Church to probe Access

THE Uniting Church, one of the key partners in Access Ministries that provides religious education in Victorian primary schools, has backed away from supporting the beleaguered agency.

The church's state synod (parliament) declined to vote on a proposal that the church continue to support the work of Access, instead forming a task group to explore the relationship between it and the synod, and how best to teach Christian education.

It was the liveliest and longest discussion of the five-day meeting at La Trobe University, which ends today.

Access, whose volunteers provide special religious instruction in primary schools, has come under fire because some volunteers allegedly try to convert children, because parents have to ask to have their children opt out, and those who do so are not given meaningful occupations.

Annette Blaze, a Uniting Church representative on the Access board, proposed that the synod support Access, suggesting the ministry was victim of a campaign to attack the Christian base of Australia's culture and noting that investigations by both state and federal education ministers found criticisms of Access were unfounded.

But the synod opted for a proposal by Macedon Ranges minister Avril Hannah-Jones to investigate the Access curriculum. ''There have been complaints. Some, clearly from the secular and new atheist perspective, I thought we could discount, but some came from parents and Uniting Church volunteers which I thought were worth exploring,'' Dr Hannah-Jones told The Age last night.

''It's hard for Access to come up with something acceptable to all 12 churches that are part of it, but we want to be sure that Access teaching is congruent with Uniting Church values.'' She said the law was very clear that there must be no proselytising.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/church-to-probe-access-20110920-1kjlz....