Pope Francis calls critics of Rome “friends of the Devil”

Pope Francis has accused thousands of victims and their families who have been abused by Roman Catholic priests of being related to the Devil.

Yesterday during an address given to pilgrims in southern Italy, Pope Francis said,

“You can’t live all your life by accusing, accusing,  and accusing the church. Who is the accuser? Who in the Bible is called the Great Accuser? Who is it? …The Devil.

Those who spend their lives accusing, accusing, accusing, are not the devil’s children because the devil has none. Friends, cousins and relatives of the devil and this is wrong. Mistakes should be reported to be corrected. When mistakes are reported, when flaws are denounced, the church is loved”.

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Despite Pope Francis opening a summit for Rome’s Bishops to address these issue of abuse,  where he has acknowledged that they must fight the “enemy within” almost every element in this statement by the Pope is appalling. Mistakes? Which mistakes is he talking about? Is Pope Francis referring to thousands of priests slipping their hands into little boys genitals and asking children into having sex with them? Is he talking about the shoddy processes responsible for mishandling sex abuse allegations, or of the deliberate protection offered to perpetrators of these crimes? Even the word, ‘accusing’, which the Pope has chosen to emphasise, is a poor choice of language, for it suggests that there may be reason to doubt the claims being made and even that the person making the allegations is a troublemaker.

This is not the first time that Pope Francis has insulted the victims of abuse. In September 2018 he suggested,

“With people who do not have good will, with people who seek only scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within families,” the answer is “silence. And prayer.”

“May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we must speak and when we must be silent. And [to do] in all of life: in work, at home, in society…” to become more closely imitators of Jesus Christ

As it says in the day’s Gospel, the people “rose up, drove [Jesus] out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill… to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.”

Those who drove Jesus out of the city were not people, but “a pack of wild dogs,” …They shouted instead of using reason, and in the face of this, Jesus’ response was to remain silent.”

I responded at the time by asking,

“I certainly hope Pope Francis wasn’t inferring that he is behaving like Jesus and that those asking for clarification of the allegations are not like ‘a pack of wild dogs.’”

Days later Pope Francis added,

“In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. The ‘Great Accuser’, as he himself says to God in the first chapter of the Book of Job, ‘roams the earth looking for someone to accuse’. A bishop’s strength against the ‘Great Accuser’ is prayer, that of Jesus and his own, and the humility of being chosen and remaining close to the people of God, without seeking an aristocratic life that removes this unction. Let us pray, today, for our bishops: for me, for those who are here, and for all the bishops throughout the world.”

The Pope’s remarks about the Devil and abuse victims is disgusting. I cannot work out why he would continue to articulate such insensitive and even untrue statements. By them, he is accentuating the pain that is already carried by so many thousands of Catholics, and his comments make a mockery of the message that is the good news of Jesus Christ, which marks out what a Church is about.

I feel compelled to speak up because the Pope’s commentary is wrong and Christian leaders need to respond and correct his galling words. Calling for justice and for repentance is not the work of the Devil. The Devil’s work lays with those evil priests who have abused innocence, and with the bishops and cardinals who have covered over the bloody stains of these heinous acts of betrayal. Surely, demands for the Vatican to change her ways is more in line with the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ.

What does Jesus say? “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

Christ’s message to any church who uncovers sinful activity in her midst is repentance and discipline. Churches that either enable sexual abuse or protect guilty persons are not representing Jesus Christ but are defaming his name.

Have we forgotten what happened to the Church in Pergamum? Of this church Jesus said,

12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation 2:12-16)

500 years ago there was a God-given opportunity for Rome to repent and to reform. Many Christians throughout Europe listened to God’s gracious call and they found new life and forgiveness and Churches began to flourish and through them, entire cities and regions were transformed. All the while Rome instead chose to dig in her heels. Today, once again the cries are great, and the frustration is telling.

While the Vatican persists with upholding doctrine that contradicts the beauty and truth of the Gospel, it is should not surprise us to see her continue to obfuscate issues of holiness and morality. The problems are deep, not only legal and material but also spiritual and theological. In once sense Pope Francis has rightly identified an underlying cause in Rome’s current crisis: the Devil is playing his game. But sadly and dreadfully, he is laying fault at the feet of the wrong group of people.

When Murder is no longer considered murder

Oh, falsely, falsely murdered!

By means of preface, I will be refraining from naming any of the persons involved in the story and from entering into particulars of the case, as this is an ongoing police investigation and because this concerns real people. My heart goes out to the family of the victim. I cannot imagine their pain and grief, and I pray that in the midst of tremendous loss they might find some solace.  While I will try to avoid personalising commentary for the above reasons, we must not forget that we are talking about real faces and names and lives; it is because of such that the issue being raised in the New York Post is all the more saddening and needs telling.

One of the most fundamental notions of being human is that murder is wrong. There are many dreadful things that human beings do to each other, but the most serious and base sin is surely murder.

Over the weekend a New York man murdered his girlfriend and her baby (she was 5 months pregnant). He was initially charged with 2 counts of murder, but the second charge has since been dropped by the police. A spokesman for the District Attorney told the New York Post that the abortion charge ‘was repealed by the Legislature, and this is the law as it exists today.’

While the murder charge remains against the man for killing his girlfriend, New York State’s new and controversial Reproductive Health Act has now come into effect and thus protects the accused from being charged with killing the 5-month-old unborn child.

How is killing an unborn child defined by the State as murder one day, and okay the next day? Like flicking off a light switch, one moment it was illegal to take the life of the child, but now, even while acknowledging the gruesome way both mum and child died,  the perpetrator has nothing to answer, at least in relation to this young one. The situation is even more morally absurd given the new abortion laws rely on permission being given by the mother and a doctor.

According to the Daily Mail, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown says that the man showed “no mercy and no regard for human life.”

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New York State coast of arms

 

When murder is no longer considered murder, what have we become? When a man can stab another human being to death and then have a charge dropped because the law no longer considers the act unjust, what have we become?

There is an obvious disjunction here. It is as clear as last week’s comments that were made by Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam, who advocated a position for infanticide. And yet society is forced to close its ears and suppress the conscience in order to maintain and the unfettered and indefensible mantra of a ‘woman’s right to choose’.

Let the reader understand, this program of dehumanisation is far from finishing its course. Not only is infanticide now on the table, but murder charges can be expunged when society deems a person outside the protection of the law. The evolving sitz im leben in New York State is one example of a movement that is taking hold across many Western societies where it is no longer possible to even assume let alone uphold the basic laws that gave rise to the very notion of justice and righteousness.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught,

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

The Apostle Paul reinforces Jesus’ point,

“The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)

Our modern sins, like those in the ancient world, are a matter of failing to love our neighbour. The wonder and attractiveness of sacrifice and giving for the sake of another is losing traction as the new morality stamps out opposition with newly fashioned laws and with civil intolerance.

We desperately need to return to the message Jesus Christ preached, to hear both the mercy of God and the righteousness of God. Love is not killing our neighbour, or slandering them or cheating them, but rejoicing in inconvenience, preferencing generosity over greed, protecting unexpected life, and valuing those who are sometimes more challenging because they carry with them disease or disability. Recent days have given us great insight into the direction Western cultures are heading, and the question must be asked, do we like what we see? Is this where we wish to be directed?

The Big American Story that Australian media is keeping quiet

One of the most talked about issues in the United States for the past two weeks has been late-term abortions.

New York State passed a law to make it easier to perform abortions up until birth, the State of Virginia came within a single vote of doing so, the Virginian Governor proposed a position in support of infanticide, and the US Senate blocked a Bill aimed at protecting unborn children who can feel pain from 5 months.

Australians are captivated by American politics and culture. Every day and every night our major news outlets are reporting the latest stories coming out of America. Almost without exception, Australian media will rehash and talk about any controversial political story that is churning about America’s political washing machine. Viral video clips are splashed on the 6pm news. Tweets are relayed and commented upon, even those which might be innocent but sound juicy if we put an evil spin on them.

The past two weeks have witnessed some of the most embarrassing and detestable suggestions that have reached the floor of American State and Federal Governments in recent decades, and almost zero words have been dedicated to reporting this in Australia.

Australian media have no issue reporting the growing list of Senior Virginian politicians who been caught up in racist or sexual scandals; even local regional newspapers are talking about it. There is however almost no comment on the horrifying position Governor Ralph Northam has articulated in relation to infanticide (which by the way, is the issue which led to the revelations about the photograph in his college yearbook),

“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”

There is no media discussion over Virginian Delegate, Kathy Tran’s, admission,

Kathy Tran: “My bill would allow abortion up to 40 weeks.”

Todd Gilbert: “Where it’s obvious a woman is about to give birth…would that be a point at which she could still request an abortion?”

Kathy Tran: “My bill would allow that, yes”

 

This raises a question in my mind, why is Australian media, who are known for their obsession with American politics, ignoring what is one of the biggest political stories of 2019 thus far? Why are they not showing the gruesome revelations made by Virginian Delegate, Kathy Tan? Why are Governor Ralph Northam’s comments supporting infanticide not being discussed?

The issue of late-term abortion has such currency in the United States that it was addressed in the State of the Union. Australian media are this week, as always,  reporting and comment on the State of the Union, but apart from a couple of passing and innocuous sentences that push the abortion debate into the arena of a local American issue, Australians would be surprised to hear that this is

The President stated,

New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. 

“These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world. And then, we had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth. To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”

While the story continues to unfold across the Pacific Ocean, during the same period of time in Australia, we have been reading stories about a fish saved from a sticky end and then driven 100kms to new and safer waters. There is a ‘new’ report telling us about the immorality of eating meat. Apparently, bees are intelligent. Two penguins enjoyed a holiday in Western Australia and are now traveling back to Antartica. A fish has changed its sex at the Melbourne Aquarium. Endangered Owls are being saved by a “vomit-sniffing dog”. These and many more stories about animals and protecting animals have managed to find space in our Aussie news. Of course, some of these stories are interesting and a few are even important and deserve public attention. Hey, there was even room to share another “snake in the toilet” story!

Defend animals! Save animals! Stop murdering animals! But killing healthy babies in the womb, and now even post birth?

I wonder, could it be the case that reporting this growing American story is too close to home? Perhaps the Pacific Ocean is not such a great divide. Maybe, the reality is that quoting these American lawmakers might expose uncomfortable truths about practices that are permitted and even praised in Australia today? It is not difficult to see the moral dissonance. We are being told to express moral outrage when animals are mistreated or are endangered; fair enough. What about killing a healthy baby at 40 weeks if the mother so chooses? What about giving a mother the right to let her healthy child die after he or she is born? Are Australian journalists so afraid of reporting the awful reality of abortion?  Are they so committed to protecting this insanely evil practice, that one of the biggest stories in America is blanketed by silence?

We have many fine journalists in Australia, working locally and all over the world, covering all kinds of weighty and relevant stories.  Who will speak for the unborn?

“They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood”. (Psalm 106:38)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” (Proverbs 31:8)

Progressing Abortion and Killing Society

A stomach-churning video has gone viral over the last 24 hours. In the State of Virginia, House Democrats are pushing a Bill that will legalise late-term abortion, just days after New York State adopted similar legislation. Kathy Tran, a Democrat delegate, responded to questions by admitting that the Bill will permit abortion even as late as when a woman has entered labor.

Kathy Tran: “My bill would allow abortion up to 40 weeks.”

Todd Gilbert: “Where it’s obvious a woman is about to give birth…would that be a point at which she could still request an abortion?”

Kathy Tran: “My bill would allow that, yes”

You can watch the video here:

I am again writing about this issue, less because of what is unfolding in the USA, but because I’m reminded of what is already practiced and accepted in my home State of Victoria.

In 2016, then member of the Victorian Legislative Council, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, presented a Bill hoping to overturn a 2008 law which legalised late-term abortions.

The law allows women in Victoria to have an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, right up until the time of birth. All that is required is for two doctors to give approval.

The Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 stipulates that late-term abortions are permissible so long as two medical practitioners “reasonably believe that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances”. “Circumstances” is defined as the medical practitioner having regard to

“(a) all relevant medical circumstances; and

(b) the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.”

The Bill was defeated 27 votes to 11.

At the time I did not engage in the conversation. Perhaps I was busy. Maybe I was focusing on other matters of importance. I remember a debate taking place in Parliament but to my shame, it wasn’t on my radar as it ought.

If there is one thing I have learned over the past few years is that evil doesn’t slow down its agenda simply because we are paying attention or not paying attention. No one can address every act of immorality and speak to every grave issue facing the world; we need an omnipotent and loving God. However, when we can speak, should we not give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves?

Societal shift on abortion has been swift. In the space of three years, we’ve witnessed the culture move from justifying abortion to celebrating abortion, from permitting the practice during the early weeks of pregnancy to licensing third-trimester abortions, even when these very same infants could survive and live outside the womb.

Understand, these laws are not about saving the life of the mother, for, in such rare and terrifying circumstances, the life of the mother is surely and already prioritised. The aim in those rare situations is not to kill the child but to save the life of the mother. This is far from where the abortion argument now finds itself. The newly adopted law in New York State, the proposed Bill in Virginia, and the current practice in Victoria where I live do not require the mother’s life to be at risk. The grounds are,  can she persuade a doctor (in Victoria the law requires 2 Drs) that she no longer wishes to keep the pregnancy. As the harrowing video reveals, this decision can be made as late as during labor.

According to the Victorian State Government’s health website, in 2016, 14.9% of all perinatal deaths in Victoria were accounted by abortions for “maternal psychosocial indications”. 40.32% of all late-term abortions (from 20 weeks) are for “psychosocial” reasons, meaning there is nothing wrong with the baby or physical health of the mother.  Please note, my understanding is that these numbers include terminations that occurred in hospitals and does not include abortions that take place in clinics.

If the pronouncements of these lawmakers aren’t enough to turn the stomach, Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, today suggested 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”

This is not a slippery slope, this is the natural outworking of an ethic without God. This is the world of Peter Singer. 20 years ago many people sneered at some of Singer’s views and found them repugnant. Today, much of his thinking has become the norm in Western countries. His utilitarian thinking supports the killing of lesser human beings, those who are disabled and are considered less than fully functioning. Singer’s arguments supporting infanticide are now finding their way into mainstream politics and legislative agendas. Have we not learned from history? Are not past stories of the mass killing of innocence enough to steer us from ever going there again? The answer is, no. Our civilised and progressive societies are eager to venture into those dark hellish places once again.

What makes our society even more culpable than past societies is that we are committing the same sins but with greater knowledge and with greater ability. Modern knowledge reveals truths about how babies are formed in the womb, things that were once believed but could not be seen until the invention of ultrasounds. We can see the heartbeat of a baby in the earliest weeks. We can delight at a child’s fingers and toes growing at 6 weeks. We now know that babies can hear and respond to music by 16 weeks; the next Mozart is already learning to feel and marvel at the beauty of sound.

Medical advancements give us unparalleled ability to care for both mother and child, to even perform surgery on a baby while it is in the womb. When these little ones surprise us by coming into the world early we have the know-how to save the lives of these children as young as 22 weeks.

This is a grotesque reality in which we live: despite superior knowledge of human life in the womb and superior medical technology to save life, our commitment to destroying life has also increased.

I suspect some readers will respond with partial agreement; you dislike late-term abortions, but you don’t have a problem with ending a pregnancy during the first trimester. This is not an uncommon position to hold.

May I respond by asking you this question, at what point can we draw an absolute moral line? At what point can we justify the moral shift from being okay with killing the child to believing it is not okay?  Is the moral threshold when the baby begins to feel pain? Is it the moment cognitive awareness starts? Is it the week when their limbs have formed? Is it the moment the heart begins to beat? There is no ontological moment during a pregnancy at which we can argue, at this stage, it is okay to abort a child.

This needs to stop.

I understand that this issue is very real and personal for many women in our society. I don’t want to ignore the pain and guilt thousands of women experience following an abortion. To them, I say, there is hope of forgiveness and renewal for those who seek it.

How different is the answer that we find with the God of the Bible. The Bible insists that every human being, from the moment of conception, is precious and made in the image of God. Gender, age, health, mental faculties, physical appearance, do not detract from a person’s inestimable worth.

Jesus loved the unwanted. Throughout his three years of ministry, Jesus was known for befriending and caring for those whom society thought little and had often neglected. No one was too insignificant for him to take interest in and show love.

On one occasion we are told,

“A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” (Matthew 8:2-3)

Jesus didn’t stop there, the extent of love that God demonstrated was found on a Roman cross, where the Son of God sacrificed his life for the salvation of others.

“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.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Pink is for Death

Pink has become the colour of death. When a baby girl came into the world, friends gave gifts of pink shoes or a pink outfit. It may be a social convention, but does that matter? Pink was the colour for girls. Like so much else, another insidious social movement has replaced something good with the representation of evil.

Last night in Manhattan, the skyline changed to a pinkish glow, as New York State celebrated the passing of a law which will enable the killing of babies up until birth.

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As the vote was counted and announced on the floor of the legislative powers in the State Capital of Albany, exuberant applause and cheers went up from the crowd who present to witness the proceedings. One American news outlet has likened scenes to winning the Super Bowl. It is telling when there is greater public joy over the sanctioning of killing human life than over the birth of a child. Surely society has plummeted to a new moral low.

Such scenes are not unique, they are becoming commonplace as abortion laws are relaxed across the world. There were similar scenes of jubilation in the Australian State of Queensland when abortion was legalised late last year. Brisbane’s night sky turned the colour purple in celebration of the right to take the life of a baby. Much of Ireland became a street party when their national referendum heavily favoured the legalisation of abortion.

The sheer evil of New York State’s law is reviling and should cause us to weep openly. Two of my children were born prematurely; two healthy beautiful little boys. Yet in places like New York and in my own State of Victoria, it is legal and even morally acceptable to have these children put to death. In Victoria, abortions can be legally attained until the pregnancy is 23 weeks and 6 days, after which, two Doctors are then required to sign a permission form. While late-term abortions are still considered ‘rare’ in Victoria, rare has become another malleable term, for in Victoria alone hundreds of unborn babies are subsequently killed every year after 24 weeks of pregnancy, many have no diagnosed medical condition and could be safely delivered alive.

25 years ago Hilary Clinton initiated what became the popular mantra, “abortion should be safe, legal, and rare”. That slogan has been abandoned for there is no longer a need to hide the realities. The new hashtag is “ shout your abortion”. This shift in public rhetoric less reflects a changing ethical system, and more echoes greater confidence to express what many people in society have long believed.

I still remember Jane Caro’s words in 2016,

“Shout out about your abortion any way you see fit — if the subject comes up in conversation, perhaps, or there is a story about it in the news.”

“If you have had an abortion, do not be ashamed of it. You are in good company. Shout it out and help lift the shame for all the other women who have also decided that every child should be a wanted child.”

Like a 21st Century prophetess, Caro’s sermon has been heard and adopted by the culture, as piranhas gathering around the carcass of a dying system of morality.

Long gone are the old excuses, for example, a fetus is not yet a human being.  With growing scientific and medical knowledge such nonsense is no longer sustainable but that does not matter. In full recognition of unborn babies being fully human and with the knowledge that their life can continue outside the womb,  the moral belief is, ‘their deaths are justified’. In other words, human life is not inherently valuable and untouchable but is subject to the worth we attach. A life is worth preserving only because personal interest declares it so.

The sadistic irony amidst the arguments of a woman’s right and health is that the majority of aborted babies are girls. In this age of advocating gender equality, most children who are killed in the womb are female. It is also the case that many other babies are aborted because they have been deemed as having some kind of medical condition, as though a disability or illness gives him less right to live.

In 2018, The Age (a secular Australian newspaper) reported a story concerning new research conducted by a secular Australian University, finding a link between abortion and the mistreatment of women.

“A phenomenon of “missing girls” could be afflicting Victoria, as a study of more than a million births suggests some parents could be aborting unborn female babies or undergoing embryo selection overseas in order to have a son.

If nature was left to take its course, it is expected that for every 100 girls born, about 105 boys will be brought into the world.

But in findings researchers say indicate “systematic discrimination against females starts in the womb”, mothers within some key migrant communities are recording sons at rates of 122 and 125 for every 100 daughters in later pregnancies.

Lead researcher Dr Kristina Edvardsson from Melbourne’s La Trobe University said it showed gender bias persisted in Victoria, despite laws banning people from choosing the sex of their child, other than for medical reasons.

“We believe that some women may be terminating pregnancies after discovering they are expecting a girl and in other cases are travelling overseas to access non-medical sex selection services through assisted reproduction,” she said.

These children have no grave, but they are not forgotten. I believe that one day there will be justice for these little ones, for not one act of injustice will remain unmet and without due consequence. I also remember that the miracle of life can only be equaled by God’s miracle of mercy. Christians ought to grieve over the insane and out of control dehumanisation project that is sweeping Western nations, and there is a righteous anger to be spoken. Our shouts, however, must center on a cross and declare good news of forgiveness. Despite the furor of public cheers and political congratulations, many women do regret their abortion and carry with them guilt and shame for many years to come. We, if we are truly Christian, have come to know and experience the mercy of God in our own lives, and we mustn’t let our anger rob our hearts of God’s mercy.

The story we speak is better than those cries to kill. Appropriately, t is a story about another unwanted child. At his birth, the Government attempted to interfere by sending local authorities to his town in order to find the newborn and have him killed. He was saved by his mum and dad fleeing, leaving the country and finding asylum in another land. Thirty-three years later, the feverish shouts could be heard all over the city, ‘Crucify him, Crucify him’. The public wanted it, and the Government approved. Little did they know that through this one death, God was bringing justice and mercy. The perfect Son of God was heaping on himself the sin of the world so that God might remove our sin and shame.

This is an age of outrage, and at times with some justification. In all the noise, hearing shouts to take the lives of innocence, the Christian message is about One who gave up his life for the guilty. We may not shout, but we can speak His name with love and kindness, with clarity and grace.

Bishop Curry: Preacher of love and Persecutor of the Church?

“give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” (1 Kings 3:9)

Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (Hosea 14:9)

 

The world fell in love with Bishop Michael Curry last year as he delivered the sermon at the royal wedding. Even Christians were smiling and laughing at his wit and mesmerised at his storytelling, and nodding in agreement each time he spoke of love. He left convention behind, ignoring the stale, stuffy, and short sermonette that everyone has become accustomed to for a royal event, and he instead preached a long humorous monologue about love.

abc royal wedding

 

Prior to this sermon which stole the news headlines around the world for days to come, few people had ever heard of Bishop Michael Curry outside The Episcopal Church (TEC), of which he is the Presiding Bishop. Within moments of beginning his homily, social media lit up with Christians and atheists alike, gleaming and expressing likes all-round.

Some voices dared challenge the message and the preacher; I was one of them. I understood why Curry’s sermon might appeal to non-Christians; his words sounded awfully like their own secular worldview, except that he added the idea of God to the conversation. But many Christians were disappointed and even angry by the fact that some Christian leaders questioned the royal sermon. Even when concerns were more fully expressed, some swiped them away as though we were throwing mud at a great man of God.

His sermon was stamped ex cathedra, out of bounds to any criticism. He mentioned love and God, and Jesus was thrown in somewhere, so what’s the problem? Jump off the critic’s chair and join the crowds in celebrating Bishop Curry and his message of love!

Earlier this week, a story reported that this preacher of love is perhaps less loving that he has been made out to be. Indeed, he is less like Apostle Paul who wrote 1 Corinthians 13 and more like Saul, the persecutor of the church.

Christian Today has reported that,

“The head of the US Episcopal Church has taken disciplinary action against the Bishop of Albany for opposing same-sex marriage ceremonies. 

Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev Michael Curry, moved to restrict part of Bishop William Love’s ministry after he introduced a policy in the diocese last year preventing churches from performing gay weddings.” 

The Bishop famed for his sermon on love has moved to discipline a local bishop who believes in upholding the biblical understanding of marriage.

In 2015, Episcopal Church’s General Convention protected dioceses who banned the practice of same-sex weddings, but those protections were removed last year. Bishop Love has instead chosen to follow what he believes is congruent with God’s word and to guard his congregations against damaging teaching and ceremonies. Bishop Love has responded to Curry’s disciplinary action, saying that his policy reflected the official teaching of the Church that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that no resolutions from the General Convention had overridden this. 

Before anyone assumes that this is the first of such instances, Michael Curry has a history of persecuting clergy and churches who don’t support his progressive views of sexuality and marriage.

This was one of the important facts that was whitewashed amidst all the public adulations being heaped on Michael Curry in the wake of the wedding; not only does he deny the biblical definition of marriage, he presides as Bishop over a denomination which has taken its own churches to court in order to remove them from buildings and property, on account that these churches won’t cave into theological liberalism. Michel Curry has been and continues to be one of the chief protagonists responsible for fracturing the Anglican communion not only in America but worldwide.

Curry’s latest actions against a local bishop are just another example of this man who preaches love and practices persecution.

It grieves me to know that while brothers and sisters in Christ in the United States are counting the cost for faithfulness to the Gospel, many other Christians remember that royal wedding sermon with fondness. It perhaps shouldn’t surprise us, but it ought to trouble us, that with a few slick words spoken at a wedding, Christians have sided with the world and decided that Curry’s heterodox beliefs and practices shouldn’t discount the warmth people enjoyed by his presence as he stood and spoke behind that pulpit in St Georges Chapel. It’s almost as though, for the sake of lapping up a captivating presentation, we are prepared to ignore reality and to toss out God’s loving truth, even when these things are made transparent to us.

Let us pray for and learn discernment. Let us side with those who are persecuted, and not with the persecutors. Pray for the churches and clergy who remain in The Episcopal Church and remain in Christ. And ask God that he might lovingly bring Michael Curry to repentance, just as God so graciously did for Paul on that road to Damascus.

Our Summer Vacation wasn’t a time for missing out on Church

“the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace” (Colossians 1:6)

This year we decided to escape one month of the Australian summer by heading for the northern hemisphere. Susan and I had the opportunity to take an overseas holiday with our children, and so we packed our winter coats and gloves, grabbed the passports, made a dash across the equator and didn’t stop for 18000km.

We marched up The Mall to Buckingham Palace. We joined the Tottenham hoards at Wembley Stadium for an EPL game. We toured Lord’s Cricket Ground, wandered the galleries at Tate Modern, drove through Flanders and the First World War battlefields, spent days walking through the beautiful city of Paris, eating a ridiculous amount of tasty French breads and cakes, and finally, a mountain of bbq pork and daily yum cha in the enticing city of Hong Kong. Yes, it was amazing and alluring and many other adjectives beginning with the letter ‘a’.

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Amidst visiting and enjoying many wonderful sights, foods, and experiences, there was something else even greater and most astonishing, something we didn’t want to miss out on. To non-Christians, this may sound daft, and sadly, even among many Christians. What could possibly outdo the many places and tastes that garnished our holiday? What beats lunch in Paris and shopping at Selfridges? Answer? It was spending time with God’s people each Sunday. That’s right, the highlight of our trip was Church.

I admit it,  I don’t leap out of bed every week for church, let alone when I’m on holidays. It’s not that I don’t want to be with church, but rather, I’m exhausted, in every sense of the word. Nevertheless, I take Hebrews 10:23-24 seriously, and I have a beautiful wife who spurs me on even when I’m lacking motivation. And after all, when Christians in China are facing arrest and imprisonment for gathering together as Church, how can I justify nonattendance because I’m on holiday?

I remind my own congregation that regularly meeting with God’s people is both a command and a comfort, an exhortation and encouragement. Just as eating food is necessary and delicious, so church for the Christian is both vital and pleasing, nourishing the soul and feeding the body. That means, we need time with God, in his word, and with his people, even when I’m on vacation.

We visited several churches during our time away: 3 in London, 1 in Lille (France), and 1 in Hong Kong. We met people for the first time, who were already brothers and sisters on account of Christ. We sat among a French-speaking Church and heard the name of Jesus sung and preached with joyful earnestness. We watched another Church not only accommodate but love special needs children in the most natural and beautiful way; their spasmodic noises and motions were not an interruption to the service but were warmly embraced as part of their worship to God.

On our final Sunday before heading home to Melbourne, we listened to a sermon which captured wonderfully a truth that we experienced throughout our time away.

An old friend, John Percival, serves as the Senior Pastor of Ambassador International Church in Hong Kong. John opened the Scriptures to Colossians 1:1-8.

I was immediately struck by verses 3- 6, which reads,

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—  the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”

What I noticed is how the churches we visited are an embodiment of Colossians 1:3-6 (at the very least, this was our experience of them, as it is has been our joy and privilege in serving at Mentone Baptist for the past 14 years).

Each of the Churches we visited prayed for the nations and for the Gospel to advance throughout the world. They gave thanks for God’s grace at work in bringing people to Christ. The preachers pointed people to the Lord Jesus and called them to believe in him and put their hope in Christ and not the things of this world. It is always exciting to see these words spoken to a small town church 2000 years ago are still working today in the lives of congregations in different parts of the world, and knowing that it is the same Gospel at work in our own lives. And so, just as Paul thanked God for the Gospel at work among the Colossians, I am thankful to God for evidence of his grace among these churches

Our time away was beneficial for many reasons, and among them was seeing again how the Apostolic word is continuing to bear fruit all over the world, just as God said would happen. The same good news that we believe at Mentone Baptist is held by women and men 17000km away. The same message that is preached at Mentone is being proclaimed to people across continents in other languages. The same message that Paul speaks to the Colossians is, 21 Centuries later, still bearing fruit all over the world.

As in the years that have already past by, 2019 will no doubt provide us will another onslaught of church naysayers and Gospel skeptics. We’ll hear unbelievers knock the message of the cross and laugh at the notion of resurrection, and we’ll read about clergy doing the very same thing. New leadership gurus and theological “pioneers” will give advice about how we need to be more ‘radical’ and more ‘revolutionary’ in our approaches to ministry (as though innovation is the Gospel).

Instead, I have been refreshed by words that speak of a faith, love and hope that is growing among churches, born from hearing and understanding God’s grace, “true message of the gospel”. 

You see, if we had chosen the ‘easier’ path and not bothered to find a Bible-believing local church, if we had instead skipped church so that I could catch up on lost sleep or see more sights and try new things, we would have missed out on this great encouragement from God. I would have given up Divine food for stuffing myself with a few stale chips, such are medieval buildings, fashion houses, and restaurants, in comparison with what God is growing throughout the whole world.

So as I return to Melbourne and to a new year of pastoral ministry at Mentone, having enjoyed a time away and seeing God’s world and taking pleasure in many wonders of human intellectual and creative exercise. More importantly, I am reminded of the one Gospel which in 2019 will give birth to faith, love, and hope, and being reminded how these things grow together in and through the life of the local church.