Moderator's Comments - Posted 24 July 2018

In the C S Lewis classic (Screwtape Letters), senior devil whispers to his apprentice: “one of our greatest allies at present is the church itself”. Screwtape is aghast that Wormwood’s patient has become a Christian, but he encourages his junior devil by saying that the church is in such a mess that “it matters very little … your patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.”

I feel sad today, and ask: Is one of the devil’s greatest allies at present the church itself?

It’s one thing to have Australian society approve of same-sex marriage, but when a church approves – it’s disturbing … and confusing. To be sure, not our church, but nevertheless a branch of the Christian church in Australia.

A week ago, the Uniting Church in Australia issued this statement: “To honour the diversity of Christian belief among our members, we will hold two equal and distinct statements of belief on marriage”:

  • that marriage is between “a man and a woman”
  • that marriage is between “two people”

And with that, for the first time in Australia, we see the introduction of same-sex wedding services within the Christian church. In announcing the decision of the UCA’s highest body (its national assembly) the expression “dual integrities” is used to explain and defend it: they see themselves as holding to dual integrities.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 1 July 2018

From Edinburgh to Lusaka: could there be a sharper cultural shift? I moved from one sister church in the mother country to another in central Africa.

I entered Zambia to be greeted with the warm embrace of a close friend. The Presbyterians in Zambia (referred to as CCAP, Zambia Synod) consider the Presbyterian Church of Australia as their most reliable and dearest sister church.

CCAP Zambia Synod emerged as the continuing branch of Presbyterianism in the 1960s. Despite plenty of coercion by President Kenneth Kaunda’s slogan: One church, one nation, this small group of Presbyterians said “NO, we cannot join the United Church of Zambia (UCZ)”. Further, “We do not see the commitment to the Word of God, the gospel, or to evangelism in this newly formed church. We continue as Presbyterians.” The year was 1965. There were 4 ordained ministers with CCAP at the beginning, now there are 80, and 3 more in training.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 1 June 2018

Jesus asked: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12).

Your Moderator-General has been doing the family thing … visiting the relatives. And, for a while, was asking the same question.

A reflection from Scotland

In 1913, my wife’s grandparents took six weeks to sail from Glasgow to Melbourne – enduring near-death experiences on the wild seas, lack of all home comfort, poor food and days of boredom. I arrived in Scotland in about 30 hours. Air travel still amazes me in that I can depart after morning worship in Melbourne, Sunday morning, and then enter into worship for the opening of a General Assembly in Scotland by 6pm Monday night.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 1 April 2018

Burying my aunt – the senior member of the Wilson clan – focussed my mind sharply. Our family met last week in a medieval Cotswolds church, and these words rang out clearly: ‘in sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead’. As we laid my aunt to rest alongside her long-deceased husband, and my grandparents, I challenged myself again as to whether I believe this and … WHY?
 
Don’t panic, the moderator is not in any doubt. But, standing in the face of a biting Oxfordshire wind, I lowered the body into the ground and tested my beliefs afresh. Why do I believe in resurrection? It’s a good thing to ask.
 
The world has never believed in it. Unbelief always resists it. Doubting resurrection is universal, though the challenge to resurrection belief changes its form and shape in each generation.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 1 March 2018

I love our political process and I love the freedom we have in Australia to engage in it. There are many places in the world where old men cling to power without regard to the people. By comparison, Australia’s democratic governance is transparent, consultative and accountable.

Mind you, it’s not always easy to understand what’s going on: is it debate or charade, argument or theatre? Last month I represented the Presbyterian Church of Australia in Canberra, pleased at how our MPs make themselves available to speak with us when we press them (admittedly, through minders at first). It’s a privilege to exchange ideas with MPs, to raise our concerns, to engage debate. The conundrum, though, is the theatre of the “bear pit”, heightened by the daily ritual of Question Time. Reasoned argument and meaningful debate are excluded from this hour and a half spectacle.