Southern Cross APRIL 2021

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APRIL 2021

Sydney’s growth PRINT POST APPROVED 100021441 ISSN 2207-0648


Archbishop nominees named • The Bible in bricks Why celibacy isn’t extraordinary • Stott 100

Ministry regions to be revamped.

Preparing to minister to future Sydney A moving experience: Sydney’s five regional bishops with a map of Greater Sydney that points to the boundary changes.

Russell Powell The “Aerotropolis” growing around Western Sydney Airport, now under construction, is one of the main reasons for a revamp of ministry regions – which will see some parishes jump from one region to another. The Sydney Diocese was divided into five regions in the mid-1990s: North Sydney, South Sydney, Western Sydney, Wollongong and Georges River, with a bishop leading each region. More recently, the bishops have raised concerns that these boundaries were based on the demographics of Sydney 30 years ago, and so were out of kilter with current trends.

Some of the anomalies include the parish of Campbelltown being part of the Wollongong Region, which stretches south to Ulladulla, and areas like Castle Hill being included in the Western, rather than Northern, region. SIGNIFICANT CITY RESTRUCTURING AHEAD The Bishop of Wollongong, Peter Hayward, delivered a report to Standing Committee on behalf of the Archbishop and other bishops in February, recommending a regional realignment to mirror city planning. “At a minimum, the current regional boundaries will not

SouthernCross April 2021

volume 27 number 3

Infrastructure on the way: the planned Western Sydney Airport. keep track of the city’s significant infrastructure spending in restructuring over the next 40 pursuing the three city hubs years into three major city hubs: that will change how Greater Western Parkland City, Central Sydney functions over the River City and Eastern Harbour coming decades.” City, known as the three-city Western Parkland City refers metropolis model,” the report to the region centred around the said. Aerotropolis. Central River City is “ T he N S W G o ve r n me nt Greater Parramatta, and Eastern i s m a s s i ve l y i nc re a s i n g Harbour City refers to the area Publisher: Anglican Media Sydney PO Box W185 Parramatta Westfield 2150 NSW P: 02 8860 8860 F: 02 8860 8899 E:

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Regional bishops with the map of Greater Sydney.

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surrounding Sydney Harbour. Using existing regional boundaries, the northern edge of the Wollongong Region includes the proposed Aerotropolis around the new airport at Badgerys Creek. In writing to clergy last month, Archbishop Davies said despite being in the final weeks of his term, he had decided to act on

the report’s proposal now. He said the many months of preparation and examination of the demographic changes Greater Sydney will experience in the coming decades had received a positive response from rectors. “In particular, given the projected population growth in Greater Metropolitan Sydney and the NSW Government’s

commitment to a three-city metropolis of Harbour City/ River City/Parkland City – in association with the burgeoning population growth of the Aerotropolis, which will surround the new Western Sydney (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport – it has become obvious that the current regional boundaries do not adequately reflect the

population spread away from the eastern seaboard,” Dr Davies said. “It is now projected that by 2030... more than 50 per cent of Sydney’s projected population of 5.8 million will be living west of Parramatta. “Of the 1.3 million new people living in Greater Sydney by 2030, two-thirds will settle beyond Parramatta.” SC

PARISHES ON THE MOVE The Archbishop says consultations with parishes have encouraged him to set July 1 as the date to introduce the changes, allowing time for the issues to be explained and for his successor to make any amendments. There will be no outward changes to parish life, only a reclassification of region for some parishes and a different bishop providing oversight. Under the plans, five parishes in the Hills – Castle Hill, Glenhaven, Dural, Cherrybrook and West Pennant Hills – will move from the Western to the Northern region, and seven parishes will move from the Georges River Region into South Sydney: Sans Souci, Kogarah, Brighton-Rockdale, Bayside, Marrickville, Earlwood and Canterbury. FROM



The 13 parishes in the Macarthur Mission Area will move from the Wollongong Region into Georges River. They are Camden, Campbelltown, Cobbitty, Denham Court, Eagle Vale, Ingleburn, Menangle, Minto, Narellan, Oran Park, Rosemeadow, South Creek and The Oaks. Along with these changes, the regional bishops are considering altering the configuration of local Mission Areas because some are too large to be effective. “Change for change’s sake is not the purpose of this exercise – rather it is to enable us to be more effective in our mission,” Dr Davies says. “Change often brings anxiety, but I trust you will see the wisdom of these changes so that we might more effectively reach the population of Greater Sydney with the gospel, as we seek to see Christ honoured as Lord and Saviour in every community.”

Top: existing regional boundaries in Greater Sydney. Above: the new boundaries.



April 2021

Despite COVID, the past year has seen more Bible translations than any other.

Bible translation at a historic high We’ll remember 2020 for a

acceleration of Bible translation lot of reasons – not many of occurring at any time in the them good, thanks to COVID-19 history of the world,” said John – but Wycliffe Bible translators Chestnut, the CEO of Wycliffe have revealed one encouraging USA. statistic. “You might have thought that “We are living in a season 2020 would’ve really slowed where we are seeing the fastest that or even, in places, derailed it.

TRANSLATION HITS HOME IN CHAD A shining example of translation success is the recent launch of Guerguiko New Testament – a language in the nation of Chad, a landlocked country in north-central Africa. Despite several lockdowns in the capital N’Djamena, the Guerguagui people are finally able to celebrate handling a printed New Testament in their own language. “The dedication of the New Testament gives me great joy,” said Rateigna Terap (right), a member of the Guerguiko translation team. “I have the New Testament in my hands, and I am going to use it myself in my mother tongue.”

Anglicare Careers choirs, and public readings from the New Testament. There is also an app version for smartphones. Another benefit of finally having the New Testament is that it will accelerate literacy efforts among the Guerguagui.

wish is putting The Guerguagui people – “My into practice this New literally “the people who live around Mount Guera” Testament,” said another Nangdjegue – number about 50,000 translator, and live in central Chad. Khamis. “It must be read all Their New Testament was the time. If literacy classes a publication 28 years in are there, then the women the making and the launch and those who have not celebrations were attended been to school can enrol and can learn, so each can by 2000 people. Highlights included the read the word of God in singing of some new the Guerguiko language to Scripture-based songs by better understand it.”


April 2021

It did have an impact, but what requesting help with launching we have found is that there are Bible translations this year. places in the world that the Like many other COVIDseason that we are in right now hit operations, technology has actually accelerated the enabled the translation work work.” to continue. In 2020, Wycliffe D u r i n g t he y e a r , N e w launched a web-based approach Testament translations were that enabled mother-tongue completed in 141 languages, translators to participate and eight languages have also remotely in virtual Bible events, completed translations of the Old allowing collaboration during the Testament. translation and checking process. Currently, Wycliffe Associates So even though lockdowns kept has 773 Bible translations in Bible translators at home, they progress and is looking at a were able to continue to work further 273 language groups together online. SC

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Senior clergy nominated for the May election Synod.

Four in line for Archbishop’s election When nominations closed on Tuesday, March 23, three bishops and the Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, had been entered in the nomination process for the post of Archbishop of Sydney. The bishops are Chris Edwards, Peter Hayward and Michael Stead. When Southern Cross went to print, all four had received the required 20 Synod members in support. All have indicated they would allow their names to go forward so, following safe ministry checks, the nominations will be officially declared. By the time this magazine is in churches there may be other nominees, so check online news at A one-day ordinary session of Synod will be held at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour on May 3, presided over by Bishop Hayward – who is Administrator of the

Diocese until a new archbishop takes up his duties. However, at the Archbishop’s election Synod – which begins the following day – the president of the Synod will be Bishop Peter Lin, as Bishop Hayward is a nominee. The election process begins with the full list of nominees and speeches about each one. The voting then goes through a series of rounds. Synod first considers which of the nominees will move to the next stage, known as the select

list. Voting will be by “houses”, The nominees are (above, L to R): with a majority required in either The Very Rev Kanishka Raffel, the House of Clergy (ordained Dean of Sydney since 2016. ministers) or the House of Laity Bishop Chris Edwards, Bishop (lay people) to move onto the of North Sydney since 2014. select list. Bishop Peter Hayward, Bishop In the following stage, Synod of Wollongong since 2010. will consider which names will Bishop Michael Stead, Bishop of move to the “final” list, and this South Sydney since 2015. requires a majority of votes in Archbishop Glenn Davies both houses. The final list can retired last month and was have a maximum of three names. farewelled at St Andrew’s After speeches, there is a secret Cathedral on March 26. A full ballot (or ballots) to elect the next report on the farewell will feature Archbishop of Sydney. in May Southern Cross. SC

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April 2021

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Scientists commended for ethical concerns about model embryos.

God gives life – ethics at a new frontier Archbishop Glenn Davies has commended the scientists behind the creation of model human embryos for their concern about the ethical implications of their work. Professor Jose Polo and a team at Melbourne’s Monash University announced in the journal Nature last month that they had generated the first model of a human blastocyst from skin cells, called an iBlastoid, which behaves like a human embryo in its early stages. The team believes it will enable scientists to study very early days of human development and the causes of infertility, as well as congenital disease. It also allows study of the impact of toxins and viruses on early embryos, without using human blastocysts.

Professor Polo stressed that he did not believe he was creating life, or something that could develop into a human being, but rather a good model of the very early stages of embryonic development. He said he had paused his research once the implications became clear, in order to check with the Government’s ethics panel. He also posed the question of how religious leaders would view the work. Archbishop Davies, interviewed on ABC radio, answered the question. “I commend Professor Polo for asking these ethical questions as soon as he realised what he had,” Dr Davies said. “He wrote to the ethical board which oversees these things… so he’s obviously a thoughtful person. Aren’t we blessed with

Brave new world: (left to right) Researchers Jia Tan, Professor Jose Polo and Xiaodong (Ethan) Liu, in front of images of the iBlastoids. photo: Monash University

good scientists in our country?” He added that he could not see an ethical problem with what had been done. “It’s not embryonic research as we normally know it,” he said. “Embryonic cells and stem cells, for example – we’ve always had difficulties with that by using aborted material. But adult stem cells – we have always supported that.”

Dr Davies said it was “clearly early days” for the research, and it was right “to tread carefully as we approach new frontiers”. But, he added, “I think this is fascinating because the human body that God has made is so rich in its complexity… I think this is a very good way forward. May their work ease suffering and bring healing.” SC

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April 2021

Biography of former Archbishop Harry Goodhew.

Goodhew, godliness and the Gong Three living Archbishops of the Diocese, the Anglican Church in Australia, and the worldwide communion. The book was decades in the making, according to its author, Dr Stuart Piggin. “The first chapter, which is an account of Harry’s election, I wrote immediately after Harry got elected, so that’s 28 years ago!” he said. He also admitted to some hesitancy in writing the biography. “This was actually a very difficult book to write for two reasons,” he said. “One is that Harry is so good and godly that it’s actually difficult to understand... Some people may read the book and say I’ve overrated him, and I was too close to him, but in fact Harry is better than this book. He’s much better.” True to form, Bishop Goodhew spent much of his speech thanking a long list of colleagues and friends who had helped him and his wife throughout their ministry. As a final flourish, the former Bishop of Wollongong unfurled the Illawarra Steelers jersey he is wearing on the book’s front cover. He revealed the picture had been orchestrated by the editor of the Illawarra Mercury during rugby league season.

THAT jumper: Former Archbishop of Sydney, Harry Goodhew, holds up his prized Illawarra Steelers jersey at the launch of his biography.

“He sent photographers up with the jumper is now part of the a football and the jersey. After history of Harry. the photo, the fellow said, ‘Well, Harry Goodhew: Archbishop, I’ll take those back to the boss’. Godly Radical, Dynamic Anglican I said, ‘You can have the ball, but by Stuart Piggin is published by the you can’t have that jumper!’” So Bible Society. SC


Sydney were in attendance but the spotlight was firmly on the oldest of them, Harry Goodhew, who had turned 90 just that week. The occasion was the launch of Harry Goodhew: Archbishop, Godly Radical, Dynamic Anglican – a biography of the man who served the Sydney Diocese as Archbishop from 1993 to 2000. Despite the city being in flood outside, St Andrew’s Cathedral saw wellwishers and special guests flock to the event. Archbishop Davies, in his final week, chaired the launch, calling it “a wonderful tribute to a great Archbishop in our Diocese”. He also acknowledged Mrs Pam Goodhew, saying to them both: “Thank you for serving us so well and continuing to serve Christ in your latter years with great dignity, humility and love”. A series of speakers including Bishop Rob Forsyth, the head of Barker College Phillip Heath (who was mentored by Bishop Goodhew) and the chairwoman of the Bible Society Anne Robinson all testified to the godly qualities, piety and influence of Bishop Goodhew and his wife Pam – who sat, somewhat embarrassed, in the front row. Bishop Forsyth noted that the book covered a critical period for

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April 2021


Churches band together to help migrants find employment.

Pastor, can you find me a job?

Navigating the job market: Emerge team member Sam spends time with Prem.

Tara Sing “Pastor, can you please find me a job?” It’s a question asked frequently of the Rev Matt Dodd from Lakemba. Ministering in an area with a large number of migrants seeking work, struggling to navigate the job market, Mr Dodd longed to help them in some way. This was the genesis of the Emerge Program. For the past 12 months, several parishes in southwestern Sydney have partnered with Evangelism and New Churches to help migrants upskill and connect with potential employers.

CULTURAL GAPS IN AUSTRALIAN EMPLOYMENT “There are so many barriers for them,” says the Emerge Program’s liaison officer, Sue Park. “[Firstly], mobility – such as vehicle access and driver’s licence. Most jobs need you to drive, especially in aged and community care. 10

“Second is qualifications and recognised work experience. Third is literacy and English skills. “We help in practical ways by connecting our candidates to driving schools, helping them get working with children checks, and more.” Miss Park understands just how difficult these barriers can be to overcome, having watched her own mother’s journey. “I’ve seen how hard it is for my mum to feel part of Australia as a result of her not working. As she tried to navigate employment... she worked super hard, but the confidence in language, her age and lack of work experience [meant] she had no chance.” The Emerge Program offers more than just employment skills. “What we’re trying to do is bridge the cultural gap between employment and recruitment in Australia,” Miss Park says. “In a lot of cultures, there’s an expectation that your community network finds you a job.

“Networking in Australia is important… but there is a lot more individual focus on how you are able to convince employers of your skills. There’s a big cultural gap there.”

MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT IS GOOD FOR EVERYONE Finding employment doesn’t simply provide a migrant with financial stability; it has a ripple effect that benefits the whole community. Stable employment means migrant families don’t need to relocate for work or to find more affordable housing. “You can change the course of somebody’s life by providing them with a job,” Mr Dodd says. “This was the biggest physical need apart from health care, outside of the spiritual realm. We just want to really love people in a deep way to help them break into the job market. It’s not about giving free jobs. There is dignity that comes from having work.”

MORE JOBS WANTED The team at Emerge is developing relationships with employers, praying more organisations will come on board and provide migrant workers with meaningful employment. “These are not charity jobs,” Mr Dodd says. “We want [to provide] real pathways and opportunities. Pray we would be able to establish connections with more and more Christian businesspeople.” Adds Miss Park: “Pray that we can really do what we set out to do – that we can help those in our ministries and churches thrive spiritually and in their earthly living, and help them connect to meaningful employment. “There’s so much going on for people I work with. There are so many challenges that come up for our candidates, particularly... as they resettle in Australia. Pray they would keep knowing God’s love and care for them in his provision and word.” SC SouthernCross

April 2021

April marks the 100th anniversary of John Stott’s birth.

An English century worth celebrating There are few Christian a visit to Australia by Langham’s


April 2021

global ambassador, Chris Wright. “I would describe John Stott as both Abrahamic and apostolic,” he says. “He was Abrahamic, both as a ‘blessing to the nations’ in his global friendships and influence, and also in his insistence on the obedience of faith. “And he was apostolic both in his lifelong commitment to evangelism – faithfully preaching and teaching the good news first proclaimed by the apostles – and also in his insistence on the need for rigorous biblical teaching, so that churches would grow in depth and maturity and penetrating mission in the world, not just grow bigger in numbers alone. “Langham shares these convictions and strives to multiply his legacy in serving the global church that he loved.” Stott’s old church, All Souls’, Langham Place, is marking the occasion by broadcasting a s e r m o n s e r i e s o nli ne , commencing April 18, and making available the archive of 445 sermons that he preached at All Souls’. The Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, said, “John Stott had such a tremendous impact on others – as he pointed us to the Lord Jesus and his gospel, in his writing and speaking ministry, and by his own life lived in persevering and fruitful service of Jesus. “We’re celebrating the occasion because it gives us a chance to recall with thanks the pattern of life and ministry of one of God’s servants.” Dean Raffel is hosting a webinar on April 26 as part of the Australian celebrations. “I’ve been very pleased and privileged to play a small role in the ministry of Langham Partnership – the ministry that John Stott created from his book royalties to support

majority-world Christians through academic scholarships, publishing and preaching seminars,” he said. “It’s been a joy for me to conduct Langham preaching workshops in Sri Lanka over the past several years. “I continue to appreciate John Stott’s faithfulness and clarity

in expounding biblical truth, and his tender but uncompromising application of the truth of God’s word to our lives.” SC The website of Langham Partnership Australia has links to the webinar and all the Stott 100 celebrations. See and

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leaders whose influence lasts much beyond their lifetime. The name John Stott stands out. The English evangelical author, theologian and leader died in 2011 but preparations are under way to celebrate the centenary of his birth with a fervour as great as when he was alive. Sydney has many reasons to mark the occasion, as Stott left a notable stamp on the Diocese. His landmark 1965 visit to CMS Summer School at Katoomba turned generations of leaders on to expository preaching. As the late Canon John Chapman put it at Stott’s memorial service in Sydney in 2011, “I came out of one of the expositions at Summer School and I remember saying to Dudley Foord, ‘Surely, that is the way all preaching should be done on Sundays?’. He said, ‘You’ve seen the model, all we’ve got to do is practice’... and I’ve tried to do that ever since.” Archbishop at the time, Peter Jensen, described Stott as the 20th-century figure who “inspires all our pulpits”. John Stott was born on April 27, 1921, and – after attending England’s Rugby School and Cambridge – was ordained for Anglican ministry, which he took up as curate, and later rector, of All Souls’ Church, Langham Place in London. He was also a driving force behind the Lausanne movement. Through university missions, preaching tours and writing, John Stott became known throughout the world. In 1969, he redirected the income from these activities to found the Langham Partnership, to equip the global church – especially in preaching. The Langham Partnership plans to celebrate the centenary with celebrations of Stott’s legacy and ongoing vision. This includes


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Little Lost Bookshop overcomes big challenges “I think bookshops are a melting pot”: pot”: A staffer chats with customers in The Little Lost Bookshop.

Tara Sing Tucked down an alley off the Christmas retail season,” Mr Katoomba’s main street is The Little Lost Bookshop, a cosy corner that looks and smells just like a bookstore should. This is where Karl Grice, who attends Katoomba Anglican and is known around Christian circles as “the guy who sells the books at conferences”, shares his love of words, art and people. The store has just celebrated its third birthday, but there were times when it didn’t look like it would reach that milestone. “Three years ago now we opened, and since opening we have had two significant bereavements, significant stall illness, the bushfires... we had rain that didn’t stop and washed out the train tracks for a month, and – just when we were starting to breathe – we got to enjoy a global pandemic together,” Mr Grice says. “Although I’m not sure that enjoy is the right word!”

Grice says. “For most businesses in the area, December is the equivalent of farmer’s harvest time. You tick along all year, you make sure you can pay your bills, but December is when you get your wage for the rest of the year. “Financially it hit the town hard, but you couldn’t think about that because fires were still burning. The sky was grey or orange, the streets were empty, and there were signs at Central Station saying, ‘Don’t catch a train to Katoomba’.” Blow after blow affected the store, and also Mr Grice’s conference bookstall business, The Wandering Bookseller. The uncertainty of the pandemic hit particularly hard. He remembers driving home from a weekend conference in Wollongong early last year, where he had been present with his bookstall, and suddenly it hit him that this would be his last FIRE, FLOODS AND such event for “who knows how SICKNESS long”. During the 2019-20 bushfires, “The following week we had Katoomba was surrounded from phone call after email after phone the north, south and west. At one call cancelling events because point, flames raged less than a of COVID,” he recalls. “We had kilometre from a storage facility a fourth kid due that May. It where The Little Lost Bookshop was a lot of [not knowing] what keeps its excess stock. happens next... [there were] a lot “[The fires] hit right before of sleepless nights.” 12

Reminders of God’s faithfulness came in many ways and helped Mr Grice not to lose heart. A midweek Prayer Book service provided the opportunity for his family to gather with older saints, who were living examples of the faithfulness of God. “We had cups of tea with ladies, some well into their nineties... it helped a lot to know that God’s been with them through lots of things,” he says. Christian music also proved a comfort, including an album by Andrew Peterson. “There’s a song called ‘In The Night My Hope Lives On’, [which] looks at God’s faithfulness through biblical history and then being able to look forward… to know he will continue to be faithful.”

what they’ve just discovered or what they’ve spent their lives researching. We’ve been able to introduce people to each other and all sorts who might not have otherwise connected.” No topic is off limits. “Katoomba is a town where people have different worldviews, religions and alternative spiritualities,” he says. “I’m keen for [the shop] to be a place where people feel safe and welcome to talk about what they believe – in the same way I feel safe for people to know that I am a Christian. “Life is hard, and will always be hard. I think creating a space where people can form strong friendships and discover ways to help each other is really important.” God has used Mr Grice and his A PLACE FOR PASSION team in many ways – including AND COMMUNITY giving them the privilege of Mr Grice curates his collection selling several customers their at The Little Lost Bookshop to first Bible. reflect the community around “One young guy decided to him, and shares his love of quirky buy his first Bible after seeing and beautiful stories and art it on the shelf. It was great to be through his handpicked selection able to show him the contents of books. You never know what page, and suggest a good place you might find on his shelves. to start, which is reading about “I think bookshops are a melting the life of Jesus,” he says. “I’ve pot, where all different people also had people come and ask for meet and chat,” he says. “People prayer. What’s important to me come in and tell you what they’re is that people know this shop is passionate about. You hear for everyone.” SC SouthernCross

April 2021

A new church plant in Parramatta

Preparing together : Members of the MBM Parramatta launch team meet to plan and pray.

A new congregation is coming Mr Lee asks. “Any parish faces congregations that fellowship same congregation any more,” to Parramatta in May, hoping to get alongside other gospel c h u r c h e s t o re a c h t h e multicultural community that lives and works in the city. The church plant, which is an extension of Multicultural Bible Ministry, Rooty Hill, will gather in the Parramatta PCYC – a venue close to public transport and surrounding apartment blocks. Parramatta’s population is expected to more than double in the next 20 years. It is currently the home of Australia’s largest urban transformation project, with major developments underway for schools, hospitals, universities and residential apartments. At the moment, only 15 per cent of the population identify as Protestant. “Our heart’s desire is to see the people who live, work and play in and around Parramatta transformed through Jesus Christ for the glory of God,” says the Rev Dan Lee, who is heading up the plant. “What will mission look like in a city that’s rapidly changing? How do we reach the new migrant, the person in an apartment block, or the suburban family?” SouthernCross

April 2021

challenges in this. “It’s a melting pot of urban and suburban people, people who come from from a lower socioeconomic background, workers and people who come into Parramatta for work but might not live there. It’s a hub. Mission will look different. We need to be flexible and try different things.”

PARTNERING TO WIN PARRAMATTA There is a great harvest in Parramatta, with so many people travelling in, through and out of the CBD daily. MBM Parramatta is pleased to have the support of local churches, including St John’s Cathedral, and hopes to work alongside them to bring the good news to the people of this western Sydney city. “There was a generous openness to seeing another gospel community within the same parish,” Mr Lee says. “Bruce Morrison [from the cathedral] said, ‘It’s all about the kingdom’.” The Rev Ray Galea, MBM’s senior minister, agrees. “The reception we’ve had from the

in the Parramatta area has been really exciting... It’s going to be a real joy to work together to proclaim Christ.”

LESSONS This is MBM’s third congregation plant – having previously planted MBM South West at Middleton Grange, and MBM Village Church, which meets in Anglicare’s Rooty Hill Village. These previous experiences have shaped the approach to starting the Parramatta congregation. Says Mr Lee: “One of the lessons we’ve learned [from past plants] has been that launching with 70 people has proven to be very effective in ensuring ongoing momentum. “The other lesson we’ve learned is the importance of having everyone on board – staff and congregation – and framing that in the context of wanting to see more people come to know Jesus.” It’s important to Mr Lee and the team that they help one another handle the grief of leaving their old congregations behind. “[We want to] acknowledge the pain of losing relationships and people not being able to be part of the

he says. “There’s been a gospelgenerous heart at the heart of all the plants we have done.”

BIG PRAYERS FOR PARRA Mr Lee and the MBM team are praying big prayers for Parramatta in the lead-up to next month’s launch, and are seeing God answer many of these prayers with a “Yes”. “My impossible prayer was around the venue,” says Mr Lee, who was finding it difficult to locate an appropriate meeting place. “We knew that getting [affordable] space would be an issue. In God’s kindness, a church was moving out [of the PCYC] at the time.” Since securing a location, the team is praying for the launch itself. “[We’re] super thankful that the team is made up of all ages and stages, from uni students to retirees. It’s multiethnic – which will reflect the massive influx and diversity of Parramatta. “Pray we will have that united mindset that this is about seeing the lost saved, and the saved matured, and seeing lives changed through Jesus Christ for the glory of God.” SC 13

MegaVoice Envision displays God’s word in sign to Deaf communities.

New device takes gospel message to those who have not heard

A new visual device has the potential to provide Bible access to Deaf communities worldwide. MegaVoice Envision is a videoplaying apparatus designed to provide a Bible in sign language, bringing the message of God to many unreached people groups. Developed by MegaVoice, the organisation behind the solar audio Bible, this project will be a huge support to global gospel ministry. The World Health Organisation estimates there are 466 million people globally with significant hearing loss or deafness. The Deaf community currently does not have a complete Bible in sign. There are over 400

power is scarce the word of God can still be played. “Lots of people don’t have power but, no matter where you are in the world, you can sit and watch whatever you can get hold of in microSD card form,” says Tom Treseder, president of MegaVoice. “There is potential to reach enormous numbers of people who have never been reached with different sign languages used the good news.” by more than 70 million Deaf The idea for the MegaVoice people as their primary means Envision first came to Mr of communication, yet only 5 per Treseder more than 30 years cent of sign languages have a ago, but it wasn’t until a trip to Bible translation work started. Samoa in 2011 that he saw the Careful consideration has gone real difference it could make. The into the creation of Envision to Pacific Islands have among the ensure it has a screen big enough highest rates of ear disease and to be easily viewed, light enough hearing loss in the world, with to be transported, and the ability almost 17 per cent of children to play sound loud enough to fill suffering hearing loss. an entire room. “We went to a church and a With ru ral and remote lady signed the whole service – communities in mind, the device hymns, prayers, Bible reading,” plays videos from microSD cards Mr Treseder says. “We showed – meaning it can be used in areas her the MegaVoice Bible and where internet access is limited she said, ‘That’s wonderful, but or non-existent. Its battery lasts I need it with a screen. What you from two to five hours, so when don’t know is in the front two

rows are 32 people who are deaf’.” W hile Envision was primarily intended to aid Deaf communities, the national director of MegaVoice, Greg Low, believes the impact can be far greater. There is interest from missionaries and educators in Africa who are working in areas with limited resources and accessibility. “As the player gets seen, people get excited,” he says. “I don’t think we’ve scratched the tip of the iceberg as to where this could go.” With the first shipment of 1000 devices already sent to New Mexico in the US, and the next delivery to be shipped after Easter, the MegaVoice team is praying for more of the Bible to be interpreted. “We’ve provided the tool for people, but we need it to be recorded,” Mr Low says. “We pray that more of the Auslan Bible is recorded, so that access to God’s word is opened up for the Deaf. “We need God to enable people to see the potential of using the MegaVoice Envision to reach the Deaf. For far too long, they’ve been a marginalised group. Pray that as a society we can bring the Deaf and hearing impaired into our community.” SC

Coming of the Light 2021 Good Friday and Easter Gift Appeal To donate, please visit 14


April 2021

From the Administrator.

Keep the good going Peter Hayward


fter 12 months of ongoing adjustments to existing

plans and uncertainty about future plans, the outworking of COVID-19 has brought a weariness to the heart and soul. In God’s kindness, with the vaccine rollout, it appears that for the remainder of 2021 we are entering a time of greater normality. Yet the strains of living through the pandemic linger. What is noticeable are the numerous comments showing that weariness has also affected the normal patterns of Christian discipleship and ministry life. The constant adjustment to what can and cannot be done in church – even for the folk who enjoy change – has taken a toll. Clearly, the past year has been exceptional. But it has not fundamentally brought a new challenge for Christian life and discipleship. What the pandemic has done is heighten and intensify something that always existed: that weariness is an ever-present reality that can be experienced when living for Jesus. Enthusiasm can get us started, but inevitably effort is required to keep going in many aspects of the Christian life. The burst of enthusiasm will always meet the strains of time and circumstance. The good things that we know are good never simply develop a momentum that keeps everything moving forward. We all have the tendency to grow tired of doing the things that God says are good. The resolve at the start of each year to regularly read the Bible has enthusiasm and focus, but it erodes with time. Sometimes, it is the circumstances of life. Other times, it is just the slog of doing something that does not seem to be getting any apparent results. The regular pattern of meeting with other Christians is an unambiguous good. But the accumulation of small and large matters that clamour for attention and focus means that sustaining the pattern requires constant attention and effort. I remember well the enthusiasm of starting a new church seeping slowly away with the sheer regularity of keeping it going. It is not as if you lose heart, but what you need to fall back on is effort. In God’s wisdom, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made with different personalities. We all can view the same circumstances slightly differently. However, whether the glass seems half full or empty, inevitably Christian life and ministry needs effort to keep it going. SouthernCross

April 2021

The apostle Paul knew of the reality of weariness. In Galatians 6:9 he wrote, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”. Paul was very much aware that there is temptation to give up because we have grown weary in doing the good that God desires. There is the general weariness of life that comes as a result of living in a fallen world, but the verse is speaking of the weariness of living faithfully as a Christian. What we should note is the incentive Paul gives for not becoming weary in doing good. First, at the proper, God-given time, what is accomplished in not giving up will become apparent. You keep going not by sight but by faith. Second, there is the promise of a reward. “We will reap a harvest” as a consequence of not giving up. God is gathering the faithful, ongoing efforts of all those doing good to ultimately reap a harvest far greater than we could imagine from our individual efforts. The consequence of this understanding is profound. God is neither disconnected or disinterested in any of the God-directed good that we do. Nothing is too small or inconsequential for God. The Bible’s evidence is that God most commonly uses ordinary people faithfully engaged in the good he desires to accomplish his purposes. We can always come up with reasons why we cannot keep going in doing good. But the only way we fail is by giving up. There is always good we can do. The promise is that in not giving up, God will gather these innumerable, faithful, good efforts by ordinary Christians into a harvest that is staggering. Given that promise, how do we each deal with the reality of feeling weary or despondent about doing good? We know the good that God desires. We know that we live the Christian life for others and not ourselves, but we don’t feel like it. Don’t give up! Take the step in faith towards the good that God desires. But pray as you go. “Father, I take this step, acknowledging that I could easily give up. Help me to be faithful as I do your good, changing my heart even as I step forward trusting in you.” Keep going in the good to which God calls you. SC

Bishop Peter Hayward is the Administrator of the Diocese until the election of a new Archbishop. 15

A tale of two stories There really are only two ways to live, writes Chris Conyers.


ho is this story about? A boy is raised in his

uncle’s household but, upon discovering that he has access to an awesome supernatural power, leaves his home under the watchful eye of a benevolent mentor. Some time later, he watches on helplessly as his mentor is killed before his eyes, but eventually our hero steps forward to defeat the evil lord who is seeking ultimate power – and who has no nose. Who is this story about? If you answered Harry Potter, you’re correct. But if you answered Luke Skywalker or (in most respects) Frodo Baggins, you’re also correct! Each of their stories – and no doubt many others – follow a recognisable pattern. Because I described the pattern, you can see how each of these three stories – despite their vastly different details – share very significant elements. They are three different stories, yet in some sense they are also one story. These three stories, however, don’t follow patterns that match our lives. I grew up with both my parents, and I have never drawn the attention of an evil, noseless sorcerer. Yet in Romans 5:12-21, Paul gives us two stories that describe the common patterns of every human life. ADAM’S STORY The first of these is the story of Adam. Paul does not retell Adam’s story in any detail, but describes its basic pattern: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin…” (Rom 5:12a). Adam sinned, and therefore Adam died. The second half of this verse then applies this pattern to the rest of humanity: “in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” It may be a very short (and perhaps not very interesting) story, but this pattern of sin leading to death unifies all of humanity under Adam. Every person who has ever lived has lived according to this pattern. They have sinned (Rom 3:10) and they have died. In many cases, however, there has been a third element to the 16

story beyond sin and death. It applies first to Adam, and then especially to one group of Adam’s descendants, the Israelites: they received a command from God. In Adam’s case, the command was short and simple: “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17). Note that, contrary to every children’s Bible I’ve read, it was only Adam who received this command from God. Eve wasn’t there – she wasn’t created until five verses later! Because Adam had this explicit command, his sin becomes visible. God’s command revealed Adam’s sin so that both Adam and the reader of Genesis can see it. Likewise, the Israelites received commands from God when they gathered around Mount Sinai after the Exodus, and the rest of the Old Testament records their consistent failure to obey those commands. God’s commands therefore revealed sin but did not cause sin. We see this especially between Adam and the Law-giving at Sinai, as people keep doing evil (cf. Rom 5:13-14). For example, it may surprise you to realise that Noah’s generation never disobeyed God’s word. They couldn’t. They had no word from God to disobey! Nevertheless, God watched both their outward behaviour and inward thoughts, and knew (even if he didn’t reveal it to humanity at that time) that “every inclination of the human mind was nothing but evil all the time.” (Gen 6:5) The pattern of life of people under Adam is therefore that they sin, and then face the judgment of death. Sometimes people’s sin is revealed to them through a divine command (which the people break) but, even when it isn’t, their sin is real and God’s judgment is just. CHRIST’S STORY Romans 5 does not leave us with only Adam’s story, however, but puts forward a second human story – that of Christ. Christ and Adam are alike in that they each generate a new pattern of human life, but they are unalike in that those patterns are utterly different. Whereas Adam disobeyed, Christ obeyed (Rom 5:19). Whereas SouthernCross

April 2021

Looking at Romans 5 with MTC.

Adam was condemned, Christ was justified (Rom 5:16). Whereas Adam’s story ends in death, Christ’s story continues into eternal life (5:17, 21). But just as Romans 5:12 puts forward Adam’s story as a pattern for the rest of humanity, Romans 5:15-21 puts forward Christ’s story as a pattern for everyone who is in Christ. Paul’s point in Romans 5:12-21 is not to teach us about the men Adam and Christ, but to teach us about ourselves. Adam and Christ each represent a pattern of human life and every one of us will live out one story or the other. STARTING THE NEW PATTERN Every person initially lives according to Adam’s pattern, but the way we change stories, and begin to follow Christ’s pattern instead, is seen most clearly in 5:16: And the gift is not like the one man’s sin, because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification. This verse begins with a contrast between “the gift” and “the one man’s sin” (that is, Adam’s sin). Each is then placed in its own sequence of events. There is a starting point – “from” something – a divine action, and a result. But when you look at the way Paul contrasts these two parts, something curious emerges. The two things being contrasted – the gift and the sin – are in different places in the sequence. Adam:

from one sin

God judges

resulting in condemnation


from many trespasses

God gives a gift

resulting in justification

Adam’s one sin is the beginning of his story, followed by the event of judgment and the result: condemnation. The “gift”, on the other hand, is not the beginning of a story but is the divine action in the middle. Both stories start with sin. In fact, Christ’s story starts with lots more sin than Adam’s does! If we judged the stories from their starting points, we might expect Christ’s story to be an even greater tragedy than Adam’s. But the real difference between these two stories is in God’s action. Adam’s sin is met with God’s judgment. When Adam ate the fruit that God commanded him not to eat, God confronted him with his law breaking. If we live out Adam’s story we, too, will ultimately be confronted with the evidence of our sin, and we, too, will be condemned. But the story of humanity in Christ is different. The divine action is not judgment, but a gift. The person who is in Christ will not face God’s judgment to determine whether they live or die. Judgment – at least this type of judgment – simply isn’t part of the Christian story. We receive salvation as a “gift”, and therefore our “many trespasses” (5:16) are ultimately irrelevant to our status before God. We receive life only through God’s generosity to us. But because salvific judgment – that is, leading to salvation – has completely dropped out of the Christian story, we not only begin this new life through a gift, but we continue in this new life through the same gift. There is no judgment, and therefore “there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). The Christian life begins through grace alone and continues through grace alone. SouthernCross

April 2021

LIVING THE NEW PATTERN Having received the gift, however, we expect to see the recipients live according to this new pattern. Ongoing sin may not determine the Christian’s final destiny, but sin belongs to the old, Adamic pattern of life. Therefore, as Christians, we seek to live out the new pattern of Christ’s story (see especially Rom 6:1-4), even as the details of our stories are vastly different to his. The Bible teaches a great deal about this new pattern but, in the context of Romans 5-8, one aspect is particularly prominent: suffering. If the pattern of Adam’s story was sin, judgment and death, then the pattern of Christ’s story is a life of suffering and self-denial now, with resurrection to come. Christ’s life of itinerant preaching and his execution on a cross were neither easy or comfortable; lives that follow his pattern will also not be easy or comfortable. But just as Christ was raised from the dead, we will also be raised. And therefore, we can endure the sufferings of this world – especially sufferings that come from following Christ – confident that on the last day we will be raised to eternal life to share in Christ’s glory. The present suffering of the Christian life is never pleasant, but it is by far the better story because it alone leads to life. Therefore, we can follow the pattern of Adam’s story – sin leading to death – or the pattern of Christ’s story – present suffering on the path to resurrection, eternal life and glory. In Romans 5, Paul teaches us that these are the only two ways a person may live. SC

The Rev Chris Conyers lectures in New Testament at Moore College.




Do we have a boy problem?

Parents, peers, schools and faithbased organisations need to pull together to reduce hurt and abuse, writes Marshall Ballantine-Jones.

W 18

hat started with a private Instagram poll by

ex-Kambala student Chanel Contos among 300 friends in late February violently erupted into shocking exposés of abuse, exploitation and rape. Thousands of testimonies from young females emerged about their own experiences of non-consensual sexual exploitation. These revelations expanded into a full-scale website, giving voice to girls all over the country: private, Catholic and public schools. A voice has been given to those girls who have been silently suffering from the shame, humiliation and hurt of terrible experiences. It is distressing to read; provocative, too. It ignited harsh criticism throughout the media, some blaming private school elitism or single-sex school culture. Chanel’s own movement insists that boys lack consent education, thus demanding an urgent overhaul of the education on sexuality and consent. SouthernCross

April 2021

Adolescent males, porn, exploitation and consent.

I have to be blunt: these testimonies came as no surprise to me. norms, they can together be a force for change. Schools can assist Not only have movements like Melinda Tankard-Reist’s Collective here but churches, youth groups, Bible study groups, Christian Shout been prophets about society’s pervasive sexualisation of girls, camps are all opportunities for peers to work together. They have but I’ve seen first hand just what is going on with our boys through such a power to change each other and the culture around them. my PhD research. Aided by my studies in adolescent sexualised behaviour and 3. EDUCATION attitudes in independent schools, I want to address the questions: This is very important, and consent education is one of a number of 1. Do our boys have a problem? and areas in which students must learn more. 2. Is the answer better “consent” education? Don’t hear me underplaying this. Having reviewed most current My research told me that the primary reasons for aggressive, national programs on consent, respectful relationships, sexting and entitled and predatory behaviours among many adolescent boys pornography, I agree that there is enormous scope to improve sex relate to the high rates of pornography consumption. The more they education in schools. But the real problem is that pornified young consume, the more they objectify women, desire casual sex, approve people are receiving another, competing education. of pornography and have narcissism (which inflates self-esteem). Boys especially are being educated, very regularly, by porn (plus Also, more porn means less empathy and poorer social conduct. social media, TV, movies and music videos). Hard-core pornography, the normal diet for porn users, is highly aggressive and misogynistic, PORN IS THE KEY devoid of intimacy, care, consent or commitment. It is tailored for the Overall, 70 per cent of teen boys view porn monthly, and 30 per male brain – visual, in the first person, exalting a male’s conquests. cent weekly. Some adolescent girls consume pornography, too, but Girls, too, are educated daily by Instagram, SnapChat and only about 20 per cent regularly – and even then, only 4 per cent TikTok. Just look at the feeds on these apps and gasp at the way view it weekly or more. Sadly, for those girls who do have higher girls are crafted to be sexualised. No school, no matter how solid the consumption rates, their negative attitudes and behaviours mirror education is, can compete with this until we reduce the competition. the males. This is why I know porn is the key! Still, the evidence of my research is that effective education can The more porn, the more problems. And since vastly more boys be achieved, but it must engage more than just better content. Only consume porn you can say, on the surface, we have a boy problem. when parents and peers are substantially added to the equation will But it is not that simple. It begs the question: why are so many genuine shifts in attitudes and behaviours occur. boys consuming pornography? Four factors contribute to most porn Indeed, when I integrated parental and peer engagement into behaviours. my PhD school resource (now developed into a Yr 5-10 resource called DigiHelp), amazing positive changes were seen – especially 1. PARENTS in porn-affected boys. For schools that wish to know more, feel free Parents are the most significant influence on their child’s to email me ( pornography engagement. Parents who both regularly speak about sexualised culture, appropriate attitudes and behaviours and actively 4. NEUROLOGY monitor and restrict their child’s access to their devices and internet, Lastly, there are neurological forces at work in our boys. In addition have better-behaved sons. to the violent awakening of their sexual systems, typical of most It is not just about having “the talk” but defining a culture. Talk pubescent males, there is the ongoing interplay between their early, talk often, and talk better. If you need to upskill your parental developing brains and the lack of brain development. communication, I highly recommend Patricia Weerakoon’s Talking As adolescent brains prepare for adulthood, they prune away Sex by the Book. childish interests while reinforcing the newer habits. Yet, male More, regardless of your trust in your children, restrict their brains develop slowly. Their self-control mechanisms don’t work well access. Devices should have blockers like Family Zone. Access until their late 20s. They are impulsive. So, boys who are saturated should only be in public spaces and never in bedrooms, bathrooms, in porn will both develop long-term preoccupancy with it, while or behind closed doors. Buy them noise-cancelling headphones if struggling to control these behaviours. It’s a cycle of reinforcement they complain. Explicitly allocate screen time. Restrictions help! that becomes compulsive. I consistently saw genuine addiction problems in frequent users 2. PEERS in my studies. Tragically, for them, the benefits of good education Peers are the next most influential force on porn engagement. Young and parenting will have limited value unless they receive some people are heavily influenced by peer culture – what they perceive additional support. I highly recommend therapy with an addictive as normal. They hate missing out, they want to fit in and they draw behavioural specialist. much of their value through the opinion of others. When they perceive that porn, sexualised behaviour, or gender So, do we have a boy problem? I would say we have a porn problem. attitudes are normalised, they follow. Their closer friends have the Do we have a consent problem? I would say we have a broad social most impact. problem that requires all hands on deck: parents, peers, schools and There are two powerful ways peers can become an asset in faith-based organisations. Only when they pull together will hurt fighting pornified behaviours. First, carefully monitor and filter and abuse be reduced. Only when we pull together can we begin to their friends. Learn about the families of their friends, discuss offer a safe society for our girls. SC expectations, explain your concerns. Friends with better attitudes and behaviours will influence your child. The Rev Dr Marshall Ballantine-Jones specialises in research on effective Second, allow these peers to critically evaluate their world. When solutions for reducing the negative effects of pornography, sexualised social peers are empowered to question, interrogate and oppose social media, and self-promoting social media behaviours. SouthernCross

April 2021


Why celibacy isn’t extraordinary

Dani Treweek


o, here’s the thing. Single Christian, your

celibacy is totally ordinary. Yep. You heard me. We are utterly unexceptional. Unremarkable even. Of course, our celibacy is also uniquely meaningful. But that’s another discussion. For the moment let’s just focus on how very, very not extraordinary you (and I) are.

WHEN CELIBACY BECAME COOL Not so long ago, the word “celibacy” predominantly conjured up dark hallways winding through shadowy monasteries in remote places. It spoke of dark-robed priests and grey-garbed nuns whose enigmatic alienness was simultaneously alluring and yet a little disconcerting. It brought to mind either a starkly ascetic and commendably humble existence, or alternatively (and horrifically) a façade used to cover up some of the worst evil imaginable. Whatever it was, celibacy was most definitely not cool. Until, suddenly, it was. Today, celibacy increasingly conjures up images of soy lattes and farm-to-table cafés. It speaks readily of energetic millennials in skinny jeans (or have they been replaced by high-waisted jeans now??), whose enigmatic Twitter profiles are simultaneously perplexing – especially to those of us of an, ahem, older generation – and yet somehow compelling. It brings to mind a wonderful appreciation for aesthetics, an enviable aptitude for social media, and an effervescent youthfulness. Whatever it is, celibacy is most definitely now cool. Or at least it’s cooler than it was. And this coolness is not necessarily a bad thing (and yes, I’m aware that in using 20

the term “cool” to describe what is cool I am only revealing how anachronistically “uncool” I truly am). Indeed, even those outside the Christian community are slowly beginning to develop a renewed appreciation for the celibate life (especially as it is increasingly differentiated from the horrific, appalling and abusive “celibacy” of those who used it to mask great evil). Many a secular person is now able to look upon a Christian friend who has declared themselves to be celibate and think: “If that’s your chosen identity, then good for you. Sure, I don’t get it. But that’s not the point. You do you”. HOW CELIBACY BECAME EXCEPTIONAL Of course, as any good marketer will tell you, when you’re in the middle of a rebrand you want to simultaneously embrace the new, while giving a nod to the old. Some level of continuity is vital. When it comes to contemporary celibacy’s image overhaul, that continuity has been located in its “vocational” character. The Catholic priest makes a lifelong vow of celibacy. The contemporary evangelical Christian usually speaks of their celibacy as being a life “call”. Just as in the past, celibacy is not a passing phase or a temporary endeavour. Such is thought to belong to celibacy’s cousin, abstinence. Rather, it tends to be something you have embraced as a personal vocation. Celibacy, we are told, is for those who have, for any number of reasons, discerned it as a specific, individual and personal call. Just as an aside: when it comes to the way we SouthernCross

April 2021

It’s about Jesus, not us.

Christians use the word “vocation” today, the immortalised words of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride seem particularly apt: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”. But that’s a discussion for another day. And so, within the context of a sex-obsessed world, celibacy is increasingly depicted as somewhat of an exceptional Christian lifestyle. There is an aura of set-apartness and remarkableness about it. We admire those who have embarked on such a life. We Christians regard their commitment to not have sex (ever?!?!) as somewhat extraordinary, perhaps even phenomenal. They are not like the rest. Of course, it’s not as though the celibate evangelical typically angles to be viewed in such a fashion. And yet, within a world that sees sex as central, even foundational, to human identity, we can’t help but elevate celibacy’s atypicality, its costliness, its otherworldly strangeness. As we do so – as we uniquely colour in the picture of contemporary celibacy with golds and silvers and otherworldly tones – we inevitably emphasise the celibate person’s extraordinariness and exceptionality... and by implication, we encourage them to do the same. WHY CELIBACY IS ACTUALLY VERY ORDINARY But this is a mistake. Why? Well, because a life of celibacy – a life without sex – is not a life of extraordinary commitment. It’s not a life of remarkable giftedness. It’s not a life of phenomenal sacrifice. It’s simply a life of grace-enabled, godly obedience. When we peel away all the cultural trappings of celibacy and look at it theologically – that is, through God’s eyes – what we find is that the celibate life is simply the life God calls each and every one of us to, for however many years of our lives we happen to spend unmarried (or spend unmarried again). So why do we classify this, a life of godly obedience, as being something truly exceptional? When we then remove all the cultural expectations and look at the celibate person theologically – that is, through God’s eyes – what we find is someone who is simply committed to honouring God’s broad purposes for sex, who therefore chooses to express their sexuality by not having sex outside of those purposes. So why do we talk about the choice to not to sin against our Creator in this way as being a life of noble “sacrifice”? When we remove all the cultural lingo and look at the celibate life theologically – that is, through God’s eyes – what we find is that celibacy is the vocation of every unmarried person for however long they are unmarried. And this is true whether they be nevermarried, divorced, or widowed; whether they be attracted to people of the opposite sex, the same sex, or nobody at all. So why do we conclude that celibacy is the domain of just a select few, specially empowered Christians? No. Put simply, the celibate life is (part of) what it means for the single person to be taught by the grace of God to ...say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live selfcontrolled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:12-14). The unmarried Christian who is celibate is, by the literal grace of God, eager to do what is good. But that does not make them SouthernCross

April 2021

extraordinary. Indeed, they are no more extraordinary than the married person who, by the same grace of God, is likewise eager to do what is good in their situation. In this sense, both the celibate single person and the sexually active married person are both very, very ordinary. And the reason for their ordinariness is because all extraordinariness belongs entirely and absolutely and magnificently to Jesus. He has achieved the remarkable, so that we might now live the wonderfully ordinary life that humanity was created to enjoy from the very beginning. He has done what is astonishing so that we may be the people of God, living in right relationship with him and each other, eager to do what is good, And so, no, we ought not imagine the Christian celibate as a modern-day hero. That honour belongs to Jesus alone. No, we ought not imagine the Christian celibate to be making the ultimate sacrifice. That cost was paid by Jesus alone. No, we ought not imagine the Christian celibate to be an exceptional person. That describes Jesus alone. Living a celibate life is a lot of things (such as complicated, exciting, difficult, surprising, sorrowful, joyful and, yes, uniquely meaningful: see but it isn’t extraordinary. It isn’t remarkable. It isn’t phenomenal. It’s the wonderfully ordinary life of one who has been redeemed, forgiven and purified by an exceptionally, remarkably, astonishingly extraordinary Saviour. SC The Rev Dr Dani Treweek is founder and chairwoman of Single Minded. You can hear her speak more on this topic at Single Minded’s Esteeming Faithful Celibacy webinar on May 13. See for details.




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Get to know the exclusive, invite-only social media app.

Why your church should get on Clubhouse today Hannah Thiem


lubhouse is a new social networking platform that

combines the features of a podcast, Facebook Live and a phone call. Users can tune into live audio content from interviews to conversations, and presentations to round-table discussions. When you first log in to the app, you’ll see a list of different “rooms” on your screen. Each room contains a conversation about an interesting topic, from K-Pop to marketing strategy, must-read fantasy books to a debriefing over the Meghan and Harry Oprah interview. As you begin to listen to these conversations, you’ll meet people interested in the same topics as you. Clubhouse launched in May 2020, and while there have been


We are committed to strengthening our culture of ‘safe ministry’ through education and professional development of our clergy and lay people, as we seek to maintain the standards of Christian ministry which are grounded in the teaching of the Bible. The Professional Standards Unit receives and deals with complaints of child abuse or sexual misconduct by members of the clergy and church workers. A Pastoral Care and Assistance Scheme is available to provide counselling and other support to victims of misconduct or abuse. The Safe Ministry Board formulates and monitors policy and practice and advises on child protection and safe ministry for the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney.

 Abuse Report Line 1800 774 945 22

some teething issues around data protection there is also a high amount of potential in an audio-only app. Here’s why your church should look to become an early adopter of Clubhouse: 1. THE POTENTIAL TO GROW IS HIGH Social media constantly evolves and expands, and joining new apps early gives you much more potential to reach others. While an app is new (and doesn’t have many advertising streams or content creators) it is easy to build an audience and reach new people. Rather than struggle with over-saturated platforms like Facebook or Twitter, getting in on the ground will allow you to grow with the platforms. 2. IT’S A NON-CONFRONTATIONAL WAY TO SHARE THE GOSPEL Clubhouse is a great platform for setting up important discussions in a way that allows meaningful collaboration. Unlike most audio apps, Clubhouse conversations are streamed live, and audience members can participate in discussion. You still have moderating power and can select which members are made “speakers”, but this allows a lot more engagement. This provides a non-confrontational way to share the gospel, allowing people to tune in and ask any questions they have without feeling as though they are on the spot. 3. CLUBHOUSE THRIVES ON NICHE CONTENT Because Clubhouse is structured around individual rooms, it naturally directs people towards the same niches and topics. This means people interested in values questions or finding out more about Jesus will keep being served relevant content. Most of all, we want the gospel to be going out far and wide so let us grasp with open arms the chance for it to be heard. 4. YOU’RE ALREADY CREATING THE CONTENT The good news is, your church is probably already creating content that can easily be shared on Clubhouse and gain more exposure. Streaming a part of your church service or a one-off evangelistic event gives you a way to engage far beyond your immediate sphere. Have you tried Clubhouse yet? Maybe you’ve found a room all about baking your own sourdough or exercises you can do at the gym. If your church is trialing something creative we’d love to listen in! SC SouthernCross

April 2021

The challenge to be Christian builders.

Builders and inheritors Gary O’Brien


ver the years, there is a conversation I’ve had in

a few different forms. It happened when I was a parish minister and now it comes in a slightly different manner as I work with people considering full-time ministry. The parish ministry version goes something like this: Person: “We are looking for a new church to join.” Me: “Well, there are a lot of good churches around here, what exactly are you looking for?” Person: “We are looking for a larger church with a really good kids’ and youth ministry and small group network with lots of ministry happening.” If I know this is a mature, ministry-minded person and push back a little to ask about joining a smaller church and investing in building their ministry, the response is often, “Yes, but we also have kids,

and we want them to have a really good church experience”. The “considering full-time ministry version” goes something like this: Person: “I am looking to be involved in full-time ministry.” Me: “Wow, that’s great. Is there any particular type of ministry that you have in mind?” Person: “Yes, I’d like to be involved in a church that has a decentsized ministry team.” Again, if I push back a little and ask why not serve in a smaller, under-resourced church that has potential to grow, with willing people, the response is, “Yes, but I’m not so well suited to work on my own – I need a ministry team around me”. Now, I don’t want to be too judgemental. Some people may really need to be in a bigger church with a good ministry heritage to be able to serve most effectively, and some kids might really need to

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April 2021


have a large cohort of peers to help them develop and grow in their own faith. But… can we not at least seriously consider being a builder, not an inheritor? What I mean is, it’s a wonderful thing to inherit the work of others with all its fruit but how much difference will we really make? Could we not make a bigger difference by going somewhere that does not have all the ministry bells and whistles and partner with the saints there to help build the ministry? We might come from a church with a great music ministry, or men’s and women’s ministry, and so look for a new church with the same thriving ministries. But, with our past experience, wouldn’t it be great to go somewhere without these and seek to help develop them? What an encouragement that might be in our new church. When it comes to our children and their faith development it is scary when we select a new church, trying to work out what will help them most. But not all kids thrive in a large, stratified church youth ministry. They can get lost in the crowd or be corralled into an age- and gender-based small group that is not a good fit. By contrast, kids in a smaller church youth ministry have the opportunity to really get to know all the others across the age group and gender divide, and possibly more easily become involved in some sort of ministry as they grow older. As for joining a church with a “decent-sized ministry team”, I fear that is confusing paid ministers with volunteer church members/ministers. Surely, all the saints share in the work of the ministry (Eph 4:12)? Yes, volunteers all have other jobs to keep them busy but they, too, bring their gifts and energy to building God’s church. Together, paid and volunteer, we are the ministry team. Finally, by inheriting the ministry of a good/larger church we may miss the blessing of seeing the Lord build his church as he uses us (and our children) in doing a fine work in a less-resourced context! I love those words of Paul in 1 Corinthians, where he talks about his “building”, along with the work of Apollos who followed, but then the joy of seeing the Lord make it grow: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). I also love Paul’s joy at seeing what the Lord did through his ministry with the Thessalonians, when he writes: We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). I know, I know: making choices about church membership and ministry are complex, and “builder” and “inheritor” are not mutually exclusive categories. Yet, as we think about our choices and motives, can we consider being a builder, not an inheritor? SC

The Rev Gary O’Brien is the director of Ministry Training & Development. 24

Avoiding “long COVID” in our churches Michael Stead


or some people, the impact of the COVID-19 virus

can last weeks or even months after they have been infected. These ongoing symptoms are known as “long COVID”. Despite its title, this article is not about medical long COVID. Rather, I am using long COVID as a metaphor for the ongoing disruption to our churches caused by COVID-19. We need to approach this year with the assumption that our church gatherings are likely to be a variation on what we have at the moment. On the upside, we are probably not going to have a repeat of the months to June 2020 – the long periods during which we were prevented from gathering together. On the downside, there is likely to be some form of ongoing restriction that limits physical contact and encourages social distancing. We are in (yet another) “new normal”. That is not to say that nothing will change from where we are now. I am hoping and praying restrictions will ease further as time goes on. Conversely, it is also reasonable to expect there will be periodic clusters of outbreaks, which might require local lockdowns or other restrictions. But, for the most part, it seems the worst is behind us. As such, now is the time to take steps to avoid “long COVID” in our churches. By that, I mean that we should not let the ongoing impacts of the pandemic have a long-term debilitating impact on our life together. I think there are two expressions of “long COVID” to guard SouthernCross

April 2021

Michael Stead on making up for lost time.

against in particular. First, the danger is that we will continue to substitute virtual gatherings for being together in person, because living with months of tight restrictions on gatherings taught us that we could be together virtually when we could not be together physically. Second, we have become used to cancelling or deferring events, because of uncertainty caused by COVID-19. What can we do to prevent “long COVID” in our churches? 1. Do not give up meeting together One of the metaphors the Bible uses for church is a human body. Just as the body is composed of different parts, all working together as an integrated whole, so too, the church is made up of diverse members with different roles that complement each other. The Latin word for “body” is corpus, from which we get the word “corporate”. Church is meant to be a corporate experience, when we gather together as a body. COVID lockdowns and capacity restrictions disrupted – necessarily – the regular pattern of gathering together each week. However, there is a real danger that we have got out of the habit of meeting face to face. While online/livestream church is a wonderful blessing for those who cannot be present, anecdotal evidence suggests that some people are watching online because it is more convenient not to attend in person. Without seeking to disenfranchise those who must watch online, we need to remind ourselves that online church is a poor substitute for gathering in person, and that we should not choose this option unless we have no alternative. We need to gather for corporate worship, for corporate witness and for corporate fellowship. Our “one another” ministry is highlighted in dozens of verses in the New Testament, of which the following is but a small selection. We gather to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess 5:11), to spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Heb 10:24), to confess our sins to each other, pray for each other (James 5:16) and to offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet 4:9). We are mutually encouraged by one another’s faith (Rom 1:12). We are to be devoted to one another in love (Rom 12:10). We are to live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16), accepting one another just as Christ accepted us (Rom 15:7). We are to serve one another in love (Gal 5:13). We are to be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph 4:32) and bear one another’s burdens (Eph 4:2). Our “one another” ministry can be compromised by online church – especially if we become passive recipients of ministry, rather than active participants in ministry. To avoid this, we need to take to heart the exhortation in Hebrews 10:25 that we should

“not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing”. 2. The Lord’s purposes will prevail The disruptions of COVID-19 have reminded us of something that has always been true, but perhaps often overlooked – that we do not know what tomorrow brings (James 4:14). We need to take Proverbs 19:21 to heart: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”. In the past, we have been accustomed to developing strategies and detailed plans for our ministries and churches, and the unpredictability of last year threw many of these into disarray. While for a time the only option we had was to cancel or defer our plans, we must not let this become the new normal. That is, we must not put ministry and mission on hold while we wait for things to return to pre-COVID conditions. Instead, we should make bold plans in prayerful dependency, learning again what it means to say with conviction – “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). The experience of the past year has shown us that we are more nimble and able to adapt at short notice to changing circumstances than we might perhaps have thought, and that modified ministry is better than no ministry. So, rather than prolonging the impact of COVID-19 on our churches by continuing to defer new initiatives and holding back out of an abundance of caution, now is the time to make up for lost time and push ahead. SC

The Rt Rev Dr Michael Stead is Bishop of the South Sydney Region.


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To confess or not to confess? David Peterson


y friend goes to a church where they

regularly confess their sins to God and seek his forgiveness together. But a recent visitor questioned this practice and asked him why it is necessary to keep asking God for forgiveness if we have already been forgiven through Christ. If we need to keep doing this, what assurance can we have that we are truly forgiven? 1 John 1:8-2:2 is a good place to start in answering these questions. It is dishonest to think that we are without sin and have no ongoing need to seek the forgiveness that our Saviour has made possible for us through his atoning sacrifice. Or we could go to Hebrews 4:14-16 and hear the challenge to keep approaching God’s throne of grace through Jesus our heavenly high priest, to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. In the same week that I was asked to comment on this, I was reflecting on the teaching of the Lord’s Prayer in two New Testament passages. In Luke 11:1-4, Jesus offers a brief form of prayer for disciples to use together (“When you pray, say”), whereas in Matthew 6:9­-13 the longer version is a model for our own prayers (“This, then, is how you should pray”). It is striking that Luke 11:4 reads, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”. Sin is a sad reality in all our relationships: it needs to be acknowledged and dealt with immediately. Jesus presumes that those who have experienced the forgiveness of God will be willing to forgive those who sin against them (Luke 17:3-4). In Matthew 6:12 the language of “debts” and “debtors” is used, implying an obligation to acknowledge what we owe to God and to one another when sin spoils the relationship (compare Luke 7:40-47; Matthew 18:21-35). If Jesus’ prayer uncovers our need to continually confess sin, it 26

also sheds light on our need to continually forgive sin. When we say, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”, we are challenged to ask, “Can God’s forgiveness be expected if we withhold forgiveness from others?” Put differently, if we are convinced about the continuing availability of forgiveness because of the death of the Lord Jesus, asking for forgiveness should remind us of the obligation to express forgiveness to others. Some may still ask why we need to confess sin formally, regularly and corporately. The Lord’s Prayer expresses what we should be seeking from God together. Jesus’ first concern (“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come”) should be ours as well. Whatever pattern of prayer we adopt in our churches, God’s agenda must come first! When we ask God to meet our daily needs (“Give us each day our daily bread”), we cannot divorce such practical matters from the need to keep short accounts with God and with one another (“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”) and be kept faithful (“And lead us not into temptation”). Informal times of prayer in our churches today often consist of intercessions relating to practical matters in church and society, but rarely explore the broader implications of Jesus’ prayer. Many churches have forsaken the practice of regularly confessing sins together and offering assurance of forgiveness. Some don’t even say the Lord’s Prayer together very often. How can we build into our services the same concerns expressed in our liturgical forms: the breadth and depth of spirituality that the Lord’s Prayer seeks to engender? SC The Rev Dr David Peterson is an emeritus faculty member at Moore College and former principal of Oak Hill College London. SouthernCross

April 2021

Letters to the editor and positions vacant.


How delightful to have a printed copy of the Southern Cross in my hands once again. I find the print version so much easier to read and navigate. Even though I still read it from cover to cover, I can easily peruse what the edition contains and look forward to the different reports and articles, each of which is an encouragement for ministry and a motivation for prayer. Philip Cooney Wentworth Falls COME TO THE COUNTRY

Bishop Mark Calder’s plea to pastors in the March edition of Southern Cross, asking them to encourage people moving west to immerse themselves in the local Anglican church, rang a bell with me. In 1949, a fellow Christian

workmate and I were discussing start CEBS (Church of England a possible order from our Boys’ Society), teach Sunday employer to move to the country. School etc. He said, “Go for it. I said if I had to go, I would not Whatever you can do, I am happy.” attend a C of E [Anglican] church Later on, he asked my wife and but look for another church. We I to start a Sunday school at in Sydney had been advised Nimmitabel. not to attend country Anglican We had Andrew Fellowship, a churches in case we were led Bible study and a prayer group astray! To this day I do not know in our home – and welcomed a where this advice originated. number of Sydney young people My Christian workmate tore who also took an active role in strips off me and said, “That is the parish. why so many Anglican churches In 1967 we moved to Bathurst in the country are not vibrant, and joined All Saints’ Cathedral, because people like you go to where we were asked to be other churches”. I believe my superintendents of the Sunday mate was giving me a call from school. I started CEBS and our Lord to leave the comfort and my wife was leader of the JAs nurture of St Anne’s, Ryde and (Junior Anglicans) girls’ club. venture into the unknown – to One of the deans said to us, ‘If I wherever the Lord would lead me. want anything done, I turn to the Our family moved to Cooma evangelicals in the parish”. in 1963. We joined St Paul’s A number of other Anglican Church. We spoke to Sydneysiders have joined the our rector, saying I was willing to parish and have preached,

become pastoral assistants and introduced Know Your Bible and Christian Women Communicating. May I reinforce Bishop Mark’s plea for Sydney pastors to have a missionary vision and send missionaries to work with and support parishes in a country diocese? Trust the Great Good Shepherd that he will care for his sheep, wherever they are. Doug Fulton Eglinton, Bathurst


I just want to say thank you to Dr Mark Earngey for his most informative article about Lady Jane Grey in the March edition of Southern Cross. I’m sure it will be an education for many – as it was for me. Allen Harris Burrill Lake


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Christ Church Lavender Bay is a growing body of believers in Jesus as Lord and Saviour situated on the Lower North Shore of Sydney Harbour. We are seeking a Church Administrator who is an active disciple of Jesus and committed to multiplying the effectiveness of our mission through administrative support to the Senior Minister, staff, ministry leaders and wardens of the church. This position is a developing part-time role (20 hrs/wk) with the purpose of ensuring the efficient, effective and ethical management of increasing administrative and organisational matters in the life of our growing church.

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April 2021

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Changes, clergy moves and classifieds.

“I just wanted to learn” “I just wanted to learn... I wanted to know more.” So began the Christian service of Dorothy Black, who last month marked the 70th anniversary of being made a deaconess in St Andrew’s Cathedral. Born Dorothy Lennox in Lithgow in February 1924, she was encouraged to go to Sunday School at the local Anglican church, where she wanted to collect as many memory verse cards as she could. Listening to Bible stories as a child sparked her interest and, years later after she became a Christian, she determined to learn more. So, she went to Deaconess House in Sydney as a student – not just to learn tools for ministry, but to learn of God and his purposes. Miss Lennox was “set apart” as a deaconess for Christian service on March 11, 1951 by Archbishop Howard Mowll, to wholly commit to live and work, serving the Lord Jesus, through the Anglican Church. Her parish experience began

with little of the security (or pay rates) taken for granted in 2021. She worked first in Alexandria, where the rector was the Rev John Dahl – father of deacon the Rev Patsy Dahl. There may have been few worldly securities, but Deaconess Lennox had God’s promises to be with his precious people. This was a true comfort when difficulties arose – particularly with regular dislocation from one

parish to another. Between 1949 and 1987 she served in Alexandria, Ashfield, Katoomba, Newtown, Manly, Greenwi ch, Darlinghurst, Yagoona and Blacktown, and she was warden at the former Pallister Girls’ Home and But-Har-Gra. She also worked on Groote Eylandt for 11 years as a missionary with CMS, and briefly in PNG with the Asia Pacific Christian Mission. Dss Lennox loved teaching Scripture in public schools, and also ran Mothers’ Union meetings, youth fellowship groups and Bible studies. She did parish visiting (with no car) and, when the need arose, conducted church services and baptised infants – something she regarded as a particular privilege and took very seriously and, therefore, prayerfully. This impre ssive list of duties was not done to bring congratulation or praise to herself. Rather, Deaconess Lennox wanted to bring others

under the sound of the gospel of grace, which she experienced at a deep level. She knew she wasn’t perfect, and knew she needed the forgiveness won by the Lord Jesus, so she used her God-given gifts to bring honour to the Son. To her great delight and surprise, she married the Rev Brian Black in 1997. They had met in 1963 when Dss Lennox was working in the parish of Yagoona. Mr Black was the rector, and his first wife Joy became a dear friend. After Joy Black’s death, Brian and Dorothy married – 34 years after they first met. Now they are both in residential care, loved by their family and the Lord whom they have served and honoured. Dorothy’s testimony is that she wanted to learn more about God. She did that and grew in maturity and experience – a woman who learned to know God and be known by him, and she has remained an honourable witness to him.

The Rev Dr Raj Gupta has moved from the parish of Toongabbie after 14 years. He became rector of Carlingford and North Rocks on March 20.

After 36 years of ordained ministry – 18 of those years at St Anne’s, Ryde – the Rev Greg Burke will retire from the parish on April 13.

The Rev Mike Heptonstall finishes up seven years as rector of Kellyville this month. He will become rector of Balgowlah on April 19.

The rector of Gymea since 2010, the Rev Graham Crew, will retire on June 13 after 36 years of ordained ministry across the Diocese.



List of parishes and provisional parishes, vacant or becoming vacant, as at March 19, 2021:


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April 2021

Family cancer experience used to help others.

Cancer journey in children’s books Experience becomes a blessing: (from left) Angus Olsen reads one of his stories to his daughter Jane; one of his cancer artworks.

Tara Sing


ngus Olsen isn’t sure how many copies of his picture

books are circulating the globe, but he suspects hundreds of thousands of people are reading his work. His illustrated stories documenting childhood cancer are available for free online, and are inspired by his daughter’s own journey. Mr Olsen, a member of St Hilda’s, Katoomba, didn’t set out to be an international children’s author, but – as he uploaded drawings of his family’s cancer experience – his social media following grew to over 40,000 people. Since the surprising popularity of his first book, My NG Tube, he has created more than 20 books about cancer and its stages and treatments. Volunteers have translated his works into nearly two dozen languages, including French, Chinese, Greek and Swahili. He has also teamed up with several cancer charities to create resources and raise funds for childhood cancer research.

HIS WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN Mr Olsen’s daughter was just two years old when she was rushed to hospital after a radiographer discovered a dark mass. “Jane’s cancer therapy was a nightmare I couldn’t fully express with words, which is why I started drawing childhood cancer,” he says. “It was white-knuckle terror with the threat of death hanging on every decision. God sustained us through it.” Jane has been in remission for four years, and is a happy, healthy seven year old who enjoys My Little Pony, bushwalks and playing Minecraft. Mr Olsen says God consistently cared for his family, both through the people at his church and hospital medical staff. “God gave us so much more during that trial, more than I could ever list. Our church, St Hilda’s, Katoomba – which we’ve been part of most of our lives – raised money, they brought food, they prayed constantly, and our rector Ray privately cared for me personally. “In the darkest places, the Christian can know Christ’s light in SouthernCross

April 2021

the smallest good,” he adds. “Whenever Jane’s vitals lifted, I saw blessing. Whenever she took a little water by mouth, I saw blessing. He didn’t have to save Jane from cancer, but he did.” Mr Olsen found particular comfort and strength from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9). BLESSED TO BLESS OTHERS Before his life as a café owner in Katoomba, Mr Olsen worked artistically, including a short stint with Walt Disney Television Animation. When he started sharing his drawings of the cancer journey online, his illustrations spoke volumes to other families. Mr Olsen has made PDF versions of the books available on his website ( at no cost. He is committed to using what he has been given to bless others. For some countries, this is the first time oncology material has been available in their language. “So much has been given to me!” he says. “When I offer my work for free, it can do so much good – from reducing stigma to lifting paediatric medical advocacy.” He receives donations that help cover basic costs, but has no plans to profit from his work. “It doesn’t feel right to start choking money out of something that helps so many sick children around the world,” he says. “I’m happy creating beautiful things for very sick children just for the pure joy of it. “I have been blessed through trials with the ability to create visual tools useful to oncology around the world. It is a wondrous treasure to witness people’s lives lifted by it. I am enormously thankful for that.” SC 29

What we can learn from Raya & the Last Dragon Amanda Mason


isney’s latest feature animation debuts the

company’s first Southeast Asian princess(es), so a throng of people from Southeast Asian backgrounds – including me – were anticipating Raya and the Last Dragon for months. Two things really excited me. I consciously joined the global rejoicing that a new generation of Southeast Asian kids would grow up with a princess who represents them, and that a mainstream movie celebrates the cultures, sights and values of their childhoods. I invite you to journey with me in understanding what this kind of recognition means to the Southeast Asian community, and how Raya and the Last Dragon can be of use to Aussie Christians, as we help Southeast Asian people to meaningfully encounter Jesus and his Christian communities. Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) is the daughter of a chieftain living in a broken world perpetuated by disharmony and mistrust. 30

She is tasked with finding the last dragon (Sisu) and restoring peace and harmony to the world. There is much for Christians to affirm about the film, not least the final scene – reminiscent of all nations flooding to Yahweh in Isaiah 60. DISNEY’S “LOVE LETTER” TO SOUTHEAST ASIAN CULTURES Importantly, Disney recognised that until now, Southeast Asian people were, at best, represented only by Mulan, a very Chinese or East Asian princess. Southeast Asian culture is distinct from East Asian culture in a number of important ways. Southeast Asian skin tones are not represented in Mulan. While many Southeast Asians have links to Chinese heritage, not all do. Mulan’s East Asian context largely subscribes to polytheistic Mahayana Buddhism, Confucian and Taoist beliefs. Southeast Asian cultures – particularly Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia – tend to follow atheistic Theravada Buddhism, mixed SouthernCross

April 2021

Disney’s “love letter” to SEA has gospel lessons for us.

with a fear of unseen animistic spirits (represented in the movie by the purple druun) and Hindu Ramayana mythology. The movie gets at these deep worldview issues with impressive skill. I noticed a Malaysian woman leaving the theatre in tears as the credits rolled, and she kindly answered my inquiries about what had made her feel so deeply: “This movie… it’s like Disney’s love letter to us... It’s the little things: the fruits, the foods [and textures, mythology, traditional music, garments, gestures of respect, martial arts, scenery, word play]… the level of care they took. Google Raya and the Last Dragon and you can read how Disney commissioned a team of consultants to research those details.” Although Raya has been criticised for blending diverse Southeast Asian cultures, the recognition of distinctive cultural details and the beautiful care taken to produce the film clearly resonated with this woman, as it had with me. It filled us with a deep, full experience of emotions which reverberated against our life experiences. It became personally meaningful to us both. ONLY 1 PER CENT OF PEOPLE IN TRADITIONALLY BUDDHIST SOCIETIES ACCEPT CHRIST For some years now, I have sought to understand how the gospel might be shared among Southeast Asian people, including my own Thai family, who have traditionally resisted missionary effort. Despite centuries of missionary presence, in traditionally Buddhist societies only 1 to 1.5 per cent accept Christianity. The gospel is viewed as foreign. How could it instead be shared in a way which truly resonates, reverberating against Southeast Asian worldview and formative experiences as the movie did? The answer may be in the movie itself. If we wanted to, we could mine Raya for a trove of ways to argue the limits of Southeast Asian belief systems for eternal salvation. Perhaps the biggest lesson Raya teaches Christian audiences is about trust. Apologetic arguments don’t build trust. Raya clearly illustrates why trust is so hard to come by in Southeast Asian cultures. If you are not known to a community, how can they trust your words? It teaches us that it takes time and vulnerability in taking the first step to overcome mistrust. This is why it helps to empower Southeast Asians to share the gospel with other Southeast Asians. They are known quantities, whereas foreign missionaries fit a different category. The last dragon, Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina), even offers ways to go about building trust when it is lacking. We might first present


April 2021

our Southeast Asian friend or neighbour a small material gift to suggest, “You can trust me. Can I trust you?”. Then, wait and see if it is reciprocated. The gift may be given directly, or indirectly through a mediator, and can be given no matter what has come before in the relationship. Sometimes the answer is “No, I don’t trust you”. And we need to respectfully stop there. A key theme of the movie is the Southeast Asian emphasis on “we” (the group) coming before “I” (the individual). Could individual Australian Christians’ trust-building attempts be bolstered by group action? HOW CAN OUR CHURCHES OFFER A “LOVE LETTER” TO SOUTHEAST ASIANS? What could be Australian churches’ collective love letter to the Southeast Asians among us? Well, perhaps Australian Christian communities could do as Disney did. We could start our love letter by investing in understanding the cultures of Southeast Asia, or Asia more broadly, by sharing experiences. Humour me for a minute. What do you think might happen if we celebrated Lunar New Year in most churches with even a small Asian presence? Although largely an East Asian tradition, Lunar New Year is recognisable to most Asians, perhaps broad enough to implement in culturally heterogeneous Australian churches. It is also an established tradition which has been re-theologised by Christians in Asia. If we planned ahead, Australian churches could order traditional “red packets” from Asia with scriptural proverbs about good stewardship of money, prayers and thankfulness to God for prosperity. We could enjoy Asian feasts and the fun of the festival atmosphere (akin to Talon in the movie), which Asian migrants miss and, at best, find substitutes for in private homes or perhaps government events. Celebrating Lunar New Year may take an act of vulnerability on the part of the established church. It is culturally different and there may be concerns about syncretism with traditional Asian religions. However, taking that risk would recognise and validate Asian Christianity in Australia and convey our trust in Asian Christians’ ability to handle the word of God and mitigate risks of syncretism. Could it also make church appear less culturally English or “foreign” to the Asian visitor? As Sisu, the last dragon says, “When [the other dragons] put their faith in me, it empowered me beyond what I could have imagined”. If ever we want to engage in meaningful dialogue with Southeast Asians, the most empowering thing we can do is offer our trust. SC



God’s word, brick by brick Judy Adamson The Bible: A Brickfilm – Part One Streaming on Amazon Prime


ith the popularity of LEGO films in recent

years it was only a matter of time before someone decided to recreate the whole Bible in “brick” form. American university student Josh Carroll has been making Bible-related films in brick – or LEGO – format for years as an evangelistic tool (with the help of his dad Dave Carroll, and now other family members). He also directed brickfilms The Passion (2018) and Exodus (2019). I would expect the latter contains material that has been reused for this project, as Part One of the brick Bible story gets us from Creation to the brink of the Promised Land. Great, you might be thinking. Everything that is awesome about LEGO and The LEGO Movie, but in Christian form! This is where everyone needs to take a breath because, with a tiny budget, you’re not going to get the animated speech and movement (or shiny, high-tech gloss) of the wide-release LEGO films. Characters in The Bible: A Brickfilm are pretty static, and while they talk a good deal there’s no mouth movement. In addition, sometimes the still mouth of a character is constantly smiling – or looking serious – when it really shouldn’t. Yet a lot of work has clearly gone into this two-hour movie, which is the first of three the Carrolls plan to make, telling the story of God and his world all the way to Revelation. This story covers Creation, the Fall and its consequences, Noah – with the addition of some dinosaurs and mammoths for the fun of it – followed by Babel, Abraham and God’s covenant, Isaac, Jacob

and Joseph in Egypt. About 40 minutes is devoted to Moses and the Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments and the hardheartedness of the Israelites prior to their arrival in the Promised Land. While most of the effects and sets are pretty basic and some of the music is overdone, the dinky little costumes do their job well – particularly in Egypt – and the scene at the Red Sea with the raised water and pillar of fire looks pretty cool. Importantly, the theology is sound. God, whose voice we hear often, wants those he has made to trust, obey and love him, not live for themselves, and has given his created and redeemed people everything they need. The contents are PG in that there’s brick violence, including people being killed and beaten, as well as “blood” and “sacrifice”, particularly of lambs. Sex is never mentioned, although it is hinted at, but there is – for example – no Sodom and Gomorrah, and even Potiphar’s wife asks Joseph to spend time with her rather than take her to bed. Scenes in the film (which is also available on DVD) could certainly be an extra tool for teaching Sunday school kids, groups with poor literacy or helping explain Bible truths to those who don’t yet believe. It’s probably best taken in smaller bites, though, as the lack of “action” – while perfectly understandable – is likely to make your average audience a bit twitchy after a while. I assume part two of the trilogy will cover the rest of the Old Testament (a big ask), and part three the New Testament. It will be interesting to see where in the Bible the bricks take us next. SC

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