When you are insulted

Did Turnbull Malcolm speak too soon?

As the Dean Smith Bill was about to be receive its final reading in Parliament yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proclaimed,

“Australia has done it. What a day for love, for equality, for respect.”

It’s attractive rhetoric, and perhaps Mr Turnbull really believes what he said, or maybe he’s just hoping for the best. Whatever is the case, Australia hasn’t disappointed because soon after he spoke these words, trending across Australia on twitter was hashtag Lyle. Even out doing many hashtags dedicated to celebrating yesterday’s decision, thousands of people are sending offensive tweets to Lyle Shelton, using all kind of base language in order to offend. Telling a fellow human being to eat excrement, in my opinion, is shameful. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Shelton’s views or not, it is simply disgusting.

For those who may not be aware, Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of ACL (Australian Christian Lobby), and he took a key role in the national campaign to uphold the classical view of marriage in Australia.

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No doubt Lyle Shelton is a controversial figure. Not every Christian would agree with everything he says or how he has said it, but his view of marriage is certainly in keeping with the Christian understanding. More than that, he is respectful and gracious when interacting with people, even those who send him verbal parcels of expletives and insult.

This national pronouncement of love and respect isn’t only being directed toward Lyle Shelton, but it has been a sad the trend throughout much of the debate on same sex marriage. Gay and Lesbian Australians have have been subjected to awful mud slinging, and many supporters of classical marriage have had all manner of insult and assault aimed at them. The difference between the two is that the latter has often found public and media support. Remember when Bill Shorten and other Federal members equating opponents of same sex marriage with haters and bigots?

Remember when comedian and Fairfax columnist, Benjamin Law, threatened to sexually assault Government MP, Andrew Hastie? Apparently, it’s not only ok, but it’s funny to make a joke about raping a politician. More humour from Mr Law last night,

“Now I am become Lyle, the eater of shit”

Even before the vote was taken on Thursday, throughout the day’s proceedings, the public gallery in Parliament continually interrupted MPs who dared suggest that Australia is likely to see a reduction of religious freedoms in light of changing the Marriage Act.  It was impossible not to see the irony, while fellow MPs referred to concerns over religious freedoms as “baseless”, the choir sitting in the public gallery repeatedly applauded and cheered in triumph when any MP suggested religious freedom would be reduced.

No doubt there have been many people from across the opinion divide who have expressed their views respectfully and who have been quick to speak against those who are hateful. Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect that our Prime Minister’s words are already destitute. A truly pluralist and tolerant society is able to handle rigorous debate and can avoid jumping into the sewer. Last night and again today, thousands of Australians can’t contain their eagerness to take scoop down and start throwing it at high profiled defenders of classical marriage.

It’s not nice, it’s awful, but should we be surprised? Didn’t Jesus tell us in advance that this would happen? The final vestiges of our Christian culture have up til now served as padding against some of the slings and arrows of social outrage. Yesterday’s Parliamentary “victory” has been interpreted by thousands as justification to knock down those who didn’t support the cause. I suspect that for some, they’re simply letting off steam following months of anger and frustration, although I’m not sure that a justified reason.

While this was unfolding, I was preparing my sermon for Church this Sunday. At Mentone Baptist we are looking at Matthew ch.10. While the context of that passage is mission, and Jesus instructing his disciples how to go about mission and what to expect when they are sent into surrounding towns, it’s hard not to notice some relevance.

Jesus is forewarning his disciples that not everyone is going to welcome them and welcome their message. In fact, at times it’s going to be incredibly hard. People will turn on you, insult you, and even take you to court.

Jesus says, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matt 10:16). The combination of both qualities is essential: shrewdness without innocence can lead to deceitfulness and unkind methodology, and innocence without shrewdness can lead to naivety or to a foolish bravado. In other words, don’t be stupid and don’t be sinful. Don’t respond to trouble in kind.

While many Australians are today celebrating, many others are today disappointed and saddened by how easily our Parliamentary representatives dismissed the genuine concerns about religious liberties, don’t leap onto social media and say something stupid and sinful. Stop, think, and read these verses:

“8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 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. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech”. (1 Peter 8:10)

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Victoria about to legalise euthanasia

It has been another sad day in Victoria. Victoria is set to become the first State in Australia to legalise euthanasia. We used to say how we were better than NSW in everything, but in recent times we have demonstrably shown ourselves to be less safe, less caring, and less reasonable.

In contrast to the NSW Parliament who last week knocked down a euthanasia bill in its early stages, this afternoon the Victorian Legislative Council vote 22-18 in favour of the euthanasia bill. There were several amendments, but none take away the basic design of the legislation. The bill will soon return to the Lower House for final ratification, and becoming law. However, euthanasia won’t be permitted until June 2019, which ironically gives Australians from other States sufficient to move to Victoria and begin making plans (one has to be a resident in for Victoria for 12 months in order to have access to this law).

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If there is one comment from today that sums up this legislation, it comes from Upper House Labor member, Jaclyn Symes. Liberal member, Craig Ondarchie, had asked for an amendment, which would have made it lawful for Doctors to name the cause of death on the death certificate, namely, assisted suicide by the administration of xyz drug. The amendment was an important one,  because under the proposed law,  doctors won’t cite the cause of death, instead they would record the illness with which the patient was suffering.  The amendment failed to find sufficient support. Anyway, Ms Symes said in response to the amendment (to paraphrase),

“Mr Ondarchie, your amendment is cruel and lacks empathy.”

Think about it –  if writing down the true cause of death is cruel and lacks empathy and can’t be recorded, what does that tell us about euthanasia?

A short time ago our Premier, Daniel Andrews, announced to the media, “This is Victoria at its best.”

No, the State sanctioning the killing of human life is not our best, it is our worst.  We should commend our Governments when they do good and serve our communities well, but this is not one of those days. Hundreds of medical professionals urged the Parliament not to accept this legislation, but instead to give proper funding to palliative care. Others encouraged the Parliament to understand the moral line they would cross, should they legalise euthanasia. There were indeed many from within Parliament, and across party lines, who spoke against this bill, but to no avail.

Tonight, it seems as though Victoria is taking glory in our shame. Our Premier and others are  taking pride in a law that is designed to kill people, and that should frighten Victorians and sadden us.

I’m reminded of Proverbs which says,

“Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:17-19)

It is better to stand for what is right and good, and to lose, than to stand and share in the glory of dreadful and immoral lawmaking.  This does mean though, Churches must ready themselves to love and support families who have loved ones who’ve made the decision to take their own life, and we must be ready to offer gentle and wise counsel to people who are considering the path of taking their own life.

Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others, must ready themselves for how they will address patients who come to them and asking drugs in which to take their life.

Over the course of the debate several members of Parliament and staffers have indicated to me that we should expect the parameters of the euthanasia law to be broadened, in the next 5-10 years. In other words, don’t think that this issue is a done deal.

As the debate continued today in Spring Street, I was preparing a sermon for this Sunday at Mentone Baptist, our passage is Matthew 9:18-34. In this portion of Scripture we find Christ who has come to restore all that is wrong and broken and hurting and sinful. People in the darkest times, who had lost all hope and for whom others could no longer assist, in Jesus they found God who loves and who one day will restore all things.

In that passage there are two blind men who come to Jesus, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” That is a great response for Christians today. As our State further dehumanises its citizens, and demonises those who oppose their agenda, let us cry out to God for his mercy, not only for ourselves but also for those who voted ‘yes’ today, and for those in our community who are struggling with the realisation that death is not far away.

As the song of Isaiah promised,

“Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

 

 

Victorian Schools to help children transition without parental consent

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

As parents, Susan and I are regularly signing forms that have been sent home from school: there is an excursion to the zoo next Friday, please sign. The school camp is next month, please sign. Your child has been selected in the school’s athletics team and we need your permission for them to compete. Your child was absent yesterday, please notify us as to the reason.

Three months ago I received a call from school, “your son has been hurt while playing rugby. It looks as though he’s broken his arm, can you come to the school and take him to the hospital…”

While no one enjoys paperwork (perhaps with exception to accountants!), both schools and parents understand the importance of these forms. Parents are the primary carers and even educators for their own children, teaching them life skills, morality, religion.  It is the parents joy and responsibility to love their children and to see that they safe and healthy and maturing in life. It is one of the few innate truths that our society still holds, or so I thought.

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Today, someone brought to my attention the updated School Advisory Policy Guide for School Principals and Administrators (updated July 2017). Under the section titled, Gender Diversity, Principals are given the following instruction by the Victorian Education Department:

“Schools must work with students transitioning or affirming their gender identity to prepare and implement a student support plan.”

First of all, schools are not given the discretion to counsel against students transitioning from one gender to another, they are required to affirm the student’s chosen identity, and to prepare and implement a support plan.

“The plan should be developed in consultation with the student and their parents or carers, where possible, and should be reviewed periodically to ensure that it reflects the needs of the student at the different stages of their transition, and at the different stages of their education.”

Notice the qualification? “The plan should be developed in consultation with the student and their parents or carers, where possible.”

Surely, the Government is not giving schools permission to help children change their gender identity and even their name, without parental involvement and consent?

Let’s keep reading. Under the following section, titled, Parental Consent, we read,

“There may be circumstances in which students wish or need to undertake gender transition without the consent of their parent/s (or carer/s), and/or without consulting medical practitioners.

If no agreement can be reached between the student and the parent/s regarding the student’s gender identity, or if the parent/s will not consent to the contents of a student support plan, it will be necessary for the school to consider whether the student is a mature minor.

If a student is considered a mature minor they can make decisions for themselves without parental consent and should be affirmed in their gender identity at school. Department policy addresses situations in which students, though under the age of 18 years, may be sufficiently mature to make their own decisions, see Decision Making by Mature Minors

How old does a child need to be in order to be defined as mature? Luckily the Department don’t leave us in limbo. They explain,

“there is no specific age when a young person may be deemed sufficiently mature and capable of making his or her own decision”

In other words, school aged children, both secondary and primary, can decide to change their gender, and the school must support this transition and the school does not need to inform or gain parental consent. The policy is written in such a way as though parental consent is advantageous, but it is not necessary. If this is not sufficiently worrying, the school is also not required to gain professional medical advice prior to implementing a plan for gender transition for a child.

This is insane; a school cannot let my child attend a fun excursion without my consent, but they can prepare my child to change their gender and identity?

No one wants these children being bullied or sidelined and left to struggle alone. They are image bearers of God and therefore to be loved and protected. It is not however, the right of a Government or a school to proceed to change a child’s identity without the parents knowledge, consent, and without due medical and psychological assessments. We all understand that there is the rare situation where parents don’t act in the best interests of their children, but these guidelines don’t carefully limit parental exclusion for that specific scenario.

Children do not belong to the Government, and schools are but temporary caretakers who have the permission of the family to teach writing, reading, and counting. What we are again seeing in Victoria, is a Government forcing families to cross into a new world where Government takes control from loving parents, and gives schools freedom to navigate even critical decisions for a child.

Does the State love our children more than us? Do schools, even with their fantastic staff who care for our kids, do they understand them more than parents? This school policy is dangerous, and it will lead to damaging the lives of children and of their families. Not only that, this will create impossible scenarios for schools and their principals, whom I can imagine are rarely adept to make such decisions, and will feel incredibly concerned about about leaving parents in the cold and not enquiring from medical professionals, which is surely a sensible course of action.

Even then, research shows that the majority of children who experience gender dysphoria will grow out of it in their adolescence or early adulthood, thus delayed action is normally preferred. Research also indicates that transitioning does not necessarily alleviate the stresses associated with gender dysphoria. 

Victorian parents need to be aware of these policies, and others. If you are concerned concerned, please read the policy for yourselves, contact your local State member and share your concerns, graciously and clearly.

A QandA Recap

The Age is right to publish Neil McMahon’s Qanda recap under ‘entertainment’, for it doesn’t belong under ‘news’ or anything resembling fair and factual reporting.

According to McMahon, Magda Szubanski is an angel, in contrast to  the rest of the panel who are presumably on the devil’s payroll.

I’m not having a go at Magda Szubanski and her contribution last night, but McMahon’s near superhuman selective hearing.

If you’ve only read McMahon’s offering in The Age, you’d be forgiven for thinking that last night’s QandA served up another staple diet of stupid Christians and thoughtful atheists, annoying anti-SSM campaigners and human heart beating advocates. I’m sure McMahon’s regulars will read his account with cheers, but for others who watched last night’s program, we are left wondering, through which smokey haze did he view Qanda?

QandA has gained a reputation for too often lacking finesse and nuance from its guests, but last night each panellist brought a healthy degree of intellectual argument touched with humility and empathy.

 

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The entire program was dedicated to issue of same sex marriage, and important questions were asked, and all 4 panellists offered (for the most part) substantive comments and arguments, and yet McMahon fails to even acknowledge any of this.

McMahon latches onto one comment made by Karina Okotel, which was certainly less than convincing, but he concludes that she must be either lying or is at the very least untrustworthy in what she says,

“Okotel is a challenge in this debate: an all-smiling and apparent voice of reasonableness adept at speaking out of both sides of her mouth like the lawyer she is.”

Sure, she fluffed her answer, but it’s not as though there isn’t a clear and important response to this question (cf. https://murraycampbell.net/2017/09/02/fathers-day-telling/).

McMahon also completely ignores one important fact check from the episode, namely when Magda Szubanski repeated the old time myth of 10%. Alfred Kinsey’s now debunked study has nonetheless taken the status of undeniable truth for some in the community. After all, the temptation to inflate favourable numbers is understandable. According to most research, the real number of Australians who variously identify as LGBTI is closer to 2-4%. And according to the 2016 Census, 0.39% of Australians are living in a same sex relationship. Belonging to a small number doesn’t alter the humanity and worth of these Australians, but I would have thought that presenting misinformation isn’t helpful, no matter which side of a debate you are presenting.

Magda’s personal testimony is important and worth listening to. We (speaking to Christians here) do need to listen to such voices. It’s also worth hearing how she understands what Churches are saying about marriage. There are moments when Glenn Davies tries to correct some of her assumptions, without success it would seem, but the interaction does communicate something of the mishearing that is going on in our society.

If there was a “powerful” moment in last night’s program, surely it was Archbishop Glenn Davies stating that should holding Jesus’ view of marriage be declared unfit in Australians society, he would be prepared to go to jail. He would accept the democratic processes of our nation, but is not prepared to change his convictions even in face of imprisonment. But not even worthy of a footnote for McMahon.

Perhaps someone needs to give Neil McMahon their hearing aid, but then again, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. Photoshopping reality is sadly a far to common tool of the trade in journalism today. Journos from all sides are guilty of doing this as they win the applause of their facebook groupies. Let’s be honest, this is not only a journalist problem, but we see it among our politicians, and we even see it in ourselves. We may rightly object to the selectivity and agenda bogged journalism that’s muddying our media, but at the same time, we ought to ask the same about our own proclivities. 

 

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
    for the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)

What is happening to my beloved State of Victoria?

What is happening to my beloved State of Victoria?

In so many ways she is the envy of the world, with our tremendous prosperity, sport, food, and lifestyle. And yet an out of control ideology is driving Victoria to a place that we ought not visit. Vehicle number plates are soon to be changed from, “stay alive” and “the place to be”, to “the place to die”.

The centrepiece of the economy is a casino.

Our favourite public holiday is all about gambling and drinking.

Best education practice has been overturned by one of the most dangerous social engineering projects we’ve ever seen in this country.

Opt-in Religious Instruction classes are almost impossible to hold, while parents are refused permission to opt-out their children from non-scientific and ideologically heavy sex programs.

No, I’m not entering the nutty world of wowserism, but I’m searching for reasonableness and compassion where both are fast exiting north along the Hume Highway.

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The Victorian Parliament is about to decide whether to legalise euthanasia. The Bill is being debated this week, and it will almost certainly pass in both houses.

Daniel Andrews has called this legislation, “conservative assisted dying”, as though adding an obtuse adjective makes killing people somehow ok. Let us be clear, there is nothing conservative about handing out poison to human beings so that they can commit suicide. The fact that this is even being considered, demonstrates how warped we’ve become in our rationalisation. Despite some of the dishonest rhetoric accompanying  arguments for euthanasia, I have been informed by sources inside Spring Street that the intention is to soften and broaden the parameters for euthanasia down the track.

Medical experts have called for the Parliament to reject this legislation.

Over 100 palliative care specialists have pleaded that Victorians Parliamentary members stop this legislation from becoming law.

Over 100 oncologists informed the Government that assisted suicide is dangerous and should not be permitted.

“Physician assisted death is not, by definition, medical treatment. It is not palliative care.  We as doctors and medical specialists do not want   to intentionally end the lives of our patients, or provide them with the direct means to do so. Assisted suicide is in conflict with the basic ethical principles and integrity of medical practice and undermines trust in the medical profession. We strive to eliminate suffering but not the sufferers themselves.

Where cure of cancer is not possible, we seek optimal palliative care services to support and care for patients and their families at the end of life. Without easy access to quality palliative care, some may request physician assisted dying as they feel they have no other choice. This is especially so for people who live in rural, regional and remote areas and for people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities who have less access to palliative care services.

We are very disappointed that discussion of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has dominated the agenda to improve end of life care in Victoria. We are dismayed that the multiple recommendations made by the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into End of Life Choices (June 2016) to strengthen palliative care have not been actioned. Until this is addressed, discussing physician assisted dying is premature.”

Pharmacists have warned that they will be placed in an intolerable position, whereby they will be forced to subscribe poison to Victorians, with the aim of killing them.

Palliative care experts have called on the Government to provide a more compassionate and human alternative to euthanasia, namely, providing proper funding for palliative care.

Victoria isn’t losing its soul, we are actively killing the soul in order to win the prize of becoming the most socially progressive society in the nation. Sure, we’re winning the praise of many inner-surbanites, favourable editorials in The Age, and the adulations of those who want to be like Peter Singer, but is sacrificing our humanity worth it? When the warnings of hundreds of medical professionals are ignored, and when common sense becomes a liability in framing law, we know that we’ve jumped into the murky depths of the Yarra river.

Do Victorians truly want the State to justify killing its own citizens? What is more human, to kill the sick or to ensure they receive proper palliative care?

I am reminded of the words of Jesus, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)

Crucify Them!

Does history repeat itself? With a few drops of irony and a bucket full of ignorance, it appears that some Australians are trying their best.

Two Melbourne Churches were yesterday vandalised by a person(s). 

Waverley Baptist’s building was graffitied with the words,

“Crucify ‘no voters”

“Vote yes”

Glen Waverley Anglican Church was painted with,

“Bash Bigots”, and with a picture equating Christianity with Nazism.

 

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This is not the first occasion when the threat of crucifixion has been used by campaigners on the ‘yes’ side of the marriage debate. It has been painted and proclaimed even in public meetings. No doubt, this is meant to be the worst kind of insult. Perhaps it’s an attempt scare people into silence. One is clear, they are venting anger toward Aussies who won’t fall into line and vote ‘yes’.

In light of the graffiti on these Melbourne Churches, it’s hard not to think of the most famous crucifixion of all.

On the night before his trial and crucifixion, Jesus and his disciples were praying in the Garden of Gethsemane when armed officials approached and arrested him. Peter responded by attacking a man with his sword. Jesus was quick to stop Peter, rebuked him for his wrongful action, and healed the injured man.

In contrast, throughout the trial before Pilate, the crowd repeatedly shouted out,

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

They were responding not against the wishes of the political and religious leadership, but in accord with their purpose.

To be sure, there will be many ‘yes’ voters who are appalled by this latest vandalism on Australian Church buildings. But are we surprised? Of course not. When national political leaders and social commentators insist that voting ‘no’ equates to the worst kind of hate and phobia, it is no wonder that we are seeing this kind of behaviour being played out.

It is important to recognise that there have been some awful things said about gay and lesbian Australians; these are rightly reported and are widely condemned across the board. Any comment or insult that aims to dehumanise any Australian is reprehensible.

I can imagine people feeling unnerved when they arrived for Church yesterday morning; it’s not a pleasant welcome. Let’s not downplay the vileness of this threat: the practice of crucifixion was the most creative and cruelest form of execution, and it is still horrifically practiced in parts of the world today, including Iraq, Syria and Sudan, where Christians have been crucified. At the same time, the vandals are paradoxically offering the greatest complement anyone can give, for they are suggesting that these Churches be treated in the same manner as Jesus Christ.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2)

Of course, Christians can be insulted because we’ve done and said stupid things, and even sinful things. In the midst of the current national debate on marriage, I’ve heard some pretty nasty things spoken by Christians, rarely, but it has happened. However holding to the Bible’s understanding of marriage is not repugnant; it’s unpopular right now but it’s not hateful or wrong. Believing in heterosexual only marriage is not only in sync with the Bible, it’s stating the current legal view of marriage and it is also most logical understanding of marriage. 

When Christians are smeared with the kind of hate and threats that were publicised on those Church walls, we should not respond with fear but with joy, for we are being insulted because of Christ.

Jesus said,

 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

In the off chance that those responsible for Sunday’s vandalism read this blog post, understand that your words are a massive misfire. At the end of the day, you haven’t condemned these churches, you’ve commended them for following Jesus.

I also want you to know this, the very idea that you see as reprehensible may well be something good, and more wonderful than you realise. Just as we know that while humanity’s intent in crucifying Jesus was hateful, God used the cross for love. Jesus willingly went to his crucifixion out of love for the very people who despised him and called for his death. On the cross Jesus cried out,

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”


This is how Drew Mellor, Senior Minister of Glen Waverley Anglican Church, responded, and that’s how we Christians need to keep responding. We can’t hold onto grudges or respond vindictively because we know how much we have been loved and forgiven by God. My own church has been graffitied over the years; it’s annoying, and I understand that it can also be hurtful. But then we remember how we once stood on the other side of the cross and tried to define reality without God.

It is because of Divine grace and love that Christians speak, and we want to persuade our fellow Australians about Jesus Christ, and yes, even about the goodness of marriage, and why it makes sense for marriage to remain between a man and a woman. Should the population and politicians decide otherwise, they can. Should the law change, it will redefine how we view society and how we treat those who cannot support those changes. While the graffiti is probably (un)intentional hyperbole, Australian Christians need to wake up to the fact that the culture has moved. The Bible has always taught that there is a cost for those who follow Christ. Through a combination of grace and complacency, most of us have we’ve avoided paying. We are just beginning to sense that things are changing, and that the historical bubble in which we’ve been living is about to burst, and we will find ourselves where Christians for most of history have lived, on the outside of society.

Therefore, in light of this probability,

 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)

 

 

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.

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.