“White” on the new black-list

“A popular wedding magazine called ‘White’ has announced today that it is closing down. The reason? The Christian publishers had been asked to carry articles featuring same sex weddings, and had politely declined to do so.

The backlash on social media led to a number of advertisers withdrawing their custom, and some customers refusing to buy the magazine any more. In this post I want to comment on the legal issues around this incident, and another episode highlighted in the press today.

A report in The Australian today notes the close of White magazine, and also the other episode involving someone in the ‘wedding industry’:

Christian wedding photographer Jason Tey was taken to the West Australian Equal Opportunity Commission after he agreed to photograph the children of a same-sex couple but disclosed a conflict of belief, in case they felt more comfortable hiring someone else. …”

– Associate Professor Neil Foster comments on a story in today’s The Weekend Australian.

Real freedoms will end the broken chain of exemptions

“Bad legislation is made in a rush. But when it comes to religious freedom we already have bad legislation and there seems to be no urgency to fix it properly – just a rush to create more. …

Let’s be very clear, before you read any further. Anglican schools in Sydney do not expel students for being gay and do not sack teachers for being gay. It is an absurd proposition and it strikes at the very heart of our faith, that all people are created in God’s image and valued in his sight and in our schools.”

– SydneyAnglicans.net has published the full text of Archbishop Glenn Davies’ open letter in The Australian of 6th November 2018.

Do take the time to read it – and share it widely.

Why the Church doesn’t need any more coffee bars

“When I walk into church I am not paying attention to the décor. I don’t want to smell freshly brewed coffee in the lobby. I don’t want to see a trendy pastor on the platform. I don’t care about the graphics or the props on the platform. I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable.

Since my husband died, my days are spent working full time. My nights are spent homeschooling and taking care of two young children. I don’t have shared duties with a spouse anymore so everything is on my plate. When I go to church I desperately want to hear the Word of God. …”

– This article, by Kimberli Lira, published by Premier Christianity last year, is a sharp reminder of what’s most important, but so easily forgotten. (link via Gary Ware.)

Schools would be pushed into an impossible corner

“Faith-based schools are places of education and learning, but they are also communities that educate in a context in which the spiritual life of the child is nurtured and the convictions and beliefs of that faith community are upheld. This particularly means that the staff of the school – the people who most substantially represent and carry forward that school’s culture and ethos – need to wholly support those convictions. It also means a school must have the freedom to shape its community life according to those beliefs. That is why the school exists and parents have the option of choosing that particular perspective.

This is like the freedom that is afforded to political parties. Political parties become a nonsense if they are forced to employ people who fundamentally disagree with their philosophy and who expound contrary views even if only in their private life. …”

– from an opinion piece by Annette Pereira, Executive Officer of the Australian Association of Christian Schools, in The Sydney Morning Herald.

See also: Freedom of Religion policy-making debacleSMH.

Why Millennials ARE coming to church

“There have been plenty of articles about why Millennials – those twenty somethings – are not coming to church. Plenty of time and attention towards what would bring them back.

Well, in our church at the moment plenty of Millennials ARE coming. It’s been noted by the older crowd that they’re starting to get outnumbered by that particular cohort this year. …”

– Here’s an encouraging article by Stephen McAlpine.

The Slow Killing of Congregational Singing

“Here is a great historical irony.

Fifty years ago choirs ruled the church. Usually, they were supported by a very loud organ. To be frank, many choir members were performers, and when the choir was large they drowned out the singing of the congregation. So, sadly, the very people appointed to help the congregation sing actually smothered congregational singing. Bit by bit, choirs disappeared. I think most churches didn’t mourn the loss.

Here’s the irony: we then replaced the choirs with song leaders (or, what we inaccurately call ‘worship leaders’). Over time the number of song leaders grew and grew until they became as big as a choir. Then …”

There is both challenge and encouragement in this Gospel Coalition Australia post by Mike Raiter.

(Photo courtesy GAFCON.)

Church leaders: realistic idealists

“Here’s a thought I’ve been musing over: leaders in ministry need to be realistic idealists. Primarily, we need to be idealists because we are gospel people. We are people of God’s word who seek to do all we do through the lens of Scripture.

However, secondarily, we also need to be realistic. We need to remember that we operate in a fallen world, full of sinful people, where the first heaven and the first earth have not yet passed away, and when God has not yet made everything new (Revelation 21). …”

– Mike Leite explores how this looks in Christian ministry – at The Australian Church Record.

Does the Secular Party know better than a child’s parents?

“An extraordinary claim before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal recently, Secular Party of Australia Inc. v the Department of Education and Training (Human Rights) [2018] VCAT 1321 (27 August 2018), alleged that a child at a public school should be prevented from wearing Islamic religious garb in the child’s own interests!

Thankfully the claim failed, but the fact that the case could even be argued illustrates the pressure that some groups on society are placing on parents and children of faith…”

– Associate Professor Neil Foster writes at Law and Religion Australia.

Have we finally hit peak Attractional?

“As I watch the video announcing the series, I can’t help but feel some pity for the countless thousands of pastors who have been convinced by this model. James Montgomery Boice once warned ‘what you win them with is what you win them to’ and the attractional model bears this out: If you draw people with stunts like Wrastlin’, you’ve got to keep them with other similar or bigger stunts. I feel sorry for the pastor who knows that to keep his congregation, he has to keep coming up with bigger and more shocking ideas. …

Ed Young’s latest desperate attempt to draw a crowd is a good opportunity for us to consider the hallmarks of the attractional church model and to compare it to something far better …”

Tim Challies on something far better than the latest cringeworthy attempt to fill a church building.

Depending on Others

“O that it would rain! I admit to not knowing a whole lot about sheep and cattle and seasonal crops but I have been a person for sixty years and I’ve been farming people vocationally for thirty years of my working life.

I hope that doesn’t sound inappropriate and if it does, please forgive me. But like a farmer who hates to see his stock in poor condition, I am a person who hates to see any of God’s people in a similar condition. Sadly, those two things go hand in hand in times of drought. …”

– Bishop of Armidale, Rick Lewers, writes on his diocesan website.

What is the gospel? — An appeal for clarity

Dr Mark Thompson“I remember, more than twenty years ago now, an international visitor to Sydney being asked this question. Throughout the week that he had been here, the speaker had appealed to the gospel many times.

Clearly in a part of the world well-known for the strength of its evangelical witness, such an appeal was essential if he was to get a hearing. But the appeal had not been convincing and it had become increasingly obvious that at this most basic level our guest had a very different idea of what exactly it was that he was appealing to repeatedly throughout the week. So some brave soul — someone braver than me — publicly asked him the question. What is the gospel?…”

– Dr. Mark Thompson, Principal of Moore College, tackles a crucial question in a new essay.

Take the time to read it all here. [This is a re-post from 2015.]

You can also download it as a 240kb PDF file.

Religious Freedom and land-clearing

“A religious group has claimed that “religious freedom rights” allow it to ignore Australian laws governing land-clearing and other provisions regulating land development. The claim is clearly wrong. It is important to spell out why, so this false claim does not affect other, justifiable, arguments that can be made about appropriate protection of religious freedom. …”

– At Law and Religion Australia, Assoc. Professor Neil Foster points of that Religious Freedom does not give a license to ignore the law.

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