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.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 16 February 2016 (Republished 11 September 2016)

(In view of the controversy in today's paper, regarding funding of both sides for the plebiscite, we are republishing these notes from a meeting with the Prime Minister earlier this year, along with my responses. David Cook)

On Friday 12 February, at the invitation of the Australian Christian Lobby, I joined a delegation to meet Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in his Sydney office.  It was agreed that we confine our remarks to the issue of the plebiscite regarding single gender marriage which will be held, in the event of a coalition victory, soon after the next Federal election.

The issues which concerned us were:

  • The framing of the question to be answered in the plebiscite.  Would we have input into this so that it did not unfairly encourage the preferred response of either side?
  • The question of religious freedom both during and after the debate, if the plebiscite is lost.
  • If the Commonwealth was  to provide funding for campaigns, how would such funding be allocated?  The campaign in favour of single sex marriage in Ireland outspent the traditional campaign, 15 to 1.
  • When will the proposed Bill to change the Marriage Act and enable the plebiscite, be available?
  • Will the PM do all in his power to ensure equal access to media for both sides of the argument?

The PM was warm and engaging and assured us that he was interested in matters of spirituality and, “enjoys a good homily”.

Moderator's Comments - Posted 25 August 2016

On Wednesday, 24th August, I agreed to appear and be interviewed on the Bolt Report on the Sky news channel, regarding same sex marriage.

The interview was about 10 minutes of which Andrew Bolt took half that time in introducing the issue. I had much more to say, but the constraints of national media, made it impossible for me to say more than I did. I appreciated the opportunity to speak on behalf of the church and for Andrew Bolt's interest; and here is 'the more' of what I had to say, the precis of which I delivered on air.