The ongoing offence of the Gospel and of Sydney Anglican Diocese

My brothers and sisters in the Sydney Anglican diocese have donated $1 million to aid the ‘no’ vote on the marriage campaign. The almost instantaneous public backlash following the announcement was as surprising as hay fever in Spring. Critics jumped on board to advise the Diocese as to how they should be using their money.

A balanced media report would have explained how the Diocese uses all its funds, including the near million dollars raised to help Syrian refugees, the huge sums invested into Anglicare, and the even larger sums that are raised annually within churches for many different projects. Naturally, there is more to the story than social media is sharing, but examining the fuller picture isn’t what critics do best. Fairfax once again performed valiantly as they lifted a facebook comment by one Sydney Minister, cutting and pasting his opinion with the surgical skill of my 3 year old pet dog.

I am not saying that I finally agree with their decision (Baptist blood runs thick!), it was not my decision to make and I am not privy to conversations inside the Standing Committee. I am grateful though that the Sydney Diocese is treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves, and they are prepared to back up their words with action and money. Archbishop Glenn Davies is correct in his analysis of the current debate and of the consequences that will inevitably follow should marriage be redefined.

“I believe that a change in the definition of marriage is unwarranted, not just because it is in opposition to the teaching of Scripture and our Lord himself in Matthew 19, but because I believe marriage, traditionally understood as a union of one man and one woman, is a positive good for our society, where marriage and the procreation of children are bound together as the foundational fabric of our society, notwithstanding the sad reality that not all married couples are able to conceive. Moreover, I consider the consequences of removing gender from the marriage construct will have irreparable consequences for our society, for our freedom of speech, our freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. It is disingenuous to think otherwise, given the evidence to the contrary in Canada, the US and the UK.”

Same-sex marriage is about redefining society. It is about degendering  the family unit, and removing the rights of  children to be raised by their biological mother and father.  Numerous social activists are telling us how marriage is only the next stage of the much larger agenda to remove gender altogether and remove religion from public society.

Mauvre Marsden wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald (Oct 4),

“Yes, marriage is not the final frontier. Yes, we want safe schools. Yes, gay conversion therapy is child abuse. Yes, we want transgender kids’ agency to be respected and supported – regardless of what their parents want. Yes.”

Auberry Perry argued in The Age (Sept 3),

“This survey offers us a conscious opportunity to make a firm stand in support of a secular government and to reject discrimination or favouritism based on religion. It’s our opportunity to say that religion has no part in the shaping of our laws. A vote against same-sex marriage is a vote for religious bias and discrimination in our legislation, our public schools, our healthcare, and ultimately, in the foundation of our social structure.”

If the same-sex marriage activists are telling us the truth about their aims, surely we are loving our neighbours by trying to speak up about the good of marriage.

 

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Sydney Anglican Media

There is one particular criticism over the Diocesan donation that I wish to comment on, and it is coming from a few Christians who are suggesting that this will make evangelism more difficult. I understand the point, but I don’t buy it.

People will always be offended by the Gospel and by Christians expressing God’s righteousness.

Society has its own grid for defining moral rights and wrongs, and this isn’t always in tune with God’s righteousness. Sometimes when the culture says I’m a hypocrite, I am acting like a hypocrite. Other times, society just doesn’t like the fact that I’m not agreeing with them. Believing something different to the culture doesn’t make me hypocritical.

As Christians we want to be wise and not glibly explain away offences people may take at us, for it may well be that we ourselves have been blinded by our own sins and it takes an unbeliever to point it out to us. The reality is, the Sydney Diocese has a positive track record of acknowledging wrongdoing and seeking restitution. Last night’s domestic violence policy is the latest testimony to this. I even suspect that Sydney Anglicans are doing a better job than most in serving society’s vulnerable and needy. This may be partly due to the means available to them, but it’s partly because they’re living out what they preach and believe. It is however foolish to suggest that any current social milieu holds truth captive and is the arbiter of moral axioms, and that’s precisely the problem here – the Diocese isn’t conforming to the controlling pattern of our culture.

Same sex marriage was only one of several important social issues being addressed at Synod, including their important policy dealing with domestic abuse. This news story has received some media attention, but pales in comparison to the $1 million donation. Why? Because Sydney Anglicans gave the money to the “wrong” side. Alan Joyce’s $1 million donation and the free advertising given by the NRL are lauded because they conform to the set narrative. I guarantee that if a Christian denomination had donated money to the ‘yes’ campaign, the media would be praising them for their love and boldness.

I don’t believe Sydney’s donation will make evangelism harder, it simply affirms how hard it already is. Who knows, instead of fearing that critics and heretics will take another swing at the Church, perhaps in God’s kindness, this may create new  Gospel opportunities as people in our community see that someone has the guts to stand and be counted.

My caution to Christians is this, be very careful about defining our decisions by public opinion. I’m not saying that the beliefs and ideas of people around us don’t matter to us, but it’s the wrong starting question. We ought to first ask, how we can faithfully and wisely apply what we believe to be true and good in God’s word. We won’t always get this right, but I am thankful for those Churches and denominations who are trying.

 

 

In accordance with s 6(5) of the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Act 2017, this communication was authorised by Murray Campbell , of Melbourne, Victoria.

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3 thoughts on “The ongoing offence of the Gospel and of Sydney Anglican Diocese

  1. You might be wondering where the $1 million the Anglican Diocese of Sydney donated to the ‘No’ campaign came from originally.

    Officially it came from the ‘Diocesan Endowment’, run by the Glebe Administration Board.

    So where did the Glebe Administration Board get the money?

    The money was gift from NSW taxpayers:

    “In the early years of Australian settlement, broad tranches of land, comprising much of the suburb of Glebe, were leased to the [Anglican] church. When the leases expired in the early 1970s, the church received freehold title to the land before selling it back to the government, giving the diocese a nest egg of tens of millions of dollars that it has been building on ever since.”

    [From: http://www.afr.com/personal-finance/tax/unholy-mess-as-300-million-tax-scandal-plays-out-across-sydney-20150512-ggzye8%5D

    The rest of this exposé makes for fascinating reading too; especially Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies’ former fellowship leader Vanda Gould. And it’s not just one bad apple. If it were one could excuse the Anglican Church for the company it keeps.

    In addition to Vanda Gould there is Gould Ralph partner Malcolm Beard who chairs Anglicare’s finance committee; and Tony Clemens who is the honorary treasurer of Moore College when he isn’t managing [legal] offshore tax structures for PwC’s major clients. Neither are alleged to have committed any criminal offences but Christianity holds its adherents to a higher standard than mere secular law. It is a fair question to ask: does it edify Jesus for a believer to spend their professional career finding ways for wealthy individuals and large corporations to pay less tax by channeling the income through offshore structures?

    There certainly does seem to be a culture among senior Sydney Anglicans of tolerance for and perhaps even enabling and rewarding tax minimisation [legal] if not outright tax avoidance [illegal]; perhaps using the moral justification that substantial giving to the church offsets any dubious tax practices the giver engaged in while acquiring the funds.

    How else could one explain that the church feels no shame over Vanda Gould having given $160,000 to the son of his long-time friend, former Archbishop Peter Jensen, so he could pursue a PhD at Oxford? Or the $1 million donated to Moore Theological College; the $256,000 to the Church Army; the $100,000 to Mary Andrews College; or the $500,000 to evangelism group Ellel Ministries?

    We still are waiting for these donations to be returned, and as Gould’s appeal to the High Court has been dismissed since this article was written no one can use the excuse of ‘It’s before the courts.’ The judgement Gould defrauded the Australian Taxation Office stands.

    Despite this Vanda Gould remains in the good graces of the Anglican Church and his wife Debbie retains her position at St Paul’s Chatswood to this day: http://www.stpauls.org.au/about/team

    Though curiously while the bios of all the other members of the St Paul’s ministry team mention their spouses by name – Senior Pastor Steve Jeffrey is ‘married to Natalie’, Leadership Pastor Sam Low ‘has [been] blessed with an amazing wife Sally’, etc. – Debbie Gould’s bio only says she is ‘married with 2 married adult sons’. I guess that erasing of his name – a modern day ‘damnatio memoriae’ – is the one consequence Valda Gould has suffered for defrauding the ATO and then giving false evidence in court, forswearing on the very Bible Anglicans hold in such high regard.

    Jesus showed uncommon compassion for tax collectors. Is it right for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney to extend this to people like Vanda Gould who engage in outright tax avoidance … ?

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