Freedom of Speech in Australia: A Symposium

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‘Freedom of Speech’ is a significant social and political issue in Australia. The topic is being debated by the major parties in the current Federal election, and is an important issue for all Australians.

Mr Tim Wilson is the Liberal candidate for the Division of Goldstein. He was a public policy analyst and a commentator who was the Australian Human Rights Commissioner from 2014 until his resignation in 2016.

Dr Michael Bird is a lecturer of theology at Ridley College. He is one of Australia’s most distinguished theologians, having written over 20 books and speaking at conferences across Australia, the UK, and USA. 

Both speakers have offered important contributions to this topic of ‘Freedom of Speech’, and it is a privilege to have them share the platform for this symposium.

The evening will consist of an address by each speaker, an opportunity for them to reply to the other’s presentation, and there will be a time for question and answer from the floor.

Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the evening

Click on the graphic or here to book seats

 

Complementarianism, a conversation Baptists want to have?

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On the ‘Baptist Union of Victoria’s’ Facebook page this week, a series of articles have been posted on the topic of women in leadership. These articles are not written by Victorian Baptists, nor do they, I believe, reflect the formal Baptist position on women in leadership. If that were the case, the BUV would have to give up its affirmation of diversity, and a growing number of Baptist churches would no longer welcome in the BUV family.  However, the publication of these articles is raising questions among pastors, especially the commentary accompanying these posts,

Not all Baptist Churches provide opportunities for women to lead. How is your church doing? “Some sexism is blatant, but most of it is subtle, hidden behind so-called “good intentions.” In many churches, it is hidden behind misinterpreted gender roles.”’

What is your church doing to empower more women to lead?

The last question is useful and important, but unfortunately it is being framed by a particular view that wishes to distort a true complementation position.

Uncritically dumping articles into public space can be unhelpful, and leaves readers wondering whether the BUV agrees with the content of these articles, and whether their churches are meant to follow suit? 

Obviously someone is wanting to generate a conversation, and it is certainly a topic worthy of dialogue. But to avoid giving the appearance that the BUV is driving this, they ought to put their name to these posts, and they should publish articles that fairly represent the views they are so openly criticising.

The most recent post is Kylie Pidgeon’s article, Complementarianism and Family Violence: The shared dynamics of Power and Control. Kylie Pidgeon raises several important questions that deserve proper consideration by the local church, and I grateful to her for doing this. But sadly, the timbre of her message may be muddied due to the parodic character of other articles being promoted. 

In summary, the message being conveyed through this series of posts is that complementarianism means ‘sexism’, ‘gender inequality’ and even ‘domestic violence’. This is a serious accusation and one that ought only to be suggested with the greatest care.

Take for example, the article promoted yesterday, written by Charlie Olivia Grantham, The Case of Subtle Sexism.

Grantham writes,

“male headship are all different strains of the same toxic ideology—sexism. Some sexism is blatant, but most of it is subtle, hidden behind so-called “good intentions.” In many churches, it is hidden behind misinterpreted gender roles.”

But hold on, the Bible teaches and affirms male headship in both marriage and the church. Is the author suggesting the Bible is sexist? Is she accusing God, the author of Scripture, as being sexist? Or with a gigantic and unexplained hermeneutical leap, she can simply denude the relevance of all those passages of Scripture?

Also, Grantham refuses to accept there are countless intelligent and godly women who affirm complementarian theology and practice. In fact, one mature Christian woman, whom I was talking with today, rolled her eyes at Grantham’s suggestion. Is she a sexist for disagreeing with Grantham? Apparently so, as Grantham claims to know the mind of God (even if other women do not) when she says, ’I realized that even if God is calling her to preach, she will never know it because she is blinded by sexist lies fed to her over a lifetime.’

In encouraging woman to take the lead in church, Grantham doesn’t call women to the Scriptures, and to trust God in his word; instead, she calls women to believe in their ‘gut instinct’. What terrible advice to giver anyone, whether male or female. As Christians, is not God in his word an authority over us, and is not our task to trust him and follow his words?

Not only is Grantham’s advice unsound, her presentation of complementarianism is a gross caricature. It’s akin to me pointing to a picture of Bugs Bunny and saying to my kids, that’s exactly what real rabbits are like! Perhaps Grantham is picturing a conservative church somewhere, but it is not representative of any complementarian church I know of.

I remember sitting in a meeting with denominational leaders four years ago, and they all believed complementarians taught that women were inferior to men. I assured them that was not the case, and a church teaching such would be contravening Scripture. But what it showed me is that there is significant ignorance on this issue, and now I understand why, if people are relying on articles like this.

There is such a thing called misogyny, and when it worms its way into the home or the church, it needs to be exposed and thrown out: It is sin. But this is not what complementarians believe or practice. Was the Apostle Paul a woman hater for writing (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, dare we add) 1 Timothy ch.2?

The Bible is adamant on the question of equality between men and women. One is not greater than the other, and neither are they the same. The Bible gives examples of women exercising ministry in the local church and encourages women to serve. We want to learn from them and seek to faithfully apply these Scriptures in our own churches. The Bible also teaches male headship in the home and church; stereotyping or disregarding these Scriptures, only serves to create bigger issues.

Complementarianism is not some strange and archaic practice belonging to pre-enlightenment era of history, it is a view held by many churches today, including Baptist Churches, and it is a position held with broad historical precedence and deep theological warrant. When I have time, I am keen to lay out these arguments in another article.

Having said this, I know thoughtful Christians who have done the hard work of exegeting the Biblical texts and have landed in a different place to myself. I disagree with them on this matter, but I still love them and we partner together in ministry ventures. 

Even among complementarians there are some differences. For example, New Testament theologian, Michael Bird, holds to a complementation view of marriage, but not for the church. John Dickson is okay with women preaching in his church, although they do so under the authority of the church’s leadership. Some churches have male elders but encourage male and female deacons. At Mentone, we praise God for the many women who serve in a multitude of ways, including on staff and as deacons. We would be a far lesser people without their godliness, gifts and love in service.

It is disappointing to see this issue raised in such an unhelpful way. I’m sure it is probably just a super keen staffer wanting a conversation started. At the moment the BUV is an exciting people to be part of, with many encouraging things happening, and so this is a rather unfortunate incident. Hopefully we can do better in the future.

An Open Letter for Daniel Andrews and James Merlino

I have a question that I would like to ask of Daniel Andrews and James Merlino.

Any Government will introduce policies with a mixture of success, and with varying responses from the community. On occasions I have affirmed changes implemented by this Government, as well as  highlighting concerns.

The reason for making this letter public is because the question is pertinent to many thousands of Victorian families. Indeed, it is a question many people have raised with me this year.

I appreciate that our members of Government have very busy schedules, with many demands on them, and so it perhaps unlikely Mr Andrews and Mr Merlino will read this letter for themselves, although an acknowledgement would be welcomed and seen by many Victorians as a positive sign from an inclusive Government.

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Before asking my question it is important to provide some context.

SRI (Special Religious Instruction) was a ½hr/week  opt-in program in schools. A variety of religions were offered, depending on parental interest. In August 2015, the Government announced that the program would be removed from class time, and only made available under very strict guidelines (such that very few schools now have the resources to run the program). In the place of SRI, a new program was introduced, Building Healthy Relationships. This curriculum is to be compulsory in all primary and secondary Schools. It is presented as an anti-domestic violence program, an issue which Mr Andrews’ has rightly identified as a major community concern.

There is a lot of useful material in this program, but unfortunately it is aggressively and unnecessarily promotes gender theory. It teaches children to explore alternative sexualities, provides information for children as young as 12 for having sex, and speaks of heterosexual marriage almost exclusively as a ‘power structure behind which domestic violence occurs.’

In the mean time, a separate curriculum, Safe Schools, has been investigated by the Federal Government and much of the material deemed inappropriate for school children. This Federally funded but optional program has been taken up by the Victorian Government. They have rejected the decisions made by Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, they have promised to fund the program if needed, and they have announced that Safe Schools will be compulsory in every Victorian Government School.

The main architect of Safe Schools, Roz Ward (from La Trobe University), has made it clear that the program less about anti-bullying and is primarily designed to introduce Marxist ideology into schools, in order to change children’s beliefs:

“Programs like the Safe Schools Coalition are making some difference but we’re still a long way from liberation… Marxism offers the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordin­arily new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today.”

Safe Schools not only describes heteronormality as wrong, it labels children who believe in heterosexual normality as “sexist”. It is somewhat ironic that an anti-bullying program specifically gives derogatory names to children who do not support its contentious ideas.

On top of these programs and other initiatives, The Age announced yesterday (May 8) that the Government is also considering introducing into Victorian schools another program about LGBTIQ ideology, the Gayby Baby education toolkit, which is being released this week.

The Director of Gayby Baby, Maya Newel, believes the program is a “no brainer”, saying, “It’s 2016 and something like 30 per cent of children are not raised by biological heterosexual parents, so we’re not just talking about children in same-sex families, but also divorced families and kinship families and so on. Not only will this be the first resource to represent same-sex families, it will also be something that can really dive deep into family diversity as a topic.”

While Newel concedes that the 30% is not all made up with same-sex families, she does misleadingly say, “30 per cent of children are not raised by biological heterosexual parents”. She thus gives the impression that same-sex families are indeed common place. However, according to the 2011 Census, 0.1% of all Australian children live in a home with a couple of the same gender. Not only are the majority of children raised in homes with a mum and dad, most of the other 30% lives in homes where the intent was for children to have a mum and dad, but due to divorce, death, and other circumstances the children are unable to live with both parents.

If we are going to use statistics as argument for changing school curriculum, surely we ought to present the numbers accurately. And also, if 0.1% of the population warrants another sexuality program in schools, then surely the 60% who have at least a nominal Christian affiliation, warrants introducing a Christian view of marriage and family into schools! Don’t worry, I am not actually arguing for that, but simply pointing out the irony in Newel’s argument.

According to The Age,

“As part of its lesson plans, students will be encouraged to deconstruct the stories of the four main children featured in the documentary (whose parents are gay); reflect on families that fall outside the “traditional” family unit; and challenge gender stereotypes.”

“Victorian Equality Minister Martin Foley said the state government would be “only too happy” to lend its support to the resource, “because it fits with our notion that to be a successful and equal society then there has to be a place for everyone”

Given this context of our State Government introducing multiple new curriculums on the same topic of sexuality, my question is this, are families who do not subscribe to views on sexuality as prescribed by the current Government, still welcome in Victorian State Schools? If the answer is yes, are these families permitted to express their views? Will children who articulate a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim view of sexuality be protected in our schools from bullying? Will they be encouraged to share their opinions without students and teachers belittling them?

Last Wednesday, The Australian reported a story of a Frankston family who have been forced to leave their local school because their daughter was subject to bullying for holding Christian beliefs. Perhaps this is an isolated incident or should Victorians anticipate this to be common practice? After all, if gender theory is taught as fact, should we not expect alternative views to be rejected and spoken against in our schools?

Mr Andrews and Mr Merlino, we understand the direction you are taking children’s education in Victoria, but what remains unclear is whether Victorian families remain free in our schools to engage in, to question, and to offer alternative ideas to the ones now promoted. 

I appreciate your time in reading and considering these questions.

Kind Regards,

Murray Campbell