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EFAC Australia

General

One of the things that has disturbed me as a Christian in the recent pandemic has been the number of Christians, and some pastors of congregations, who have questioned or sown doubts in the value and safety of the recent government national vaccination program. Sadly, this reveals a very shallow or faulty theology, and inadequate understanding of the Bible and our responsibility as stewards of the God given creation.

In our foundation story in Genesis 1:26-27 Christians learn that we are created in “the image and likeness of God”. We also learn that we are given by God the authority over creation and entrusted with the stewardship and care of it and the discovery and unfolding of its wonders.

One of the roles of scientists, and particularly bio-medical researchers is to fulfil that mandate, particularly in their work of preserving life, and in aiding the healing of the sick, and in preventing disease.

For many Christian scientists it is seen as a sacred privilege, duty, and vocation in which they engage with great dedication and care. They are also aware of the great tradition in which they stand of the Churches long commitment to compassion for, caring for, and the healing of the sick. In this they follow the example of Jesus in the Gospels. (Mark 1:29-42) This tradition has greatly influenced the medical community in general. For example, many of our public hospitals have their origins in Christian foundations. I had the privilege of serving a congregation for many years whose members included many in senior roles in the medical and scientific community, who all saw their work in this light.

Difficult times require real leadership.

However, without meaning to tread on any political toes,I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that in wider society ours is an age not overly blessed with courageous and capable leadership. We continue to lift up our hands in prayer for our political leaders, at the same time as we often find ourselves throwing those same hands up in despair and frustration.

What then of leadership in the church?

One of the aims of EFAC is “to function as a resourcegroup to develop and encourage biblically faithful leadership in all spheres of life.”. Many of the elements of this edition of Essentials touch on that issue of leadership. We hear from the new Archbishop of Sydney,Kanishka Raffel, as he begins his new responsibility in leading that diocese forward. Andrew Katay and Simon Manchester both reflect on the nature of preaching as a means by which Christians are led to real gospel transformation. Mike Flynn wrestles with the paradox that church leaders matter both more and less than we think.

Alongside these contributions we attend to the sobering reality of failure in church leadership. Such failure may or may not be more frequent in the present moment, but it is certainly being played out in a more public and seemingly disturbing way than at any time in recent memory. Peter Brain faithfullyand calmly guides us through answering that difficult question, ‘what can we say in response to sexual sin in Christian leaders?’. Similarly, Chris Porter draw sour attention to a recent book guiding churches in their healing from emotional and spiritual abuse.

In all of this we turn continually to one who cleanses, defends, and preserves his church, prayingthe Collect for the 16th Sunday after Trinity: “O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through JesusChrist our Lord. Amen.”

To look through the collection, see the article list on the left.

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To some in the Anglican tradition it would appear that the communion that we hold is strained to a breaking point, indeed perhaps a “break glass” moment. All sorts of fractures and rifts appear to have been revealed—and perhaps even exacerbated by COVID—some of which threaten the identity of the church.

However, at the same time the breadth of our communion presents a distinct theological vision of a redeemed community. Imperfect as it may be. But this is often obscured when observing matters from inside our own churches and environments.

My own approach to Anglicanism came out of a strongly congregationalist movement, which was beset by division and discord—and indeed, ungodly dissent. In contrast the breadth of my initial experience of the Church of England, simultaneously spread between St. Paul’s Cathedral, London and All Souls Langham Place, showed that theological vision. A vision of a breadth of the church, not always in agreement on many items, but determined to reach the City of London with the gospel.

While the clarity of this vision has waxed and waned over my years as a lay and then ordained Anglican, it is still sorely needed. Perhaps even more so in Australia where the breadth of our ecclesiological expression is more heavily separated.

Therefore this edition strives to reflect on the breadth of our church, and the vision it espouses. Chris Swann muses on the question of the disappearing church and the pandemic. Jack Lindsay describes his own journey as an Anglo-Catholic. Pete Greenwood and Breanna Mills highlight new approaches to missional opportunity. Michael Bird considers the often divisive issue of social engagement. Andy Pearce considers his move from a large contemporary church plant in Melbourne to a local church in Perth. The book reviews also consider this, as Rhys Bezzant considers the end of Christendom, Steve Boxwell reviews church planting in Birmingham, and Karen Winsemius reviews the things that make for a redeemed church.

CHRIS PORTER, EDITOR

Will the Anglican Church of Australia of the future be ethnically and culturally ‘Anglo-Australian,’ or will we increasingly reflect multi-ethnic and multicultural Australia? Many Anglican churches, reflecting on the changing demographics of their local communities, are seeking to reach culturally and linguistically diverse communities with the gospel. The biblical imperatives for multicultural and multi-ethnic ministry are many, including the Abrahamic Promise, the prophetic vision of all nations drawn to worship of Israel’s God, the Great Commission, Paul’s model of being all things to all people, and Revelation 7’s vision of a multi-ethnic, multilingual throng worshipping the lamb. Nevertheless, many churches struggle to know where to begin or how to overcome hindrances in ministry to culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This issue of Essentials draws together stories and reflection on such ministry. We hear from Ben Wong, Chinese Ministry Coordinator in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, sharing his own journey to faith and some reflections on fruitful ministry to people of Chinese heritage. We talk with three women leading and resourcing cross-cultural ministries including English language programs and migrant and refugee support services through Anglicare Sydney. Ben Clements, ministering in a suburban Melbourne church, delves into the benefits of fostering a multicultural church. Len Firth, Lecturer in Pastoral Supervision at Ridley College, brings a missional lens to bear on preaching Psalm 96. I review Changing Lanes, Crossing Cultures, which is a practical guide to ministry in culturally-diverse Australia. Other contributions include Guerin Tueno’s evaluation of the Fresh Expressions movement within Anglican churches; Peter Corney reflecting on Christians, Science and Vaccinations; and Stephen Hale reviewing God of All Things. I pray this edition of Essentials, my first since joining the editorial team, equips and encourages your own steps towards effective mission within the Australian context. MARK SIMON, EDITOR

John R.W. Stott

John Stott was born in London on 27th April 1921. In honour of the centenary of his birth date we have produced this special edition to reflect on the remarkable ministry of the Rev Dr John Stott. It is hard to think of any other figure who has had a more profound impact on evangelical Anglicanism as well as global evangelicalism than John Stott. Indeed as Michael Cromartie quipped, ‘if evangelicals could elect a pope, Stott is the person theywould likely choose.’

Although many of us never met the man, he still profoundly impacted us. My first contact was via his classic little book Your Confirmation when, at 14, I was doing confirmation classes. It would be lying to say it had a great impact on me at the time! In 1975 I was there when he delivered the Bible Studies on Ephesians at the AFES National Conference in Bathurst. Each session was captivating and gave me a whole new perspective on understanding Scripture. I can still visualise the Conference and was thrilled when the print version emerged as God’s New Society. During my time at Moore College, I had a case of second year blues and had a mid-year holiday in Tasmania. I read I Believe in Preaching year holiday in Tasmania. I read I Believe in Preaching by Stott and came back fired and up and back on track. One could go on and on from CMS Summer Schools to Lausanne Congresses, to papers and many books. One way or another John Stott has impacted many of us in profound and deeply personal ways.As the founder of EFAC, it is fitting for EFAC Australia to honour him with this special issue of Essentials. I want to acknowledge the help of Peter Adam and Mark Juers in dreaming up the list of articles and to each of the contributors for writing such an inspiring set of articles.

Bishop Stephen Hale Chair, EFAC AUSTRALIA  and EFAC GLOBAL

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