Essentials

Book Review: Ministry Under The Microscope

Ministry Under The Microscope:
The What, Why, and How of Christian Ministry
Allan Chapple
Latimer Trust, 2018

Here is everything you need to know to set the foundations for a biblical and effective ministry. Which ministry and who ‘you’ are are discussed in the introduction. Ministry is defined broadly as what all believers do, but in fact this book is for people who are in some designated ministry role, or who think they may be called into such a role. Chapple seeks to clarify what is Christian ministry, and to do so in a broad big picture way.

The book is structured in four parts: The Basis; The Setting; The Source; The Focus of Christian Ministry. It begins with a Ministry Map which is an excellent outline of the rest of the book, and serves both as a useful summary as well as an index of particular topics. This is a very attractive arrangement. Each of the sub-sections is short and to the point and each is accompanied by a kind of side-bar called ‘Worth pondering...’  In each case this consists of a series of short quotes on the topic from a range of authors, from the Reformation to the present. Chapple suggests the book could be read through in the normal way, or it could be used as a kind of manual. It could also be used very usefully as a book for a group to study together.

Although the intended audience is those in designated ministry roles or those who might be called to such, those who have been prepared well theologically for pastoral ministry should know all this already. For them it may be a useful reference book. But more usefully I think, it could be used for teams of leaders in a church, whether lay or ordained, whether trained or not. It would be a terrific basis for in house training and encouragement. Bible study leaders, Church Councils, ministry teams could use this book together with enormous profit. The book concludes with a ‘What to do now’ chapter and a wonderful, partly notated, bibliography.

Dale Appleby, WA

Book Review: Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love

Side by Side:
Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love
Edward T. Welch
Crossway 2015

We love to help people but we’re not so keen on being helped. We want to support people in church but we don’t know what to say. We feel like it’s the job for the experts so we leave it to them. What have we to offer anyway?

Side by Side by Ed Welch is a gentle yet persuasive book about walking alongside others in love and wisdom. It prompts us to face our fears and engage in the relational struggle of others, knowing that ours is the struggle too. It’s a vital commentary about creating authentic, active community, the best kind, by walking humbly alongside others.

I first picked up this book because I wanted to learn how to help people more effectively. What I love is that it spends the first half lovingly but firmly reminding me of my need. Just like everyone else, my loving Creator seeks to refine me from the messy person that I am. The biblical reality is that we are needy people who are slow to ask for help but, in every way, the gospel tells us that we need it. And so often He uses my (lack of) dependence on others to remind me of this. Only then am I able to offer humble, patient friendship to and alongside others. After all, God’s church is served by regular, imperfect people, one to another.

From this premise, then, the second half of the book shows us how to do this, by moving towards others, connecting with hearts and not just day-to-day lives, and walking alongside people with thoughtful conversation, active prayer and by learning how to bring Scripture to bear in the joys and difficulties of life and faith.
We are so often fearful about helping people biblically or quick to get frustrated when people continue to struggle. This book affirms God’s longing to see people moving in the direction of spiritual change, however slowly. It is not about destination; it’s always about direction, moving towards Him in faith.

Every believer engaged in church community should read this book. I’d like to think that I will read it once a year, a surprising goal for someone once averse to reading Christian books!

I’m a big fan of Ed Welch: he loves God and is deeply aware and candid about his failings, whilst perceptive about the struggle of others. His style is easy to read, he offers short chapters and practical examples and gives guidance questions for discussion with others. He is often funny and heartfelt, and always honest.

We are the same. We are ordinary, flawed people and God longs to use his people to love others well, with or without a degree in theology or counselling. So this book is for all of us.

Sarah Pomphrey, WA

Divine Simplicity

Surely God is complicated. How else could he be both one and three? Or create and uphold the swirling, manifold world we inhabit? Or be both just and loving towards us? Ben Underwood investigates.

‘There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions’
(Article 1 of The 39 Articles.)

I had a good grounding at theological college in Biblical studies, Biblical languages, Biblical theology and some areas of doctrine—atonement and justification for example. But you can’t cover everything, and one of the areas in which I did not manage to get much under my belt was in the doctrine of God. In recent years I have become interested in theology proper, the quest to think about what it is for God to be God, which includes trying to talk about the being and attributes of God. It has been a perennial conviction of Christian theology that one of the unique characterisations of God is that he is simple. But the student of theology quickly discovers that divine simplicity is in many ways counter-intuitive and not easy to grasp. And yet thinking about it has repaid the effort for me, as a way into reflecting on how God is not like his creatures, but transcends them, and why he can be depended upon.

Getting a feel for the meaning of God’s simplicity

God has no parts

Simplicity is a positive term, but the concept is often conveniently stated negatively. One negative characterisation of simplicity is incompositeness. To say that God is simple means that he is without parts of any kind, whether concrete or abstract. God cannot be thought of containing anything that has its own essence or substance that is different from the essence or substance of God. No prior process produced God, and God is not the union of any things that are different to everything that he is.

God is undivided and indivisible

Another negative characterisation of God’s simplicity is to say that he is undivided and indivisible. There is no way that God can have any divisions in his being. Whatever might be in God, and whatever distinctions we might wish to make as we consider who God is, these distinctions cannot divide God into one thing and another, different thing. This means that everything that God is in himself is inseparable from everything else God is. God’s mercy is never without his justice (and vice versa), nor is the Father ever without the Son and the Spirit (and severally). Lastly, God is uncompounded and uncompoundable, which is to say that he cannot enter into composition with anything that he is not. His divinity cannot be mingled, combined or amalgamated to produce a composite thing in which God’s being is a part or factor.

God is always and everywhere all that he is

Put positively, simplicity means that God is always and everywhere wholly and only all that he is. His being, character, action is always entire, integral and perfected: never partial, never divided, never diluted, never imperfect. Here are some quotations to give you a feel for what some prominent theologians have said in defining God as simple:

‘He is simple, non-composite, not made up of different members, altogether like and equal to himself, because he is wholly intellect, wholly spirit, wholly mind, wholly thought, wholly reason, wholly hearing, wholly seeing, wholly light, and the whole source of all that is good’
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies II.13.3-4)

‘God is in no way composite. Rather, he is entirely simple’ (Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a 3.7)

‘God cannot enter into composition with anything in any way’  (Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a 3.8)

‘The essence of God is simple and undivided, and he contains all in himself, without portion or derivation, but in integral perfection’. (Calvin, Institutes, 1.XIII.2)

‘…in all He is and does, He is wholly and undividedly Himself. At no time or place is He composed out of what is distinct from himself. At no time or place, then, is He divided or divisible.’ (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.1 p. 445)

“God is simple without the least possibility of either internal or external composition.’  (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.1 p. 447)

So as an initial statement of the simplicity of God we say that he is one undivided and indivisible wholeness, he is not composed of distinct parts of any kind, and any way of talking about God that entails that he is composed of distinct parts, or is, or could be, the product of, or participant in, any kind of process of composition cannot be true.

Everything in God is God

An extension of this positive characterisation of the simplicity of God to introduce is to say that God’s simplicity means that everything in God is God—so that if there is divine goodness in God, it is not a part of God, but God’s goodness is the whole of God without remainder. God is his goodness, and God’s goodness is his whole divine being. You cannot discover some part of God which is not wholly and utterly his goodness. Further, if God has goodness, his goodness is not a sharing or exemplification of an abstract virtue of goodness that exists apart from and somehow beyond God’s being, but that the divine goodness that God has is nothing but his entire divine being. This way of expressing the simplicity of God may also be put thus: that God is what he has.

‘the nature of the Trinity is called simple […] because it is not something different from what it has’ (Augustine, City of God, XI.10)

This leads to a counter-intuitive, not to say paradoxical, characteristic of divine simplicity, sometimes called the identity thesis, namely that all God’s essential attributes are each identical with the whole being of God, and that in God these attributes are identical with one another. For if, as Irenaeus puts it, God is ‘wholly intellect, wholly spirit, wholly mind, wholly thought, wholly reason, wholly hearing, wholly seeing, wholly light, and the whole source of all that is good’, then God’s intellect and God’s spiritual nature, his seeing and his being the whole source of all goodness coincide with his entire being and therefore, presumably, with one another. God’s simplicity means self-identicality: that while we may speak about God’s mercy and distinguish it from his righteousness, God’s simplicity is that he is identical with all the attributes of his being, and these attributes are all identical with one another, so that in the being of God, his mercy is identical with his righteousness and with the whole being of God. As Irenaeus says, ‘He is […] altogether like and equal to himself’. Here are some further expressions of this conviction:

‘But we indeed use many different words concerning God, in order to bring out that he is great, good, wise, blessed true, and whatever else he may be called that is not unworthy of him. But his greatness is the same as his wisdom, for he is great not by bulk, but by power. Similarly, his goodness is the same as his wisdom and greatness; and his truth is the same as all these qualities. And in him it is not one thing to be blessed, and another thing to be great, or to be wise, or to be true, or to be good, or in a word to be himself.’ (Augustine, The Trinity, VI.7.)

‘for God to be is the same as to be strong, or to be just or to be wise, and to be whatever else you may say of that simple multiplicity, or that multiple simplicity, whereby his substance is signified.’  (Augustine, The Trinity, VI.4.)

‘God, who, as I have said, is not composed of matter and form, is identical with his own divinity, his own life, and with whatever else is similarly predicated of him’ (Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a 3.3)

‘Our doctrine therefore means that every individual perfection in God is nothing but God Himself and therefore nothing but every other divine perfection. It means equally strictly on the other hand that God Himself is nothing other than each one of His perfections in its individuality, and that each individual perfection is identical with every other and with the fulness of them all.’  (Karl Barth, CD II.2 p. 333).

Why would we believe that God is simple in this way?

Simplicity is not a biblical term, and the Bible does not say directly that God is without parts. We might feel that this doctrine is a dangerous philosophical imposition upon our theology, a humanly conceived notion about God, and not a divinely revealed one. Here are a couple of reasons why Christians might think it right to believe that God is simple: 

God is one

‘ Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ Deut 6:4

‘…for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.’ 1 Cor 8:6

That God is one means that he is unique—there is no one like him, and there is no other God beside him, he alone is the Most High. But that God is one means also that there is a fundamental unity to his being, an integrity and coherence that means he is not and cannot be divided, or conflicted by rival elements of his nature, or at risk of coming apart. God’s simplicity is then an exposition of God’s unity. The simpler something is, the fewer divisions and distinctions it has, the more it is truly one thing. If God is truly and really one, absolutely one, he will be simple, indeed he will be absolutely simple.

 God is the creator of all things

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ Genesis 1:1

‘For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.’ Romans 11:36

If God is the one through whom all things come, then there is nothing prior to God in any way. If God had distinct parts, these parts could not have come from him. They would be things that are not God, yet which did not come from God. If God is the creator of all that is not himself, there are and can be no such things. Therefore God is without parts, he is simple, and not the product of a process of composition by participation in prior possibilities, or union of distinct parts. He does not acquire or exemplify something independent of himself to become what he is.

What does a careful doctrine of divine simplicity have to take into account?

The basic drive of the idea of God’s simplicity is to unify, simplify and remove anything that might entail division, composition or separable parts in the being of God. In this way, simplicity is like a theological force of gravity—it seeks to pull everything about God’s being together and make it one indivisible, partless thing, a divine singularity. This connects well with the thought that God is immutable, impassible, eternal and absolute. It does not cohere so obviously with the idea that there may be distinctions to be made as we talk about the being of God, such as that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or that he is wise and loving, righteous and patient, or that his works are free and diverse and that his dealings with his creatures are various, or that ‘the Word became flesh’ (John 1:14). These Christian convictions introduce a different drive into the doctrine of God—the drive to distinguish and account for the multiplicity that seems necessary to understand the God of the Bible. Trinitarian distinctions must be made, for the Father is not the Son nor the Spirit (and severally); distinctions must be made to account for the various qualities attributed to God in Scripture; distinctions must be made so as to understand God’s will to create thus and not so, to judge thus and not so, to save thus and not so.

This drive to make such distinctions, to include difference and plurality in our doctrine of God, presses out, countering the collapse, under the gravity of unqualified simplicity, of God’s being into a kind of black hole, where even the things that Scripture says about God’s many and various attributes and works lie on our side of a kind of theological event horizon, but what lies beyond the event horizon, what God is in himself, in the ultimate simplicity of the divine singularity, this is unknown and unknowable, utterly disconnected even from the ways Scripture speaks of God.

We can illustrate the consciousness that multiplicity does have its place in our understanding of God, and that God’s simple oneness does not preclude manifoldness via some further quotations:

‘for God to be is the same as to be strong, or to be just or to be wise, and to be whatever else you may say of that simple multiplicity, or that multiple simplicity, whereby his substance is signified.’  (Augustine, The Trinity, VI.4. Italics mine.)

‘He is one in an unchanging and transcendent way. He is not one part of a plurality not yet a total of parts. Indeed his oneness is not of this kind at all, for he does not share in unity, nor have it for his possession. Rather, he is one in a manner completely different from all this. He transcends the unity which is in beings. He is indivisible multiplicity, the unfilled overfullness which produces, perfects, and preserves all unity and all multiplicity.’ (Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names, II.11. Italics mine.)

‘The essence of God is simple and undivided, and he contains all in himself, without portion or derivation, but in integral perfection’.  (Calvin, Institutes, 1.XIII.2. Italics mine.)

‘we have Dionysius saying that, “God pre-contains in one all existing things” […] the perfections of everything exist in God.’ (Aquinas, ST 1a 4.2).

‘Things that are diverse and opposite in themselves pre-exist as one in God without detriment to his simplicity’  (Aquinas, ST 1a 4.2).

God’s simplicity should not be understood as a bare, elemental featurelessness, but as the name of the way God’s being transcendently includes, unifies and integrates all that it means for him to be the glorious God of many perfections and diverse works, yet without any tension, division or complexity.

To come this far by no means makes plain and readily understood what God’s simplicity really is. God’s simplicity is not simple, that is, it is not comprehensible to us. How God’s wisdom and his power can be the same in him; how ‘things diverse and opposite can pre-exist in God without detriment to his simplicity’—these are not necessarily things we can imagine. But thinking about what it must mean for God to be one, for God to be the creator, we come to believe that these counter-intuitive things follow nonetheless.

What comfort and what challenge is the doctrine of God’s simplicity?

We might wonder if to believe that God is simple has any consequence for living, or whether it is sheer theological frippery. Let me offer one comfort and one challenge that seems to me to flow from the conviction of God’s simplicity.

God’s simplicity is his trustworthiness

One of the most-repeated truths about God we read in the Bible is that he is trustworthy and true, he is faithful, he can be relied upon. And I suggest that God’s simplicity and God’s trustworthiness are really two sides of the same coin (here following Karl Barth as he writes in CD II.1 pp. 458ff). For if God were a union of parts, if he were divided or divisible, then there would be separate elements in God that would need to be integrated—elements which would then moderate one another—for God to be who he is. If, for example, his righteousness is not in the end inseparable from and identical to his love, but if at some level they are separable things, attributes of God put together or interacting, they might be in some tension with one another. Then God is not one, not wholly aligned on every level in himself in all that he is. Then things could possibly shift in God: be rebalanced and redistributed, rearticulated and restructured, reconfiguring the way his love and righteousness exist within him and therefore towards us. Then he may come to speak a different word to us, and that shifting in God will mean he is not the Rock who is the same yesterday and today and forever, and may not be relied on as such. But if God is understood as simple, and his love and righteousness (for example) are not competing and different aspects of his being, but are in the end inseparably and wholly contained in one another, and coincident, individually and together, with the whole being of God, then God will of course express his love and righteousness as the single, whole movement which is his entire being, and thus he will be faithful, constant, trustworthy.

God’s simplicity calls for our simplicity

The perfection of God’s wholly-integrated, single, constant, uncomplicated nature is something divine, something holy, which is to be praised and, to the degree that we may, in the Spirit’s power, emulate his holiness, to be imitated. The Greek word haplotes (meaningsimplicity, purity of motive, integrity, sincerity) is commended to believers as a quality that should characterise our devotion to Christ and our dealings with one another (e.g. 2 Cor 11:3 and 1:12). While as creatures we will always be composite in our beings, we can strive in our hearts and wills for simplicity, for straightforwardness, integrity, purity, constancy and trustworthiness; and we can seek to avoid duplicity, contradiction, contrariness and caprice as unworthy of those who belong to God.

Further reading

The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss by David Bentley Hart has a section on divine simplicity in its wider concern with the doctrine of God.

James E. Dolezal has written two books, first, God Without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God's Absoluteness which focusses on divine simplicity, and followed up by All that is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism, which critiques modern evangelicalism from within over the nature of God.

Two recent, quality monographs on simplicity are Divine Simplicity: A Biblical and Trinitarian Account by Jordan P. Barrett and Divine Simplicity: A Dogmatic Account by Steven J. Duby.

Book Review: Is God Green?

Is God Green?
Lionel Windsor
Matthias Media, 2018

Most Christian commentary on caring for the environment leaves me completely cold. I just can’t seem to muster up the motivation that other people have to ‘live sustainably’. There, I said it out loud.

The topic often makes me feel enormously guilty for my pathetic failures - I keep forgetting my Keep Cup and reusable bags, I haven’t done enough research into what products I buy that have microbeads ruining the oceans, and yes I know I shouldn’t duck to the shops in my petrol guzzling car to pick up dinner (that probably comes in too much plastic packaging) but I excuse myself by claiming that I just don’t have enough time to do better because I’m a busy mum who is just trying to get through the day. Too much mental load, people! Am I the only one who feels like this? I suspect not.

There are many different ways that people try to motivate others to care for the environment. Guilt crushing burdening, self-righteous virtue-signalling, judgmental finger-pointing, and fear-inducing end times hysteria are common methods. And what is frustrating is that many Christians seem to employ those exact same methods!

After one particularly annoying ‘Christian’ talk on caring for the environment with no mention of Jesus which left me and the audience feeling completely guilty and burdened, I was so worked up that I decided to write a book about the topic.

Then I discovered Is God Green? by Lionel Windsor. Lionel has heaps more street cred than me, having been an engineer in solar cell research, and now a lecturer in New Testament at Moore College, so I’m pleased, for everyone’s sake, that this is the book that got published.

Is God Green? is a very short book (60+ pages) which started off as a set of talks to University students. It is clear and simple, with a straight forward look at the topic of the environment through the lens of Biblical Theology. In 6 short chapters he looks at creation in the beginning, the fall, the cross, the future and what to do while we wait for the end of the world.

Finally, here’s a book that shows how the gospel changes people, which is what can then in turn make a difference to the world and its environmental problems. Finally here’s a book that handles the Bible well and shows how the whole of God’s salvation plan affects how we are to care for the environment. Finally here’s a book that is not guilt inducing nor encouraging self-righteous behaviour. What a breath of fresh air.

His thesis is that when we submit to Jesus he restores us to our rightful place as God’s image bearers, who rule the world under him (p.42). As Christians we put off the old self, and put on the new (Colossians 3:5-10) which means we will put off greed and selfishness, and put on love and service. This will therefore have an impact on all the decisions we make that impact the environment.

‘Will that make a difference to the world? Of course it will! You can’t save the world - that’s Jesus’ job. But you can make a difference, because you can live as an heir of this world, rescued from death, renewed in God’s image, ruling under God.’ (p.46)

Those familiar with the Two Ways to Live gospel outline will recognise much of the language Windsor uses (God being our ruler, and God giving us responsibility to rule the world under him). If I had to give one tiny criticism, this language tends to make the book a touch predictable. But maybe that’s just me.

It would be a great book to give to young Christians, or confused Christians or enquiring non-Christians with an interest in the environment. I’ve bought a stack of copies to give away. Or maybe it’s better to buy it in e-book format—saves paper. One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely a book with a message that our world needs.

Michelle Underwood, WA

Bringing the gospel to the nations in the North West

The wild, wide open spaces of the north of Western Australia make a big impression. Eugenie Harris sends us a postcard from the Diocese of North West Australia.

Arriving in the Diocese of the North West, my first impression was of ‘Australia on steroids’. Everything seems extreme. We’ve got the busiest port, the hottest town, most isolated community, most dramatic gorges…and the list goes on, because the region effectively powers our nation.
This vast land area draws people from all over the world, people chasing their fortune, pursuing travel experiences or escaping unhappy life circumstances. And the Diocese of the North West welcomes them all, taking every opportunity to proclaim the good news of Jesus. We are truly ‘bringing the gospel to the nations’.

The Diocese—two million square kilometres and probably the biggest single land-based diocese in the world—was formed in 1910 as a ‘missionary diocese’. The first bishop was expected to fund his own position and the costs of his own administration. Consequently, the funds needed to fully ‘endow’ the new diocese never eventuated. Still today, the bishop is expected to fundraise for his own position and, with mostly small church congregations, the Diocese relies upon financial support from partners elsewhere for our church ministry.

The Anglican Church here is evangelical and stands on the shoulders of former bishops—most recently Bishop Tony Nichols and Bishop David Mulready. These men, along with the current Bishop Gary Nelson, have worked faithfully and tirelessly to recruit ministers who are gospel-focused, theologically-trained, Jesus-loving servants of the Word. No matter which church you enter, you will hear the Word preached faithfully, you’ll be invited to join a Bible study and pray, and you’ll be encouraged to trust the Lord Jesus and be equipped to serve him.

Though most of our congregations at any point in time remain small and poorly resourced, our mission reach is large. The communities are so transient that it’s common for the whole congregation to turn over within a couple of years. (Regular ministries are hard to sustain.) However, in this way, God has given us the privilege of sowing seeds for the kingdom which we pray and trust bear fruit elsewhere. If all the people who have been blessed by the ministry of this diocese stood shoulder to shoulder, there would be a great gathering.

Belinda would be among the crowd. As a young teacher in the outback, her closest Christian minister lived six hours away. Once a month he would arrive by motorbike, run a service for a couple of people and spend the night in a swag on the church floor. It was in the days before the internet and cheap communication, and this faithfulness spoke volumes to her. She credits this precious Christian fellowship with helping her persevere in the faith and endure the isolation.

Why, I wonder, is it so hard to recruit ministers to the North West? There are always churches without a minister, often for long periods of time. Former Bishop Tony reckoned he’d make 100 approaches for each appointment. Currently, the Karratha church is without a minister and Bishop Gary has had more than 40 knockbacks and counting. I guess there’s not the allure of serving God overseas. There’s no excitement of learning new language, culture or customs. It’s just outback Australia, with incredible isolation (it’s cheaper to travel overseas that fly to the NW), extreme heat (most days over 39 degrees in Kununurra Oct-Jan) and an assortment of odd characters.

Nevertheless, there are many joys and I am encouraged by the strategic role of the Anglican Church in these towns. In a number of places the church has the only full-time, theologically trained minister, which provides important opportunities for faithful gospel proclamation to regional Australia. A full picture of ministry in the North West Anglican Church must include mention of two other key ministries—ministry to Aboriginal communities and ministry to seafarers.

There’s a growing ministry in West Kimberley with CMS Missionaries Chris and Karen Webb working in the Broome Parish. Aboriginal people are coming to know Christ and finding freedom and hope in the cross in miraculous ways. Efforts are beginning to increase ministry in the East Kimberley and the Pilbara region.

More than 6500 international seafarers a month visit Mission to Seafarers centres at Geraldton, Port Hedland and Dampier. The chaplains provide seafarers with care and love, sharing the gospel and the Scriptures with men who are often away from home for months at a time.
A friend told me it’s wise to avoid personal topics early in a friendship in the North West. That’s because a number of people find their way here as a result of family dysfunction, trouble or tragedy. ‘Where’s a good place to go on the weekend?’ is a much better question than ‘What brought you here?’ It’s a reminder that we are all broken people who need Jesus to bring forgiveness, healing and salvation. The Anglican Church in the North West is an excellent place to come and meet the Saviour.

 

Karen Anglican Mission on the Border

The Karen people on the Thai/Myanmar border have been persecuted for over sixty years, mostly because they are Christians. They are a minority ethnic group who have been driven from their homes with many living in large 'resettlement (refugee) camps'.

Anglican ministry amongst the Karen began some decades ago through a few trained evangelists who travelled through the jungles and villages of both the Thai and Myanmar sides of the border, establishing churches. These churches are together known as the KAMB – Karen Anglican Mission at the Border. They remain isolated from the resources of their official diocese, which is in Myanmar.

Christ Church Bangkok has been co-ordinating emergency supplies for the Karen since 1984, focussing upon the needs of the Karen refugees living inside the camps, but also supporting the Karen churches in the Thai border area, bringing training and encouragement to leaders.

Each September a small group of Australian Anglican ministers and lay people go to the border to train and encourage pastors, theological students, elders and layworkers from the churches on both sides of the border.

If you would like more information on how to get inolved with this vital work - please contact Peter Judge-Mears (Wishart Anglican) on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Marc Dale (St Alban's, Highgate) on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Addressing Domestic Violence

Recent initiatives in the Diocese of Sydney

We can’t ignore the fact that rotten things go on in Christian households too. Kara introduces the ways Sydney Diocese has recently sought to improve its practices of education and response to the scourge of domestic abuse. Kara is the Archdeacon for Women in the Diocese of Sydney.

 

In 2014 domestic violence became a national conversation after the death of Luke Batty at the hands of his father. Luke’s mother Rosie was named Australian of the Year in 2015 and became a strong voice for the victims of domestic abuse. Since that time greater attention and resources have been directed to raising awareness of this significant problem in our community.

Yet for the Christian church it is not just a problem ‘out there’. Tragically, it is also a problem within our own community and a problem we have often been too slow to acknowledge. At times, due, perhaps, to naivety or misplaced generosity, we’ve downplayed, dismissed or dealt poorly with claims of domestic abuse from those within our congregations. Yet domestic abuse in its various forms—physical, emotional, and, yes, even spiritual—does exist in the Christian community. It causes untold pain and anguish; primarily for its victims, but also for the church as a whole. It is shocking and painful to discover a member of our fellowship, perhaps even a leader, is a perpetrator of domestic abuse. It is distressing to know a spouse has been suffering—often silently—the trauma and ordeal of an abuse victim. It is an evil that does not belong in any marriage, especially one where the couple profess Jesus as Lord.

In 2015 the Sydney Diocesan Synod established the Domestic Violence Taskforce with the aim of developing a Diocesan response to domestic violence. The work included surveying other dioceses (nationally and internationally) and church groups to see what resources they had compiled. Importantly, the testimony of victims shaped the response, as they shared their experience of disclosing abuse to a church leader. The work of the taskforce was completed in 2018 as the Synod passed the ‘Responding to Domestic Abuse: Policy’ as a policy of the Diocese and the Good Practice Guidelines were adopted for use in the churches.

In essence the policy both educates and informs. The Good Practice Guidelines provide clarity for best practice in caring for and supporting victims of domestic abuse. A key resource is the flow chart setting out the steps to follow when someone discloses domestic abuse. Other resources include important telephone numbers and websites, as well as templates for parish policies, and safety and exit plans. It is a comprehensive document aimed at equipping those involved in assisting people in domestic abuse situations. One significant outcome has been further development in educating clergy and those in training. Both Moore College and the Diocesan Ministry Development department teach modules on recognising and dealing with domestic abuse in churches.

Among the appendices is a guide to the use and misuse of Scripture with regard to domestic abuse. It has been claimed through the media and within church circles that certain views held on marriage and leadership give rise to the existence of domestic abuse. To ensure clarity about what the Bible does and doesn’t say, a short explanation is given for six key passages such as Ephesians 5 and Genesis 2. The former Archbishop Peter Jensen and current Archbishop Glenn Davies have each made clear statements condemning the use of Scripture to perpetrate violence within a marriage. Archbishop Jensen did this in 2012. This appendix is important for both perpetrators and victims, helping each know and understand God’s intention for marriage and correcting any thought otherwise.

An area where the Diocese has taken a strong and leading stand is in regards to clergy and ministry families. The shocking truth is those in ministry are not immune from this evil. In an effort to ensure ministry spouses are supported when instances of domestic abuse are uncovered a fund has been established. A one-off payment can be made to assist with any financial hardship experienced by the victim and any children if they need to separate from their spouse due to the abuse.

While the taskforce’s job is finished, the work of education and awareness continues. The Safe Ministry Committee in conjunction with Anglicare will now produce posters, and provide ongoing education and direction for churches. The Anglicare Family and Domestic Violence Adviser continues to help rectors navigate this complex area. Overall it is hoped through the creation of this policy and the subsequent rise in awareness and education we will not just be responding to domestic abuse but also contribute to its prevention.

Resources
safeministry.org.au/for-parishes/domestic-violence-resources
safeministry.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Responding-to-Domestic-Abuse-Policy-Guidelines-and-Resources.pdf
safeministry.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Domestic-Abuse-Charts.pdf
safeministry.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/DV-HowToRespond.pdf

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