A Day of Reckoning: Victorian Government pushes to ban Christian practices with threat of 10 years in prison

“The day has come in Victoria where Christians and Churches need to decide whether to obey God or the Government. Such a decision should never be forced onto believers but the current Victorian Government insists that it must be so.

There are times when we use hyperbole and exaggerate the significance of words or decisions, but I do not think this is one of those occasions.

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 has been tabled in the Victorian Parliament. This is the most significant threat to religious freedom in Victoria in living memory. The current Government has been slowly removing religious freedoms for a number of years, but nothing quite like this.

Anyone found engaging in ‘change or suppression practices’ may face 10 years imprisonment. …

Take note of the following details:

  1. The Bill will ban consensual practices. If a person invites a pastor or person to pray for them in relation to their sexual orientation or gender identity, the pastor or person can be charged according to the Act.
  2. Section 5.3 provides examples of what constitutes ‘practices’.  Prayer is banned. For example, if a person asks for prayer that they would live a godly life and refrain from sexual activity that they believe is inconsistent with follow Jesus Christ, the person praying can be charge[d] according to this Act.
  3. Section 5.3 specifies that practice is not limited to the examples that are provided. …”

Murray Campbell in Melbourne issues a stark warning.

Do take the time to read it all.

“PRAY FOR AUSTRALIA” DAY

Phillip Jensen has written to encourage prayer –

Our country is desperately in need of our prayers so would you join us for a day to:

What better day than Australia Day, 26th January (the public holiday just before the year gets under way)?

What better way than in our parish churches – with connections to others meeting to pray?

Last January we started an evangelistic prayer day with a group of young adults.

PRAY FOR AUSTRALIA
DAY

It was a great way to start the year. So, we are repeating it in 2021.

Since then, thanks to Covid, we’ve all learnt how to link up with other groups through live streaming and sharing recorded talks to use simultaneously.

This year we are recasting our program and inviting you to join us in your church or hall.

Date:   Australia Day, Tuesday 26th January 2021

Time:   10:30am to 3:00pm

Pre-recorded talks

The morning session will have two talks – ‘Praying Evangelistically’ and ‘Evangelising Australia’, with time for prayer after each one.

The afternoon session is up to you, but we would encourage you to use it to articulate your 2021 parish vision as the basis for prayer.

We will pre-record the two talks and send them to you to show at your church.

We will also have a Facebook event where we will interact with other groups also meeting to pray. ‘PRAY FOR AUSTRALIA’ Day Facebook event.

I hope you can join us – happy to hear of any way to help you.

Yours

Phillip

A Call to Change the Census — Phillip Jensen

At last, I was chosen to be in a sample! I always wonder about polls and samples; I know lots of people but so few of them are ever part of a sample. But this time the Australian Bureau of Statistics chose my suburb to test out the 2021 Census.

So dutifully on the 29th of October I and those in my household answered all the questions about those who were with us that night (namely ourselves). It was magnificently simple, easy to follow and all done on-line. It collected up the basic information of the community, which will help research and policy makers to understand the nature of the Australian community.

All of this except the question on religion – for whether it’s intended to or not, it will deceive by unjustifiably claiming to present information that it has not acquired. In other words; it’s a sham!

The question on religion gave multiple choice answers organised by ‘no religion’, denomination of choice and religion of choice. The top billing went to ‘no religion’ which was separated by a line before the denominations and religions were listed. The religions and denominations were listed in what seemed a random fashion, though I suspect it was a descending order of popularity from last census. So Catholic and Anglican were the top two and others like Hindus and Baptists were further down the list. With finally a box to indicate any other religion not on the random list.

At one level it can appear that it is a fair question. All the options are available plus an alternative to indicate another religion if they haven’t provided for your religion explicitly. But you don’t need a degree in research science to perceive the biases in the order of the listing. Nor do you need a degree in religious studies to see the inaccuracy of confusing denominations with religions.

Personally, I find census information very useful and I’m glad our nation in its research and policy decision making has reliable and trustworthy information about our changing population. As a person deeply involved in religion, I’m particularly interested in religious statistics, as I’m sure are other ‘religious practitioners’. The decline of the old European denominations of Christianity is important to measure, not just for the political joy of atheists, but for the real understanding of anybody interested in religion or Australia. It may disappoint people to see their community declining but accurate accounting of reality is far more important than feelings of disappointment.

However, half a story is worse than no story – especially when the half that is given comes with the authority and apparent thoroughness of the government bureau of statistics. It leads to falsehood in journalistic writing (fairly common in the area of religion), bad decisions in policy and wrong actions amongst religious communities. Everybody loses when the facts are misrepresented by sloppy collection of data.

The question of religion is not so much which denomination you belong to as to which religion: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or Islam. To only ask about Christian denominations, ignores the possibly more important distinctions between Sunni and Shia in the Muslim community. Within Australia there is a growing number of active Christians who have no denominational connection or interest. 

With 30% identifying as ‘no religion’ in 2016 it is important to clarify the meaning of the term. Some today claim they are ‘spiritual’ but not religious, others that they are agnostic or disinterested and still others are atheists. To lump them together while differentiating Christians down to denominations of less than 1% gives a very distorted view of our society and its recent developments.

A complaint without an alternative is easy to make but not particularly helpful. So, let me recommend to the Bureau the following:

1 That all options, including ‘no religion’ be presented alphabetically.

2 That the basic question be divided between

a Buddhist

b Christian

c Hindu

d Islam

e Judaism

f No religion

g Other

3 That denominations (including Islamic denominations) and no-religion alternatives (atheist, agnostic, no interest, spiritual) be made into sub-questions flowing from these main religious groupings.

It is important in Census work that the stability of the questions enable comparisons from one census to the next, especially to be able to see trends. What I am suggesting would enable those comparisons to be made. But it is more important that we are comparing realistic snapshots of society.  Furthermore, when society changes, as religion in a now multicultural society inevitably has, that the questions seek out the new reality rather than archaically repeating yesterday’s concerns.

As a Christian, I am concerned for the truth. Of course, I would like to see Christianity growing in Australia. But that has to be a reality not a wish or a distorted Census report. Reality is what the Census should provide. But at the moment, if the Bureau continues with its sample census, we will not have reality but half-truths and distortions that are impossible to usefully evaluate.

– Phillip Jensen.

Victoria: Churches locked out of Andrews pathway from lockdown

Here’s a media release from The Australian Christian Lobby:

Churches locked out of Andrews pathway from lockdown

19 October 2020

Victorians are relieved to see lockdown restrictions easing, but whilst retail and hospitality sectors can open from 2 November, churches and other faith communities remain in the dark about their future.

“From midnight 1 November, metropolitan hospitality venues can host 20 people indoors and regional venues 40,” ACL spokesperson Jasmine Yuen observed, “Yet church communities can not hold an indoor gathering.”

“In today’s daily press conference Premier Andrews justified the disparity by saying hospitality venues were heavily regulated. Allowing up to 40 strangers in a pub but zero members of a church community inside their own building is nonsensical and unjustifiable.

“The longer this trampling of freedom of worship goes on without making the specific epidemiological justifications public, the more it highlights how desperately religious freedom reform is needed.

“The sentiment of faith groups is clear, from a joint petition of 10,000 people of Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian, Muslim and Hindu faiths, to 300 pastors and leaders who wrote to the Premier, all urging him to allow them to open. Faith groups provide an essential service for community health and mental wellbeing.

“Indoor church services with COVID-Safe Plans and contact tracing are safer than gatherings in public places. Churches have cooperated with the government for a long time to comply with the various protocols on food, hygiene, child safety, fire safety & emergency management et cetera. There is no reason why they can’t open in a COVID-Safe way just like restaurants and pubs.

“COVID-Safe church opening now is vitally important, particularly when people have been so lonely and isolated.

– ENDS.

Related:

295 church leaders urge Premier to open churches – 08 October 2020.

Conversion Therapy laws and religious freedom

“Australia has seen two recent initiatives by local Parliaments aimed at what are often called ‘conversion therapy’ practices.

No-one supports coercive electro-shock or other oppressive practices imposed on someone without their consent, to change their sexual preferences or identity. But the problem with the recent legislative proposals is that the laws do not target these practices alone (as to which it is hard to find any evidence of them occurring in Australia in recent years), but seem to reach further and to prevent religious groups sharing the teaching of their faith. …”

– At Law and Religion Australia, Neil Foster looks at some of the implications of the recently-passed Queensland and ACT legislation.

Concerns expressed over western Sydney council’s constraints on places of worship

Last week, the Member of Granville, Ms Julia Finn, delivered a Private Members’ Statement in NSW State Parliament concerning the Local Environmental Plan adopted by Cumberland Council last month.

Her 5 minute statement can be viewed here.

Gafcon Australasian conference 2021

From Gafcon Australia:

“The Board of Gafcon Australia, along with Anglicans from both the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP) and the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa New Zealand (CCAANZ), are pleased to announce a joint conference in July 2021.

While we can only dream of gathering together and travelling to other places now, we would like you to mark in your diary Mon 19th to Thu 22nd July, 2021, for this conference.”

Dr Ashley Null will be the keynote speaker.

Pre-register your interest here.

Despondent Tasmanians need hope, not darkness

Here’s a media release from The Australian Christian Lobby:

The Australian Christian Lobby encourages hope and purpose, even in the final chapter of people’s lives so that despondent Tasmanians would not choose to prematurely end their own lives.

‘The bill proposed by Mike Gaffney MLC is very concerning, as it goes much further than the current models legalised in Victoria and Western Australia. In those states, a person must be terminally ill and have only 6-12 months to live. Mr Gaffney’s bill expands the barriers beyond that, removing the terminal illness requirement. People who have an irreversible medical condition could access euthanasia,’ observed ACL Tasmania director, Christopher Brohier.

‘There is also no requirement for a psychiatric assessment. Lethal drugs could be administered to someone who is depressed or suffering anxiety,’ Mr Brohier added, ‘Under the bill, consultation on euthanasia could be by video link, a process with no rigour. Fortunately, telecommunications services cannot be used to promote suicide – though advocates are also looking to overturn that law as well.’

‘Then we have the horrifying spectre on the horizon if Mr Gaffney’s bill becomes law. He proposes, within 2 years of euthanasia being given to adults, that it be extended to children.‘

‘Do Tasmanians want more suicides or less?‘ Mr Brohier asked, ‘When you consider the tragedy of suicide and the many efforts being made to prevent it, the answer must be less. We reject calls to legalise assisted suicide in Tasmania.‘ ”

Source.

Related:

Euthanasia: an unfolding national tragedy – Australian Christian Lobby.

Progression or Regression? – David Cook (on what’s happening in Victoria)

And other posts concerning euthanasia on this website.

Progression or Regression?

David Cook writes:

On 1st December 2018, election night in Victoria, the victorious Premier, Daniel Andrews stated that ‘Victoria is the most progressive state in the nation.’

Having spent the month of February, 2020 in Victoria, progression is not the adjective l would have used.

How’s this for a ‘progressive list’:

All this in a State with some of our nation’s finest cultural icons, The MCG, The Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas, the finest collection of Australian art in the nation, more theatres per head of population than any other Australian city.

I am preaching in a Church in the central business district of Melbourne where my closest Protestant neighbouring Churches both unashamedly endorse the same sex marriage agenda of the state.

And the Premier, Daniel Andrews, who presides over all this, is a practicing Roman Catholic, one wonders when a Priest or Bishop will have the courage to place him under Christian discipline.

In Romans 1 the apostle Paul makes it clear that ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven’, he does not say it will be revealed in the future but it is being revealed now. (Rom 1: 18)

Why? Because humankind has exchanged the glory of God for idolatrous images, (Rom 1: 25) and worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator. (Rom 1: 25)

Idolatry is the lie (Rom 1:25) and God’s wrath is evidenced in that he gives mankind up to the fruit of that exchange.

Paul says, God gave them over

(Rom 1: 24) to uncleanness

(Rom 1: 26) to scrambled sexual expression

(Rom 1: 28) to debased mind

The mind, the attitudes, the worldview of humanity is thus under the judgement of God, the mind is counterfeit and incapable of making proper moral judgements. (Rom 1: 28-32)

Such a mind calls regression, progression!

The only hope is the new life, the new heart, which comes through the Christian gospel by the gift of God.

The moral man, Nicodemus, in John 3 must be converted to see or enter God’s  Kingdom and the same opportunity and need is offered to the immoral woman who is offered living water by Jesus in John 4.

Paul makes it clear that due to the mercies of God we are given new minds, from which the judgement of God has been lifted and by the renewing of these minds we are being transformed.

We are people of a new mind, minds which are able to ‘discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’. (Rom 12: 2)

Pray that Daniel Andrews will experience God’s mercy.

In one of the mid-week services here l preached on John 3, ‘Jesus and Nicodemus’ under the heading, ‘Why Daniel Andrews is wrong’.

Thankfully l am still free to preach in the Commonwealth of Australia if not, it is a quick car trip of 3 hours back to the border, to good old regressive NSW!!

– Rev David Cook 18.02.2020

(David Cook has served as Principal of SMBC and also as Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia as well as in parish ministry. Inset photo courtesy St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.)

Submission on Second Draft of Religious Discrimination Bill

Associate Professor Neil Foster writes about the Second Draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill –

“In short, I think this legisation is an important step in improving protection of religious freedom in Australia, and the second draft is an improvement on the first. But I recommend some clarification or change of approach in the following areas:

Giving thanks for Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson SquareThis Australia Day long weekend, pause to give thanks to the Lord for the Rev. Richard Johnson, Chaplain to the First Fleet and first Chaplain to the Colony of New South Wales.

232 years ago this weekend, the First Fleet arrived at Farm Cove. 232 years ago next weekend, Johnson preached at the first church service at Farm Cove.

Read about Richard Johnson and pray that the Lord will call many into the service of Christ’s gospel in our land.

An Aboriginal Pastor’s message for Australia Day

“There’s a heartache still in this land,” says Pastor Michael Duckett of the Macarthur Indigenous Church as he shares a message for Australia Day, calling on non-indigenous Australians to remember the mixed feelings in the Aboriginal community about the day.

Speaking in a video titled The Ministry of Reconciliation, Australia Day 2020, Pastor Duckett gives a greeting in the indigenous Gumbayggirr language of the North Coast of New South Wales.

He said he hopes people will enjoy Australia Day but be sensitive to Aboriginal People…

Read the full story, and watch the video, at SydneyAnglicans.net.

You could download the video to show in church on Sunday, Australia Day.

Thank-you Fireys as Sydney prays

“Sustained applause greeted Rural Fire Service Senior Assistant Commissioner Bruce MacDonald as he was introduced at a Prayer service at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral on Sunday 19th January for those affected by the bushfires. …”

– Russell Powell has the story of Sunday’s service at the Cathedral for everyone affected by the bushfires. At SydneyAnglicans.net.

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