SouthernCross THE NEWS MAGAZINE FOR SYDNEY ANGLICANS
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RUGBY LEAGUE, COVID AND TEAM CHAPLAINS
T h e p r o b l e m w i t h r a c e • M e l b o u r n e ’s C O V I D s t r u g g l e China rewrites John 8 • Religious freedom… or not
TO BETTER GLORIFY GOD TO PROCLAIM JESUS TO REACH THE LOST
The Supercoach is in charge Pre-chaplaincy days: David Simmons in his final first grade game, against Newcastle in September 2015.
e may be in the middle of a pandemic, but the footy is still on and the finals are – finally – here.
“It has been an exciting, challenging and highly disrupted rugby league season… but throughout the ups, downs and uncertainties of it all, God is still in charge,” says the Rev David Simmons, a former Sharks and Panthers player who is now chaplain to the Panthers as well as assistant minister at Emu Plains Anglican Church. And it has been an exciting season. “The game has been a lot more entertaining to watch than
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volume 26 number 9
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in recent seasons,” Simmons says. “The faster ruck speed and six-again rule changes have really opened up the play, and we’re seeing a lot more creative footy – not just the stock-standard plays against robotic defensive lines.” The Rev Graham Crew, senior minister at Gymea and former chaplain with the Dragons, agrees. “It has been great to have games back on the box and some of the play has been spectacular and brilliant.” As is the case with all sport, the season has had its usual challenges, with the rise and fall of players, clubs and coaches. On top of this, of course, COVID-19 caused the competition to stall between mid-March and the end of May, and pushed the grand final back to October 25. In the meantime, strict hygiene protocols have been implemented, with players and key team management going into COVID-19 “bubbles”, game locations changed, and crowds severely limited. Like all segments of society, the rugby league community has had to deal with the “new normal” and many within it are doing it tough. It’s at times like this that people might be more inclined to seek out the assistance of a chaplain, but the pandemic has also had an impact on Simmons’ role at the Panthers. “It’s particularly important for a chaplain to be present,” he says, “but this has been made very difficult as I find myself outside of the team bubble. [However], I have managed to message the players and have received some thankful responses.” His physical absence from the playing group, however, has not restricted God’s work there. “I have been encouraged by the commitment of about six to eight of the players who get together to pray each week and support each other,” he says. “They can often be seen praying before and after
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Playing for the Team: Graham Crew (left) and David Simmons love their clubs, but the Supercoach definitely comes first. games. My not being there has given them the opportunity to take more initiative and responsibility.” That said, Simmons’ absence has certainly been felt. The Panthers’ chief medical officer, Dr Scott Reid – a member of Anglican Churches Springwood – is living inside the Panthers bubble and says Simmons is greatly missed. “He has great rapport with the players and is a ‘safe’ person for them to chat to about the issues that concern them.” Simmons meets periodically on Zoom with other rugby league chaplains, and one thing they have noticed is the impact COVID restrictions have had on club staff. “Some staff have been laid off,” he says, “and those who are outside the team bubble can really feel the loss of the relationships.” This seems to have opened some up to interactions at a much deeper level and he has found himself in some really good conversations with staff at the Panthers. Again, God is at work. Understanding God’s sovereignty over events has had a big impact on Simmons’ life. “A few years back I struggled with how God could be in control when bad things happen,” he says. “But I dug into the Bible and spoke to others at church and came to understand that even in the difficult times God is active. He still loves us and uses each situation to make us more like Christ and to prepare us for eternity. And this is the sort of thing I can convey to the players and staff, where appropriate, as they experience the ups and downs of life inside of and outside of the game.’ SouthernCross
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN ACTION Amid the rollercoaster of 2020, God is working out his purposes. And this has always been the case. His guiding hand is clear in an encouraging story that includes both Graham Crew and David Simmons and spans a few decades. Back in the early 1990s, Crew became chaplain to the Dragons. “It was great for me as a local pastor,” he recalls. “It got me out from the church environment and gave me the opportunity to rub shoulders with a lot of non-Christian men.” Brad Mackay was one of those men. One of the younger Dragons players at the time, he was also a State and Australian representative. Mackay fell in love with a Christian girl called Joanne and the two began dating. Before long, Joanne realised she needed to get her Christian life back on track and challenged Mackay by saying that, because he was not a Christian, she couldn’t marry him. He decided he’d better find out something about God. Having heard that there was a chaplain at the club, Mackay contacted Crew. Before long they were meeting together, and Mackay started attending Crew’s church. Finally, one Sunday evening, Mackay sat and listened to a visiting preacher. The message really struck home, and Mackay gave his life to Christ. This new direction started to affect how he played on the field and what he said and did off it (Mackay and Joanne also ended up at the altar, and Crew took the wedding). Someone who noticed this change was a young man named Jason Stevens, who had just started playing in the Dragons first-grade side. He, too, would go on to play for NSW and Australia. Stevens was very interested in what he saw in Mackay and spoke often with him about his faith. Stevens also got to know Crew, and about a year later found himself in the chaplain’s loungeroom
being taken through the gospel tract Two Ways to Live. He, too, gave his life to Jesus. Stevens has gone on to become a prominent public Christian. Here is where the story links up with Simmons. Stevens had moved to the Sharks by the time Simmons made his first-grade debut as a teenager. Simmons was not only new to first grade; he was also fairly new to the faith. “I am very thankful to God for Jason,” Simmons says. “He was a great example of how to hold firmly to your Christian commitment in a hostile place. I was young and impressionable at the time and he helped me to stand firm and grow as a believer.”
Faith on display: Simmons played each game with a cross taped to his left wrist. A number of years later, when he retired from rugby league, Simmons went to Moore College. So, yes, he serves in a parish, but he also chooses to serve part-time as a rugby league chaplain. “I wanted to better equip myself so that I could spend my life telling and teaching others about Jesus – both at church and in the rugby league community… I was helped so much by older Christians when I was playing that I wanted to do the same for others.” It’s something of a circle, as Simmons finds himself doing what Crew did all those years ago. God – the true Supercoach – has been working out his master plan. SouthernCross
PRAYER So, the finals are upon us and while, sadly for Crew, his Dragons are not in the mix, the Panthers are one of the premiership favourites. Scott Reid notes the very positive culture at the club with a real emphasis on “playing for the team”. Simmons says the Panthers have taken their game to another level. “They are faster, more confident, and really fun to watch,” he says. “I think they’ll go all the way.” While many readers will have strong views about who they hope will hold aloft the ProvanSummons trophy on October 25, there are obviously deeper issues at stake. How might we uphold the rugby league world at this time? sc
Crew and Simmons suggest we pray: • that Christian players and staff would live in obedience to God and would have the courage to speak about their faith;
the ups and downs of their seasons and sporting careers; • for the safety of the players;
• that non-believing players and staff would hear and respond to the gospel;
• for Christian chaplains associated with each club as they seek to provide care, spiritual support and Christian witness to players and staff.
• that Christian players and staff would be satisfied and trust in God as they experience
The Rev Stephen Liggins is a senior assistant minister at Anglican Churches Springwood, a former first-grade cricketer and author of the recent Matthias Media book The Good Sporting Life: Loving and playing sport as a follower of Jesus, which contains a longer version of the Crew-Mackay-Stevens story.
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$60,000 awarded to women’s gospel-shaped initiatives “God is for you. God is for your child”: Founders of The 139 Collective, Erica Dodd (left) and Igraine Lim, with their boys.
Anglican Deaconess Ministries awarded $60,000 to women leading innovative ministries and gospel-shaped initiatives at its annual funding event last month. The successful ministries include The 139 Collective – a Christian support network for parents raising children with disabilities; The Overcomers Place, a connected community for those seeking to overcome addiction; and Asians Between Cultures, which assists churches in understanding different cultures and provides training. The 139 Collective is the first Christian support group of its kind. “It made me excited that people were on board with the same ideas and value for this ministry,” says Erica Dodd, who attends Lakemba Anglican. She, along with Igraine Lim, were awarded a grant for the collective at the funding event. Mrs Dodd has a child with a heart condition and Down Syndrome, and Mrs Lim has a child with a rare genetic and intellectual disability known as PACS1 Syndrome. “About a year ago, we realised we could benefit from connecting with other families who had walked a similar journey,” Mrs Lim says in her pitch video. When she couldn’t find an existing Christian support group, she was inspired to create her own. SouthernCross
When Mrs Dodd first found out her son’s diagnosis, she felt both overwhelmed and at peace. “God has been deeply faithful to our friends [with] children who had heart surgery, and friends with children who have Down Syndrome as well,” she says. “God in his kindness had surrounded us with people who had a similar journey. “When Igraine messaged me asking if I would be interested in [starting The 139 Collective] I said to her, ‘You won’t believe this: I’ve been praying for six months for this group to start’. There is something very special and unique about the support that can be offered by someone who has gone through a similar experience.” GREATER REACH AND SUPPORT The 139 Collective is still quite young, but already more than 140 members are encouraging and praying for one another. They share articles, resources, tips and wrestle through hard conversations together, tackling questions like “Why hasn’t God healed my child?” and “What has God taught us from having a child with special needs?” Mrs Dodd and Mrs Lim hope to develop a website and resource hub, and expand their network so more families facing similar challenges can receive support. Says Mrs Lim: “We’d like to be a well-known group to be able to meet people at their point of diagnosis, even during pregnancy. For my husband and I, that was one of the hardest parts of the whole journey.” Mrs Dodd believes this is powerful and necessary. “In a time where there is screening and pressure from medical professionals to have a ‘normal’ pregnancy, at the expense of the child, it’s validating to be part of a group where parents are putting everything into supporting their child. When we’re struggling, to [have someone] keep saying ‘God is for you. God is for your child. He thinks your child is precious and valuable’... God provides his church family to speak his word to each other in these struggles.” The funding event awarded seven major grants. A further eight applicants were each able to secure $1000 for growing and established initiatives. The acting CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries, Stephanie Dunk, believes it is vital to fund and support Christian women using the gifts God has given them. “This is transformative for the individual as she grows into the likeness of Christ, and transformative for the world,” she says. For a full list of grant winners, see https://www.deaconessministries.org.au/news/grantees-at-fifth-annual-funding-event sc A Family Owned Funeral Service
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Andrew and Andrew at St Andrew’s Smile, it’s ordination day!: Archbishop Davies joins the Rev Andrew Lim, left, and the Rev Dr Andrew Leslie, right, to mark the next step in their ministry lives – 20 years after they began MTC together.
Once upon a time there were two guys named Andrew. They both loved Jesus and both started their MTS traineeship on the same day, in the year 2000. Last month they were both ordained as presbyters in a service at St Andrew’s Cathedral. “I just thought, wow, here we are 20 years later getting ordained on the same day!” says the Rev Andrew Lim, who became rector of his church at Revesby the day after the service. The Rev Dr Andrew Leslie, who is head of Moore College’s department of theology, philosophy and ethics and lectures in Christian Doctrine, says that he and Mr Lim didn’t know each other before they began doing MTS at the University of NSW. But there’s nothing like starting as you mean to continue. For their first day on campus, he recalls, they were paired up to do “cold-turkey evangelism”. A year later, Andrew Lim was at college. The following year, Andrew Leslie joined him. Adds Mr Lim: “We had the same starting point [and] his path is as different to mine as you can imagine, yet here we are.” A presbyter is the second level of ordination (the first is deacon). After a two-year process and ordination, presbyters can lead a parish. The two Andrews were in a group of eight deacons ordained as presbyters on September 8 – the others being the Rev Gus Cameron, the Rev Toby Campbell, the Rev Tim Clemens, the Rev Mike Hastie, the Rev Josh Johnston and the Rev Ken Tang. Some have been ordained for the ministry SouthernCross
Newly minted: The eight presbyters, including Andrew Leslie (front row, second left) and Andrew Lim (front row, second right) are presented to the Cathedral congregation by Archbishop Davies, along with regional bishops Michael Stead, Peter Lin and Gary Koo, and Archdeacon Neil Atwood.
they already do; some are about to move into new ministries. Others are ready if the call comes. “It was a great ordination,” Mr Lim says, “simultaneously moving and challenging, encouraging and terrifying. “The moving and encouraging side of things was being reminded – especially from Peter Lin’s sermon – of the worthiness and sacrifice of Christ. That’s what it’s all about, and he is worth serving, and he is worth giving our all to. I was really quite touched by that, as well as encouraged. “The terrifying part alongside that is the solemn promises we make before God and before our bishops, the Archbishop and our church… It is a burden I feel I cannot carry on my own – and, as scary as that is, it’s a good place to be if I can go, ‘God, you’re going to have to enable me to do this because I am frankly terrified at what I am promising to do! So that’s humbling as well.” Dr Leslie agrees, saying that already, in the days since ordination, “I can feel myself thinking – as I might perhaps feel temptation or feel distracted or something like that – there’s a thought that pops into my head: ‘Remember those promises you made’. People who’ve been ordained for 10 or 20 years will also say, yes, the gravity of the promises continues to linger with them.” He adds that people in the pews might think being ordained presbyter is an acknowledgment of having reached a certain point – “essentially a box-ticking exercise” – but says that for those making the promises, it is very spiritually weighty and significant. “I think also, if people know what their pastors have signed up to and promised, that would be a very helpful thing... so they can offer the right kind of spiritual support in terms of encouragement, and even admonishment if necessary.” Bishop Lin preached on Matthew 26: the story of the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume who poured it on Jesus, preparing him for his burial. Says Mr Lim: “It was a cracker of a sermon – gospel gold… The value of that perfume is a year’s wages, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the value of Jesus.” sc SouthernCross
New look for Single Minded What do you do when your conference can’t look like this?: English pastor Sam Allberry and Dani Treweek talk through issues with MCs Mike Hastie and Kylie Wilson at the first Single Minded conference in 2018.
As frustrating as the restrictions of COVID have been (and are), sometimes they create unexpected opportunities. That’s been the case with the Single Minded conference. The founder and chairwoman of Single Minded, the Rev Dani Treweek, says the original plan was to have an all-day conference earlier this year with the rector of Northbridge, the Rev Simon Flinders, speaking on “family matters… singles, church and belonging”. The conference was postponed due to COVID and rescheduled online for this month, but then those involved began to have a rethink. Says Miss Treweek: “Simon’s got such great material to bring us on that, but we didn’t think it would work this year because the last thing people want to do on a Saturday is spend all day on their computers! “Also, this year is helping people really to wrestle with what church is, what it means for us to be church – particularly when we’re not gathering, or there have been such significant changes to the way we’ve been doing church for our whole lives. We’re aware that’s very much on people’s minds.” That being the case, the organisers of Single Minded decided to change both the content and SouthernCross
Curly questions: Dani Treweek and Ed Shaw tackle a few at the 2019 conference. the format to make it more immediate and online-friendly, choosing to explore “a variety of curly questions” in a webinar each Wednesday this month. On October 7, author and Oxford pastor the Rev Vaughan Roberts will Zoom in from the UK to speak about friendship; the following week, singleness in a non-Anglo family context will be tackled by Susan An (the women’s and maturity pastor at Church by the Bridge) and the Rev Kamal Weerakoon. October 21 will see US academic and author of Breaking The Marriage Idol, Dr Kutter Callaway, explore society and the church’s obsession with love and romance, while in the final week Miss Treweek will look at why the Bible teaches that Christians should not marry non-Christians. “We still wanted to have teaching and training material and to engage the community, even though we couldn’t meet in person,” she explains. “Also, because it’s not in person, that frees us up to bring in a few other people outside of Sydney and Australia.” Of the first hot topic she says: “I’ve always been keen to see if we could get Vaughan Roberts involved in some way with Single Minded because he’s done a lot of thinking about singleness and relationships… a theologically biblical view on friendship always keeps coming up as we look at singleness. How does friendship fit into this? “Vaughan is the author of the book True Friendship, so he can get us to think about friendships beyond just the superficial… and that really taps into the moment.” As with all the group’s events, the webinars are for anyone keen to explore the issues under discussion. There is also an all-church option for any parish that would like to make the event available to all its members. sc For more information, see www.singlemindedconference.com SouthernCross
Local churches, Anglicare and Mirvac link up for food donations Love in action: The food donation point at Stanhope Village.
More than 5000 non-perishable food items have been collected for the needy, thanks to a partnership that has developed between local churches, Anglicare and several Mirvac shopping villages. Inspired by more than 15 years years of collaboration between Cherrybrook parish and Cherrybrook Village, this is the first year the Anglicare food drive has occurred in five other shopping centres across Sydney. During August, shoppers were invited to donate pantry staples and other useful items at collection points in the centres. Local churches spread the word, distributed flyers and packed items to give to Anglicare. Donations will be used as part of Anglicare’s food and financial assistance program, which assists more than 29,000 families annually. There are many reasons why Cherrybrook Anglican makes this a priority in its church calendar. “Firstly, we get to help the needy,” says senior minister the Rev Gavin Poole. “Secondly, we have the opportunity to partner with Anglicare and other organisations in our community. Thirdly – and possibly most importantly – we have the opportunity to engage with our community. That gives us the opportunity to let our community know that we’re here for them.” Traditionally, Cherrybrook parishioners spend a day knocking on doors to also collect food as well as having collection points in the community. Even though COVID meant plans had to be adjusted this year, they were still able to pack 80 boxes of supplies to help families in need. At South Village in the Sutherland Shire, Gymea Anglican and Soul Revival Church teamed up to staff the donation drop-off point. Church members aged 18 to 80 spent their time inviting SouthernCross
shoppers to donate and striking up conversations from a safe distance. “They said they had lots of good conversations with people and the team are keen to do it again,” says the Rev Graham Crew, senior minister at Gymea. “We pray that those who were contacted would see Jesus behind the lives of those who are involved. We want them to connect with the one who has moved our hearts to care.” BLESSING IN A TOUGH YEAR Mr Crew adds that it was the work of dedicated church members, plus the partnership with Anglicare and Mirvac, that got the food drive off the ground at such short notice. “Our church has a heart for vulnerable people,” he says. “It’s been the members and our warden Steve Leitch [who have made this happen]. It’s been a helpful partnership between us, Soul Revival and Anglicare. It’s lovely to be able to do those sorts of ministries across churches.” Stephen Kuo, Anglicare’s partnership development officer for the Western Region, was overjoyed when Mr Poole phoned him about a potential partnership. Being able to collaborate and collect supplies has been a blessing in a tough and trying year. “We are thankful for this opportunity, and to see churches who came on board despite challenges,” he says. “We are grateful for any donations. A lot of these boxes and collection places were unmanned, and it was the first time [we had done this in many centres].” Mr Poole prays God will keep developing relationships and is thankful for opportunities to care for the community through partnering with Anglicare and Mirvac. “Pray for our communities’ awareness of us, and pray that we will be bold in proclaiming the gospel,” he says. “Our motivation is to care for the lost like Jesus did.” sc
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More children offered a home as adoption rates rise
“We are the fortunate ones: they’ve created a family for us,” Melanie* says of her two children. When biology didn’t give Melanie and her husband Antonio* the opportunity to create children, the couple reached out to Anglicare to become foster carers and adoptive parents. Their eldest daughter was adopted through Anglicare Sydney’s local adoption program, and their son was fostered and then adopted. “When you find out that you’re about to become a family, it is incredibly joyful,” Melanie says. “We just hope they’re happy and that we can find ways for them to navigate the complexities that are still there.” Melanie and Antonio are one of a growing number of couples now able to provide a permanent home for their children. According to figures released in July by the State Government, there were 162 carer adoptions in NSW in the year to June 30, 2020. This is up from 142 the previous year. Anglicare Sydney has noticed a similar trend. “In the last five years, 35 children from Anglicare Sydney’s foster care program have been adopted by their foster carers. This is a significant increase,” says Elizabeth Byrne, the organisation’s senior program manager for adoption and guardianship. This increase comes after a legislative change was passed by the NSW Government in 2014, providing a hierarchy of preferred permanency outcomes for children. The legislation looks upon adoption as preferable to long-term foster care. Adoption is always determined on what is in the best interests of the child, both now and in the future. In NSW, adoptions are open and children are able to have a relationship with their adoptive parents and their birth family. Unlike adoption in the 1950s and ’60s – which was shrouded in secrecy – children now find out about their birth family, have contact with them and can explore things like their cultural heritage, who they look like and their social and medical history. SouthernCross
Says Mrs Byrne: “There has been real progress made in understanding what adopted people need to know about their family connections and heritage, in order to develop a strong and healthy identity”. Adoption is the preferred positive outcome for children as it removes uncertainty about living arrangements and provides a safe space for children to process the impact of their early childhood trauma. “It creates a very sound, secure place for some kids,” Mrs Byrne says. “One reason people seek adoption is for security. They like knowing the child is part of their family forever and the children like knowing they are not moving placements again or going anywhere else.” ADOPTED BY CHOICE This has been the experience for Dakota Kypreos, whose adoption papers were processed just shy of her 18th birthday. Miss Kypreos had been with her foster family since she was a child. Adoption just made sense, as she had been raised by her foster family and identifies as one of them. At times she even feels more Greek than Australian due to her upbringing. “[I try] to explain that this is a normal family, and that these people are my family,” she says. “I just call them my mum, dad and sisters.” The application process took five years, and at times she felt it would never go through. “I just wanted to get it done before my HSC,” says Miss Kypreos, who found aspects of the process incredibly tough. “If I was going through the HSC and adoption at the same time, I would not be okay mentally at all.” The day her papers were finalised, she took the day off school to celebrate. “It was a relief for me and my [foster] mum, because it was messing with all of us,” she says. “I don’t think there’s a word to describe [how it felt]. You’re just speechless.” The legal implications of being adopted, rather than remaining in permanent long-term foster care, meant she no longer felt between two worlds. “It’s hard to explain to people… I feel like I’ve always been split in half,” Miss Kypreos says. “It’s like you have a family you’ve been brought up with, but you also have the fact that you’re not related to them. You have a biological family that kind of just hang on. I still have a biological family, and I feel I have to have a connection with them, but [being adopted means] I don’t have to clarify I’m a foster kid.” Melanie is thankful that fostering and adoption are on the rise, as she has seen the positive impact it has had on her own children. “[My son] recently did a portrait of himself at preschool, not long after the adoption papers had gone through,” she says. “He named his portrait his new family name and kept telling his preschool teachers, ‘This is who I am!’ Those things are very special. “It seems more and more people are seeing it as something they can do, even if they have biological children themselves. “Families come in all shapes and sizes. There’s so much out there about how important permanence is. They’re kids, and they want to be loved. They want to have people interested in them. A lot of people get worried about what it will be like, and we were too, but once they’re with you it makes such an amazing difference in terms of what they bring out in you as well.” sc *names changed SouthernCross
Worshipping on Sunday is okay, but witnessing on Monday…? “It is when I go into the public square that it can generate significant hostility”: Professor Patrick Parkinson.
A leading religious freedom expert has laid out the issues ahead for Christians expressing their faith in public, saying the looming battleground is not private, but public, beliefs. Delivering the 2020 New College lectures, “Family and Faith in a Multicultural Society”, Professor Patrick Parkinson said he didn’t believe freedom of worship would be restricted in our lifetimes. “I cannot see it happen and there’s a very good reason why I can’t see it happen: that’s because no one much cares whether I go to church on Sundays or play video games on Sundays,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to anybody else. I have the freedom to do what I want on Sunday mornings and I don’t expect that to change because no one else is affected by my exercise of the right of freedom of worship. “What is threatened is not what I do on Sundays but what I do on Mondays and throughout the working week. Increasingly, in my experience – and I’m sure in many of yours as well – there’s a mood of hostility towards people of faith, to the extent that they express their beliefs in the public square. “Nobody minds terribly much what views you hold in private but it is when I go into the public square that it can generate significant hostility.” Professor Parkinson, who is Dean of Law at the University of Queensland and a specialist in family law, child protection, law and religion, warned that this should not be regarded as “particularly anti-religious phenomena” but as a wider threat to freedom of speech from “virtual lynch mobs”. “Some of the most strident denunciations we’ve seen today are by progressives attacking others SouthernCross
who would describe themselves as left of centre or even left-wing – certainly progressives themselves, particularly traditional feminists,” he said. “Try saying on Twitter that only women menstruate, or that what it means to be male or female is defined by the reproductive function of our genitalia, and all hell will break loose... as [author] J.K. Rowling has found out recently. “Disproportionately, this seems to impact upon speech expressing religious views – views which used to be mainstream. And it’s precisely because they used to be mainstream [that] they are the most quickly, emphatically, condemned.” Professor Parkinson said it could be seen as a quasi-religious movement. “Having a cause, a struggle, gives meaning and purpose for those whose lives are otherwise without meaning or purpose,” he said. “It also provides a ready-packaged set of beliefs and gives a sense of belonging… [and] there is, oddly enough, pleasure in self-righteous rage.” As an academic himself, Professor Parkinson said another reason that religious freedom was under threat was because certain sections of the academic community practised what he called “definition inflation”. “This is a deliberate strategy to sometimes stretch beyond all reasonable recognition words that have emotive power,” he said. “We all condemn personal violence, as we should. We condemn abuse. So, what happens is that an ever-increasing array of things that people disapprove of are described as violent or abusive. “Recently, the Australian Feminist Law Journal published an article in which the author asserted that ascribing [a] sex to a baby on a birth certificate is ‘intrinsically violent’. I never thought I’d see the day when a humble birth certificate would be bundled into the back of a police car and charged with an assault. That seems to be the world in which we now live.” sc ABN 94 609 182 072
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Bible lie in Chinese textbook Russell Powell
Disturbing reports from China say Communist Party officials have rewritten the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8, claiming Jesus stoned the woman to death. The incident in John 8:3-11 is a powerful testament to Jesus’ forgiveness and his divinity. The account says a mob had surrounded a woman accused of adultery. After facing down the crowd seeking to stone her, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v7). After the crowd leaves, Jesus stands up and says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (v10-11). Reports from Roman Catholic sources and carried by the religious liberty group Bitter Winter say this event in the gospel has been drastically changed in a textbook published by the University of Electronic Science and Technology Press. The book is reportedly used in ethics and law courses in Chinese secondary vocational schools. According to the report, the textbook gives the story another ending, which reads, “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone’. Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead’.” According to commentator Massimo Introvigne the Chinese Communist Party is using the blasphemous text for its own purposes. “As told to Chinese students, the story teaches that the law and the Party are good and pure, and transcend the impure human beings who happen to represent them,” Introvigne says. “Even if the officers are corrupted, their decision should be accepted – because, honest or corrupted, they represent the Party, and the Party’s law should never be questioned.” The incident is a serious step in the campaign by Communist Party officials to “sinicise” Christian Scripture, that is, to make Christianity Chinese in character. Last month the persecution watchdog, Open Doors, documented moves by Chinese authorities to close down churches and turn them into “cultural hubs” in the hope that Christians will renounce their faith. Open Doors quoted an official video documenting what the regime called the “successful transformation of Christians through education”. It said officials claimed that “a monotonous cultural life and lack of education is what drives citizens towards religion”. Several areas have also banned children from attending church. Open Doors ranks China this year as 23rd among the 50 most dangerous countries to follow Jesus. Two years ago it was No. 43. Nearly 100 million people in China identify as Christian. sc SouthernCross
COVID-19 planning for Synod ’21 Planning is underway for April and May 2021 as the time to accomplish church business that could not be considered this year because of the pandemic. A special Synod, or church meeting, was to have been held in August to elect a new Archbishop. Dr Glenn Davies had initially intended to retire in July but the inability to call a large meeting meant his term was extended to March 2021. In addition, more than 500 elected representatives from all Sydney Anglican churches were to have attended the annual Synod at the Wesley Centre this month. That meeting also had to be cancelled. In the hope that COVID-19 restrictions on large meetings will be eased by next April, a shortened one-day ordinary session of the Synod has been tentatively planned for Tuesday, April 27, 2021. A larger venue, the International Convention Centre (ICC) at Darling Harbour, will be used. The Election Synod has been moved to May 3-7, also at the ICC. “All planned dates are subject to the public health orders in place at the time, and rely on a relaxation of the current limit of 150 people in a function room,” wrote the Diocesan Secretary, Daniel Glynn, in a letter to Synod members. Mr Glynn said the one-day April Synod will follow the usual pattern of afternoon and evening sitting, while the election sittings will be in the evenings. Both synods will be preceded by a service at St Andrew’s Cathedral. sc
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Obeying government and obeying God
Dr Glenn Davies
he Public Health Orders that have been continuously issued since March this year
have brought significant restrictions upon the liberty of citizens. When the first wave of COVID-19 hit, there was a general level of acceptance in our community that the lockdowns we all experienced were for our good. We saw the number of cases reduce, the curve flatten and an eventual easing of restrictions. However, the second wave, generated from Victoria, has seen a tightening of restrictions within NSW and a hardening of borders across state lines. As general fatigue across the community sets in, the level of resistance to laws that curtail our liberties grows. Across the globe we have seen protests in the streets where people openly defy restrictions on gathering in public places. Even in Victoria, whose hard lockdowns and curfews weighed heavily upon the population, we saw protests against the government’s harsh measures. How should we respond? The Bible’s teaching on our relationship to human authorities is quite clear. Those who govern us are set in place by God. “Everyone must be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2). These are strong words from the Apostle Paul, especially when we realise they are written to Christians living in the capital city of the Roman Empire, whose harsh treatment of Christians, as well as Jews, was well known. Paul himself had experienced imprisonment and beatings under Roman rule and would, of course, later suffer martyrdom in Rome during Nero’s reign. Yet he exhorts his brothers and sisters to obey the authorities, because “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good” (v4). In other words, God’s providential care for our world extends to the setting of rulers, governments and authorities over us. He has set them over us “for our good”. SouthernCross
As we learn from the fifth commandment that we must honour our parents, the very first persons who were set over us, the same principle applies to all those who exercise authority over us. This is God’s plan for an ordered society. It is always easier for us to criticise those in authority than it is to obey them. This is not a uniquely Australian trait but is part of humanity’s sinful desire for autonomy, the very essence of Adam and Eve’s first sin. However, as we must submit to God’s rule over our lives, so we must submit to his command to obey the authorities. As Peter expresses it, we submit to the governing authorities “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). Similarly, Paul calls upon believers to submit to the authorities “as a matter of conscience” (Romans 13:5). This does not mean that the government of the day is beyond criticism. We live in a democracy where free speech is available to us as a human right. However, the right to speak freely does not overturn the responsibility to obey. “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?” Paul asks in 13:3. “Then do what is right and you will be commended.” The Bible does not differentiate between good rulers and bad rulers, as if our level of obedience can increase or diminish depending upon our evaluation of the moral worth of the person over us. David’s recognition that Saul was God’s anointed king curbed any action that might have overthrown Saul’s divinely appointed role. However, the Bible also has examples where one’s prior commitment to God shapes the relationship we have to those set over us. Two examples come readily to mind. During the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon, Daniel and his three friends are faced with moral decisions when their rulers require of them actions that would defile them before God. In chapter 1 of Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel seeks to fulfil the wishes of his master by suggesting a creative alternative to the king’s rich diet. By respecting his master’s authority over him, he honours his master by seeking to fulfil the desired goal of his superiors through a route that does not dishonour the God he serves. However, where a creative alternative is not available, when Daniel’s friends refuse to bow down to a statue, they display their God-given responsibility to obey the king by submitting to the penalty for their disobedience. This is the critical element of understanding when our obedience to the authorities is in direct opposition to our obedience to God. In the New Testament, the same principle applies. When Peter and John were charged by Jewish authorities not to speak of Jesus, they replied: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). They still recognised the authority of the Jewish leaders, and Peter was himself later imprisoned, but they did not stop speaking about Jesus. Under the present government restrictions we cannot meet in church as we once did, we cannot sing, we cannot mingle or share the peace with a holy grasp. We either sit at home watching our streamed services or we meet at a social distance from each other wearing face masks. Yet we are not deprived of all fellowship, as attenuated as it is. Our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth; but while we are on earth we obey our human rulers so that we might be good citizens of the king we serve. SC SouthernCross
The problem with race
How do we respond to racial injustice?: Black Lives Matter protesters in Miami, Florida, in May. photo: hannatv
Christians can show a better way by considering the humanity of Jesus, writes Chase R. Kuhn.
t is difficult to imagine a more contentious topic than race in today’s society. Being American by birth it is hard for me to read any news without seeing troubling stories of my homeland, constantly plagued by racial tension. Violence, protests, police brutality, blaming, shaming and disorder – all in the name of what?
Race is difficult not just because it is so emotive, but because it is so ambiguous and problematic as a concept. What is race? At its core, race is a means of classifying people on superficial characteristics. The professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics at Westminster Seminary in California, David Van Drunen, says, “To speak of race implies that the peoples of the world can be categorised SouthernCross
into a handful of distinct groups based primarily upon shared physical features associated with particular geographical regions – features such as skin colour, hair texture, or the shape of eyes, nose or mouth. Saying even this much provokes serious questions about the validity of ‘race’.” So, at the heart of the concept is a poor way of thinking about humanity, a means of categorising people based on appearances. What difference does it actually make that someone’s skin is lighter or darker than someone else’s? Can we really say that all “white” people are the same? Does skin colour (or any other biological feature) necessarily mean that the people categorised as similar, based on appearances, actually think or identify the same? But just because we can show the concept of race is bogus doesn’t mean that it isn’t a thing – at least something we know in our experience. I’ve been haunted by recent song lyrics from Beyoncé: “Brown skin girl, ya skin just like pearls, your back against the world, I’d never trade you for anybody else…” The devastating double entendre of these lyrics is moving: brown skin is beautiful like a pearl, but also just like white (pearl) skin. When your back’s against the world, know I’d never trade you for anyone because I love you – but also I’d never trade you (like a slave). The struggle associated with race is present in another of her songs, “Black Parade”, in which she sings, “Being black, maybe that’s the reason why they always mad, yeah, they always mad. Been past ’em, I know that’s the reason why they all big mad and they always have been”. While race is an illegitimate concept – distinguishing, categorising and treating people differently because of their physical features – it is a real problem in the world. Christians find themselves scrambling to respond well in the face of racial injustice. Much of the difficulty about discernment in the face of these cultural tensions is the ways the issues continue to divide Christians. By splitting society based on colour, we import these categories into the church and respond along skin-colour lines. CHALLENGE INJUSTICE GOD’S WAY So, how can a white-skinned Christian speak thoughtfully, considerately and with credibility into an issue that’s historically been perpetrated by similar-looking people? How can a dark-skinned Christian speak thoughtfully, charitably and with credibility when the agenda is so largely set by a corpus that is external to the church (though, of course, still a church issue)? But how can we not speak? When it comes to speaking, many Christians are eager, or at least feel pressure, to join the “woke” crowd. This is the crowd that is ever aware of the social injustices and therefore a warrior for cultural change. Among the racial tensions of late, “Black Lives Matter” is the rally cry of the woke. While being a formal group with a fairly radical agenda, the slogan has come to represent a movement in society desperate to see change to the treatment of racial minorities. Christians rightly see the problems in society and want to publicly denounce racial injustice along with those declaring that black lives matter. But, unknowingly, Christians joining the movement may allow the movement to set the agenda for justice. In doing so, we neglect the use of God’s word, which offers an even better way forward in combating injustice. Recently I was rebuked in my own quest to be woke. Like the time I tried to evangelise a smoker by lighting a cigarette, I tried to persuade my non-white friend that I was up with the times on race. In a conversation with a friend of Asian descent, I told him that I was excited by the prospect of SouthernCross
a “brown-skinned man” taking a significant position of leadership, as opposed to the long history of white leadership in the role. Thinking my friend would declare “Amen!” to my comment, he instead said, “I’m not so sure that’s important. What would be best is if the right man got the job – irrespective of the colour of his skin”. In my haste to be politically correct, I had simply sought to tip the racial scales in the manner of the world, answering race with race. We need theological clarity in order to avoid the many mishaps that have come as a result of the naiveté of wokeness and its approach to systemic issues. The word naïve is not used here in a derogatory manner, but rather to warn that joining a trendy cultural campaign without real understanding is bound to be misguided. Again, Christians are right to decry racism! But even in this instance we need to see the problem framed theologically and entrust our action for change to the wisdom of God’s word. UNITY IN CHRIST It is in the interest of a better way of thinking about the problem of race that I wish to show more appropriate categories of thinking about the peoples of the world. In particular, I want to demonstrate the ways that God has purposed to bring differing peoples together in the church. This unity among different peoples is grounded in our union with the human Jesus Christ. The answer to racism isn’t further racial distinction, but instead seeing we belong to a common race – one humanity. One of the most wonderful parts of the gospel is that while it is an exclusive message – Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father unless through him (John 14:6) – it is also beautifully inclusive of all peoples. This does not mean that all people will be saved, but instead that God desires all nations to come to him as the one true God. Paul takes care to encourage Timothy with this inclusive nature of the exclusive gospel. In the face of some bad teaching in Ephesus, one that would promote a Jewish exclusivity and make demands of law upon Gentiles, Paul reminds Timothy to squash this sort of bad teaching (1 Tim 1:3-7). Paul tells Timothy that God desires all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) because in fact there is only one God and one mediator between God and humanity: the man Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5). It is worth taking time to carefully see this argument unfold. Paul wants Timothy to be clear that because there is only one God, he is the God for all. In other words, there is no other who supplies life, sustenance or salvation. Our God is not a tribal deity. He is not just a God of the minority interest party. He is the Lord over all. We can recall Paul’s words in his letter to the Ephesians, when writing about his prayers, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (3:14-15). Furthermore, there is only “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5, emphasis mine). Take notice here of the emphasis on Jesus’s humanity. Paul wants Timothy to see that because there is only one humanity, the work of one man, Jesus Christ, can be applied for all. In Jesus Christ, we see on display the singularity of humanity. If there were essential differences between human beings on the basis of gender, skin colour or any other demarcations, the sacrifice SouthernCross
of Jesus would not suffice. In fact, it is because we have a common heritage as children of Adam, under the curse of sin, that we need a new Adam to deliver us. The clearest picture we have against racism or race of any kind is the Lord Jesus. But part of the beauty of the gospel is that it doesn’t just water down humanity, eradicating all differences. The gospel is for all people – every tribe, tongue and nation. So, a helpful biblical corrective to the language of “race” is to recognise “ethnicities”. Ethnicity recognises common cultural influences in a much more focused way than simply identifying superficial features to distinguish people. In other words, when someone says, “black people” or “white people”, they hardly recognise any meaningful basis of categorisation. But in identifying Aboriginal people or Lebanese people, one can begin to identify a common heritage and customs that amount to culture. On this basis of culture, we can move away from meaningless ways of dividing people in pursuit of more fruitful interactions and engagement between people groups. In the face of racial injustice, the world has pursued its own solutions. To combat racial division, it has sought to answer the problem with the problem, race with race. No sensible person could say black lives don’t matter. But, in thinking hard about the issues, we must recognise that saying “black lives matter” isn’t going to bring the ultimate solution. We can’t continue to propagate the problem in our solution. Much better is the solution that Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped for: that we don’t judge people on the basis of the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character. Christians can lead a better way amid real tensions today by recognising the dignity of all human beings, as they are shown value in the death of the man Christ Jesus. And, in knowing Christ, we can begin to model what real peace looks like in our churches as we live with one another – different ethnicities brought together AVAILABLE FROM by the peace secured at the cross.
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But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Ephesians 2:13-16). SC
Chase R. Kuhn lectures in theology and ethics and is the director of the Centre for Christian Living at Moore College. SouthernCross
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Why I am choosing to wear a mask at church Hannah Thiem
t’s been close to two months since our premier Gladys Berejiklian first publicly recommended
that people in NSW wear face masks in areas where social distancing can be hard to maintain – particularly on public transport, in supermarkets and while attending places of worship. Her statement was addressed in a recent letter by Archbishop Davies, encouraging church leaders not to ignore this recommendation and to encourage wearing masks in church. The logic behind this is clear: the risk of transmission is much higher in indoor settings, with large groups of people who know each other, are more comfortable with each other, and therefore perhaps less likely to maintain an adequate social distance. Churches have been linked to several outbreaks, and meeting together safely is a key priority. WE CAN MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE After a week of being surrounded by people choosing to wear masks at local cafes, on the bus to work and at the shops, it is a shock if I don’t see people at church doing the same. In fact, we should be aiming to be 100 per cent masked. It’s true, we are not legally required to wear a mask to church. Nobody at our church services is doing anything wrong. Yet, Jesus calls us to live lives which display God’s radical love. In Mark 7, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for focusing on completing what is required of them and searching for loopholes to avoid loving their family and community. He accuses them of being hypocrites, setting aside the word of God in favour of their own traditions. WHAT DOES NOT WEARING A MASK SAY TO OTHERS? The thing is, wearing a mask is an act of love. There is no question that it feels awkward and that it’s much harder to talk. But it’s a choice to keep the people around us safe. It stops them from being exposed to our germs. Wearing a mask is not something we are required to do, but it’s an opportunity to display the radical, other-person centred love that Jesus displays to us. It’s an opportunity to help vulnerable members of our community feel safe to come to church. It’s an opportunity to ensure newcomers know they will be just as safe at church as anywhere else. And it could be an opportunity to keep churches open and able to meet in person. So my question is: are we missing an opportunity to show our communities the love of God? SC
Life through fogged-up glasses
oday, while walking my dog though a local park, I saw something I had not seen in
a very long time. Through my fogged-up glasses (I have yet to work out how to stop this happening while wearing a mask) I saw a number of small children enjoying the playground, and I remembered that today was the first time playgrounds have been open in Melbourne for 10 weeks. The fact that our playgrounds have been shut for so long gives a brief insight into what life has been like here during Level 4 lockdown. All students from K-12 are learning at home. You are not allowed to visit friends or family – although recently those who live alone have been allowed to meet with one other person (called a bubble buddy). You may only leave home for four reasons and, if you are out, you must wear a mask at all times and cannot travel more than 5km from home. We also have a curfew – which makes evenings very quiet – and no public gatherings, such as church services, are permitted. The only shops allowed to remain open are those providing essential services such as food and medical care – although you can still get a takeaway coffee. After all, this is Melbourne! SouthernCross
Challenging times: John Forsyth speaks to church members, who haven’t met in person for six months. MINISTRY UNDER LOCKDOWN As you might imagine, being in lockdown for so long has made ministry extremely challenging. Last Sunday marked six months since we last met in person, as a church, at St Jude’s. It seems hard to believe we have spent 26 weeks in a row doing church online, and it is unlikely we will be able to meet in person until after Christmas, or even later. On a “normal” Sunday we would have five services across three sites, but now we run two livestreamed services. We also have a large number of Zoom Bible study groups and prayer meetings each week. All our staff meetings and the vast majority of our pastoral care is done online or over the phone as we are not allowed to visit anyone, especially those in hospital. We have no real way of knowing who is attending our online services other than total numbers. Those who are struggling don’t always make themselves known. There is a mental load that everyone carries just to cope day to day in lockdown. Many of our parishioners are health professionals or overseas students and they face additional stresses, and our youth and children are missing school. The staff team is working extremely hard but we greatly miss serving together in person and we all feel deeply weary. Isolation is tough and the end seems distant. UNEXPECTED GOSPEL OPPORTUNITIES However, we are also greatly encouraged and thankful for unexpected and new gospel opportunities. Both the pandemic and the lockdown have led many people to rethink the bigger issues in life. Health and prosperity create a veneer of self-confidence and control and we have mostly succeeded in banishing death to the margins of our society. Yet the pandemic has made it very clear we are not actually in control. This has led people to reflect on what is really valuable in life, and who can I truly rely on at such a time? As people wrestle with these questions, it has provided us with a great opportunity to speak of the immense hope that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ brings. St Jude’s has “grown” during lockdown and we estimate we are reaching about 50 per cent more
When normal isn’t normal: Sunday service livestreamed from an empty St Jude’s church. people than we did when we were meeting in person. Interestingly, a number of people who join us online are not in Melbourne but from interstate (including Sydney) and overseas. We often do not know who they are, but a number have reflected that joining church online was a non-threatening way to begin investigating Christianity. We have run Christianity Explored online three times, which has resulted in a number of people coming to follow Christ, and have run Discipleship Explored online as well. Our church has also become more dependent on God in prayer and we now run a Zoom prayer meeting every weekday morning at 8am. During this time, we pray not only for an end to the suffering and isolation, but also for opportunities to share the gospel with friends and family. SUPPORTING CHURCHES IN MELBOURNE There are lots of ways you can support and care for those doing ministry in Melbourne at the moment. Can I encourage you to pray for us. Pray for endurance and faithfulness. Pray that we will keep trusting in our heavenly Father. Pray for energy, wisdom and strength and pray for continued gospel opportunities. Pray for those who are the only minister at their church, as they carry a particularly heavy and lonely burden. Can I also encourage you to connect and check in with colleagues, friends and family in Melbourne. We have received a number of phone calls, cards and care packages from people in Sydney – all of which have lifted our spirits greatly. The reality is that the pandemic and lockdown have not changed what we do as a church, just how we do it. Each week, the gospel is still proclaimed to a broken world, God’s life-giving word is still preached and God’s people gather to sing, pray, love and encourage each other. SC The Rev John Forsyth is vicar of St Jude’s Anglican Church, in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton. SouthernCross
A Christian response to uncertainty Peter Hayward
2016 British study examined the link between uncertainty and stress. Participants in the study were found to experience the most stress when they knew they had a 50 per cent chance of receiving an electric shock. In contrast, participants were less stressed if they knew they had a 0 per cent or 100 per cent chance of receiving the same electric
The study confirmed and quantified what would be familiar to most of us: the more significant the uncertainty of the outcome, the greater the stress. God has created humanity with an innate desire to know where we are going and understand how we will get there. The observation is, the more significant in implication the unknowns become, the more the level of stress and anxiety increases. Over the past few decades, Australian society has pursued a way of dealing with the anxiety of the unknown: decrease the perceived risk as much as possible. Undoubtedly there are good reasons risk minimisation has been pursued. The downside is the unrealistic perception that a risk-free world is possible. Our technological and scientific advances have fed this illusion. Enter a tiny virus measuring all of 100 nanometres in size, and our confident risk-management capacity evaporates. The unknowns of life suddenly overwhelm. What is the Christian response to living with unknowns? A common but inadequate response is to embrace a form of Christian stoicism: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Change what you can, accept what you cannotâ&#x20AC;?. This sentiment is something I heard a lot when growing up and, though not heard as often today, it is still attractive. The message is to embrace the uncertainty of the unknown and focus on the mental and emotional states you can control. Although there is some truth here, it is inadequate. SouthernCross
The focus is still exclusively on you. The Christian response to living with unknowns has, at its centre, a grand and glorious vision of God that is vividly and compellingly portrayed throughout the Bible. The capacity to deal with the unknowns of life in this fallen world does not start by turning to ourselves, but God. God is the Rock that does not change. We can lean with confidence on the God of infinite and eternal power, the God who knows all things and determines all things. It is because the true and living God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise that we can know with certainty his care and love towards us will never fail. It is not just the present work of God that gives us confidence. We also know the future with God is glorious and indestructible. Through his Son Jesus, God has guaranteed a future in which he will bring everything together for the good, unchanging purpose he has promised in the gospel. God has infinite capacity to ensure this will happen. The response to uncertainty is to have a vision of God as big as the Bible to strengthen and sustain you. Are unknowns removed? Of course not. You will still live with many questions to which there is no clear answer. When will life return to normal again? When will we be able to have church and organise our ministry without having to deal with restrictions? Is my job secure? Will I get COVID-19? It would be foolish to regard these questions as unworthy of consideration. Dealing with unknowns does not mean doing nothing. But the starting point is God. You and I can have confidence that during these current circumstances – where unknowns loom larger than we have normally experienced – God is accomplishing immeasurably more than we can ever possibly be aware of. God is wholly present everywhere and is never limited by time. God’s sovereignty reaches everywhere and is never stymied by unexpected unknowns. God’s power is all-encompassing and his good purposes are never frustrated. We are acutely aware of the stresses caused by the unknowns, whether small or large, personal or societal, but God is never surprised. The comprehensive and compelling vision of God is nurtured and sustained by regular reflection on what the Bible is teaching. Over the past six months, I have personally been sustained by continual reading of the psalms and asking what I am learning about God. I never master my understanding of God – indeed, the whole of eternity is not sufficient – but my heart and mind are captured and strengthened by God himself in all of his infinite array. The unknowns of life are a given. Risks can be acknowledged and managed to a certain degree, but the anxieties of life will still occur with an intensity that distracts. The Christian response is not simply turning inward and searching for an inner resource to accept all of this. God wants us to trust him in his good, perfect, protective, purposeful care. God himself is the Rock-solid foundation to deal with the unknown. Of that, we can be 100 per cent certain. SC
The Rt Rev Peter Hayward is Bishop of the Wollongong Region. SouthernCross
It’s an emergency! Let’s not get comfortable
any of us are very grateful that during the COVID-19 pandemic the technology has been available to broadcast church services and connect members in Bible studies and other programs online.
It has enabled us to continue to sit under the word of God and, albeit in an attenuated way, enjoy fellowship with one another. Breakout rooms for prayer after a church meeting have actually added a new dimension to the hour after church for many. Some who had no access to our gatherings have been able to “tune in” and many churches have recorded numbers of viewers far in excess of their usual Sunday attendance. Some have joined evangelistic follow-up groups as a result. There have been conversions. Yes, there has been a lot for which we can give God thanks, even in the midst of this pandemic. Can we, though, rejoice at what God has enabled us to do during this crisis and still recognise it is not all that God has for us as his people? Can we avoid the suggestion of some that this is “the way church should be done” from now on? Or that it should be an ongoing alternative to physically getting together? As the crisis has dragged on and the first flush of enthusiasm for this new mode of connecting SouthernCross
with God’s people has begun to wane, we have settled into a different rhythm which is a little less demanding and less accountable. Church at a distance can be adjusted to fit my timetable. Skipping out on the “meeting” this week seems less significant. I’ll catch up on the sermon later. I’ll make do with my Zoom Bible study group this week. I know church is there, only a click or two away, but I don’t have to be there at the same time as everyone else, do I? I can watch when I’m ready and do something else on Sunday morning. Will we resist the call to return to meeting face-to-face at a fixed time and engage in the work of mutual edification within 1½ metres of each other, all for the sake of a new-found convenience? It is important that we keep a clear view of what the Bible means by church so that we don’t confuse this emergency online provision with that settled reality. CREATED FOR RELATIONSHIP From the very beginning, God created us for relationship: a relationship with him, yes, but relationships with each other as well. We were made to hear from God and to talk to God but, just as crucially, to talk to each other about God. We were made to love and serve each other, to work together alongside each other as stewards of the world God created. The pattern was established in the Garden of Eden and repeated throughout the Old Testament: God bringing his people together under the rule of his word, guarding, guiding and growing those around them as his precious possession (Gen 1:26-30). The great gatherings of the Old Testament – the gathering at Mount Sinai where God’s Law was given (Ex 19:1-6); the gathering of the assembly of Israel at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:22-62); the gathering at Mount Carmel for the confrontation between the living God and the counterfeits who had stolen Israel’s heart (1 Kings 18:20-40); the gathering after the return from exile when Ezra read to the people the word of the Lord (Neh 8:1-12) – each of these looks forward as an anticipation of the gathering to come. In the New Testament, the gathering of the disciples (Luke 6:12-16, Acts 2:42-47), the gathering of converts in towns and villages visited by Paul and his colleagues (Acts 14:21-23; 16:5; 18:7-11; 20:7-8; Rom 16:5) and the great multiracial gathering on the last day around the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev 7:9-12) all point to this unchanging purpose of God: bringing his people together under the rule of his word, guarding, guiding and growing those around us as his precious possession. Put in another way, we are Christ’s redeemed people, brought by the Spirit to sit under the word of God and to exercise the gifts we have been given so that those gathered with us might grow in faith (1 Cor 14:26). The apostle Paul wrote letters, Christian leaders and thinkers through the centuries have written books, for decades sermons and conference talks have been recorded (and now posted on the internet), but none of this has been a substitute for meeting face to face. The same Paul who wrote to the churches of the Mediterranean undertook three missionary journeys so that he could meet with the young Christians in those places and encourage them. He kept on saying that he longed to see them (Rom 1:11; 15:24; 1 Cor 16:7; 1 Thess 2:17; 3:6, 10; 2 Tim 1:4). It was a wrench when the Ephesians realised they would see his face no more (Acts 20:37). SouthernCross
ENCOURAGEMENT AND FELLOWSHIP Of course, there remain moments when the letters, books, tapes or podcasts have had to be enough. And, indeed, these things have brought immeasurable benefit to many, whether isolated or not. Isolation is not always a choice and we need to keep providing for those who are simply unable to leave their homes. But these things are not a substitute for meeting together face to face when that is possible. Fellowship requires presence. A friend of mine likes to use the word “propinquity” (nearness, faceto-faceness, proximity, closeness in space and time). We are physical, temporal and geographically located persons. It is part of what it means to be human in this age. Long-distance relationships are certainly possible but they always contain a measure of longing: longing that we could be together, experience the touch of a hand, hug each other – just talk with nothing in between us. We have been unable to share together in Christ’s gift of the Lord’s Supper, which gives us a very tangible way to remember our common salvation. In the end, the discomfort we feel when we are in isolation is itself an indication of how we were made and the corporate dimensions of our salvation. Each local gathering is a manifestation in a particular place of God’s great gathering in heaven around his Son (Heb 12:22-24). It is a testimony in the heavens to the manifest wisdom of God, who overcomes our rivalry, enmity and division and brings together people from every nation, every social grouping and occupation, every background, as brothers and sisters sharing a common salvation and exercising a common allegiance to our Saviour (Eph 3:10). The writer to the Hebrews encourages us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25). The success of the emergency online provision during this pandemic has largely traded on the pre-existing fellowship between those who must for a while gather only in this virtual way. In my breakout prayer group I get to talk to people I have seen before but may have never engaged with in conversation. Yet because I’ve seen them and recognise them as members of this particular community of God’s people, I rejoice at the very prospect of this. So, yes, we have much for which to thank God in the technology that has allowed us to stay connected, pray together and hear God’s word proclaimed even while we have stayed in isolation. Yet it is only natural that we should long to return to physical gatherings as soon as possible – only natural because our nature is social and relational. We are made for other-centred sacrificial love, following the example of our Saviour and Lord. Wherever the gospel has taken hold in the hearts of people, they have gathered (sometimes in secret and at great cost). This emergency online provision is just that, an emergency online provision, and, please God, that emergency will soon be over. May God speed the day when we meet together again without restriction, in anticipation of the great gathering to come. SC
The Rev Dr Mark D. Thompson is principal of Moore College. SouthernCross
DINGWALL LEAVES MENAI The Rev Bruce Dingwall retired from the parish of Menai on September 22. Mr Dingwall spent almost a decade at Menai and before that planted the church at Hoxton Park, where he was rector for 23 years. He says “retirement” is probably the wrong word, joking that “I’m not going to retire and grow roses! I’m going to stay involved as a congregation member in the local church where we’re retiring to; it just won’t be quite as hectic and not the same amount of responsibility – except to the Lord!” After four years as an assistant minister at St Faith’s, Narrabeen (and a further eight at the church in a range of lay ministry roles), the Rev Ben Molyneux became rector of the parish on August 9. The Rev Andrew Lim was made rector of Revesby on September 9, after four years as assistant minister in the parish. The rector of St Clement’s Mosman, the Rev Stuart Smith, has moved on after 20 years in the parish to become the rector of St Augustine’s, Merewether in the Diocese of Newcastle. After 38 years of ordained ministry, the past five of which have been as rector of the parish of Menangle, the Rev Chris Moroney will retire on November 29.
Got a sense of adventure? Want a change of scene? Join North West Diocese and bring the gospel to the nations. People in God’s big, bold, beautiful land need to hear about Jesus!
Registrar Khim Harris on the Gibb River Road
We are seeking: • Assistant Ministers – Kununurra, Hedland & Geraldton • Seafarer Chaplains – Dampier, Wickham
Chaplain to Seafarers Garry South Bluff Point Minister Paul Spackman
More info: www.anglicandnwa.org/vacancies the Bishop (08) 9921 7277 or Registrar 0433 033 174 SouthernCross
Vale The rector of Pitt Town, the Rev Greg Peisley, died on September 14 from a brain tumour. Born Gregory Ian Peisley on January 20, 1961, he spent his earliest years in southern NSW and Papua New Guinea before his parents settled in the western Sydney suburb of Greystanes. He trained as a plumber after leaving school and was involved in plenty of sports, particularly rugby, but the question “What if there is a God?” – which he had dismissed after his confirmation – kept popping into his mind. Reading and questioning led him to understand what Jesus had done for him, but he still didn’t put his faith in Christ. At his memorial service last month, Mr Peisley’s son Blake read his father’s recollection of the time, at the end of 1982, when he finally realised that “All my reasons and excuses couldn’t stand up to that one thought: ‘If he is real, why would you resist him?’”. Mr Peisley gave his life to Christ and, in his own words, was “overwhelmed with such a feeling of relief. [He] loved me and was my heavenly Father, my Lord, my Saviour. My heart was filled with his presence and I have followed him ever since”. He began to lead youth group and looked for any opportunities to share the joy and salvation he had found in Jesus with the church youth, his footy mates, workmates, family – anyone he came across. Mr Peisley married his wife Sue in 1988, undertook study at Youthworks and became youth minister in the parish of Wilberforce before heading to Moore College in the mid-1990s. Once ordained in 1997, he returned to Wilberforce as assistant minister. Three years later, while still at Wilberforce, he and Mrs Peisley were among a group of 15 adults and 20 children to plant a church at Arndell Anglican College. In 2002 Mr Peisley became assistant chaplain to the school and in 2008 he became rector of Pitt Town – all while still running the church plant. Three years later, the Arndell congregation officially joined the Pitt Town parish. Blake Peisley described his father as “the cheekiest rascal that I think I’ve ever met”, adding: “Jesus didn’t change Dad’s personality. He changed his heart… his cheekiness was loved, because it was out of love… Dad was respected because he lived out what he spoke. He was a sinful and broken man but forgiven and joyful in Jesus, who he trusted with his life, his family and his eternity.” Blake said to all those at the service and watching the livestream that they had two things in common: “We all knew and loved Greg Peisley, who you couldn’t know without hearing about Jesus… and sometime soon we will all stand before Jesus as the rightful king and judge, and we’ll have no excuse for having ignored him. He will say to each of us, ‘I sent you Greg’.” SouthernCross
C30 M70 Y50 K0 C100 M40 Y70 K0 C100 M30 Y0 K50
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR C100 M70 Y0 K50 C30 M10 Y0 K15
The Archbishop of Sydney’s New Churches for New Communities (NCNC) was established in 2015 by Archbishop Glenn Davies to raise funds to construct start-up ministry facilities for new congregations as they are planted in the growth corridor in Greater Sydney’s SWNW fringe. From its beginning NCNC has been a gospel initiative designed to help new congregations connect with the new communities growing around them.
On 17th October this year the Archbishop will officially open the first of these new churches at Stanhope Gardens. Construction of the second has begun at Leppington with the turning of the sod on 23rd August 2020 and building has now commenced. Plans are underway to provide a third start-up facility at Marsden Park.
NCNC’s inaugural Executive Director has indicated he will retire at the end of this year and consequently the process of identifying a new Executive Director has begun. The successful candidate will, through NCNC’s Board, report directly to the Archbishop. NCNC is an independent body.
IS LOOKING FOR A
Applications are welcome from men and women, clergy or lay, and the following attributes are amongst those seen as essential: • Evident commitment to Jesus and his gospel, and an active involvement in a local congregation • Good understanding of relevant diocesan entities and how they relate to one another • Good understanding of the Diocese and how it operates • Strong alignment with NCNC’s charter and objects • Strong interpersonal communication skills • Proven experience in the principles and practices of cost-effective capital fundraising • Ability to show personal initiative as well as working as part of a team.
Our mission is to be a growing faith community of lives transformed by Christ. We work towards seeing people connect, grow, serve and go. We are looking for a senior minister who will grow our people to proclaim the gospel, and reach out to and connect with our communities and beyond. We are praying for someone who will hold fast to the authority of God’s word and preach and teach from the Bible.
The position is paid on a three day per week basis. How to apply Please email immediately your resume and cover letter responding to the Essential skills outlined to Ken Patteson - Principal/ People Architect firstname.lastname@example.org Chifley Global Executive Search Group (a division of the Brooklyn Institute) www.chifleyglobal.com.au. 0417 777 838
There are real challenges here but tremendous opportunities. Will you come over and help us? Please enquire by emailing the Bishop Mark Calder email@example.com
NOTICE TO ALL INTENDED JOB APPLICANTS: It is an offence under the NSW Child Protection (prohibited Employment) Act 1998 for a person convicted of a serious sexual offence to apply for a position which involves contact with children or young adult people. Relevant checks of criminal history, apprehended violence orders and previous disciplinary proceedings will be conducted on recommended applicants to such positions.
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List of parishes and provisional parishes, vacant or becoming vacant, as at September 29, 2020:
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Albion Park Balgowlah Bulli Cabramatta* Carlingford and North Rocks • Cronulla • Darlinghurst • Figtree
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** right of nomination suspended/on hold
MOBILE LAWYER: Philip Gerber, LL.M., M.Crim., Dip.Bib.Stud. 33 yrs exp. email@example.com gerberlegal.org 0408 218 940
WOLLONGONG UNIVERSITY ACCOMODATION: 3 Christian community boarding houses run by St Marks Anglican Church. Central location. Close to shops, beaches and across the road from the free bus stop to the Uni. Ph: Liz 02 42258622 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Amelia Haines
* denotes provisional parishes or Archbishop’s appointments
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Life at all costs? Judy Adamson Hope Frozen – A Quest To Live Twice Streaming on Netflix
he death of a loved one is always tragic, but the anguish seems to increase exponentially when the one who dies is a child.
In this award-winning documentary, we follow the story of the Naovaratpong family in Bangkok, whose lives are thrown into turmoil when their youngest member, a sunny two-year-old nicknamed Einz, is diagnosed with a highly aggressive brain tumour. It’s a type of cancer, dad Sahatorn tells us, that “no one has ever survived”. As a family steeped in science, he and his household are willing to try every available means to heal their beloved daughter and sister. Einz endures many surgeries, rounds of chemo and radiation but keeps smiling through it all, surrounded by those who love her. We are brought into the family circle through home videos that show the tremendous depth of this love – before and after her diagnosis – which is a tremendous privilege to watch. There are also honest and profoundly moving interviews with Sahatorn, mum Nareerat and their teenage son Matrix. SouthernCross
Love and loss: (left) Nareerat sits next to Einz’s bed; (right) Matrix hopes his work in future will include bringing Einz back. “I had to keep fighting until we were sure that there was no chance,” Sahatorn says. “I didn’t have the right to decide… she did.” Sadly, once it becomes clear Einz might not survive, the goal posts shift. Sahatorn ponders the research he has undertaken during her illness and starts to think that perhaps she could be cryonically frozen. “This was the way to keep her,” he says. “We must keep her.” For me, this is where the tragedy truly begins. Rather than remembering his previous conviction that he didn’t have the right to fight if there was no chance, he becomes convinced that by cryonically freezing Einz’s brain, she will be able to continue living in some form – and one day, by the power of future technology – come back to life. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the family need to be convinced about the wisdom of this. Death is death, Einz’s grandparents say. What is the point? And would future life be possible anyway? Not to mention Buddhist beliefs about the body, the soul and reincarnation, which prove a major challenge to the family when their story becomes public. With all this emotion and doubt swirling about, the subsequent process they and Einz go through is fascinating to watch, but alien in the extreme. It’s a decision made out of love, but we see that even those familiar with cryonic science have differing opinions about methods now, and what the possibilities will be in the future. It’s all so tenuous. Above all, from the standpoint of Christian faith it is so tremendously, gut-wrenchingly sad. In their grief, the Naovaratpongs place their hope solely in science – not even in the faith they profess. Once Einz dies, they somehow feel her life continues because of the cryonic process and you can’t help but feel that, as a result, they will never fully work through their grief. Even Matrix, as a teenage boy, accepts that his future as a scientist will be to pursue the dream of bringing her back – something he says would be “the greatest achievement of my life”. Hope Frozen is valuable but difficult viewing. Valuable because of the cultural insights and observations it provides about grief, but difficult because the family puts its hope in things that are uncertain. They hope to see Einz again. They hope the cryonic process will preserve her. They hope the technology will exist in the future to give her new life – even if it is after they are gone. If only they were aware of the certainty of hope in Christ, with a future for all of them where there will be no more death, or sorrow, or tears. SC SouthernCross
Lives lived for God at Liverpool Russell Powell Yesterday, Today And Beyond: The Church in the Heart of Liverpool By Dr Bryan Cowling
s local histories go, they don’t come more detailed than Yesterday, Today and Beyond. But as parishes go, they don’t come more packed with history than St Luke’s, Liverpool.
A hub of early Sydney, with a foundation stone laid by Governor Macquarie and home to Thomas Moore (whose bequest the Diocese still benefits from today), Liverpool and its church, St Luke’s, has a rich story. I was at the bicentennial service in October last year where the celebrations were nothing less than jubilant and showcased the church as it is today. Twelve months later, this book showcases all that went before. We have reason to be grateful that this project was in the hands of Dr Cowling in his retirement. His attention to detail and the varied illustrations and vignettes of this book will please the history buffs among us and, more importantly, give us cause to be thankful to God for how he has worked in and through his people over 200 years. The chronological layout of the book was perhaps the best way to handle such a detailed work as this, yet it reaches beyond events into the lives of the thousands upon thousands of people who have links in some way to St Luke’s. Past parishioners include familiar names such as Richard Sadleir, after whom a suburb is named, as well as the Bossley family – who lived at a property called Edensor and are now remembered by Bossley Park and Edensor Park. A more recent parishioner has his name marked with a suburb and a memorial along the Remembrance Drive that links Liverpool with Canberra. Just outside Lake George you will find the name of John Edmondson VC. John attended Sunday School at St Luke’s where, according to the book, he impressed his teachers with “his quietness, upright behaviour, kindness to others, humility and a firm grasp of his Christian belief”. It was less than 20 years later, in 1941, that Edmondson helped lead a bayonet attack on a German machine-gun post at Tobruk. He was killed, but not before he had saved his commanding officer’s life and ensured the success of the mission. A generation before, well-known World War I chaplain the Rev Reginald Pitt-Owen had been assistant minister at St Luke’s. I learned from the book that, as well as being one of the first chaplains to serve in the Great War, he was also one of the last to leave. Broken physically by being shelled and gassed, Padre Pitt-Owen also recognised the suffering SouthernCross
Say, “Two hundred years!”: Members and friends of St Luke’s gather for a bicentennial photo in October 2019. of those who were in the grip of what we now call PTSD. He probably knew it himself, as the book records one black day on the Somme in 1916 when “another chaplain and I went out one morning after one of those nights when our boys had been over to take the German trenches, and with a burial party from one of the camps we dug graves for 143 brave boys who had gone down in the fight. 52 of them we were able to identify. Oh God, shall we ever forget that work!” The book is dotted with such vignettes, some significant and others more prosaic, but all wellresearched and attractively presented. I am naturally interested in the history, knowing several of the St Luke’s figures – including former occupants of the rectory, the Rev Jim Ramsay and his wife Lesley. However, even those unconnected with the church will find Yesterday, Today and Beyond a good read. The most fitting bookend to this review is the fact that Dr Cowling’s work, which will be launched this month amid the pandemic of COVID-19, shares the same fate as the centenary history 100 years ago. On St Luke’s Day – October 18, 1919 – there were great celebrations, including a centenary souvenir booklet. As Dr Cowling records, “It must have only been days later when the global influenza epidemic struck Liverpool. How do I know that? Within a week, in order to minimise its impact, people were urged to wear face masks and public assemblies were banned.” You could say it is history repeating itself but I prefer to say, with the writer of Ecclesiastes (in chapter 1, verse 9), “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”. SC Yesterday, Today And Beyond: The Church in the Heart of Liverpool can be purchased online at https://www.stlukesliverpool.org.au/history-book or by contacting the church on 0466 577 657. SouthernCross
What’s our hope in COVID loneliness?
Martin E. Robinson You Are Never Alone: Trust in the Miracle of God’s Presence and Power by Max Lucado (HarperCollins)
t’s hardly a surprise to read that a Loneliness and the Workplace report, published in the US in
January, found that more than three in five working adults in America reported feeling lonely – and yes, this was prior to the pandemic. I would imagine the figures would be similar in Australia. Certainly, the number of people feeling lonely far exceeds the number of COVID-19 infections. So, what do we do about loneliness? One popular Australian mental health website offers five suggestions: 1 talk to people about how you feel; 2 think about your interests; 3 get a pet; 4 get online; 5 join a club. This advice might be helpful if: 1 you enjoy talking through a rectangle; 2 your interests don’t involve going outside; 3 your landlord/family lets you; 4 the internet isn’t the source of your loneliness (the same website lists technology as a cause of loneliness); 5 the club you want to join hasn’t closed down... alas, the global pandemic. Max Lucado’s latest book You Are Never Alone was in the works long before COVID-19. It was in final edits when millions of people had to hunker down, uncertain of the future. It is written for anyone “acquainted with the downward spiral” who is “convinced that no one cares, that no one can help you, hear you, or heed your call”. I suspect that the pandemic has widened the potential intended audience. SouthernCross
To his credit, Lucado’s book offers much greater hope to the lonely than the aforementioned website: When life feels depleted, does God care? If I’m facing an onslaught of challenges, will he help? When life grows dark and stormy, does he notice? If I’m facing the fear of death, will he help me? The answer in the life-giving miracles in the Gospel of John is a resounding yes; [Jesus] wants you to know that you are never alone. While anyone feeling lonely needs to hear that in Christ they are not alone, I’m not convinced this book makes the point as clearly as it could. I really appreciated many things the author shared. I like the way the chapters follow the narrative of John’s Gospel. I found many of the illustrations captivating. The author really understands loneliness (the story in the introduction to Chapter 4 is simply heartbreaking). However, I was concerned with Lucado’s surface-level, magpie-swooping approach to the Bible. He comes to each Bible passage with a preconceived idea of what he thinks it says, using it as a launching pad to say what he already wanted to say. The risk in this approach is that he undercuts what he’s trying to say. The message of the book amounts to something like, “You’re not alone because God is with you, Jesus died for your sins, you get to go to heaven, God performs miracles, and who knows… he might physically heal you, too”. While this is all true, John’s Gospel has so much more to say to the lonely. To the person stuck at home on doctor’s orders, there is more to hope for than a vaccination (or physical healing) now and heaven to come. Eternal life is now. “This is eternal life,” says Jesus, “that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The best part of the Christian hope is realised now: we know God and share in the life of the Father and the Son as enabled by the Spirit in the present (John 17:21, 23; John 3). To the person struggling with assurance, there is more to John 10 than Jesus offering to guide and find them (page 75 of the book). When Jesus says in verse 28, “no one will snatch them out of my hand”, he’s telling us that we can be confident of our salvation because he has made it secure. To the person who feels worthless due to their guilt and shame, there is more hope than the expiation model of the cross (Chapter 9). In other words, Jesus doesn’t just wipe away our guilt and shame and leave us to start again. On the cross Jesus takes upon himself the penalty that we deserve for our rebellion, God’s sentence of condemnation upon sinful humanity (John 5:24; 8:21, 24), delivers us from it (John 6:50-58, 8:51) and then transforms us by giving us a new heart (John 3). The concern I have with You Are Never Alone is similar to the concern I have with a lot of contemporary preaching advice. Preachers in our neck of the woods are often told to spend less time in the Bible and more time thinking about illustrations and applications. We can definitely do better with illustrations and applications (I’m pointing the finger at myself here!), but the best, deepest, richest illustrations and applications will always come from digging deeper into God’s word, not from surface-level magpie swooping. Failure to do so can undersell the very message we’re trying to preach. I think that is where this book falls short. SC Martin E. Robinson is a PhD student at Moore College and youth minister at Yagoona and Condell Park. SouthernCross
It’s life, but not as we know it Damage: Sir David Attenborough in the deserted Ukranian city of Pripyat, near Chernobyl.
Judy Adamson David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet Streaming on Netflix
here are few people, if any, who have seen more of the world than Sir David Attenborough. And there probably isn’t anyone – alive or dead – who has explored the planet over such a breadth of time, given that he has been making documentaries for more than 65 years.
And that is really the reason for this film. Attenborough is genuinely beloved and respected across the globe as a broadcaster and naturalist; his programs eagerly awaited, his audience vast. So, in A Life On Our Planet he takes this lifetime of knowledge and experience, grabs the documentary megaphone and lets rip. The result is very hard to ignore. Attenborough, who has celebrated his 94th birthday since SouthernCross
A life of exploration: Attenborough with a fossil near his boyhood home (left), and walking in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. the film was made, calls it his “witness statement”: his response to a life lived in observation and celebration of the natural world. However, most helpfully, he isn’t just telling us what he has seen – although he does do that in a very powerful manner. He talks about what it means and how he thinks we should respond. I say, “we”, because it’s a film directed at everyone, of any age, in any nation. And while some might disagree with his conclusions, his references to evolution or even his whole premise, Attenborough comes to A Life On Our Planet armed with a whole battery of detail and carefully considered examples to back up his argument. The film unexpectedly begins in the deserted city of Pripyat in the Ukraine. Never heard of it? That’s because its main reason for existence – and the reason it was abandoned – is the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The 1986 accident at Chernobyl, which made Pripyat one of the most damaged places on earth, caused its 50,000 residents to flee their homes forever within two days of the blast. As an example of what humanity has done to the planet, it’s unarguable. However, Attenborough’s purpose as he talks about Pripyat is one of illustration: to equate what happened so rapidly there with the impact of our poor choices and planning on the rest of the globe. We all, he says, “rely entirely on this finely tuned biodiversity machine” (ie. the planet) but, slowly and insidiously, we are turning it into a place in which plants, animals – and eventually we – cannot survive. Attenborough spends the first part of the film showing how the world and its “wild places” have altered during his lifetime, speaking with the authority of someone who literally has been everywhere and seen it first-hand. He is not alarmist or unreasonable, nor does he exaggerate for effect. He tracks changes in population, in pollution, from overfishing and deforestation, in seasonal rhythms and in diversity, driving his point home with scientific efficiency. We see snippets filmed throughout his long career, filling our screen with all that is beautiful and wondrous in creation. His gentle, familiar voice is soft and sad as he tells us how vulnerable this species or ecosystem has become, how endangered that forest or its creatures are – not just because he loves all these things and wants us to save them, but because this planet and its capacities are not limitless. This is something we know – even if it’s simply that resources such as coal are finite. And SouthernCross
Vanishing habitat: A palm oil plantation marches right up to the forest in Borneo. whether we agree with Attenborough or not, his argument that we should stop being such ruthless “predators” is a good one, and well argued. One example he gives, of the two-thirds destruction of Borneo’s orang-utan habitat solely in the years he has been on our screens, is pretty depressing. But there’s plenty more where that came from. To be clear, Attenborough’s purpose isn’t to tell us off like naughty schoolchildren. It’s to push us into action. After presenting us with his lifetime’s worth of humanity’s destruction, mismanagement and greed – and what he believes the inevitable end point of such choices is – he then begins to show how, and in what ways, the ship can slowly be turned around. Again, this is not done in a pie-in-the-sky way. It is practical, based on what different nations or people groups have done to restore everything from fish stocks to forests, and farm in a low-tech, low-impact manner. It’s sensible and, potentially, achievable. Will anyone listen? I don’t know. But if Attenborough’s long life has taught him anything, it’s that standing by and watching can be pretty painful. I doubt whether many of us are as urgent in our need to share the gospel and save people’s souls as he is in urging us to save the planet, and that should give us pause. He’s not a believer in Jesus but he loves God’s earth, and what he does believe with all his heart is that we are destroying it. And, as he won’t be around to see whether we respond to his clarion call or not, his passionate plea is entirely selfless. People across the globe have listened to and learned from David Attenborough since 1954, so it’s up to us to decide whether to listen to him about this, his view on the future of our planet. SC SouthernCross