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)

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.

Skullduggery in the Church?

Descending onto Melbourne yesterday wasn’t the gale force winds sweeping across from South Australia, but another tirade against Sydney Anglicans. I’m not sure why The Age even bothered to reproduce the article, given it has little relevance to Melbourne, but why should Sydney keep all the sensationalism to themselves?

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It is always disappointing to read of anyone being misrepresented in the media. We all know it happens, and we know it ought not, but it does. It doesn’t matter who is being misrepresented, slander is slander regardless of who is in the firing line.  In this case, it is the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. 

Author and Columnist, Elizabeth Farrelly, is careful to paint a vivid portrait of Sydney Anglicans. The language is suitably chosen to support her thesis:

“skullduggery in the church”

“What if the Pharisees are back in charge?”

“It’s not just the ongoing nightmare of institutionalised child-sex abuse and the decades-long connivance that implies. Nor even the antediluvian opposition to women preachers and same-sex marriage. Exacerbating all that is an increasingly aggressive stamping out of dissent.”

“These are voices the church now works to destroy.”

“Sydney Anglicanism’s now “cultish” atmosphere”

And on it goes.

Everyone warms to Friar Tuck and the Vicar of Dibley, and we all like to boo Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, the Bishop of Hereford, and John Ballard. Elizabeth Farrelly wants to leave readers in no doubt as to which group of clergy the Diocese of Sydney belongs.

Farrelly’s language is selected carefully in order build a case of Pharisaism against Sydney Anglicans, and to portray Keith Mascord and others as victims who lay in their wake. It is of little consequence that the allegations are as thin as the slimmest slice of swiss cheese; cheese smells.

Especially worrying is the way Farrelly so easily draws in the issue of child abuse. With such an incredibly  sensitive and serious matter, it is disingenuous and even dangerous to clump it with the topic she is primarily addressing. For example, to introduce the situation with child sexual abuses in the Newcastle Diocese as evidence of hypocrisy among Sydney Anglican is misleading and paramount to libel. Farrelly’s gotcha moment is a quote from Sydney pastor, Rev David Ould…except that his actual quote says the opposite of what she claims. He has subsequently written this response to the misquote.

It is also important to note this crucial factual error, which Farrelly’s case depend on: depends on for her chief criticism of the Diocese: contrary to what Farrelly writes, Keith Mascord was not delicensed as a priest last week. He has not been licensed since 2013. Not only that, he was recently offered a licence to minister in his local parish, but Keith declined as he was unwilling to follow his ordination vows.

When evidence is not to be found, Farrelly resorts to conjecture in order to further her case:

She says, “You might think an institution of diminishing influence would engage its internal questioners in eager debate. You might expect the church, having been built around a rocker-of-boats and tipper-of-apple carts, to know that comfortable words pattered out over tea are not the only ones to hear.”

Anyone who has studied at Moore College or attended Diocesan Synods will know that Sydney Anglicans are more willing to debate issues and have those difficult conversations than any other Christian denomination I know of in Australia. The issue is not whether the Diocese is open to serious debate, but that they have not landed in a place that Farrelly would approve of.

Also this,

“The tellers of uncomfortable truths are those we most need. People whose truths come at significant cost to themselves, whose truths are wrenched from them; they’re the heroes, the soothsayers, the prophets. But these are voices the church now works to destroy.”

Farrelly doesn’t define what she means by truth; all we know is that the Sydney Diocese don’t have it, and the dissenting voices whom she supports do have it.

In the case of Keith Mascord, we are not seeing any example of Pharisaism, but of common sense. If a builder confessed that he no longer accepted the building code, and that he would proceed to break it at several points, it would be reasonable for his licence not be renewed. Similarly, when a Christian minister explains that he can no longer abide by the beliefs of the Denomination he is licensed to, it is appropriate that he not continue.

Are Sydney Anglicans perfect? Of course not, and I suspect nearly all Sydney Anglicans would gladly put up their hand in agreement. That’s what Christians do, we confess our sins.

I’m not a Sydney-sider nor am I an Anglican, but the impression I am left with is that Elizabeth Farrelly is no supporter of the Sydney Anglicans! I don’t think anyone  is insisting that Elizabeth Farrelly like or approve of their teaching, but when it comes to reporting a story, readers deserve to be presented with the facts.


A Statement from the Sydney Diocese regarding Keith Mascord’s license can be read here 

Lessons in how to disagree with popular opinion

When children speak in favour of atheism or secularism or GLBTI issues, they are praised and receive vocal public support.

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sydneyanglicans.net

Last week, several anonymous female school students received wide public backing when they expressed to the ABC, “shock and frustration” by the “outdated” ideas Archbishop Davies promoted.  Archbishop Glenn Davies had spoken at the annual service for Anglican School Leaders, and as part of his address he made comments about gender equality; nothing radical, he affirmed the historic Christian understanding.

But when a teenage girl spoke out on Friday in favour of the Bible and the Bible’s teaching about marriage, the story was sadly very different. Paige Katay wrote a piece for The Drum, and was also interviewed by Julia Baird for The Drum’s evening television program.

To be fair, and probably in view that a 17 year old school girl was speaking, many people dampened their rhetoric from some of the usual delights. It should also be noted that  a significant number of people encouraged Paige for her courage, clarity and conviction. However, underlying many the comments was a streak of condescension, with frequent references to ‘brain-washing’  and ‘indoctrination’.

Here are some examples from the comments section on ABC’s The Drum:

“Good that this poor child is having her washed brain questioned by @cassandragoldie who knows what happens when men rule”

“Spirited defence, but I suppose a girls Anglican school has to rationalise like this in order to stop the girls smelling a rat when the law of the land says they are equal to their brother….”

“Your “belief” that males and females have different gender based roles in society and relationships is incredibly sexist. This type of “belief” ALWAYS results in *MEN* occupying the primary positions of societal authority and power, whereas you interpret it as “a beautiful kind of harmony”. Yep, you’ve been very effectively and thoroughly brainwashed by your religion.

Yes, the Archbishop has you thoroughly controlled and brainwashed. After all, nearly 2,000 years of brutal Christianity has shown it’s all about domination and control of others. Luckily, old style violent Christianity has been slowly defeated over the past several hundred years by secularism ….. by secular morals, secular freedom, secular democracy and secular decency. Hopefully Christianity will never return to it’s bad old days.”

And among the responses on twitter (some tweets are sadly unrepeatable):

“Poor brainwashed indoctrinated Child.”

“Paige Katay believes in invisible men in the sky & has been indoctrinated from age zero. Her opinions are worthless.”

“I had been mightily impressed with how today’s young people seem so progressive and socially aware. Then along came Paige Katay.”

As I observe Australians debating important issues, I can see three main approaches:

The first approach (and most common) is where there is no engagement with an opposing view with reasoned argument or questions, just ridicule and bullish tactics.

This has become all to common when discussions use the word ‘gender’ or ‘marriage’. 

I had believed that bullying was a reprehensible act, and the public outraged at any whiff of children being intimidated, but apparently it is okay if the person in question is a Christian teenage girl affirming her beliefs. 

The second approach is somewhat better, although far from ideal. Here, there is no engagement with the views actually presented, but loaded with assumptions about what we ‘think’ the person has said or should be saying, a critique is offered. But arguing against a caricatured position is hardly fair and it does little to progress debate.

This was evident on Friday’s episode of The Drum, when Tom Allard was asked a question about Paige Katay’s views. He began by rebutting an idea that Paige never articulated, and when Julia Baird corrected him, he then spoke against a view of the Bible that no Christian that I know of, believes or teaches.

The third approach is where each party listens carefully to the others, and can repeat accurately the views you disagree with, and then offer a respectful critique, and finally outline your own position. It requires humility, honesty, and kindness, even when you feel strongly about the issue.

As Australians talk to polemical social and moral issues, I am not surprised that many are choosing to interact in the first two ways,  although I am nonetheless disappointed and saddened, especially when politicians and ‘leaders’ resort to these machiavellian tactics. Here, I want to encourage people, especially Christians to work hard at exemplifying the third way. Paige Katay has given us a wonderful example, as have many other Christians in the public space. Indeed, non-Christians such as the now former Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, also give us an example.

I remember watching a short video conversation on the Gospel Coalition website between Tim Keller, Matt Chandler and Michael Horton, where they agree that we want to be in the place where we can express the views of our opponents better than they, such that they can see that we understand them.

Meekness may not be easy, but Jesus certainly thinks it is the way to go. Let’s resist hateful speech, false representations, and parodies, and insist upon words and a way of communicating that reflect the Lord Jesus.