Ridley College explains its position on marriage

A good news story has come out of Melbourne evangelicalism this week. In what may be a first, an Australian theological College has produced a formal statement about their position on marriage.

 

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Ridley College in Melbourne has released a letter in which they affirm the biblical (or ‘traditional’) understanding of marriage. They explain the reason behind the decision to articulate the College’s position,

“Our purpose in writing this brief letter is to support our fellow Anglicans in wrestling with this issue by offering a summary of the scholarly discussion over what the Bible teaches on homosexuality, and an explanation for why we believe the traditional path on marriage and sexuality is the one that Christ is calling us to take.”

Ridley’s influence extends beyond the Anglican communion, touching denominations across Melbourne and indeed around Australia. Accordingly, this letter is an encouragement not only to Anglicans, but also to Baptists, Charismatics, Presbyterians, and others.

The document goes onto outline 3 primary views on marriage that are held by various people under the Christian umbrella. They explain why Ridley College rejects both the revisionist and the progressive view on marriage, and instead why they affirm the belief that “Bible teaches that sex is designed for marriage between a man and a woman, and that we should do what the Bible says”.

You can read the full letter here:

Two weeks ago I wrote about the mounting pressure on Christian organisations to either capitulate or accommodate to the current sexual morality. Many other denominations and leaders have chosen to defer or kick the can down the street, so to speak, as though avoiding the issue is dealing with the issue. Ridley College has chosen the third and only proper Christian option, faithfulness.

As the letter makes clear, Gospel fidelity doesn’t stand in opposition to love and grace, rather it is a rightly ordered expression of these virtues. Adhering to the classical understanding of marriage doesn’t diminish the beauty of the Gospel, but is a God-given reflection of the good news of Jesus Christ.

“We are convinced that the biblical vision for human sexuality is clear. We also believe that it is beautiful, and that God’s commands are for our good as well as for his glory.”

The letter opens by acknowledging that this no mere academic exercise for these scholars,

“We acknowledge that homosexuality is a difficult topic to discuss. This is not because the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality is especially unclear, but because its implications are so deeply personal. We are Bible scholars, but we are also people. All of us have wrestled with God’s teaching on marriage on a personal level as it relates to those we love –  our children, our friends, those we pastor  –  and indeed to our own lives.”

The letter also rightly points out the wonderful example in our churches of same sex attracted believers, who have chosen fidelity and godliness over and above the narrative that is being fed to us in almost every part of the culture, and which is sadly becoming normalised within some of our churches and institutions. 

As I read this sentence, “The traditional path may be a hard one to travel, but it is the one we are called to take”, I was reminded of the College’s namesake, Bishop Nicholas Ridley. Almost 500 years ago, Nicholas Ridley taught against erring doctrine and practised what he believed was in line with Biblical Christianity. He did so in the face of severe opposition, which ultimately cost him his life. His famous example reminds the Churches that holding onto biblical truths rarely garners popular adulation, but it does prepare the soil for a Gospel harvest.

God honours faithfulness. I suspect that there will be some backlash as a result of this letter but isn’t that what the Lord Jesus taught us to expect as we follow him in this world? Faithfulness is almost always hard, and it may create some difficulties for us in the days ahead, but faithfulness never fails in the end.

 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 3-4)

I am thankful to God for Ridley College’s public testimony in this letter. We can pray that other Christian colleges and institutions have the courage to follow suit.

A Corinthian Tale

Because I do not love you? God knows I do!” 

(2 Corinthians 11:11)


There are growing signs that the ecclesial weather is changing and our churches are not prepared.

As the broader culture becomes more insistent about its moral narrative, Churches have become less certain. Universities, media personalities, and political representatives vocalise a secular righteousness with increasing confidence, while ecclesial leaders pray that kicking the can down the street will do the trick.

 

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Last Sunday I preached on 2 Corinthians ch.10 at Mentone. The Church in Corinth was known as an ‘inclusive’ community: they had welcomed ‘false apostles’ into their midst and they had accepted members who followed the sexual ethics of the city. The Apostle Paul responded by pointing out that their accommodation didn’t strengthen Christian unity and witness, but rather they had caused significant harm to both these things. As he later exclaims, “you put up with it easily enough” (11:5).

The Apostle takes a very different posture to the one we are seeing many clergy adopt in the current climate. Instead of moral silence, Paul speaks up. Instead of accommodating heterodox ideas, Paul tackles them. He also explains his motivation for speaking up and calling out bad ideas; he wants to see the church built up (v.8) and the Gospel grow out (vv.15-16). He isn’t driven by bigotry and narrow mindedness,  it is love that galvanises him into action. Paul loves the Corinthians too much to simply hand her over to divisive and destructive ideas. For the Apostle, such de facto fellowship contradicts the identity of the local church,

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)


Over the past month, there have been developments regarding how Christian Churches in Australia are handling the issue of same-sex marriages. While the outcomes are yet to be determined, the signs are ominous and Christian denominations across the nation must discuss and decide how they are going to respond.

Wangaratta Anglicans 

The initial incident relates to the Anglican Diocese of Wangaratta. The Anglican Communion in Australia formally holds to the classical understanding of marriage. There are, however, some who wish to navigate around this by instituting ‘blessing ceremonies’ for same sex couples. In August, the Wangaratta synod voted to permit same sex blessing ceremonies for couples who have been married (67 in favour, 18 against, and one abstention). Retiring Bishop John Parkes led the way in calling for his Diocese to support the practice.

The Primate, Archbishop Philip Frier, responded to concerns raised among numerous Anglicans across Australia by referring the matter to the Appellate Tribunal. It is believed that this process may take many months, and the outcome is less than certain. Archbishop Frier asked that Wangaratta refrain from using their newly adopted service until after the Tribunal has looked into the case. Bishop Parkes subsequently agreed to delay, although I believe some kind of ceremony still proceeded over the weekend, following the very public wedding of two male Anglican priests.

Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral and member of GAFCON Council, Australia, Rev Kanishka Raffel, referred to the move in Wangaratta as apostasy, the formal walking away from the faith. He asked, how can one bless (in God’s name) something God does not bless? Indeed, how can one invoke the name of Jesus for a union that Christ opposes?

The Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, noted parallels with the situation in Canada which gave rise to the breaking of the global Anglican Communion,

“The circumstances of this event are reminiscent of the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada in 2003. It is now universally acknowledged that those events were the beginning of the ‘tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion’. Moreover, to claim the authority of our Church to carry out a service of blessing contrary to the biblical view of marriage and the doctrine of our Church will certainly fracture the Anglican Church of Australia.”

What will Churches decide?

We need to appreciate that this is not a merely theoretical or hypothetical question. No Christian denomination or Church in Australia can afford to play dodge ball with the marriage issue. As far as I can see, there are only three options available for churches and denominations: choose capitulation, accommodation, or faithfulness.

Most Christian associations will reject the first option. The second, however, is finding traction among some associations. For example, this was the approach adopted by the Uniting Church. But of course, accommodation is in reality just a politically correct and ultimately dishonest way of capitulating to the new sexual narrative. It demonstrates that either we don’t know what the biblical understanding of marriage is or that we don’t believe it’s so important that agreement is necessary for Christian fellowship and unity. It is this disingenuous compromise position that some Anglicans are also advocating.

Doing nothing is not a solution. To ultimately decide on inaction is a form of accommodation. In Victoria, at least one same sex wedding has already been conducted in a Baptist Union Church. There are at least a few Baptist Churches that have either already sanctioned same sex blessing services or are considering them. Further, recent events have once again demonstrated that there are clergy and churches who have no intention of giving up their cause. Davidould.net last week revealed the public stance of yet another Church, St John’s Toorak, 

“We deeply regret that at the present time, it is not legally possible for Anglican clergy to conduct marriage services for couples of the same sex. We look forward to the day when we will be able to do so. Until this legal problem is addressed, however, the clergy of St. John’s would be pleased to welcome any couple, including couples of the same sex, to have a service for the blessing of their marriage, including a renewal of vows, following a legal marriage conducted by a celebrant licensed to do so.”

Over the weekend the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle Dr Peter Stuart publicised intent to begin practising same-sex blessings, following approval by the Synod. In his letter he explained,

“Conversations about human sexuality

There is no doubt that these ‘Private Members’ Bills will cause anguish to some in the Diocesan community as well as being a cause of celebration for others. In a real way the debate that has being underway in the Anglican Communion for over 20 years, and is a very current debate in the Anglican Church of Australia, will be a live debate in the formal processes of our Diocese. Our engagement with and response to LGBTIQ+ Anglicans has been actively discussed for some time.

The Doctrine Commission of the General Synod has published a series of essays as part of this conversation (https://anglican.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Marriage-Doctrine-Essays-Final.pdf)

I shared with the clergy recently a summary of the main standpoints of Anglicans that has been workshopped by Bishops Stephen Pickard and Michael Stead –

1. The church should exclude those with LGB identity because it is a sin

2.The church should encourage a person to repent of LGB identity and seek to live as a heterosexual

3.The church should fully and unreservedly welcome people who are LGB, but expect them to live in singleness and abstinence

4. The church should fully and unreservedly welcome LGB couples who live a celibate life

5.The church should fully and unreservedly welcome LGB couples who live in a legally

recognised civil relationship/same-sex marriage

6. The church should endorse a liturgy to bless the marriage/relationship of LGB couples

7. The church should solemnise LBG marriages as a religious marriage

All of these views are expressed within our Diocesan family and will be present within the Synod.I have written previously to the Synod about my experience of the National Meeting of Bishops. I am looking forward to Bishop Pickard assisting the Synod frame this significant conversation.

The Primate has already referred a similar regulation to

Blessing of Persons Married According to the Marriage Act Regulation 2019 from the Diocese of Wangaratta to the Appellate Tribunal. Should our Synod pass this regulation and/or the Clergy Discipline Ordinance of 1966 Amending

Ordinance 2019 it is likely, and to be welcomed, that the Primate would refer them also to the Appellate Tribunal. The combined processes of Diocesan Synods, the General Synod and the Appellate Tribunal over the next two years will fashion what is lawful in the Anglican Church of Australia and what approaches Diocese’s will take.”

It is clear how Peter Stuart wishes to proceed. The argument is simple, effective, and completely misses the point of Christian praxis. To summarise,  the suggestion is,  given the diverse opinions within a denomination it is only appropriate that freedom is given to clergy and churches to practice whichever position they see fit. It’s as though Peter Stuart read Judges 17:6 and mistook it to be an endorsement!

“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The longer Christian associations kick the can down the road, the harder it will be to pick it up. The Church should never be treated in such a reckless way. She is precious and holy to God. Delaying or wishing away difficult decisions will only result in further confusion and harm. Not only this, these matters relate to real people who are made in God’s image; to offer them misleading hope and blessing amounts to a grave betrayal of trust and truth. By following the Gospel, our churches ought to be safe and welcoming communities for people who don’t identify as heterosexual. As people who have ourselves experienced sexual brokenness and sin, and have come to know God’s love and mercy in Christ Jesus, how can we not embrace others? But blessing that which God does not bless is not loving our neighbour but is performing the worse kind of misrepresentation.

Of what use is a doctrinal statement if churches can freely ignore or reject articles without consequence? Of what benefit is a definition of marriage if churches and pastors can circumvent the rules and pursue alternate avenues without disciplinary procedures both defined and enacted? These clergy and churches have either broken fellowship or they have not.

If a pastor or Church no longer subscribes to the theological convictions of the Church/denomination surely it is a matter of integrity that they resign and leave the Church and/or denomination. If they refuse, surely it is the responsibility of the broader fellowship to call them to repentance, and should they persist in their views, they ought to be disaffiliated. 

To borrow Paul’s analogy in Ephesians ch.4, our associations are becoming like ships without a rudder, being blown and tossed about by whatever cultural wave is currently landings on the shore. The difficulty is, in the face of intense cultural conditions and fears of losing people and especially money, many leaders don’t want to touch the rudder. In the meantime, the ship is getting beaten up and the Sirens of Sirenum scopuli are luring churches closer to the rocky shoreline.

Will not God honour the faithfulness of his Church? Will God be displeased if we choose his good design? Choosing faithfulness is unlikely to win over many fans among the cultural elites but why should we allow their agenda to determine our actions? It may be counter-intuitive in today’s climate, but remember, Christian sexual ethics was also foreign to First Century Corinth. Paul makes the very point to the Church in Corinth that trusting and living out Christian sexual ethics will not detract from Christian unity and Gospel growth; the opposite is the case. The Church will be built up and the Gospel will grow out (2 Cor 10:8; 15-16).

Will our churches choose faithfulness over accommodation. Do we desire Gospel unity over religious diversity? We can’t predict how everyone will respond, whether those inside our churches or in the community at large, but we can be assured that God will honour the faithfulness of his people. 

We harvest what we sow

A sensational photo is blowing chaff all over twittersphere. The tweet sent out by Union Seminary in Manhattan, pictures students praying to plants. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. The caption reads,

“Today in chapel, we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.

What do you confess to the plants in your life?”

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To be honest, I often ignore the plants in my life. In fact, I didn’t know I had plants in my life! Sometimes I step outside to admire a flower. I do enjoy the scent of springtime blossom and flowers. I mow the front lawn every other week. We have parsley, thyme, and mint growing in the back which we use for cooking. And I know how much our dog loves to wee on any plant he sniffs. But praying to a plant and begging for its forgiveness? I may not be the world’s greatest horticulturalist, but neither am I a fool.

Is this a serious tweet? Surely, this is a student-led prank? A fantastic imitation of Babylon Bee? Or, as someone suggested, had these students stolen a few of those green leaves for a pre chapel smoking ceremony? Are we meant to be following suit, and head down to Bunnings after work to buy a tree for prayer? Which tree? What kind of plant? Does it matter? Do the plants communicate with each other and pass on my deepest regrets? What about the tree that I cut down last year with an axe? Did I kill the Divine in a moment of nietzschean madness?

There is plenty of mockery being aimed at Union Seminary today. Some of it makes you laugh, for if we didn’t, one would likely weep. The absurdity of the original message is being matched by the Seminary today as they double down and attempt to explain why praying to your indoor garden is a great idea:

“So, if you’re poking fun, we’d ask only that you also spend a couple moments asking:

Do I treat plants and animals as divinely created beings?

What harm do I cause without thinking?

How can I enter into new relationship with the natural world?”

When Robin Wall Kimmerer spoke at Union last year, she concluded her lecture by tasking us—and all faith communities—to develop new liturgies by which to mourn, grieve, heal and change in response to our climate emergency.

We couldn’t be prouder to participate in this work.

And here’s the thing: At first, this work will seem weird. It won’t feel normal. It won’t look like how we’re used to worship looking and sounding.

And that’s exactly the point. We don’t just need new wine, we need new wineskins.

But it’s also important to note that this isn’t, really, that radical a break from tradition. Many faiths and denoms have liturgy through which we express and atone for the harm we’ve caused. No one would have blinked if our chapel featured students apologizing to each other.

What’s different (and the source of so much derision) is that we’re treating plants as fully created beings, divine Creation in its own right—not just something to be consumed.

Because plants aren’t capable of verbal response, does that mean we shouldn’t engage with them?”

“At first this work will seem weird”? You think? True to form, this theological progressive Seminary then rips a Bible phrase out of context and fills it with whatever nonsense it pleases. They then justify this practice by saying, ‘but many faiths do what we are now doing’. I guess they didn’t read those bits of the Bible were God warns his people, “Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you” (c.f Deuteronomy 6:4).

Given the reaction to Union Seminary, I suspect there are a few people in Australia today who are hiding behind a tree or bush, hoping no one notices that they too have a habit of talking to the environment, as though God is somehow radiating through the leaves and wind and the soaring pollen count on a Melbourne Spring morning. That’s the sad reality, there are people who believe in communing with nature, even believing that God somehow exists as part of the creation.

The Union Seminary website states

“Progressive theology has long taken shape at Union, where faith and scholarship walk together to be a moral force in the world. Grounded in the Christian tradition and responsive to the needs of God’s creation, a Union education prepares its students for committed lives of service to the church, academy, and society. A Union education develops practices of mind and body that foster intellectual and academic excellence, social justice, and compassionate wisdom.”

When an institution which identifies as being Christian allows weeds to grow, should anyone be surprised if they eventually begin to worship those weeds?

The Apostle Paul was familiar with pagan religions who turned the creation into objects of spiritual connection and worship.

“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:24)

Progressive theology not only follows the trajectory of Romans ch.1, it embraces the trip with pride and staggering delusion. The tweet is imbecilic because false religion is asinine. It tries to grow around it an air of intellectual cogency and spiritual authenticity, but it’s nothing more than rose-scented air-freshener in a can that’s trying to conceal the pungent smell of the toilet.

We are all worshippers. All people worship someone or something. If we turn our backs of the God of the Bible we are required to created alternate spiritual objects to provide purpose and meaning in life. We would do well to revisit Romans 1, for just as western culture is returning to the sexual ethics of the ancient world, we are reconstructing theologies that belong to old time paganism. There is nothing progressive about liberal theology, it is filling a field with toxic weeds.

The theological principle is simple: you harvest what you sow.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)

Union Seminary’s journey into spiritual paganism has been gradual. I don’t think the faculty and students woke up one morning and decided that instead of worshipping Jesus, let’s pray to these plants. This is the result of decades of pruning back evangelical teaching and digging up orthodox doctrine. This is the outcome of appointing teachers who don’t really believe the Bible is the infallible word of God. This is the result of generations of theological experimentation and pining for cultural relevance.

While we may rightly ridicule Union Seminary, there is a serious warning here. If we don’t want our churches turning into prayer halls to shrubs and plants, and if we don’t want our children crafting idols out of creation, we need to make sure that we are doing the job of a faithful gardener. We need to ensure that our Bible Colleges have suitable gardeners who are using the right tools. There is only seed God gives, that is his word. There is only one seed which produces life, that is the Gospel of his Jesus Christ. Union Seminary deserved to be mocked, but are being diligent in our own fields?

Let’s not forget what Jesus says about those who sow weeds that congest and confuse, and that try to starve wheat of nutrience.

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13)

Which Story of Children will our Society Esteem?

The way our society treats its children is a reflection of the gods we make and worship. The gods of Sepharvaim had an insatiable appetite in Ancient Babylon, requiring the sacrifice of the young. The Valley of Benn Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem, was a place of liberation in the Eighth Century BC. Children were offered up to the gods as a means to find personal freedoms and prosperity.  More revealing, the mistreatment of children is a sign of decaying society and failing religion.

Will we never learn the lessons from the past?

Two stunning revelations have been made over the weekend and yet neither are being reported by most Australian media. Truth and moral good ought to be relevant to our television news producers and newspaper editors but some truths are inconvenient to the prescribed narrative.

First of all, an interview went viral on social media with a BBC journalist being visibly shaken by the confessions of an abortion doctor in the United States. Not only did DR Leroy Carhart freely admit that the babies he kills are children, but he also explained how he refers to them as children in front of his patients. There is no hiding behind the disingenuous rhetoric of babies being a clump of cells or foetuses. When pressed about late term abortions, ‘does he perform abortions up until 38 weeks…39 weeks…’, he refused to answer.

Second, one of Australia’s major providers of abortion has acknowledged that they have no issue with gender-specific abortion. Phillip Goldstone, who is the Director of Marie Stopes, stated in a submission to the NSW Government’s inquiry into abortion,

“We do not support the inclusion of gender selection in the Bill and we strongly caution against amendments to the legislation as the issue of gender selection and termination of pregnancy is not grounded in evidence.

Further public debate or amendments on this issue has the potential to discriminate against multicultural and diverse communities in Australia and would unfairly target people who already face barriers in accessing abortion care.”

The narrative that our newspapers are presenting is that abortion is:

  1. The very difficult decision being made by courageous women
  2. Late term abortions are rare
  3. Gender selective abortion isn’t an issue

The problem with points 2 and 3 is that they are simply not true. What constitutes rare? 500 babies per annum? 300…200…100? Does rare constitute unimportant? I certainly hope not.

After the Bill passed the Legislative Assembly last week, Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, spoke up on the issue of gender selective abortion, suggesting,  “Everybody regards that as an abhorrent practice.”

Her words echo about the chamber that has just refused an amendment that would have prohibited gender selective abortion. The Assembly refused to protect vulnerable girls in the face of not only a moral imperative and commonsense but did so with evidence coming from Victoria that reveals gender based abortion is a fact in Australia. In Victoria, girls are more likely to be aborted than boys. And as Phillip Goldstone has made clear, this should be a viable option for women. The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed Dr Goldstone last week but failed to ask him about why he refuses to back amendments that would ban gender selective abortion. 

It is astonishing to see that as the facts surrounding abortion come to light, notable social commentators and reporters, and even politicians, simply suppress or explain away and even ignore what is true. The truth is ghastly. It is truly horrendous. It is the determined killing of children with full knowledge of what is happening. What is more telling about a society’s soul than the way it treats children?

There is one truth that the media have conveyed, and that is how for many women, abortion is a moral dilemma. Circumstances surrounding pregnancy can be extremely difficult. We can empathise and we can help write a better story that shows good coming from choosing the harder road. There are organisations whose sole purpose is to care for and support women through unplanned or difficult pregnancies. There are many local churches who already support women through such situations, and gladly so. Australia has its Ahazes but also its Boazes and Josephs.

We ought to recognise and speak of the life supporting options and good that is found in local communities. The media’s commitment to facts, or lack thereof, reflects what they believe the public wants to hear. The media’s choice of storytelling reveals something of our society’s heart. Our politicians’ decisions speak back to us our own moral inclinations. What does our behaviour toward children suggest?

As a Christian, I like to give God the last word. In the 8th Century BC when the Valley of Benn Hinnom (known in the New Testament as Gehenna) was the scene of continual fire and burning of baby’s bodies, the righteous judge offered an extraordinary word of mercy. Even as I write I’m aware that some readers are going to ridicule these words with all manner of interesting and colourful language, but there is always someone for whom the crap in popular rhetoric doesn’t sway. Imagine a God who sees our choices and understands them and is appalled by them and yet offers redemption?

“I have made you, you are my servant;

    Israel, I will not forget you.

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,

    your sins like the morning mist.

…Return to me,

    for I have redeemed you.”“This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself, (Isaiah 44: 21b-22;24)

The Premier and an Archbishop and a Mediating Baptist

A war of words has broken out between the Victorian Government and the Roman Catholic Church. The Premier is bidding to outlaw the seal of the confessional while Catholic hierarchy is defending it as sacrosanct.

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First of all, I need to note an important correction to the Premier’s statement. Most ministers of most churches are required to report suspected child abuse, according to the rules of their own denomination. Indeed, mandatory reporting is practiced by Baptists across Victoria (and indeed, around the nation) and we want this to be the case. Even if it was not mandatory, we would still report suspected child abuse. It makes no sense not to do so.

The Confessional

Canon law states that”The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”

Any priest who breaks the seal is automatically excommunicated from the church. Only the Pope can overturn this.

Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli has come out and said that he would prefer to go to jail than break the seal of the confessional. While saying that he would encourage an offender to go to the police, he wouldn’t break the seal if they refused to do so.

At the moment I think both Archbishop Comensoli and Premier Daniel Andrews are missing the mark.

On the one hand, I commend Daniel Andrews for taking further action on this terrible issue. And yet his rhetoric about putting ‘children first’ rings a little hollow. There are those in the community who are concerned for all children and aggrieved by the fact that vulnerable children become hay in politicking. The Premier’s record demonstrates that he often puts ideology first. For example, he ensured that an amendment to the Abortion Law Reform Act was defeated, a step which would have protected children from late-term abortion. Also, the rebirth of the birth certificate bill puts children at risk. In 2016 he introduced an amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act which would have stripped religious organisations, schools, and churches, of their freedom to insist that employees adhere to the doctrinal and ethical convictions of their religious institution.

At the same time, the issue of child sexual abuse has exposed a theological flaw in Catholic dogma, as well as a moral one. The Confessional grew out of an inflated and unbiblical notion of the priesthood. One could enter into a long discussion here about the historical and theological premises the lay behind the seal of the confessional, but in short, this is not a practice encouraged by or mandated in the Bible. Indeed, it clearly conflicts with the teaching of the New Testament Church.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5).

No priest can absolve another person’s sins, let alone their own. We can certainly confess our own sins to those whom we have offended and to ask for their forgiveness. There is a place for corporate confession to God. But no priest can represent God and absolve another’s sin. We can listen to others and offer advice, but we cannot stand as Divine judge over a person and officiate Divine forgiveness or judgment. 

As a member of the community who is not Roman Catholic, one of the things that continues to concern me is how Archdiocese’s rhetoric continues to signal the wrong message; namely that they do not truly take child sexual abuse seriously. As a father of three children, this sickens me and makes me empathise with those who no longer trust religious institutions. I wish to say that the real Jesus is safe and good, and many churches are safe and wonderful places to investigate and come to terms with the greatest realities of life. But this immense positive is often lost in the face of due public scrutiny of institutions who have failed our children.

The Conscience and the Government

As I consider the debate, there are broader questions that should not be ignored. We mustn’t overlook for example these two further considerations: the conscience, and the role of Government. The conscience of individuals is important, even when we disagree with their religious views. The conscience is, of course, not God or infallible The Bible acknowledges that the conscience can be seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). However, we should be slow to stamp our own conscience on others.

We must also be wary of Government intrusion into religious practices. Do we really want Government dictating what are and are not valid religious convictions? I am not supporting the Roman Catholic Church’s position; I find it reprehensible. But neither do I believe it is right or healthy for the Government to interfere with a church’s traditional teaching. The issue is further complexed because Daniel Andrews is right in suggesting that religious leaders are not and should not be outside the law. In my view, both Mr Andrews and the Catholic Archbishop are throwing speech bombs at each other rather than working toward a solution.

A potential solution

Perhaps the most sensible solution that I have seen thus far comes from the words of a progressive Muslim, Waleed Aly. I don’t think it’s foolproof by any measure, but at least it is an offering in the right direction In 2018, writing for the New York Times, Aly rightly notes that a law, such as the one being proposed today, will fail because the consequences facing a priest who breaks the confessional are far greater than those imposed by the State. In addition, given the nature of the confessional, it is unlikely that those sealed revelations made by abusers will be uncovered by authorities.

“the royal commission reported on testimony from several priests who said, in the words of one, that a priest hearing confessions “has always been required to have at least ‘moral certitude’ of the penitent’s contrition and purpose of amendment before granting absolution.”

Accordingly, the commission’s said that “a priest can defer granting absolution until the act of satisfaction” has been carried out. For example, the report says, a confessed abuser would not be forgiven by a priest unless he reports himself to the police. Several priests told the commission that this is exactly what priests hearing confession should do.

This approach is far more likely to curtail reoffending than any attempt to compromise the institution of the confessional. It certainly addresses the commission’s finding that the easy availability of absolution contributes to reoffending. It would increase the likelihood that abusers will go to the authorities since it is the only way they can receive forgiveness.

And since keeping the state out of the confession booth wouldn’t require priests to commit an excommunicable offense, it is far more likely to be applied than a law that extends mandatory reporting into the confessional booth.”

Waleed Aly has offered an alternative, which may work. This position will remain distasteful for many Christians because it upholds a practice that undermines the sole and sufficient mediatorial work of Jesus Christ. This is an unnecessary tradition and one that gives false assurances to those who make use of the confessional. The confessional remains a box in which a man presumes the role of God. At yet, could Aly’s proposal allow conscience to be preserved and hold back undue Governmental interference into religious doctrinal matters?

I am calling on the Melbourne Archdiocese to re-evaluate their unsound and unethical practice of confessional seal. And I call on the Government to work harder to provide a workable and important solution to protect our children. Indeed, much good has come from this evil in recent years and I pray that we continue on this road.

Growing Concerns over treatment for children

Self-identifying genderism is perhaps not so free. The Australian has published a series of articles that should concern parents across the nation, especially those living in Victoria.

Last week Cricket Australia announced that men can now play for women’s teams, so long as their testosterone levels remain below 10 nanomoles per litre continuously for 12 months or more

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Last week the NSW Legislative Assembly passed legislation that not only decriminalises abortion but will permit late-term abortion and gender-selective abortion. The latter proves the idiocy under which our society now governs the definition of sex and gender. We are being told that a penis and vagina is no indication of what constitutes male and female, and neither can xy or xx chromosomes. And yet, a woman is being given the legal right to terminate a pregnancy based on the biological assumption that the baby is a girl or boy. The Spectator last week published a telling cartoon in which a baby girl in the womb is crying out to the doctor who is about to kill her, ‘Stop, I identify as a boy’.

This week the Victorian Parliament is debating legislation which will allow boys and girls to change the gender on their birth certificates without needing sex reassignment surgery. A person does not even require a signed letter from a medical practitioner or psychologist as evidence that the person believes they are a gender that differs from their biological sex.

There is a dangerous shift taking place in our culture, one where children are victims to unscientific social engineering. As a Father with 3 children, this movement toward initiating hormonal therapy and sex reassignment surgery on children is staggering in its myopic vision and ethical bullying.

According to a report in The Australian, since 2014, 2415 children have been referred for medical gender treatment in Australia. There has been a 41% increase in cases in Victoria, which coincides with the introduction of the Safe Schools program, and with Dr Roz Ward and others encouraging gender transition inside local schools across the State.

Bernard Lane explains,

“Girls as young as nine are ­believed to be put on “puberty blocker” drugs, and boys from about 11.”

The article also notes growing concerns amongst paediatricians. Professor Whitehall said, “Who gave ethics approval for this treatment (at children’s hospitals) when it lacks any scientific basis and therefore is an experiment?…We should give the psychiatry and psychology a full run before we start castrating children.”

Of course, ideology always influences political and societal thinking, and the medical fraternity is not immune to this. Most doctors have integrity and only give advice to patients based on best knowledge and practice, but neither are they free from social pressures being applied by ideologues who are intent on cutting away all residue of the biological and traditional understanding of men and women and the social structures upon which we build communities. Bernard Lane notes that in the United Kingdom, lobbying from transgender groups is “contaminating clinical decisions”. Also, doctors in Australia are afraid to speak out on the issue because of the possibility of professional ostracisation and job loss.

The fact that there is a significant rise in gender transitioning where Safe Schools is most prevalent, raises questions. Is there a correlation?

Also writing in The Australian, Jennifer Oriel today has further justified concerns. She begins,

“castrating children” is the phrase used by pediatrics profess John Whitehall to describe unscientific experimentation on youth in the name of transgenderism.”

At the very least, these revelations should cause us to pause and investigate the claims being made.

In the normal state of affairs, the kind of psychological and physical intrusion being thrust upon these kids would amount to abuse. They are crying out for help, but not short term and potentially devastating manipulation of their bodies. This is also likely to cause long term harm to children, not least because most gender dysphoria children will want to identify with the birth sex by the time they reach adulthood.

In raising the subject we must not cast dispersions onto these children or onto transgender people. As I have said on many occasions, all people have inherent dignity and worth, and we are to love and care for them no matter their sex and gender. That does not, however, indicate that every social decision is healthy and good. This doesn’t entail that every choice made by an individual is right or beneficial. However, those responsible for pushing this new wave of gender ideology ought to be held to account. Those who have jumped on board legislations that will inevitably harm children, have a duty to pause further amendments to the law. Instead, the wellbeing of our children demands that the concerns of medical experts are heard and steps are taken to investigate what is now taking place in our schools and in some clinics.

 


Here’s one example of a recent article with a psychologist expressing concerns  – https://t.co/JDW3s4Bt8d?amp=1

NSW loses its moral impetus

It was only a few months ago that the public was shocked by words and sights coming from the United States. New York City lit up the night sky in the colour pink to celebrate the passing of abortion laws.

Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, made the suggestion that the life of a newborn child can be legitimately ended if that is the wish of the mother and attending physician.

“If a mother is in labor…the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians & mother”

Similar words and images are now home in New South Wales.

In an attempt to curb the cruellest edges of legislation that will decriminalise abortion in that State, several amendments were presented and voted down. One of these amendments asked that babies who are born alive following a botched abortion (as can happen) must be given due medical attention. The majority of MPs voted against the amendment, arguing that a living boy or girl can be killed or left to die outside the womb. This is legalised infanticide.

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Tweet by David Ould

As the extreme abortion laws were passed in the New South Wales Parliament House last night, the Sydney Morning Herald ran with the headline, “Cheers and Applause as lower house votes to decriminalise abortion in NSW”.

Assuming the Bill will also pass the Legislative Council, will the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge be lit in the colour pink? Will Macquarie street be filled celebrations? Last night’s laudable triumphs in the halls of Parliament suggests that this may indeed occur. It is one thing to vote to take innocent human life,  but it is unnecessary and gross to celebrate it.

As a Victorian, living in a State that already has such ignominious laws, I weep for my NSW friends today.

Australia in 2019 has become a strange and disturbing land in some respects. For example, logic rarely wins debates in our culture. Scientific facts are unlikely to move a person’ position. What is obvious can no longer be stated as such. The most basic observable units of reality are contested. If the acknowledged humanity of a person does not suffice for offering protection and rights, we have indeed walked off the precipice without a rope. What is true no longer matters and what is good is an unwelcome obstacle to personal choice: I have become god and there is no other. This rampant individualism comes at a cost, and the cost today will be the lives of 10,000s of young children, many who will be aborted because they are girls or because they may suffer some kind of physical or mental disability.

In many of life’s unimportant measures (food, sport, and everything else) Victoria runs ahead of NSW. But when it came to those all-important ethical subjects, NSW often stood tall when Victoria turned south. Sadly, NSW has now followed Victoria and the other Australian States in losing its moral authority. Indeed, many Churches have already overturned their moral voice because of deep-seated sins. How can a society speak of defending life and humanity when we are bent on destroying the youngest and most vulnerable of lives? Our voice has become shard, an empty and hypocritical shrill.

I am not suggesting that there are women who aren’t in heart-wrenching circumstances. Not for a second am I whitewashing real and difficult situations that face some women when falling pregnant. A loving society would gather around them and support them. In Victoria there are many churches who would open their arms to help these women; I have seen this with my own eyes. There are organisations, such as the amazing The Babes Project who assist pregnant women who are struggling to decide whether to keep their child or not. Governments could invest in such positive community agencies rather than turning to the awful alternatives.

The passing of the abortion Bill in the Lower House will create some big winners in NSW and many losers:

The big losers:

– 10,000s of young children every year

– Children with disability

– Young girls

– Mothers

– Fathers

– Society who will never see the contributions of these little ones whose lives are cut short.

The big winners:

– Men who don’t want the responsibility of caring for their children

– Abortion Providers

 

Before anyone retorts, but you’re a man, you shouldn’t have a voice on this women’s issue, let’s remember that the Bill’s chief architect is also a man, Alex Greenwich. Why hasn’t he been told to keep his nose out of women’s affairs? The reason is obvious, he supports the decriminalisation of abortion, that’s why? Men have a role to play in the making of babies, and most women believe that men have a responsibility in raising children; I agree. Of the children who are aborted, thousands are little boys. It is surely incumbent upon men to speak for women’s health and dignity as well as the health and dignity of the unborn.

In the days of Ancient Rome Christians found and took in unwanted babies who were left on hillsides to die of exposure. In 18th Century England, Christian groups opened orphanages to care for children whose parents couldn’t support them. Churches can once again open our eyes to needs in our communities and find ways to support and love women who are facing an unwanted or difficult pregnancy. How can we put away the platitudes and open up our hearts to them? Society has lost its way, but the imperative remains for us to live like the Lord Jesus. How can we sacrifice and present a better way forward, for the good of women, the life of children, and the health of our society?