It took less than 24 hours. Essendon Football Club’s newly appointed CEO, Andrew Thorburn has been forced to resign. Late yesterday The Age and Herald Sun newspapers reported and attacked Andrew Thorburn for nothing more than being a Christian and for belonging to a Christian Church.
Premier Daniel Andrews joined the chorus today, but more about his contribution later on.
Just before 6pm, Essendon released a statement, saying Andrew Thorburn has resigned. Or rather, his position was made impossible by the club.
“The Board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as Chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as Chairman of City on the Hill.”
The letter also states what can only be read as a contradictory if not disingenuous statement,
“I also want to stress that this is not about vilifying anyone for their personal religious beliefs, but about a clear conflict of interest with an organisation whose views do not align at all with our values as a safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming club for our staff, our players, our members, our fans, our partners and the wider community.”
Actually, this is exactly about vilifying personal religious beliefs, as their previous paragraph indicates. Thorburn cannot continue as CEO for the very reason that he holds a leadership role at his home church.
Andrew Thorburn is not the first who has been forced to choose between a job and God, and he will not be the last. This is the culture in which we are living.
The sharp end of our society’s movers and shakers do not believe in freedom or fairness, it is about power and control and conforming everyone into their own image. The fact that Daniel Andrews sees fit to interfere with the sporting club appointing the CEO is just another indicator of where things are heading.
So what exactly did our State’s Premier say? At a press conference Dan Andrews (an Essendon supporter) wistfully said,
“those views are absolutely appalling.”
“I don’t support those views, that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry, is just wrong.
“Those sort of attitudes are simply wrong and to dress that up as anything other than bigotry is just obviously false.”
To my knowledge, Daniel Andrews has never visited COAH nor listened to any of their sermons nor spoken with any of the 100O+ people who call COAH home. I say that because his comments are false and slanderous, as are many of the words being thrown about today. But careful speech isn’t required if you belong to the ‘right side’ of the culture. Daniel Andrews preaches a popular message and he knows it won’t hurt him politically or socially. All the influencers believe him, or rather he is happily mimicking their gospelling.
Let the reader understand, Daniel Andrews, as Premier of the State of Victoria, is comfortable telling us what kind of church is acceptable. And this isn’t the first time. For a supposed secular state intruding into religion is becoming a popular past time.
Gray Connolly tweeted,
“Was unaware that in Victoria you could not be employed by a football club if you attend a church that is not Dan Andrews approved … does this apply to Synagogues and Mosques?”
For the sake of consistency, it’s a legitimate question.
Let’s assume the Premier is serious about his stance against those most evil and terrible and dangerous Christians. He has just told the world that he thinks that AFL clubs shouldn’t appoint Christians. It raises the question, in what areas is the Premier okay with Christians finding employment?
Does the Premier believe Christians can stand for Parliament? What about working for the Government? Is he comfortable with corporations appointing Christians to senior management positions? What about Christians working in state schools, hospitals and the police force? Does he believe local councils should employ Christians as gardeners or garbage collectors?
Does Mr Andrews believe that there should be some kind of religious test before you can get a job? It’s only been a few months since his Government shredded religious freedom by no longer allowing religious schools and organisations to employ people who share their values. And yet, he can speak imperviously of there being no place for Bible-believing Christians in high-profile positions in the AFL (yes, Bible-believing Christian is a tautology).
If there is any real issue in what was really a non-story it is this, why is senior pastor Guy Mason supporting a football team called the Demons? Let me leave that thought with all the conspiracy theorists out there!
Understand this, the sexular agenda will almost certainly make life more difficult for faithful followers of Jesus. It is already tricky. More and more people share their stories with me and I read of many more. The sexual revolution is still pounding the shore line and with every latest iteration it washes away more and more of the imago dei. It is a destructive social force. As the secular age creeps further inland and consumes everything, it will not tolerate anyone standing up and resisting the wave. It’s like the orcs from Lord of the Rings. They won’t relent until they’re taken Middle Earth.
It doesn’t require any imagination to realise more pressure will be heaped on Christians, bullying us into silence or into giving up precious God given truths for the sake of keeping our jobs. Are we ready to make that choice between God and employment?
That’s why we need to settle in our hearts and be convinced with our minds, the question of whom we will worship. Will we choose God and worship him or will we choose Baal?
Any student of history and anyone persuaded by the power of the Gospel of Jesus will understand that political bullying and employment restrictions and stifling religious freedom, though real, cannot hamstring God and his mission. Such confidence should never make us cocky or arrogant or apathetic. Rather, it leads to humble thanks and praise.
Our premier can shout and slander and misrepresent Melbourne Churches, and in doing so he may win political battles and social battles and popularity contests. And yes, he is an expert in doing all of these. But the one contest he isn’t winning and cannot win is the one that is out of his hands because it is firmly held by the Sovereign God whose word will not fail.
Don’t get me wrong, if anything I suspect City on a Hill will grow as a result of this controversy. Why? Because God honours the faithfulness of his people. And yes, the Lord of the church, namely Jesus, promises to build his church and not even the gates of Hades will overcome it.
Christian worker in Victoria, if you haven’t already resigned yourself to the likelihood of facing discrimination, dislike, and bullying, get ready. If you’re still living that nice life of naivety, believing that hard work and loyalty and integrity should be enough to protect you, think again. If they crucified Jesus, how on earth do we think that we’ll be given a parachute?
Begin pondering Bible verses like the ones I’ve included below, and let’s learn to set our gaze on Christ and to really put our hope only in him. And that means we need thick Christian community. We need local churches where we actually turn up and commit to and then start supporting & strengthening one another for when these hard times come our way.
Don’t get angry with Essendon Football Club, Daniel Andrews and others. Anger is an understandable reaction, but let’s think and feel deeper than that. Let the Gospel inform our response:
“consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7)
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3)
Here is a statement just released by Andrew Thorburn. Worth reading