The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continues its work in Newcastle as this issue of Essentials is being prepared. All dioceses of Australia have been affected by the Commission and its requests for information and its public hearings.  It is painful to hear how the Lord’s sheep have been so badly abused and mistreated. As well some feel as though it has “sucked the oxygen out” of the leadership of the church.

There is a strong motivation to retreat from it all. Not to hear any more reports. To retreat to whatever spiritual comfort zone we prefer and get on with an un-engagement with the bad world out there.

Child abuse is not the only stress point for us. The ongoing debates about marriage, sexuality and, more so now, gender add further motivation to keep our heads down. What seemed to be a simple matter of redefining marriage turns out to be part of a much larger social reconstruction of identity and human relationships. Where did this come from some of us ask? And what do we do with it?

In this issue we have some helpful examples of how to apply the scriptures to these issues. It is encouraging that applying the scriptures is still a good idea. More than a good idea. We should expect that the Creator who has revealed himself in word and deed, and spoken by his Son, should have provided sufficient revelation for us to be able understand how to respond to these changes.

But it is apparent that applying the scriptures is not always a simple matter. This is partly because often “the issue is not the issue”. That is why thoughtful analyses of the issues, such as we have in this Issue of Essentials, needs to go hand in hand with applying the scriptures.

Although it feels that we are reacting in these debates, they are also exposing open doors for the gospel as they reveal how some people are thinking. It may look a lot like Romans 1 but Romans 3 still describes what God can do. And wants to do. And is doing. Through disciples who have the scriptures and the Spirit.

Dale Appleby