Pope Francis continues to sow confusion

Pope Francis. Photo: The VaticanIn the latest episode of The Briefing, Albert Mohler turns to recent statements made by Pope Francis, and considers the confusion being sown among Roman Catholics and the wider public.

It is a masterly analysis, and is worth hearing. Many regard the Catholic Church as the font of Christianity, so the pronouncements of a Pope who contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture and who seems to be re-writing Reformation history deserve examination.

The 17 minute audio segment is the first on this page. (Photo: The Vatican website.)

Sexual orthodoxy and admitting lawyers

Assoc Prof Neil FosterThe decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of Upper Canada, 2016 ONCA 518 (29 June 2016) is an interesting illustration of the strength of the current orthodoxy in society on sexual behaviour, and how those who dissent are increasingly being cast in the role of ‘heretics’ and unfit for civilised society.

(While this blog is mostly about Australian issues, those raised by this case are likely to be replicated here and elsewhere in the West, so I think it is worthy of note.)

The decision is the latest in a line of cases relating to the attempt of TWU, a private Christian university located in British Columbia, to start a law school…”

– At Law and Religion Australia, Neil Foster comments on yet another example of increasing intolerance of Christian morality.

Why Saturday’s election is like all the others, and yet not

Tony PayneVoting in elections, like pretty much everything we do, is an exercise in glorifying God by loving our neighbour.

Or as Paul puts it: ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’ (1 Cor 10:31-11:1).

The principle as it applies to voting is simple enough: we should do everything for the glory of God by seeking the advantage of many. As we eat or drink or work or drive or vote, we should not seek our own good, but the good of many others, and especially their chief good of being saved in Christ. 

What does this mean for our vote this Saturday?…

… Christians will regard people’s destiny in Christ as their chief good. As we consider all the good and harm that may be attained through governmental action, we will give a special priority to those actions that provide space and opportunity for the gospel to be clearly proclaimed. As Paul said, do everything for the glory of God by seeking the good of many, so that they may be saved

And that’s why this election is unlike any I’ve voted in over the past 36 years in Australia…

– At Moore College’s Centre for Christian Living, Tony Payne lays out the great motivation for evangelical Christians to consider carefully how they should vote.


Same Sex Marriage: Don’t wait till after the Election.

Why we need a plebiscite.

Social Media – Enemy or Friend

David CookThere is no use complaining about social media. Like wealth, it is here to stay. Like wealth, it is very useful.

When I left SMBC in 2011, the student body presented me with an iPad. Frankly, I didn’t know what I was going to do with such a contraption. Now, nearly five years later, I don’t know how I ever coped without it.

With my iPad I do my banking, receive and send emails, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, check cricket, rugby league and even AFL scores. As well, there are all sorts of apps which I find useful.

However, like wealth, there are dangers. Like wealth, social media is a very helpful servant but a dominating and potentially destructive master…”

– David Cook calls Christians to reassert control.

Seasoned with Salt? – Christian Responses to Brexit

David RobertsonSome of the comments from Christians who were on the Remain side have also been sober, reflective and asking for prayer and unity. Again as I would have expected. But what I did not expect are the number of comments and posts which have reflected a very different spirit; bitter, cynical and full of contempt and fear…”

– Free Church of Scotland Moderator David Robertson (who is currently in Oz) reflects on some of the Christian responses to the Leave vote, with a reminder that God is still sovereign – irrespective of which way the vote went.

Character in Leadership — does it still matter?

Albert MohlerIn the 1976 presidential campaign, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, then the Democratic nominee, made headlines in the United States and around the world merely by granting a single interview. That interview was with Playboy magazine.

The interview was a political bombshell. No major American politician had come within any distance of Playboy magazine. It was considered the iconic symbol of American pornography, and the very fact that a political candidate—not to mention the nominee of one of America’s major political parties—had granted an interview to Playboy magazine, seemed almost morally unbelievable and indefensible…”

– Albert Mohler asks whether evangelical Christians care any more about the moral character of leaders.

Why we need a plebiscite

Bishop Michael Stead“In his campaign launch speech last Saturday the leader of the Federal Opposition, the Hon. Bill Shorten, has politicised the same-sex marriage plebiscite, making it a key point of differentiation between Labor and the Coalition. Mr Shorten affirmed Labor’s commitment to introduce same-sex marriage legislation if elected on July 2, and claimed that the Coalition promise of a plebiscite to allow Australians to have their say on this important social change would be a ‘taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia’…”

– Bishop Michael Stead, chair of the Religious Freedom Reference Group for Sydney Diocese, argues the case for an informed choice about same-sex marriage in the form of a plebiscite.

john-sandeman-michael-steadBishop Stead was interviewed by John Sandeman for Eternity Newspaper. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the video.)

“Our driving agenda is telling people about Jesus.”

Homosexuality and “hate speech”

Assoc Prof Neil FosterSimply expressing opposition to homosexuality from a religious perspective, not accompanied by incitement to violence, should not be classified as unlawful ‘hate speech’.

The terrible events at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed by a man claiming to act in the name of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ group, have naturally generated much heated comment online and in the news media. As others have noted, this was almost a ‘perfect storm’ of hot-button controversies in the world today: Islam, homosexuality and gun control being some of the main ones.

… it might be worth reminding ourselves of some facts about homosexuality, religious perspectives, and the idea of ‘hate speech’. I’d like to offer five propositions, and comment on them briefly…”

– Neil Foster (Assoc Prof. in Law) provides some clarity on ‘hate speech’ in the context of current events. Read it all at the link.


Shorten, Greens dismay gay marriage foes – News.com.au

“Anti-gay-marriage groups have slammed comments by Labor and the Greens linking a national vote on same-sex marriage to the deadly Orlando mass shooting.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten backed away from associating a plebiscite with gay hate crime on Saturday, after earlier making reference to the mass killing, but he said he was concerned ‘ugly arguments’ would emerge.’

Orlando: A Time to Weep… A Time to Mourn

Phillip JensenPhillip Jensen writes about the tragic shootings in Orlando, Florida, this week:

“At the moment, what we know is that thousands of Americans are this day mourning the loss of a close relative, a friend, a colleague, a neighbour. Their heartache is real and deep and will not cease when the news cycle moves on to another beat up. … They need our compassion and our tears, our prayers and condolences.”

Read it all here. (Picture: St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.)

Orlando — Grief in a time of Culture War

flag-at-countdown-clock-420“Like me, you have more than likely been staggered by the tragedy of the nightclub murders in Orlando, Florida. It seems inconceivable that someone could go to such lengths, sink to such depths of depravity, as to plan and then so callously execute his scheme to kill as many as possible.

Sadly it seems that no sooner has the dust settled but many from every side of every debate have used the attack to make their various points…”

– At The Gospel Coalition Australia, David Ould reminds Christians to respond differently from how many might expect. Read it all here.

It’s unanimous — ARV and Anglicare to merge

The Rev Gav Poole, ACL PresidentACL President Gav Poole wrote this opinion-piece for the current issue of The Australian Church Record:

“Pray that such a key diocesan organisation will be used for kingdom growth and the proclamation of the gospel.

Full text:

Very rarely does every member of the Sydney Diocesan Synod agree. If they do, it is usually on minor matters. Given the size and significance of the decision to merge the Anglican Retirement Villages (ARV) and Anglicare, it is amazing that the entire Synod agreed. When Synod met on Wednesday, 27 April, it had one decision to make – ‘Should ARV and Anglicare merge?’ When crunch time arrived there was not a ‘nay’ in the house.

There were however amendments to the motion but most of those were easily decided. The exception was one amendment which entailed whether or not to retain the phrase, ‘at least’. Retention of the phrase was won by one vote. A small phrase took up a lot of time and was carried by a small margin.

Most debating time was taken up on two left field amendments concerning branding. Five speeches were against them, with one of the opposing speeches labelling them as ‘ridiculous’ and that they needed to be ‘booted out’. They were ‘booted out’ on the overwhelming voices. If nothing else, they offered comical relief.

The decision could have been made by Standing Committee but it would only take three people to insist that the ordinance be promoted to Synod. Standing Committee would have been unwise to try it. Imagine the objectors, ‘Standing Committee did what? How could they?’ But now … we’re all in this together. This had to be decided by Synod.

This was a significant decision. Consider the sheer size of the merged organisation – $1.5b in gross assets. If the company was publicly listed it would imaginably be in the ASX300. Consider the people – over 10,000 will be serviced by the new organisation in one form or another. Consider the history – the Church Society (Anglicare’s genesis) was established in 1856. And consider the partnerships with the many parishes across the diocese.

It’s not every day you get to make a decision of this calibre. Very few Synod members would have experience with any company merger, let alone one of this size. So how can so many people, with so little experience make such a large decision and be united in it? The answer – information and after that, more information.

For this reason, the decision to postpone the Synod was a good one. It would have been near impossible to be well informed if Synod had been held in March. Questions had to be asked, alternatives had to be properly entertained, numbers had to be crunched and advice sought. Although it was slightly embarrassing and inconvenient, a month’s deferral meant that Synod members were informed.

Synod members should be commended on their preparation. Most of the questions were asked at the three pre-Synod briefing meetings, where approximately 170 members were in attendance. Comprehensive reports were completed by the CEOs and Standing Committee. Seven good questions were asked at Synod, all of them demonstrating that they had read the subject matter. This was proof positive that given the chance Synod will educate itself and come prepared.

It is now over to Standing Committee to pass an ordinance that closely reflects the motion of Synod. Synod has noted the reports, including draft ordinances. Things like objects and the board make up must closely resemble that of the draft ordinances. Standing Committee’s work is all but done.

Synod’s work however continues. The decision to merge is only the beginning. It will be important for Synod to receive the promised reports and keep the merged organisation accountable. The legal makeup of the organisation will only go part of the way to ensuring the conditions of Synod are met. The board must be committed to these conditions and work in partnership with other parts of the diocese. This will take careful attention during elections. Synod’s motion will be fulfilled legally, politically and prayerfully.

Pray that such a key diocesan organisation will be used for kingdom growth and the proclamation of the gospel. Pray that the board, executive, employees and partners will act wisely and efficiently to protect the gospel character of the organisation. Pray for those who will be the object of the new organisation’s compassion. Most importantly pray that Christ be honoured as Lord and Saviour in every community.

Realistically this is unlikely to be a part of your regular quiet time. That would be great but you are most likely to pray when you receive prayer bulletins or booklets (every organisation seems to be doing this), or when your congregation is visited by a representative. Pray when prompted.

Such organisations can quickly go off track and after a while resemble their secular counterparts. Hopefully, this one will not. It is the motivation of such an organisation that will inevitably distinguish it. Truly righteous acts are seen by God, an audience of one. In Jesus Christ, we have freely received and gifts from God are to be freely given. A life impacted by the gospel will delight in expressions of generosity and compassion. We resemble our Father in heaven and such an organisation gives us access to the vulnerable and needy. Synod was unanimous in its decision, let the diocese be unanimous in its ongoing support.

The main motion agreed to at the Special Synod, 27 April 2016

2/16 Approval of the merger of Anglicare and Anglican Retirement Villages

Synod, noting the report of the Standing Committee in relation to the proposed merger of Anglican Retirement Villages Diocese of Sydney (“ARV”) and Sydney Anglican Home Mission Society (“Anglicare”) together with accompanying draft ordinances and other documents in relation to the proposed merger received at this session, approves in principle the merger of these two organisations on the basis that –

(a) the indemnity provided by ARV to Anglicare is intended to ensure that survivors of child abuse have at least an equivalent level of recourse as if Anglicare had continued to operate in its own right,

(b) the merged organisation will actively aim to continue to deliver services provided by Anglicare and ARV to socially disadvantaged people at an enhanced level,

(c) the merged organisation will actively aim to continue the work undertaken by Anglicare with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples at an enhanced level,

(d) the merged organisation will actively aim to continue to alleviate necessitous circumstances through the provision of education at an enhanced level,

(e) the legal name of the merged organisation is “Anglican Community Services”,

(f) consideration is given to making provision in both the Anglicare and ARV constituting ordinances for a gift fund for both entities,

and requests the Standing Committee to pass such ordinances and take such other action it considers necessary or desirable to give effect to the merger on this basis.

(Reprinted from the June 2016 issue of The Australian Church Record.)

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