Freedom of Speech in Australia: A Symposium

freedom of speech

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

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

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

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

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

Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the evening

Click on the graphic or here to book seats

 

Complementarianism, a conversation Baptists want to have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grantham writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answers to Difficult Questions

This Sunday at Mentone Baptist Church we are beginning a 3 week apologetic series, examining 3 hot topics:

1. Should Christians object to same-sex marriage? (April 3rd)

2. What is a Christian response to refugees? (April 10th)

3. Is the a reason for suffering (April 17)

Everyone is welcome to join us. Following each service there will be a QandA session to explore in further detail questions relating to these topics

ApologeticsforWeb

 

Easter at Mentone

EasterforWeb

Easter remains an important weekend in the Australian calendar but we are increasingly uncertain what it is about. What are we celebrating at Easter?

If you live in or around Mentone/Cheltenham why not visit Mentone Baptist Church this Easter.

Good Friday Service is 10am, followed by a yum brunch

Easter Sunday Service is also 10am.

At both services we will be exploring the heart of the Easter message and it relates to Aussies today.

You don’t have to be a Christian to attend…you don’t have to believe in God either.

Interested? Intrigued?  Love to see you there

 

A letter for the community of Mentone

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Como Parade, Mentone

Dear community of Mentone,

I am writing to address an issue that is impacting our local community.

Last week a member of the community spoke to me about a story regarding a local Catholic priest in Mentone, which is being reported in the media. Both the Herald Sun and The Age have run update stories today (Feb 10).

As many people will be aware, I live in the local area of Mentone/Parkdale, and I am a father of 3 children who attend a Mentone school (not the two schools mentioned in the media), and I Pastor a Church in Mentone. To hear any story of abuse in the community concerns me because I am a parent, and because I am a Pastor, and because Mentone is my home.

I ought to preface the statement with these two points:

i. Apart from media reports, I am not privy to the particulars of what has taken place with the accusations levelled against John Walshe.

ii. Even though I am a Minister in Mentone, I don’t know John Walshe (Priest at St Patrick’s, Mentone), and have only spoken to him once, about 9 years ago, albeit briefly on the phone in relation to a school Christmas event.

The issue concerns an incident that took place in 1982, when Walshe allegedly abused a seminarian, shortly after Walshe had been ordained. News of this incident has caused concern and outrage amongst many parents at the two schools under the jurisdiction of St Patrick’s parish, St Patrick’s School in Mentone and St John Vianney’s School in Parkdale. It should be added, there are other parents expressing support for John Walshe, and both school councils have indicated ‘unanimous support’ according to The Age.

In reading the media’s report, parental concerns become clearer because of a contradiction between what John Walshe says took place, and what the ArchDiocese of Melbourne determined.

According to an ABC report, John Walshe, said “while his conduct was contrary to his religious beliefs, the encounter with X was completely consensual.”

The Catholic ArchDiocese of Melbourne however concluded that the victim was sexually abused and gave him compensation. Given that this is the case, it does appear incongruous that Walshe is permitted to remain in the ministry.

First of all, I want to ensure Mentone (Baptist) that we hold extremely highly the qualifications set out in Scripture for church leaders.

As I said before, I am not privy to all the information regarding the alleged abuse case, however I know that at Mentone Baptist Church, should a pastor (or any one at the church for that matter) sexually abuse anyone, their tenure would be terminated, and the authorities contacted. And should any of the Church’s leaders engage in sexual immorality (having sex with a person to whom they are not married), they would also be required to step down.

Sadly, I understand how many people have become suspicious of ecclesial organisations,  given the lack of transparency that exists among some. Many are not like this, an example of humble transparency and honesty is that of Peter Jensen, the Former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, who gave testimony at the Royal Commission last week. But the offering of silence, as seems to be the case here, when there are legitimate concerns, is as helpful as clanging cymbals being hit half a beat behind rest of the band (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).

Second, I have lots of empathy for the concerned families of these schools. After all, this is my community where my family and I live, and it grieves me to see this situation unfolding over the neighbours fence, so to speak.

I am happy to meet with concerned parents, should they think it helpful (email is pastor@mentonebaptist.com.au)

Finally, we are praying for all concerned. As we pray, we do so trusting that godly resolution will come soon.

I don’t know John Walshe’s heart, and it is not for me to doubt the sincerity of his apology. I understand that the event took place over 30 years ago, and following the incident he sought counselling. But I also know that time doesn’t equal repentance, and time doesn’t heal all wounds.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus, who said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

And

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

In other words, Jesus both judges and comforts, he brings justice and he exercises mercy. Jesus Christ does not offer cheap formulaic remedies like we find in the self-help section of a book-store, but these are words of the God who became man and took onto himself all the pain and sin of the world in order to bring healing and peace. The cross is a picture of ugliness and suffering, and for that very reason it is also a story of forgiveness and hope.

Moral failure in leaders disappoints, hurts and can lead to a hundred questions and doubts. It is not wrong to set the bar high for those who would oversee a church or ministry, but even with that justified high standard we must rest our hope in Jesus, not in people, for only in Him will we find what we most need.

Sermon on the Mount

sermonontheMount

In this tumultuous world where following Jesus Christ means growing opposition and cost, what better words to meditate on than Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

In 2016, at Mentone Baptist,  I will be preaching on Matthew chs. 5-7, starting January 31.

Check out our promo

 

Christmas Carols with Chill/i

So it’s a stinking hot morning in Melbourne today. 34º degrees by 7:30am. I reckon that must be close to a record for a Melbourne morning.

News is, the cool change is heading our way and will be sweeping across the Bay by 1-2pm. That’s great news for emergency services and home owners out bush and in outlining parts of Melbourne. It’s also great news for everyone who love Christmas Carols.

Even if the heat persists Mentone Baptist can keep make the auditorium as cold as Montreal on Christmas Eve, and we can even add in the snow…maybe not.

ChristmasWeb

For Christmas singing, lights, something for the kids, fun, BBQ, and a message about the joy God can give, join us for this wonderful  Christmas tradition.

 

Starts 6pm and will finish around 7pm

Everyone around Mentone, the Bayside and beyond are very welcome