General

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

Tribute: Servant of the Church of God

Servant of the Church of God:
Donald William Bradley Robinson, 1922–2018

A series of highlights from the full tribute by Rory Shiner which you can read online at au.thegospelcoalition.org
Early on Friday 7 September one of Australia’s most brilliant biblical scholars and influential church leaders went to be with the Lord whom he loved and so faithfully served. If you are an Australian evangelical, you owe him a great debt, even if you’ve never heard of him. His name was Donald William Bradley Robinson. He was 95 years old.

Robinson described 1947 as “the summer of his life”. He travelled by boat to San Francisco, then overland to Chicago and then up to Toronto. His final destination was Boston, where he was a student representative of the International Leaders Conference of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students at Harvard University—the conference that launched the modern form of the IFES. The meetings in Boston were chaired by the prominent Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who apparently complained at the lack of a “decent cup of tea, which always makes a situation more civilised.” (Feel free to take a moment to enjoy the thought of a Brit complaining about tea in Boston). It was at this meeting that the influential IFES doctrinal basis was hammered out.

Robinson was very deliberate in going to Cambridge in order to access the vibrant biblical scholarship being produced there. This is an interesting point of contrast with British evangelicalism. At the time, many British evangelicals went to Cambridge in spite of the Divinity faculty; Robinson went because of it. For Robinson, scholars such as C. H. Dodd and C. F. D. Moule were people with whom conservative evangelicals could have a fruitful and productive engagement.

Donald and Marie married back in Australia on 30 July 1949. He returned with her to Cambridge where Robinson completed his studies. They came back to Australia in 1950. They had four children, Martin, Anne, Mark and Peter. Martin was born in the UK, the rest in Australia.

After ordination and two curacies, Robinson began what was to be the largest segment of his career—teaching on the faculty of Moore College. It was there, where Robinson served as lecturer and then vice-principal, that Robinson exercised his most lasting influence. Robinson introduced the College to the discipline of understanding the Bible on its own terms, seeking to uncover how the Old Testament and New Testament relate themselves to each other. By this teaching he ignited, for example, the imagination of Graeme Goldsworthy to what we now call ‘biblical theology”.

Along with D. B. Knox, Robinson also made a significant contribution to the topic of ecclesiology. This project, conducted in conversation with wider developments in scholarship, theology and church life, led to an emphasis on the centrality and spiritual prestige of the local gathered church. It is profound work, which has influenced and been developed by scholars such as Robert Banks, Peter O’Brien and William Dumbrell, as well as a younger generation including Lionel Windsor and Chase Kuhn.

On 1 April 1982, Bishop Donald Robinson was elected Archbishop of Sydney. The pace of life was very demanding. Extensive travel, an ambitious programme for new churches in Sydney’s west, and the regular run of an archbishop’s duties were supplemented by several significant controversies. He opposed the move toward the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Australia, arguing that it would represent a fundamental breach with apostolic instruction. And he opposed the loosening of traditional Anglican forms of worship and patterns of leadership within the Diocese of Sydney.

Robinson retired in 1992 and he resumed teaching at Moore College, a role he continued in until 2002. Countless scholarly works, from Peter Bolt, John Painter, Robert Banks and many others continue to grapple with and extend his biblical thought. Early in the morning of Friday, 7 September 2018, he went to be with the Lord. We owe him more than we can tell.

Editorial Autumn 2019

Fresh Legs

This year will bring some fresh legs onto the Essentials editorial team. You may have noticed that a disproportionate number of the contributions to Essentials come from Western Australia (which is the price you pay when the editor lives in Perth!) In order better to tap into the EFAC networks in other states, we are glad to be welcoming two new editors: Gavin Perkins, Rector of St Judes, Bowral, NSW, and Mark Juers, Assistant Minister at St Hilary’s Network, Kew, Victoria. I hope and expect that these two will help us hear from new contributors and bring more national breadth to the journal. I am very much looking forward to what they will bring to this journal in 2019 and beyond.
Of course, as I always do, I encourage readers to contact me about making contributions to Essentials, wherever you live. It gives me great pleasure to have articles, book reviews, Bible Studies and Cabooses from city and bush, east and west, north and south, and off the mainland too.
And so in this issue we hear Stephen Hale’s news of EFAC International’s rebirth as EFAC Global and the meeting of the reconstituted Global Council in Nairobi. Landing then in Sydney, Kara Hartley writes of the measures the Diocese of Sydney have taken to raise awareness, and levels of education and preparedness when it comes to the terrible blight of domestic violence, as it finds its way into churches, and the homes of Christians. A long haul from there to Geraldton, from where Eugenie Harris gives us a snapshot of life and ministry in the north of WA. Our feature essay this issue picks up a phrase from Article 1 of the 39 Articles, and delves into what lies behind our conviction that God is ‘without parts’. In our Bible Study, political junkie and Perth rector Marc Dale meditates on how Jesus’ Nazareth sermon pointed far beyond any political revolution, and how good that is. Reviews of books on ministry and leadership, evolution, environmental action and mutual care populate our back pages, and the Caboose questions whether some books on ministry burn-out undo themselves in the end. I hope you find plenty to think on here.
Ben Underwood - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Trump Makes Us Ask Again

If evangelical votes have been credited as part of Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the last US presidential election, does this damage the evangelical brand? If so, is it time to drop the moniker? Rhys Bezzant asks us to treasure the name ‘evangelical’ and its story.

Rhys Bezzant is Dean of Missional Leadership and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College, Melbourne


No doubt you are hearing this question too: why is it that so many evangelicals voted for Trump? Many used this term to describe their voting choices in the US, even if amongst the unsophisticated media pundits it meant simply ‘white, non-Hispanic Protestants’. Of course, if your politics don’t align with Trump, you might be asking the question to distance yourself from those Christians who take on this label. There are however many who vote Republican, but have serious questions anyway about whether the evangelical brand is damaged. The populism of American presidential elections is often a bellwether for other countries too. Many nations around the world are experiencing either discomfort with, or disdain for, the international order, and are making their opinions known through the ballot box. Here is not the place to canvass the economic drivers which lead to different kinds of extreme politics, or to analyse the strategy of fear-mongering adopted by world leaders. But here is the place to ask the question whether the word ‘evangelical’ is past its use-by date. I say it is not.

Like any technical word, we need to get behind popular usage to find out what generated its adoption in the first place. Only then can we decide whether it is worth junking. And as an historian, I want to help us understand that technical words are valuable because they summarise a story, and alert us to debates and decisions, of which we are beneficiaries, even when the narrative has got confused in the meantime. The word ‘evangelical’ contains the beautiful resonance of Gospel-centredness, and in the Reformation it meant something like Bible-focussed. However with other descriptors arising to summarise Protestant convictions, like Lutheran or Reformed or Anglican, the word ‘evangelical’ in the eighteenth century was used again in a fresh way.

In the 1700s, when Enlightenment philosophers pushed God out of the world, and instead taught that human beings have the capacity to make sense of their experience without him, conservative Protestants began to call themselves ‘evangelicals’ because they wanted to remind their listeners that God was not distant but close, and that we can experience him being near through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The language of regeneration became a hot-button issue. Not that the likes of John Wesley or George Whitefield or Jonathan Edwards had given up on the doctrine of justification by faith. Far from it. But they did turn up the volume on the language of being born again. Remember: many nominal Christians upheld justification in their statement of belief, but they didn’t act like it was true in their heart. If you want a succinct definition of being evangelical, this is it: the protection and promotion of vital piety in the modern world. After the 1730s, being a conservative Protestant needed a modern theological defence. As Doug Sweeney so eloquently says, being an evangelical is being a conservative Protestant ‘with an eighteenth-century twist.’ If you prize vital piety, or a real experience of the Lord, or a personal faith, you can call yourself an evangelical.

The world was changing dramatically around the time of the Great Awakening. Early capitalism was creating a new kind of economy, which was no longer defined by face-to-face encounters of producers and buyers. Now, more impersonally through money exchange and not bartering, a worldwide commercial economy was born. Mobility of goods and of people was essential for this early globalisation to thrive. The postal service was created for carrying letters and parcels, and personal identity was no longer defined by your village or locality. No wonder itinerancy flourished, with preachers travelling throughout countries or across the sea to make converts. As offensive as it might have been for Whitefield to come to town and win souls to Christ without asking for permission from the settled pastor, it worked. And he used the postal system to encourage advance publicity, and reports of his work travelled around the world quickly. There was a new sense of space and time amongst citizens of the eighteenth century, and in the experience of the newly regenerate too. One of the most frequent words used to describe a conversion was ‘enlargement.’ When you are converted in the fields and not in a church building, God somehow seems bigger.

This openness to God’s active presence in the world has made evangelicals more open to cultural movements of their own day, for good or for ill. Our evangelistic commitment means that we get close to the people we are serving—as the Apostle Paul suggests we should in 1 Corinthians 9—and our evangelistic flexibility enables us to apply new cultural means for traditional Christian ends. This sometimes gets us into hot water. We have felt the fear of the French Revolution and have grown more conservative. We have reacted to the teachings of Darwin and have instead pursued a vision for history that is not based on gradual evolution but rather apocalyptic intervention. We have brought flowers into church as a result of the Romantic movement, and we have savoured the imaginative beauty of C. S. Lewis’s children’s books which were composed in contrast to a world where technology seemed out of control. After World War II, we had to rethink what Christian civilisation might look like after old norms had come tumbling down.

One of the ways to respond to a post-Christian world is to engage through politics. This has been one of the chief strategies for evangelicals in the US, given Americans’ commitment to participatory democracy and power pushed down to the most local level. They elect their police chief, whereas Australians do not. They have a nervousness about big government, going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, whereas we recognise our need for governments to help a small population cultivate a big and sometimes brutal land. Christian witness in the realm of politics is certainly one possible path which evangelicals have taken, but our very own tradition alerts us to the fact that there are options too.

Evangelicals over the last three hundred years have reshaped nations through local revival tents, prayer meetings, petitions to abolish slavery, involvement in trade unions, establishing hospitals or orphanages, grassroots protests against racism, conventions in the mountains or missions at the beach. We have built publishing houses and published magazines. We have welcomed the nations who have come to us, as well as sending our own to serve our neighbours overseas. As we adapt yet again, this time to a post-Christian and yet strangely pre-Christian society, evangelicals will pursue vital piety in a number of different ways, through our speaking gifts and our service gifts, as Peter summarises so well (1 Peter 4:10-11). Our individual contexts will vary, and our responses will no doubt also be carefully calibrated to needs and opportunities.

But in all this, please don’t ignore our story, the history of one of the most powerful Christian movements in the modern world. And to remind us of the story, let us keep using the word ‘evangelical.’ It may not be perfect, but if we did jettison it, we would still have to find another term to capture the wonderful ways that God has worked amongst conservative Protestants since the eighteenth century. We can hold this story of vital piety, or the power of godliness, in trust for the sake of the universal church. In fact, we must.

Editorial Autumn 2019

Fresh Legs

This year will bring some fresh legs onto the Essentials editorial team. You may have noticed that a disproportionate number of the contributions to Essentials come from Western Australia (which is the price you pay when the editor lives in Perth!) In order better to tap into the EFAC networks in other states, we are glad to be welcoming two new editors: Gavin Perkins, Rector of St Judes, Bowral, NSW, and Mark Juers, Assistant Minister at St Hilary’s Network, Kew, Victoria. I hope and expect that these two will help us hear from new contributors and bring more national breadth to the journal. I am very much looking forward to what they will bring to this journal in 2019 and beyond.
Of course, as I always do, I encourage readers to contact me about making contributions to Essentials, wherever you live. It gives me great pleasure to have articles, book reviews, Bible Studies and Cabooses from city and bush, east and west, north and south, and off the mainland too.
And so in this issue we hear Stephen Hale’s news of EFAC International’s rebirth as EFAC Global and the meeting of the reconstituted Global Council in Nairobi. Landing then in Sydney, Kara Hartley writes of the measures the Diocese of Sydney have taken to raise awareness, and levels of education and preparedness when it comes to the terrible blight of domestic violence, as it finds its way into churches, and the homes of Christians. A long haul from there to Geraldton, from where Eugenie Harris gives us a snapshot of life and ministry in the north of WA. Our feature essay this issue picks up a phrase from Article 1 of the 39 Articles, and delves into what lies behind our conviction that God is ‘without parts’. In our Bible Study, political junkie and Perth rector Marc Dale meditates on how Jesus’ Nazareth sermon pointed far beyond any political revolution, and how good that is. Reviews of books on ministry and leadership, evolution, environmental action and mutual care populate our back pages, and the Caboose questions whether some books on ministry burn-out undo themselves in the end. I hope you find plenty to think on here.
Ben Underwood - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Editorial Summer 2018

Our friends across the Pacific

Australia has an important relationship to the USA, and Australian Christianity has an important relationship with US Christianity. Sometimes we have been on the whole very positive about things American that wash across to our shores, sometimes we are rather more negative. Almost always reaction is mixed: as a body we might simultaneously wonder at the mysteries of the American Way, or resist what we feel is an alien and unhelpful influence, or rejoice at a great help from a good-hearted ally with much to offer, or deplore the baggage we feel they sometimes encumber us with. Our two feature articles touch on ways that US Christianity impinges upon Australian Christianity. The first is Tony Nichols’ personal account of the visit of Billy Graham in 1959 (the 60th anniversary of which approaches). As Tony testifies, plenty in the churches, including influential local leaders, doubted and resisted the Graham Crusade then, but what a moment that visit proved to be, with so many hearing him speak, either live at the venue, or by some kind of relay, and with so many later testifying what an impact it had on their spiritual lives. Tony takes us back to the ferment and excitement of the Crusade and its lasting aftermath.

Our second feature article by Rhys Bezzant begins in the present with the dismay in some quarters over Evangelical support of Donald Trump at the US presidential election. He asks whether this should make us consider shedding the label ‘evangelical’, and answers with a resounding ‘no’, seeking instead to outline briefly the long and distinguished history and associations of the term, which transcend the political turmoil and polarisation of the moment.

Our leaders are focussed on things Australian. We return to Tasmania for a further instalment of news about the energy there around the pursuit of the Diocesan Mission to be a church for Tasmania, making disciples of Jesus. We peek into the councils of the St Hilary’s Network as they wrestle with a pastoral policy responding to the amendment of the Marriage Act to provide for same-sex marriage. Third, Peter Adam honours the late Harrie Scott Simmons, an evangelical clergyman who was instrumental in his conversion, short term discipleship and long term mentoring into ordained ministry.
Adrian Lane opens up Jesus’ call to build your life on his words in Luke 6:46-49, and we round out the issue with book reviews of books by Brian Rosner, Alistair McGrath, Charles Taylor and Kevin Vanhoozer. I hope you get leisure to read some good books over the summer.

In case you worried that our interview with Bishop Kay Goldsworthy last issue was meant to signal endorsement for the kind of liberal theological agenda she has shown sympathy for, let me say that that is emphatically not the case. Rather, the interview was included in an issue with an interest in what bishops have to offer by way of vision, of analysis of what the present moment requires of Christians, of programmes for what we should be doing and why we should be doing it. Bishop Richard Condie provided one offering, and Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy provided another. As I did last issue, I leave it to readers to make up their minds for themselves about the depth, wisdom and promise of these two offerings.

As always, I value hearing from readers about how Essentials is making them smile, frown, think, give thanks or pray. And if you have something to contribute to the pages of Essentials, whether a book review, piece of news from your neck of the woods, personal story, reflection on ministry or topical essay, do be in touch.

Ben Underwood