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EFAC Australia

Essentials

 

Dale Appleby

As this Issue of Essentials goes to press the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is releasing reports of Case Studies related to various Anglican Dioceses and Institutions. And there will be more to come this year. One of the issues that has emerged is about leadership. Rhys Bezzant helps us consider some aspects of this. It’s an important topic since quality leadership starts with recruitment. Or perhaps recruitment builds on the discipling that takes place in our parishes. And the ministry we provide to families and children. Ben Underwood canvasses some of those issues.

The Senate committee on the government’s same-sex marriage bill also reported this week. According to The Australian, the report agreed “that ministers of religion should be free to decline to marry same-sex couples but civil celebrants should be required to uphold the law and marry gay couples if the reform were legislated.” The government said this week that no action will happen without a plebiscite. And over the sea the General Synod of the Church of England this week rejected the Bishops’ report on same-sex marriage (or the House of Clergy did). The issue is clearly not going away. Ben Underwood has the first part of a complex discussion on some of the issues.

EFAC readers know this is a big year for Reformation fans. Germany will no doubt be over-run with Reformation tours. And so we start the year with a very helpful perspective (again by Rhys) on aspects of the English Reformation. A topic we need to keep before our people. In some dioceses the Reformation has been all but deleted from a skewed history of Anglicanism. In others it may have been forgotten under the pressure to evangelise, modernise, and grow culturally appropriate churches.

And there are lots of other interesting things in this issue of Essentials that may encourage us to hold to and hold forth the faith.

 

Editor

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NSW EFAC RETREAT
7 - 9 November 2017

A programme of bible studies, times of sharing from throughout our dioceses as well as plenty of free-time.

This year the EFAC Retreat is being held in Noonaweena which is in the ranges west of Gosford.  The EFAC Retreat is open for anyone to attend.  This years speaker is David Seccombe.

This years speaker is David Seccombe. In 1993 David took over the leadership of George Whitfield College in South Africa and after 20 years of training young men and women, David retired to Perth.
The programme commences on Tuesday (arriving from 7pm). Come having already eaten your evening meal. Please feel free to join us for dinner at Mangrove Mountain Memorial Club and Golf Course at 5.30pm.  The retreat concludes at 1.00pm on Thursday.
Numbers are limited to 32, and there are limits to the number of delegates that will be taken from each diocese, so please book now by emailing Allan Bate at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Noonaweena provides motel style accommodation so all you will need are clothes, toiletries, a Bible, your diary, and personal leisure equipment. The cost to attend is $300 per person (to be paid during the retreat), $100 day visitors
The cost is kept to an absolute minimum and covers the price of shared accommodation and all meals. (If you require a single room an additional fee of $150 will apply.) Concessions are available.
A fee of $150 is to be paid for cancellations after October 31 ($50 for day visitors) as we are unable to alter our bookings with Noonaweena or Nena after this date.
Enquiries - Allan Bate on 0428917998
Bookings close October 31.

Rhys Bezzant is Dean of Missional Leadership, and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College
First published in The Melbourne Anglican. Used by permission.

Rhys Bezzant discusses our need to cultivate leaders in the church who can communicate and commend the promises of God to a world without hope, whether in sermons and sacraments, in someone’s home or in the neighbourhood café.

In Melbourne, we don’t do well at spotting, training, empowering, and sending leaders, and the need is increasingly clear. Our city is growing rapidly, likely to overtake Sydney in our lifetime in terms of population. Our city is expanding geographically, calling for new kinds of initiatives where Anglicans are not easily found. Our church is at best stable in terms of Sunday attendance, though this number has certainly declined since the last census. Relative to the size, complexity and composition of our city, we are barely keeping up with shifts in the population. We need more leaders, who will pastor our grand-children and reach out to a city being reinvented even as I write.

Of course, many clergy train elsewhere in Australia or overseas and come to Melbourne to take a parish or to be employed in sector ministry, obviating our need to find leaders here, but just as many leave us for missionary service, for labours in other parts of the country, or to retire gracefully. We ought not to be complacent and assume there will always be a pool of potential leaders to draw upon. It is our responsibility and privilege to tell out the goodness of the Lord to our children’s children and to recount the deeds of the Lord before the nations.

What kind of leaders should we then be cultivating? Those who know Melbourne well are in the best position to encourage vocations of people who can serve in Melbourne. There is clearly a contextual element. However, there is a link between the nature of the church and the nature of leadership to be developed within the church. What kind of leaders should we be cultivating? That depends on what kind of church we are envisioning.

The promises of God lie at the heart of the church. A core Protestant conviction is the idea that God’s voice, or God’s Word, or God’s call come before our response of faith and obedience. God reaches out with his offer of salvation, and we receive his promises with trust. Our Anglican heritage puts the ministry of Word and Sacrament at the core of the church’s life, for the church is a congregation of the faithful “in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance.” At the heart of the Tabernacle or Temple in the Old Testament was the ark of the covenant, in which the tablets of the law were placed. Christ, as the renewed Temple of God (John 2), embodies the promises of God, and as his body we the church carry his promises to the ends of the world (Matthew 28). Leaders in the church must be people who can communicate and commend the promises of God to a world without hope, whether in sermons and sacraments, in someone’s home or in the neighbourhood café. We want leaders who are clear-minded, adept in speech, and confident in God’s power to speak and to save. Look out for leaders like these!

And at the heart of God’s promises is his desire to draw close to his people, to show them his face, and to assure them of his presence (Psalm 27). Indeed, God’s presence is the second guiding criterion to establish where we find the true church. In the Tabernacle and after that in the Temple, God filled the building with his presence, and in times of disobedience he withdrew his presence from them. Moses pleaded with the Lord to remain with the people in their wanderings despite their sin (Exodus 33). The glory of the Lord eventually departed from the Temple in the time of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 10). In Christ, God has come to “tabernacle” with his people (John 1), and by the Spirit we enjoy God’s intimate presence.

After his resurrection Jesus promised to be with his church until the climax of the ages, and in the Communion service we proclaim the presence of the Holy Spirit with us and offer each other a hand of peace. Leaders in the church must be people who rejoice in the fruit and gifts of the Spirit of God, who empower others to cultivate the fruit and exercise their gifts. Through the Spirit we participate in the life of God the Holy Trinity, no longer observers but players in the divine drama. Leaders in the church are people who train others for active involvement and spiritual maturity, not dependent on the clergy but pursuing their own ministry alongside us. We need leaders like that!

But to preach God’s promises and celebrate God’s presence faithfully, we need to understand the context of God’s purposes, which are to renovate the world through the death and resurrection of Christ, starting with us. Remarkably, the Tabernacle was adorned with images of fruit or trees from the garden of paradise reminding us of the start of the story, and ultimately the Temple became an eschatological emblem of the way the world will one day be, situated on the transformed Zion with all the nations streaming to worship there. Jesus describes his person and message in terms of the Kingdom of God, for in him all God’s purposes are consummated. The church is his bride, and we will dwell with him forever. Indeed, the grand story of history focuses on the Father glorifying the Son, and the Son glorifying the Father, in the power of the Spirit. In the new world, there will be no Temple, for the ultimate purpose of God, announced in the promise of God to dwell with his people forever, will have been realised (Revelation 21-22).

Leaders in the church are people who guide us towards fulfilling the purposes of God, who are skilled in mission, who encourage us to make connections with the world around us for the sake of our witness, who have a godly impatience with the status quo and have eyes to see how the church is a down-payment on the world to come. The prophetic leader is the person who recalls us to our true mission, and sends us out “in the power of the Spirit to live and work to his praise and glory.” Those are leaders whom we desperately need because they have a clear vision and the capacity to urge us to action. Don’t be scared of their insights and urgings. Promote them!

Where are we going to find leaders like this? In the first instance, there may not be many around. Our job, whether ordained or lay, is to imagine what the people in our parish or sector could yet be, and to take steps to help them see their future in a new way. Who is the person you could never do without? That person is surely a candidate for further training. Who is the person in the parish that others naturally look up to? That person might be the next Vicar of the parish. Who is the person who wants to learn more, is always asking questions, and is offering to help out in ways that are not always natural to them? That person with a servant heart and nimble mind could well be a warden in waiting, if only we cultivate their enthusiasm. Leaders are made, not born, and it is the job of everyone in the church to be finders or spotters, encouraging and equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4).

That also means that as present leaders, who serve for example as clergy or parish council members, we need to develop our own skills in mentoring and training. If we are not doing the job of developing leaders, it is unlikely that anyone else will. We set the mood and culture of the parish. And part of the way that we lead and feed is to think long-term and beyond the boundaries of our parish itself. The ordained, for example, take our part in “the councils of the church,” owning our responsibility for its sustenance and enduring life. We ought not to be embarrassed about investing in a few individuals – after all, the Lord Jesus did. We ought not to imagine that we have nothing to contribute – in a fragmented world, our friends or parishioners are looking for models of integration and wholeness, which even the least trained can offer. We ought not to think that someone else will do the job of cultivating vocations, whether that be the diocese, or the parish down the road, or the colleges. They each have a role to play, but leaders in local settings are in the best position to identify and empower. If you find and cultivate leaders, you won’t get a spotting fee, but you will be honouring God’s promises, presence and purposes for the church. I for one would gladly spend and be spent in that noble task.

Questioning Evangelism - Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did
Randy Newman, Kregel Publications: 2004

When I became a new Christian I was taught to memorise a gospel presentation that I could share with my friends to explain the Christian message to them. I was enthusiastic and followed the advice …….and proceeded to spoil a few good friendships through my eagerness to convert them! In every conversation when there was the slightest hint of spiritual openness, I tried to ‘get them over the line’ and to pray ‘the sinners prayer’. There was nothing wrong with my motivation nor with my learning a gospel presentation but there was a good reason why it didn’t ‘work’ with most of my friends.

You see, we no longer live in a time or culture where a simple proposition of gospel truth will convince most people. The plausibility structures required to assent to the truth of the gospel: an acceptance of absolute truth, of reliable historical record, of trust in institutions like the church, of the existence of God - these have been dismantled. This means that our presentation isn’t immediately ‘plausible’ to them. In most cases, we need to do a lot more groundwork before we can present an invitation to faith. The summary style gospel presentation is ideal when a person is receptive and ready for it, but most people simply aren’t.  (Think of the ENGELS scale (see below) – it probably doesn’t go low enough in its scale when describing someone far from God but it still has lots to teach us about pitching our message and manner appropriately for where a person is at spiritually.)

Part of our ground work involves helping people to see that the ideas upon which they are building their lives are wrong. Ideas such as ‘I decide what’s true’, ‘all religions are the same’, ‘religion poisons everything’, ‘there’s no such thing as sin’, ‘God is dead’, ‘anything is ok as long as its not harmful’ – these are the ideas we need to dismantle to pave the way for genuine gospel conversations.

How do we do that? Well first we need to listen to our friends, to find out what they believe and to start to question why they believe what they do. Armed with simple questions such as ‘really?’, “why do you believe that?”, “Can you explain that for me? I don’t see how that can be true…” will help us to do this.
The next time you have a conversation with a friend, try to hold back from telling them what you think. Really. (I know this is hard for most of us!) Instead, listen well, reflect back what they are saying, ask probing questions and be happy to have gotten to know them a bit better and to have left the door open for another conversation the next time you meet with them. This way, sooner rather than later we may find that we are able to question what they think and at some point that they ask us what we believe and why….

The greatest encouragement for this approach comes from Jesus who so often used questions to nudge people further along towards the kingdom. Check out Mark 10:17-22 and ask yourself why Jesus didn’t simply tell the rich young ruler to put his faith in him or to follow him.

These ideas all come from a great book that explains how to ask probing questions in conversation with our friends. It’s called “Questioning Evangelism” by Randy Newman. Kregel Publications: 2004. It would be a great book to use in your parish in training people in personal evangelism using a questioning approach. Newman points out that questions aren’t everything, i.e. we still need to be able to explain our faith and to answer questions and to live out our faith visibly…but questions are a necessary and underused tool for evangelism.
Tracy Lauersen

Scott Sanders serves as the Executive Director of Geneva Push.  During the last 7 years Scott has working alongside church leaders and planting couples to see over 65 churches established.

Using new research Scott Sanders discusses a question he get asked once he shares that his full-time job is helping start new churches-‘Why do we need more churches?’

‘Why do we need more churches?’ It’s a question I get asked in the park once I’ve shared that my full-time job is helping start new churches. It’s often the reaction of some Christians when a new church plant is proposed – ‘Why do we need more churches?’ Well, in my local area there aren’t lots of churches – a local Anglican church and Armenian Orthodox Church. There are more mosques (three). The cranes that silhouette the skyline at dusk in my part of Sydney demonstrate why we need new churches – Australia is growing. And importantly, new churches are the most effective way to make new disciples, to reach the unreached and to encourage growth in existing churches.
In 2016, Geneva Push engaged Lifeway Research to conduct a Church Planting Study of Australian church planting (the study was undertaken concurrently with the United States and Canada). It was that church plants are 5 times more likely to reach the unreached than established churches. The National Church Life Survey in 2011 showed that only 6% of people in churches weren’t in churches 5 years ago. In a recent study done on Church Plants in Australia, that figure is 33%. So while church plants are often accused of merely hoovering up disgruntled Christians from other churches (and that can certainly be the case), it is also true that church plants are far more effective at reaching the unreached than established churches.
This slide shows the breakup amongst attendees in an average church plant. 33% of people in church plants were previously unchurched. Importantly, church plants exist to reach the lost and demonstrate good engagement. Transfer growth continues to be the biggest number across all contexts which reflects the need to have existing Christians reach the lost in a new church. We need to keep asking ourselves within our churches how we are going at reaching the unreached – measuring new attendees, finding out about where they’ve come from – another church, lapsed church attendance, or finding out about Jesus for the first time. 
What impacts the growth of church plants? It’s one of the key questions being asked by church planting teams as they engage in local mission, prepare to launch new congregations and see the lost mature in Christ. The recent study into Australian Church Planting identified the importance of intentionality, experience and support.
Firstly, the importance of INTENTIONALITY. The research showed that those church plants which conduct a membership class or course demonstrate significant increases in church growth over a period of time (note: a membership course is a program that initiates a new person to the church and often requires new members to commit to church). Why is this? Membership courses build community, make new church members aware of the church’s vision and key aims, and help new members integrate and engage in the life of the church. Conduct a membership course.
Pray! As Christians we should see the importance of prayer. The church should be praying. The data from the survey demonstrates that church plants enlisting people to pray directly for the church and continue to use prayer meetings / prayer walks grew and reached the unreached in greater numbers.
A church plant with a desire to plant more churches overflows into the whole church’s ability to reach the unreached. When you are putting together your mission plans have a long term goal to reach the unreached through planting churches. Note: be realistic about when you will plant a church - at least 5 years into the plant; and take the opportunities from the start to support other church planting teams prayerfully, financially or by sending a few people where possible.
Secondly, the importance of EXPERIENCE. Every church planter should get experience in order to have realistic expectations. Being a part of church plant is the most helpful way church planters can gain the necessary experience to plant a church. If you are thinking of planting, join a church plant. The data demonstrates the importance of working on church planting staff teams and having realistic expectations. If you can’t be a part of a church plant - read case studies, talk with experienced church planters.
Most planters have big expectations for their churches. It’s important to have right expectations about growth. Jai Wright established Mackay Evangelical Church (MAKE) in 2011 in North Queensland. He expected to have a weekly attendance of about 100 or 150 within three years. Instead only about 30 people were coming each Sunday.
“It hadn’t gone as we’d hoped, and we were not wanting to waste people’s time, money and effort.” He was wondering whether he should keep going. But its important for mother churches, supporters and church planters to realise that growth is slow and it takes time to build momentum for mission. Average weekly attendance in a new church ranges from 38 to 70 by year four.
What is normal in the Australian context? The normal Australian church plant does not break 100 people in four years. Its important to have a realistic picture of growth. Australia and Canada have similar patterns of church attendance compared to America - its harder to plant a church in Australia.
Thirdly, the importance of SUPPORT. We see the positive impact on church plants receiving administrative support (accounting help, marketing infrastructure, systems and structures) helps speed up the growth. Denominations, networks and hub churches can provide accounting support, providing volunteers for children’s ministry and seed funding until the church becomes financially self-sustaining.
When do church plants reach financial self-sufficiency, if at all? Among Australian church plants the majority of church plants (55%) are reaching financial self-sufficiency within a handful of years. If you are not getting to self-sufficiency by year 4 or year 5 it is likely that you will not reach financial self-sufficiency.
We need more new churches. Importantly, as we start these churches we need to have the right expectations. Establishing a new church will take time, growth will be slow, but by being intentional, learning from experience and supporting new churches we should see new disciples and churches being evangelised into existence.
Notes about the study: A detailed quantitative survey was fielded between October 2015 and February 2016. Planters were individually invited to complete the online survey by email and phone. The draft report provides analysis of 110 church plants started in 2000 or later that continue to exist today and were started as new church plants, church plant restarts or new church sites.
The full report can be downloaded here:
http://genevapush.com/resources/the-australian-church-planting-report

The Controversy over the Safe Schools Program – Finding the Sensible Centre
Patrick Parkinson, Sydney Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16/83 Sept 16

Patrick Parkinson is Professor of Law at Sydney University. At the time of the Louden Review he and Professor Kim Oates wrote a lengthy letter to Professor Louden about the research basis for statistics presented in the Safe Schools Program. Unfortunately the Review had to be completed in a short time and “No independent review of the veracity of the statistics cited in this document was undertaken.”

Parkinson’s paper is a critical review of some important aspects of the Safe Schools Program, especially of the research data.
The abstract includes an outline of the scope of the paper:

“This paper seeks to draw attention to various problems in the Safe Schools materials which ought to be rectified if a program like this is to continue to be offered in schools. First, the materials present statistics on same-sex attraction and transgender prevalence that have no valid scientific basis. Secondly, they present sexual orientation as fixed when for school-aged adolescents it is very volatile, and many same-sex attractions are transitory. Thirdly, they present gender as fluid when for about 99.5% of the population, there is complete congruence between sexual characteristics and gender identity. Fourthly, they promote gender transitioning without the need for any medical and psychological guidance and even without parental knowledge or consent. Finally, they offer potentially misleading legal advice to teachers.”

It is refreshing to read a rational discussion of these matters. Parkinson notes, “When a social issue becomes a contested matter politically, or support for, or opposition to, a program is seen as a marker of ideological identity, it is hard to have a rational discussion. Yet a rational discussion is badly needed about the Safe Schools program, based upon evidence.”

One of the values of this paper is that it reports on a wide variety of peer-reviewed research related to statistics and assertions in the Safe Schools material.  Having a collection of data of this kind, in itself, is a great help to those who would like to know reliable information about the numbers of same-sex attracted and other people.

Parkinson begins with a review of the Safe Schools Program, the extent to which it has actually been taken up (not much), and what is really mandated, in Victoria at least. He then clearly and helpfully discusses the five areas noted above. His view is that just about all the statistics are significantly exaggerated and have no valid basis in science. The ideas of fixed sexual orientation and gender fluidity are very helpfully discussed. Parkinson rightly identifies the origins of some of these ideas in philosophy and describes them as  “now quite a widespread belief system, especially in parts of the western world. This belief system is deeply held by some, and has many characteristics of being a religious belief.”

His comments on the fluidity of sexual identity in the period around puberty are very helpful. It seems to me that some of the reported methods of obtaining data by asking children which gender they felt attracted to, for example, was asking questions that weren’t the questions of young people of that age. Not just statistics but methodology also was a problem.

Overall the paper is a reasoned and careful critique, not only of the Safe Schools Program, but of significant aspects of the broader gender and sexual orientation discussion. He also identifies worrying extensions of the unreliable data and belief systems into policies and statements by government education departments.

At a wider level the issues discussed are not just, or even primarily, about valid research data. The issues concern idealogical identities that are not really based in science. In some ways it reminds me of Emma Kowal’s “Trapped in the Gap” which discusses the gap between the ideology of those who want to “close the gap” of indigenous health and the actual reality of a gap that is not closing. Part of her discussion concerns reforming identities. Maybe the ideology of gender and sexual identity may change under the pressure of reality and true data. Or a miracle may happen. In the meantime this is a very helpful and informative paper that ought to be widely read.

Dale Appleby [This paper can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network Electronic Library at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2839084]

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