Moderator's Comments - Posted February 2017

Journalist Paul McGeough writes: ‘Trump joins the parade of strongmen’. He was referring of course to other world leaders particularly of Russia, North Korea, Philippines and China. We’re hearing fresh reports every day of outbursts, breath-taking indulgence and bold reforms … reports difficult to figure out. It’s a new form of sabre-rattling, a social sabre-rattling.

McGeough continues: ‘Trump is all over the place, a bit right, a bit left; more opportunistic than he is idealist; more instinctive than considered.’ Like most of us, I assume, I find myself intrigued by the latest Trumpism, oscillating between grimacing and nodding, unsure whether this is leadership or bullying.

Fears rise within when we see world leaders from the far right coming to power and threatening to assert themselves and bask in the glory of their achievements. What times are we living in? Are these extraordinary times or is this how it’s always been?

Fears rise also when we see national leaders from the far left hell-bent on bringing down a controlling and intolerant liberal agenda on our society. One recent example comes to mind. Our Victorian parliament, although with wings clipped late last year, will no doubt go on with their program of social engineering – trying to monster the Christian schooling movement to restrict who they may employ. What times are we living in? Are these extraordinary times or is this how it’s always been?

Are we powerless? Is it wrong to fear? What is a Christian response?

Far right bullying, far left intolerance, the parade of strongmen … but what does it matter? God rules.

Reading the book of Daniel, I’m reminded of that ancient king of Persia, King Nebuchadnezzar, walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, proudly surveying his magnificence. He boasted: ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built … by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’ We can hear his self-indulgence, sense his grandstanding, see his puffed chest. Is there anyone more magnificent than the King of Babylon? Could anything threaten his great empire?

But wait … there’s a brick in there.

Recently, in London, Paula and I stood in front of an ordinary glass cabinet in Room 55 of the British Museum. This Museum displays the greatest collection of world history ever housed in one building. Realising that treasures such as half the sculptures of the Greek Parthenon are housed there, what’s so interesting about this plain-looking cabinet?

There’s a brick in there!

It’s one of King Nebuchadezzar’s royal residence bricks – it even has his name inscribed on it as every brick did that he used to build grand Babylon, 600BC. Nebuchadnezzar’s royal palace, built to impress world leaders, is in pieces and one of the pieces is in a glass cabinet in London. His impregnable city, built to threaten the world, has crumbled and most of the fragments lie buried in Iraq.

Trump’s kingdom … Putin’s, Kim’s … will all crumble and be no more. What part of Trump’s Mexican border-wall will be on display in a glass cabinet one day? What scrappy piece of paper with a fragment of Andrews’ legislation will be on display in the Victorian government’s archive one day?

I’m sure that each of today’s government will leave a legacy, much good, much evil. But let’s not sit back and leave it to them. What kind of legacy they leave will, in fact, depend just as much on us as it depends on them … on what we allow them to do.

Let’s not sit back in fear and nervous silence. Let’s get involved. Let’s be the voice of a 21st century Daniel – who interpreted God’s prophecy and spoke into the day.

Quietly, you can make a difference as individuals. God rules, but remember that he rules through people. I recall C H Spurgeon’s saying: ‘Remember that Omnipotence has servants everywhere’. Are you one of those servants?

Remember the hand of God. Here in Victoria, in the lead-up to Christmas, the first block to the Andrews far left program was seen with a 19:19 tied vote at the last post (Upper House). The whole agenda blocked by one vote delivered at the last possible moment.

Our Sovereign Lord is at work in his power. Never doubt the usefulness of personal conversations with MPs, written submissions (which were read out in the debates) and your personal presence in parliamentary galleries.

Collectively, we can make a difference. The Presbyterian Church of Australia is a great movement. Batting higher in the batting order than our size expects, we are currently making a contribution to two government inquiries. Please pray for these inquiries and for our PCA committee (under John McClean’s leadership) as this process continues.

Change is afoot in Canberra. There is movement in our parliaments. Early this year, Federal Parliament committees will be considering two substantial questions and within that process they will have two PCA submissions written by our GAA Church and Nation Committee.

  1. From the Senate: there is a Select Committee on drafting changes to the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill. Whether or not same-sex marriage is approved there are changes being made to the Act and the question of religious freedom is being examined by this Senate inquiry. Those seeking to change the Marriage Act will be using this inquiry to entrench the idea that less, not more, freedom for religion is required. Our submission makes a plea for protection of Christian freedom particularly for those ministers who are authorised celebrants and for churches hosting weddings.
  2. Originating from the other House: the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, has referred an inquiry on ‘the human right to freedom of religion to a Joint Standing Committee for examination and report to the Parliament. This wide-ranging inquiry invites the PCA to submit views on the nature and extent of violations and abuses of this right and its causes – both internationally and within Australia.

Your committee members are working diligently and faithfully year-round on our behalf as the Presbyterian Church of Australia. We are making a difference. You can make a difference too. Remember that Omnipotence has servants everywhere. Are you one of them?


John P Wilson

Moderator-General, PCA

February 2017