt
Helen held this post for five years before leaving to take up an ecumenical
parish in England.
The next General Secretary, Revd Russell Morris,
was inducted into the position at an ecumenical worship service at
Toowong Uniting Church on Saturday 8 March 1997. Russell left QCT in
I myself (Revd Don Whebell) served as Acting General Secretary.
On October 3, 2011, the current General Secretary, The Revd Canon Richard Tutin,commenced work with QCT and was was inducted into the position at a service in the chapel of St Francis College, Milton, on 8 November of that year.
Following Bishop James Cuskelly's term of office as inaugural President of
QCT, this role has in turn been held by:
Revd Professor Han Spykerboer, (Uniting Church)
Pastor John Vitale, (Lutheran)
Archbishop Peter Hollingworth, (Anglican)
Revd Dr David Pitman, (Uniting Church)
Bishop Michael Putney, (Roman Catholic)
Bishop Ron Williams (Anglican)
Pastor Tim Jaensch, (Lutheran)
Revd Dr Ray Reddicliffe (Uniting Church)
Bishop Brian Finnigan (Roman Catholic)
Bishop Richard Appleby (Anglican)
Pastor Tim Jaensch (Lutheran)
Lt Colonel Ed Dawkins (Salvation Army)
and the current President, Revd Dr David Pitman (Uniting Church).
10. The development of QCT's work
Several commissions and sub-committees
were soon established to carry out the work of QCT:
the Faith and Order Commission,
the Churches' Education Committee,
QCT: A Potted History 7
the Ecumenical Hospital Chaplaincy Advisory Committee, and
the Ecumenical Refugee Support Committee.
QCT is the host for an ecumenical ministry helping to build bridges
between Indigenous people and other Australians through awareness-raising
and advocacy: the Churches Together Indigenous People’s Partnership
(CTIPP). This important ministry began in Han Spykerboer’s time as President
– and has been one of the most significant parts of the work of QCT. It is
supported mainly by the Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Churches.
CTIPP is directed primarily to non-indigenous people in our churches. It
complements – never competes with – the ministries of the denominational
churches among Indigenous people. CTIPP is ecumenical – and that is unique.
The growth and broadening of the scope of the work of Queensland Churches
Together over the past ten years is seen in the number of committees and other
groups which now come under its auspices, namely:
the Faith and Unity Commission;
the Commission for Churches Together Indigenous People’s Partnership
the Joint Churches Domestic Violence Prevention Program.
In recent years interfaith dialogue has become increasingly important to QCT.
Here are just some of the key aspects of this work:
- QCT sends an ecumenical delegation to the Queensland Forum for Christians,
Jews and Muslims, which was founded in 2004. Its other members are
appointed by the Islamic Council of Queensland and the Jewish Board of
- QCT works closely with the Multifaith Centre at Griffith University.
- From time to time representatives of QCT are asked to take part in multi-faith
initiatives hosted by Queensland Government.
QCT: A Potted History 8
A number of local interchurch councils have become Members in Association
of Queensland Churches Together.
These usually go under the name of 'Churches Together in…'
Hence we have:
Churches Together in Rockhampton,
Churches Together in Woodgate,
Churches Together in Bundaberg,
Churches Together in Caloundra,
Churches Together in the Border Region
QCT relates to other local ecumenical groups, some of them with a long
history, which are not formally associated with QCT. These include, for
example, the Stanley River Ecumenical Pastoral Council, the Council of
Christian Churches in Mount Isa, the Mackay and District Interchurch Council
and the Western Suburbs Interchurch Council. In addition links are maintained
with ecumenical schools such as Jubilee School on the Gold Coast.
I happily leave the last word to Elizabeth Harrington:
"A special feature of Queensland Churches Together is the variety of
denominations involved, from the Society of Friends (Quakers) to Roman
Catholics, with their widely disparate styles of worship, church structure and
understanding of authority. … these differences are riches to be shared, not
issues to be used to maintain divisions.
The different gifts and traditions we bring when we come together enrich us all.
Christian unity is not about obliterating our differences and creating one super
church. It is about understanding and accepting our different ways of being
church and working together with strength as we share our gifts."
* * * *
Why Queensland Churches Together?In the Christian Scriptures we are given a prayer said to have been spoken by Jesus before his death. In this prayer Jesus prays for his disciples and for all who follow him in the future:
“I ask... also on behalf of tho
QCT aims to encourage and enable Members to:
(a) pray together and share their faith, and to find ways to worship together, while respecting each Church's disciplines, doctrines and traditions;
(b) foster Christian unity through dialogue;
(c) develop a de