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Tag Archives: Australia

A new blog Under The Water

I have started a new blog site called, Under the Water.

I will maintain both sites, but Under the Water will have a more specific and narrow subject as summarised on the About page:

Under the Water is a writing project that I plan to use to tease out some questions about whether a Baptist Church has a place in Australia. Along the way I will deal with practical and theological issues on Baptist beliefs and behaviours. I am writing from the perspective of both a Church Minister (or to use the common Baptist terminology, Pastor) and a potential research student working towards completing a post-graduate theological degree. At some point in the next few years I am planning to write a formal thesis dissertation and the articles on this blog are a way of thinking through that process in smaller, less academic, bite size pieces.

I have kicked things off with a small chat about defining ‘Church‘.

So, add the site to your feedreader or subscription and come along for the ride.

What topics or issues, related to Under the Water, would you like to see or discuss there?

 

 

 

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Australian Evangelicals and The Royal Commission institutional responses to child sexual abuse

On Monday 12 November 2012 the Prime Minister announced that she will be recommending to the Governor-General the establishment of a Royal Commission into institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia.

The Terms of Reference and the membership of the Commission are currently being developed. These arrangements will be discussed with Premiers and Chief Ministers, as well as survivors groups, religious leaders and community organisations in coming weeks. The Attorney General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, will co-ordinate this work on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.

The Australian Government is putting in place a broad consultation process to ensure the perspectives of key stakeholders inform the decisions that need to be taken in establishing the Royal Commission.

As part of this consultation process, the Australian Government has released a consultation paper to seek the input of interested individuals and organisations on issues such as the scope of the Terms of Reference, the form of the Royal Commission, the number and type of Royal Commissioner/s and the reporting timetable for the Royal Commission.

These factors will guide the Commissioner/s in their task of examining responses to instances or allegations of child sexual abuse in the context of public and private institutions or organisations in Australia. ~ via Royal Commission website. Read more...

This is not a subject that I think warrants a soft, gentle introduction by way of friendly anecdote or witty illustration so I’ll blunder right in. Whatever the Terms of Reference this Commission settles upon, all Churches, religious organisations etc should do their utmost to be proactive and supportive. That the situation in Australia has come to the point where a Royal Commission is necessary means, in part, that that the Church is already behind.

This is something that evangelicals, in particular (as they my “tribe”), need to ensure they are not obstructive and defensive about. From my experience in Sydney Churches I’m confident that the majority will not wait for an official investigation to make enquiries. In fact we probably already have stringent processes in place. However, the Commission should be an urgent prompt to update processes and educate and orient everyone in the Church, not just paid staff.

The recent discussions in NSW State Parliament about confessional confidentiality as sacrosanct in Roman Catholicism ought not be dismissed lightly either. I consider pastoral confidence one of the highest responsibilities I hold as a gospel minister. However, I am in full agreement with our politicians and other Church leaders, that a report of child abuse must be responded to exactly the same as it ought to be in any other context. The Church should not be a hiding place for abusers.

Mine is a barely audible voice in the Sydney Evangelical scene. I am sure there are others who will weigh into this more persuasively and eloquently (late edit: CPX & InFocus have already done so). I hope that as they do, we can form a genuine and serious consensus that provides more than just protection of our children. We need to more than respond and react. We need to actively contribute to their thriving and flourishing. Anything else falls short of Jesus own standard and example.

 
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Posted by on 20/11/2012 in Family, leadership

 

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How can Australian Churches help orphans more?

Adoption has been practiced in almost every country and culture throughout history. Still today there are millions of children all over the world needing shelter, health services, education and a primary carer/family. However, you could be forgiven if you thought there was an anti-adoption culture within Australia. The use of adoption in jokes are still commonplace – Why is your brother so strange/odd/etc? He’s adopted! When couples cannot have children by natural conception, they are encouraged vigorously to pursue IVF and GIFT programs and in some cases can get government funding to aid them. Adoption is usually regarded as a last, desperate resort to have or extend a family. When some notice that an adopted child was adopted into a friends family it is spoken of in hushed embarrassed tones as though it is a dreaded, shameful sin that dare not speak its name. Adoptive couples are often bailed up by strangers with rude, intrusive questions and comments, like: Oh! So, you couldn’t have your own then?! For some reason, there are some people that assume normal social decorum and decency no longer apply. In the case of an interracial family strangers behave even bolder: Where were they born? What happened to the mother? Did they suffer in the orphanage? Adoptive parents soon learn how to deflect these novice paparazzi, mostly with gentle humor, but sometimes it gets a little much and the reply might be as curt and rude as the original question.

Historically, Australia’s involvement in adoption and orphan care (particularly interracial) hasn’t always had a healthy or positive outcome for the children, their biological families or the adoptive families. Recent moves at federal level, supported by private initiatives such as National Adoption Awareness Week are seeking to improve upon this by promoting a positive approach to adoption. This not only provides education to adoptive parents to help them learn about the factors of abandonment, attachment and identity of the child but also extends to, where possible, support for the biological families of the children. We have a long way to go, but as they say, you have to start somewhere.

Adoption and orphan care is far to complex to resolve in a simple blog post. However, what I would like you to consider is, how can Australian Christians and Churches become more interested, involved and committed to orphan care. Adoption is an wonderful and amazing picture of how God has brought us into his family. If anyone can understand the beauty of adoption, surely it is the bible believing evangelical Christian? Perhaps it is an education and awareness issue. Perhaps, in part, it stems from a reaction to the efforts of various social and welfare groups, that due to their focus on serving the community by way of providing aid, comfort and help to ease temporal suffering, the gospel message of Jesus has been diluted and in many cases dissolved completely. After all, they reason, what good is accomplished if you give a homeless person a bed for the night if they later die anyway and spend eternity in the torments of hell? I once had this exact attitude. When working in Africa as a Bible Teacher and Church Planter I became callous and cynical to the requests for medical aid, touting that, “I’d rather preach the gospel to them than give them chloroquine so they can be relieved of malaria symptoms and die later and go to hell.” Yet, as a wiser, older Christian pointed out to me when making my progress (!) reports later, “If you had given them medicine they might have lived longer to hear and respond to the gospel.” I had completely missed the point of mercy and welfare. I was no different to the arrogant, unloving priest and Levite, that crossed to the other side of the road so I wouldn’t be tainted by those I esteemed worse off than I.

Attitudes like this deaden our concern for children at risk, vulnerable to illness and disease and the orphaned in need of compassion, care, love, nurture, healing and restoration. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that if you preach the gospel correctly you are going to be accused of heresy, licentiousness and lawlessness. (Commentary on Romans 6, ch1) Likewise, I would contend that a proper proclamation and application of the gospel by living a life of extravagant service and generosity, such as poverty relief and care of children, will result in accusations of diluting or neglecting the gospel in favour of social action.

If you have a genuine commitment to the gospel wouldn’t you will relish the opportunity to reenact the redemption and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ even it meant taking the risk that some might accuse you of wrong motives?

Mistreatment of vulnerable children was tantamount to the grossest of sins in the Old Testament. It belied a selfish, hateful cruelty that contradicted God’s character, justice, mercy, love and compassion. Describing genuine faith in Christ in the New Testament, James says:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world ~ James 1:27

A fair-dinkum commitment to the gospel, one that is theologically robust and historically orthodox, will be evident in our Churches when we have Christians, who are confident in God’s love for them and are compelled to love others. This is no more evident than when that love is manifest in the protection and nurture of orphans and vulnerable children. Our response needs to go well beyond a token Child Sponsorship or putting Christmas Gifts in a shoebox once a year. Don’t stop doing those things, but do realise that genuine orphan care goes considerably beyond that. How would your Church react, for instance, if a couple who were active members shared their wish to extend or start their family via adoption? Could you conceive that family being supported and prayed for in the same way as your favourite missionary couple off to New Guinea or Vanuatu? Could you see how assisting that couple with the exorbitant fees associated with adoption is an investment in not only caring for an orphan but also serving your brother and sister in Christ for the sake of the gospel? Adopting parents do not get any subsidy from the Government nor can they claim any fees or costs through Health Insurance. What a great way to start.

If you’re a pastor, how often do you talk about adoption? Would you consider doing a series on the doctrine of adoption that concluded with a challenge and call for families in your Church to adopt a child? There are some excellent resources to help you get started. Reclaiming Adoption (free Study Guide) and Adopted for Life are two very good ones.

Please, lets not sit back any longer, lets step forward and lead by example. How, where and when can you respond?

Note: Albert is a husband, adoptive Dad and Pastor of an independent non-denominational Church in Sydney. He has previously served as a volunteer in association with National Adoption Awareness in Australia supporting and promoting adoption awareness and education programs in the Sydney region.

Post Edit Comment: This article was written before the proposal for an Australian Royal Commission into Child Abuse amongst the Catholic Church. That is something that should be welcomed by any Church & Faith Community as an opportunity to protect our children. The Church should lead the way in the care, nurture and flourishing of our children. It is abominable to think she has not. All Christians and Churches should be on the front foot and take steps to cooperate with the Commission and put all possible processes in place for the flourishing of all children.

 
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Posted by on 18/11/2012 in church, Culture, Family

 

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Maybe Because by Aimee Garcia-Tice

A new Australian Children’s book about adoption from the perspective of “the best boy in the whole wide world” was launched in Sydney in 2010 at the same time as National Adoption Awareness Week that year.

There is a huge gap in positive adoption stories here in Australia so Aimee Garcia-Tice and Serena Geddes have provided a great resource for kids and families to start and encourage the adoption conversation. But it need not be restricted to adoptive families as it is, simply, a great little kids book full of adventure and imagination. Grab a copy from The Book Depository or Amazon for your kids!

NB: illustration linked from best little boys website.

 

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An Adoptee Investing in Champions

National Adoption Awareness Week in Australia kicks off today, November 11. Recent discussions surrounding adoption often centre on the struggle of adoptive parents to start or extend their family. However, much more needs to be done to invest with empathy and care for all parties involved in an adoption, particularly the birth parents (especially the mum) and child. This week I’ll post some blog articles dealing with these aspects of adoption.

All children need time and maturity to process and reflect upon the experiences that contribute to their character. How a child of 6 answers a question differs greatly to when they are 26 or 46. Investing in our children, adopted, biological, fostered or wards of the state, with the tools to build and own their identity as confident, fulfilled adults is a prime concern of any parent or guardian. A commitment to the best and highest interests of the child is a commitment to the future of our culture and society. We debate the best way to go about that. Often those debates are charged with intense anger and grief, much of which remains to be addressed justly and compassionately. In this post, I want to introduce you to an adult adoptee and let you hear his side of the story.

Troy Matthews, or Dr. Matthews as he is better known today, was Dean of Students at my Bible College and was also Associate Pastor at my church in 1989/90. Troy was adopted at birth and always spoke openly, positively and generously about his experience. Although I was only 17 years old when I was one of his students and not really thinking about my future family too much at the time, his example influenced me significantly when the time came that my wife and I were considering adopting. His story continues to influence how I talk to my daughter about her adoption.

There are some heart-breaking stories of cases where adoption hasn’t been approached sensitively or lovingly (towards both the child and the birth parents). Unfortunately, some of those stories get a little more air time than the great majority of ones where children and families flourish through their experience with adoption. Troy is a fantastic example of a man who not only flourished, but is now helping others flourish also.

Together for Adoption recently published Troy’s story:

Troy was born to a young mother in Snyder, Texas, and because of the closed adoption he doesn’t know much more than that about his fraternal parents. Simultaneously to this woman’s pregnancy, a young couple had battled several miscarriages and were urged by a local pastor in Snyder to consider adoption – particularly the adoption of Troy. They quickly realized that this was their “gift from God.”

Today, Troy puts it in his own words, “They were his gift from God.” …

Dr. Matthews is now a professor of “Contemporary Issues”, a course required by all majors at Liberty. The subject matter directly approaches one’s world view – affirming a Biblical world view and also applying it. Topics such as adoption, abortion, and a Christian’s moral responsibility to such topics and understanding of absolute truth’s found in Scripture. These courses are designed to affirm a believers responsibility to the world around them.

If you’re in Australia and considering investing in adoption, National Adoption Awareness Week can give you the starting point. Click on the link for your state to find out more. If you have already been involved with Adoption there are many opportunities for networking and support with other families and adoptees.

USA readers can check out the links on the Together for Adoption site and Karen’s Adoption Links has information for other countries.

Troy is “a champion, … reinvesting in others to be young champions as well. – just as (he) was invested in.” How are you investing in children and their families?

 
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Posted by on 11/11/2012 in church, Culture, Family

 

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Same Sex Marriage: Slippery Slope or Uphill Battle?

Slippery Slopes

Slippery Slopes (Photo credit: Kevin Saff)

I was one of those kids at the local park that always insisted on walking up the slippery dip (or slip-n-slide) the wrong way. I had a great sense of accomplishment when I negotiated the slippery surface all the way to the top instead of going around the other side and using the ladder. And of course, once I got to the top, I would whoosh back down again with vigour only to repeat it ad nauseam.

In debate and rhetoric a slippery slope is often condemned as a unreasonable form of argument that assumes every small concession or compromise leads to disastrous worst case conclusions. The problem with that condemnation is that it is one of those self defeating or self contradicting rebuttals. Because not all slippery slope arguments are irrational conspiracy nut rants. Some have valid concerns. The challenge is to uncover which. We can’t do that without recognition and ownership of our bias when entering the argument and we can’t do that without giving the time and opportunity to both sides to engage, explain and defend their point.

Such is not the case in the same sex marriage debate in Australia or elsewhere in the West it seems. When someone with conservative, call them traditional or whatever, views on marriage remaining as an exclusive legal covenant between one man and one woman raises their objections they are summarily dismissed as irrelevant, dinosaurs and bigots. *sniff sniff* smells like a slippery slope argument to me… Anyway, when one of the questions asked by the traditionalists opens up the matter of how far do the changes to marriage laws go, they are shouted down for being fear mongers. It is a slippery slope, say they, to suggest that gay marriage will open the door to polygamy, bestiality, incest and pedophilia (however the last 3 are a completely different category & I do not agree they are by any means natural, necessary or by any stretch, logical next steps from gay or polyamourous relationships between consenting adults). We just want our equal human rights, they say.

Whether it be a slippery slope or a daisy chain, can those of you in the ‘LG’ of the ‘LGBT’ community please explain why ‘LG’ (at least those defining marriage as 1:1) have a superior claim to these rights above the ‘BT’ (who may not, potentially, define it as strictly)? Can you do it in a reasonable, civil tone without name calling and unnecessary derision? Demonstrate that the slippery slope is, in this case, a fallacy. If you can put aside your ad hominem taunts against my so-called puritanical, dinosaur-like traditionalism and engage the issue, some clarity may emerge. After all, if we all lined up at the ladder instead of climbing up the slippery slide, everyone would get an equal turn.

 
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Posted by on 19/09/2012 in Culture, marriage

 

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