Moderator's Comments - Posted 1 December 2016

Everywhere around us, in shopping centres, on city streets and lavishly decorated private homes, it’s unmistakably Christmas. It’s a season that brings change to our routine, sounds of summer sport, family meals and holidays.

When Christmas fatigue sets in – remember the King. When we begin to slip too easily into thinking it’s Groundhog Day – remember the King who came to stay.

During this last month, have we ever spoken so much about American politics as we have? Whether President-elect Trump will make good on any of his promises remains to be seen. We certainly pray that he will do good, and not harm. But I reflect a moment on how certain past-Presidents do good in the world.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 29 October 2016

Light trumps darkness

Reformation trumps Halloween. In fact it’s no contest.

For reasons unclear to me we’re being enticed by a dark festival of American origins that brings stocks of evil and bizarre to shelves where weeks before fresh food or other cheery merchandise sat. In supermarkets and $2 shops throughout Australia, the dark, the gruesome, the macabre and the scary hold sway.

Why witches hats, ghoulish masks and spider webs? As if swinging with the breeze, parents bend to accommodate this strange festival, children are attracted to it and society is the worse for it.

By strange coincidence, the same weekend as Halloween, the Presbyterian Church of Australia celebrates light.

The triennial meeting of the General Assembly of Australia testified to our fundamental unity around the truth of God’s Word and the power of Christ’s gospel. It’s time to reflect and review a most excellent week. A flood of memories rise – highlights being:

  • We engaged in theological debate as to the merit of retaining the words “contained in” within PCA ordination vows. Currently, the first question is: “Do you believe the Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the only rule of faith and practice?” It was argued that omitting these two words would save having to explain to others what we mean by “contained in”. Historically, the words have meant “bounded by” – that if a person wants to find the Word of God written, they must look to the Old and New Testaments and not to any other sources. Some, however, have argued that “contained in” means that the Bible also contains things that are not the Word of God. The debate now passes down to state assemblies and presbyteries under the Barrier Act.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 17 September 2016

Wednesday evening saw the reaffirmation of the Presbyterian Church of Australia’s resolute commitment to uphold the biblical and traditional view of marriage. The Presbyterian Church has always believed and still believes that marriage is the lifelong union of one man with one woman, voluntarily entered into, excluding all others.

Through informed and thorough theological debate, the Church demonstrated that it has not moved from its historic position or the commitments expressed in 2013.

This week, the church strengthened its position by declaring that it cannot allow its ministers to conduct celebrations of same sex marriage.

The church went even further this time. It debated the point at which it should withdraw as a denomination from cooperating with the state in celebrating and registering marriages under the Marriage Act. The major alternatives were: at the moment the Marriage Act is redefined to include same-sex marriages (if it is changed), OR, at a later point – yet to be determined – when we are forced by legislation to conduct same-sex marriage. The church chose the second option.

The Presbyterian Church has been at the forefront of the spiritual battle in Australia to uphold and preserve the biblical and traditional view of marriage. It has been resolute in its opposition to same-sex marriage. The church maintains that while God provides forgiveness of, and redemption from, all sin through Christ, he condemns homosexual behaviour, along with all other forms of sin.

For the sake of transparency, we held the debate in public. We took the risk that our debate might be disrupted or our decisions misreported. Sadly, an online article was published without consultation by Eternity News on Thursday morning that placed our position in a different light.

 

Rev John P Wilson
Moderator-General
Presbyterian Church of Australia

 

This is my last column for the website. At the General Assembly of Australia I will report on the state of the denomination, as I see it. Maxine and I are very grateful for the warm reception we have received in each state. I have 5 observations to make, 3 surprises to share and 3 challenges for the church. Here are my remarks:

Observations:

1.  The healthy state of our 3 Theological Colleges. Under the leadership of Peter Hastie in Melbourne, Ian smith in Sydney, and Garry Millar in Brisbane, the Colleges continue to attract and equip fine candidates for ministry. In years past the theological battleground was fought over what we believe about the Bible and about the Lord Jesus Christ. The battle never ceases, and as long as we have an enemy who either destroys or distorts, it never will. The battle these days is over the content of the gospel and particularly the central doctrine of Justification.

This truth,that in Christ by faith, the Christian is reckoned by God with a righteous standing, as if he or she had kept God's law perfectly. This reckoning and declaration of righteousness is the unchanging declaration of God the Judge, and is made on the basis of Christ's life, death and resurrection. He kept the law perfectly and He dies to pay the penalty of broken law. We can be certain in our relationship with God, my sin will never accuse me and sin, though present, has been dethroned because of what Jesus has done. Each of our Colleges affirms this vital truth and is worthy of our confidence. BUT REMEMBER IN YOUR PRAYERS THAT THIS BATTLE NEVER CEASES.