I note with interest the recent review of The Sunday Assembly and its establishment in Melbourne, Australia (Freethinker, July). As a person who was going to be involved on the committee of said establishment, I am obviously supportive on the desire to create a non-theistic church which retains 'church-like' community. However I have some serious reservations about The Sunday Assembly which lead to my resignation from the organising committee.
Because the issue is a public one, rather than a personal one, I have a duty to bring the reasons for my resignation to public attention.
According to the working constitution proposed to The Sunday Assembly groups, such bodies are unincorporated associations. This means the volunteers who act for such bodies are personally liable for being sued or any debts associated with the group. An unincorporated association is unable to own its property, as it is not a legal person. It cannot sue or bring legal action against other organisations. It cannot receive gifts or donations in its own right.
Whilst not offering volunteers legal protections, rights, and responsibilities is bad enough in its own right, the constitution also requires that Sunday Assembly event guidelines are determined by an external, private, for-profit company that will receive income from the volunteers and congregation members.
This is, in my opinion, the worst possible organisational design possible for a body that wants to be a non-theistic church. In reality, it's a business with a volunteer network. Until The Sunday Assembly becomes an incorporated association and severs authority to a private company, I am afraid that I must warn people of the organisational structure chosen and suggest that they go elsewhere to find a non-theistic church-like community.
(Published in The Freethinker, August, 2013)