Essentials

Preaching with the prayer book

Despite a (hopefully undeserved) reputation as the lowest of low church, pseudo-baptistical despisers of Anglican forms, plenty of evangelical Anglicans minister and preach in services shaped by a prayer book, even following a lectionary. In this paper first presented at the Preaching Seminars, run by EFAC Canberra and Goulburn, David McLennan shares some ways to preach effectively in this context.

"You might need to put up with it for a while, just to keep the 8 o’clock congregation onside. But obviously your ultimate goal should be to replace a liturgical service with something more contemporary."

If you’ve been in evangelical circles for a while, you’ve almost certainly heard some version of this conventional ministry wisdom. Hostility to liturgical forms has become one of the curious hallmarks of Australian evangelicalism.

And it’s a hallmark I’ve personally come to reject. As an Anglican minister who has benefited enormously from the likes of J.I. Packer, Charles Simeon and Thomas Cranmer (not to mention the church fathers); as a Christian who needs both word and sacrament, and as a person who is more than just a rational mind, I’ve come to see the Anglican prayer book tradition as a great ally to gospel ministry. It is theologically rich, pastorally wise and even, in our particular cultural moment, missionally powerful.

But what happens when an evangelical, nurtured in a sub-culture that has an allergic response to anything resembling a formal liturgy, finds themselves ministering in a more recognizably Anglican context? In particular, how might this new context impact their preaching?

For as any preacher knows, context is key. No homiletical approach is well suited to every context. My own sense is that evangelicals need to be very careful about assuming the preaching model they learned in their liturgically-sparse homeland can be transplanted into any context.

Because even if I’m right that an Anglican prayer book service is a good thing—a gospel-centred, orthodoxy-preserving and pedagogically effective thing—it is still a particular kind of thing. It makes sense that a prayer book preacher should consider not only the context of the passage on which the sermon is based, but also the context of the sermon itself.

For the best part of a decade, I’ve been worshipping and ministering in Anglican churches with a more liturgical bent, and now I find myself as rector of a parish with a strong prayer book identity. I’ve come to appreciate how the gospel shape of a prayer book service supports the gospel content we seek to proclaim. But it does require the cultivation of particular homiletical skills which are not always part of the evangelical’s toolbox. So here are four lessons I’ve been learning (usually the hard way) about what works—and doesn’t— in settings like this.

1. Small is beautiful

Part of the beauty of the Prayer Book is that the typical Sunday service includes a lot: up to four scripture readings, a creed, various prayers, a confession and absolution, Holy Communion, notices, some songs, and maybe a children’s spot.

This is a lot of content, and time can easily blow out. This is really not the place for a 40-minute sermon. Nor a 30-minute sermon. Nor a 25-minute sermon. Personally, I think 20 minutes is the absolute upper limit, 15 minutes is a far better goal, and even 12 minutes is not necessarily something to feel guilty about.

The mantra ‘sermonettes produce Christianettes!’ is likely to be deployed in response to such a claim, and there is much truth in it. But this can overlook two important things: firstly, that the Sunday sermon should not be expected to carry the entire burden of the church’s teaching ministry; and secondly, that many a ‘sermonette’ has lasted 30 minutes or more.

Length alone is a poor way to measure the seriousness of a sermon. If a sermon is superficial and unfocussed, lacks biblical insight and human empathy and is meandering and insensitive, more time won’t save it. It will just enhance its power to make the congregation dislike you more.

By contrast, I believe that reducing sermon length while maintaining impact is very possible. The real obstacle to shorter sermons is that they are very difficult and time-consuming for the preacher. They require more, not less, preparation.

I am suggesting that part of the burden we should carry in our preaching ministry is the burden of giving our sermons a very thorough edit: forcing ourselves to ruthlessly cut all that is not necessary for edification; focusing like a laser on one main point, and avoiding tangents. (Because economy of words is so important, I find a full text helps me to avoid wasting time searching for the right phrase, or repeating myself unnecessarily.)

Much of this is good practice anyway, but it also means that when the sermon ends, people may feel sad it is over, rather than sad it took so long.

2. Use the liturgy

Preachers are always on the lookout for examples that can make their point come alive to the hearer. One of the benefits of a prayer book service is that the sermon is nestled within a gathering that is full of such examples: words and actions that pull in the same direction as the preached word.

So, when looking for illustrations it’s a good idea to consider the phrases and moments that are regularly (but not, always thoughtfully) repeated. For example, when preaching on our relationships with one another, why not use the greeting of peace to press the point home? 

When preaching on the ascension, why not refer to the words in the thanksgiving prayer: ‘Lift up your hearts!’ When preaching about the centrality of the gospel, why not explain why we stand during the gospel reading?

And then of course there is Holy Communion. Is there be a better way to preach our dependence on Christ than to remind our people that we shall soon be nourished by him in the Lord’s Supper? Is there a better way to speak of the Jesus’ sacrifice than to remind them of the solemn night when he broke bread with his friends? Is there any physical act that provides a better experience of the gospel than coming forward with empty hands, and finding in Jesus’ death and sacrifice the sustenance we need? Maybe there is, but I can’t think of it.

When these liturgical or sacramental moments are integrated into our teaching, it can liberate them from the sphere of ‘mere habit’ to become discipleship tools that will continue to work years into the future.

3. The church year and lectionary are your friends

Most prayer book churches also preach according to the lectionary and observe the seasons of the church year. These are additional ways that the gospel story can be brought to the people year after year. Theologian Scott McKnight says that the church year:

‘is all about the Story of Jesus, and I know of nothing – other than the regular soaking in the Bible – that can ‘gospelize’ our life more than the church calendar … Anyone who is half aware of the church calendar … will be exposed every year to the whole gospel.’ 1
In this context it makes sense to locate the day’s preaching emphasis with at least one eye on the bigger story that is being narrated each year.

Similarly, the lectionary, when used well, can be a great ally. While it’s often said that sequential preaching through a book helps the preacher avoid hobby horses, my own observation is that no method guarantees this. It is disturbingly easy to preach through book after book and barely touch on the doctrines of the Trinity, or the two natures of Christ, or the virgin birth, or the sacraments – or many other things which our forebears thought essential for the Christian to understand.

While the lectionary is not a foolproof device, if used well (not slavishly and inflexibly) it provides scope for covering, each year, the great doctrines of the Christian life, while at the same time walking us through the life of Christ. And it still provides considerable freedom to preach through books – the pattern with which many evangelicals are more familiar.

Informed use is the key. For example, the seasons of Advent–Pentecost are ideally suited to more theological preaching, centred around the gospel reading. The Sundays after Pentecost are a good chance to return to sermon series through particular books. (For more guidance on wise use of the lectionary, see O’Day and Hackett, ‘Preaching through the Revised Common Lectionary’, Abingdon Press, 2007.)

It is also good to find ways to unify, as far as possible, the different texts – up to four – that are read during the service. Tim Keller insists that each text has a ‘surplus of meanings’. So it makes sense to allow the church calendar and lectionary to bias our exegetical focus, so that the readings work in harmony with each other rather than at seeming disconnected.

The person who believes in the self-authenticating quality of Scripture will not feel compelled to explain every passage in detail. But where possible, passing reference to the various readings of the day helps demonstrate how Scripture’s many different voices all testify in unison to the same bigger story.

4. Jesus (not the text) is the hero

Much evangelical preaching tenaciously clings to a single text, so that the structure of the text determines the structure of the sermon itself. While a good method in some contexts, this isn’t usually well-suited to a prayer book service due to the shortage of time and the abundance of Scripture readings. It’s worth remembering that the task of the sermon is to edify - not simply to explain a particular text. In the end, it’s more important that our people are gripped by the hope proclaimed in Romans 8, than that they understand the structure and word choices used in Romans 8.

The best prayer book preaching, therefore, shows the sort of freedom we find in the apostolic preaching in Acts, i.e. preaching which regards the text as authoritative, but does not get bogged down in historical-grammatical exegesis or a desire to explain the text in detail. Other contexts (e.g. the Bible study group) are better suited for that. In the sermon, it’s best to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is always centred on Christ and his saving work, and my advice is unapologetically to lift people above the weeds of detailed exegesis, and show them the wider theological landscape to which the text refers. It may feel a bit naughty the first time you do it, but it’s worth persevering.

Conclusion

Besides being an expectation of Anglican clergy, our Anglican liturgical forms are a great gift to the gospel preacher when used thoughtfully. But they also require us to be reflective and open to re-evaluating how we think about ministry—including the preaching ministry. This can lead to the discovery that, when word and sacrament operate alongside each other, the minds and hearts of our people are saturated in the gospel in a more holistic way. And who knows? This saturating process might have the added advantage of drowning a few unnecessary evangelical shibboleths about liturgy. Your 8 o’clock congregation will thank you.



1. Scott McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel (Zondervan, 2011) p.155

The New Situation

Bishop Robert Forsyth, formerly Bishop of South Sydney, current senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies sees a testing time ahead for Evangelicals.

We are living in different worlds. Leaving aside for a moment the religious freedom implications of the passing of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, the process and events around it reveal profound differences in fundamental beliefs in Australia between the churches and much of the wider society.

Much of the disagreement about same-sex marriage reflected deeper disagreements about other questions of what is marriage itself, what is the moral status of same-sex relationships, and about how such questions are decided in the first place. The differences go all the way down. As ancient historian Kyle Harper recently wrote: ‘In our secular age, just as in the early years of Christianity, differences in sexual morality are really about the clash between different pictures of the universe and the place of the individual within it.’ 1

This was unacknowledged in much of the debate and yet is one reason why neither side seemed to be actually talking to the other. The churches’ campaign for the no case never really said why same-sex marriage should not be legal because, whether they realised it or not, the real Christian case for no is incomprehensible to those who share so little of the Christian understanding of reality. Harper captures this well.
An avowed secularist is as likely as a Christian activist to proclaim the universal dignity of all and insist upon the individual’s freedom. And yet, however moralized the domain of sex might be, the vast, vacant universe seems to have left only authenticity and consent as the shared, public principles of sexual morality. These axioms derive from a picture of the universe different from the one imagined by Paul, who envisioned the individual—including the sexual self—within the larger story of the gospel and a created cosmos in the throes of restoration. That is why the no case was all about unwelcome consequences to same-sex marriage, not the issue itself.

Since then, not unexpectedly, the meaning and significance of the change in the law is deeply contested as well. In the second reading Attorney General George Brandis described the passing of the bill as saying ‘to those vulnerable young people [who are homosexual or lesbian], there is nothing wrong with you. You are not unusual. You are not abnormal. You are just you.’ The Prime Minister said that in amending the Marriage Act the clear message to every gay person was ‘we love you. We respect you. Your relationship is recognised by the Commonwealth as legitimate and honourable as anybody else’s. You belong.’ Peter van Onselen writing in The Australian on 27 November likened those who voted no with ‘people who wanted blacks to continue to ride at the back of the bus, or racial segregation of toilets, or bans on interracial marriage. When the laws changed they realised they were on the wrong side of history.’

If this rhetoric is to be taken seriously it means that in the eyes of significant thought leaders in this country those who voted no, and in particular those who continue to hold to a view of marriage that is not the one endorsed by the passing of the Act, must be saying to gay people; ‘you are abnormal’, ‘you are not loved or respected’, and that such non-cooperators are the moral equivalent to segregationists in America’s deep South in the 1960s. In other words, it is not just that such leaders remain unconvinced as to our stance, they are uncomprehending, and, worse, regard us as immoral.
It is not easy so close to these events to know how long-lasting such attitudes are. Public debates have short half-lives. But the reality of incomprehension and disgust is lasting. We can be sure that the six in ten Australians, who, according to the Ipsos survey2 released in October last year, believe that religion does more harm than good are not going away soon.

The implications for the churches are threefold. Firstly, we face threats to religious freedoms and privilege in a situation of diminished goodwill towards us. Secondly, we need to accept that, on any public issue other than those where we simply echo the majority culture, we have to start way back in the different picture of the universe and the place of the individual within it that informs our understanding. Thirdly, the churches face the Herculean task of maintaining the integrity of their own discipleship and culture down the generations in the face of a proselytising and persistent secularism, especially in matters of sexual behaviour. It will be a testing time indeed.


1. Kyle Harper ‘The First Sexual Revolution’ First Things, January 2018

2. https://www.ipsos.com/en-au/ipsos-global-study-shows-half-think-religion-does-more-harm-good

Editorial Autumn 2018

I suspect 2017 is a year in our national life we will not quickly forget. The changes to the Marriage Act have been supported and passed, and I suspect all sides of the question have found it hard in various ways. The LBGTQI community and their supporters went in apprehensive that they would be bruised by the debate, but came out celebrated and celebrating. Those who wanted to keep marriage as received also found the debate confronting, it seems to me, and came out with their fears confirmed—that they are the minority, and their views are implausible and their arguments unconvincing to the majority.

2018 may bring its own significant developments. The status of religious conviction and the freedom of believers to conduct their public lives, as individuals and through their institutions, according to the convictions of their faith-formed consciences is now on the agenda, thanks to the Prime Minister’s Religious Freedom Review. We can hope, pray and advocate for the continued embrace of such religious freedom, put together in our culture over such a long span, and so integral to the kind of society that we have enjoyed—a society that safeguards us against tyrannies large and small.

Our leaders by Rob Forsyth and Allan Chapple touch on these current affairs, and our first feature extends our engagement with these social concerns by hearing from Christians in the workforce as they encounter diversity training and the coming of corporately-adopted policies on diversity in the workplace. This can be a source of difficulty for Christians, even to the point that some Christians hear the message: ‘conform or get out’. If you want some insight on how some Christians are finding it, read on.

The Canberra-Goulburn branch of EFAC has generously provided written versions of presentations at their 2017 Preaching Seminars, and in this issue we feature Jonathan Holt’s analysis of the TED talk approach, and its grist for the preacher’s mill. David McLennan writes about preaching in a Prayer Book context. If you enjoy these you might like to find out more at the Preaching Seminars website:jonathan6412.wixsite.com/ preachingseminars.

Further along, Stephen Hale keeps our heads in the parish and looks to the changing nature of the ministry of small groups, and Gavin Perkins helps us meditate on the pronouncement of Jesus in the Nazareth synagogue: ‘Today the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’. A clutch of book reviews and a railing against the poverty of philosophical materialism by Peter Corney rounds out the issue. But don’t forget to block out September 6-8, 2018 and come along to the Anglican Future Conference jointly hosted by EFAC and FCA Australia in Melbourne. Spread the word about this too. It’s not just for clergy. See the notice at the back of the mag.

Ben Underwood, Editor

Dear Mr Ruddock

Concerned to say a word in favour of religious freedom, Allan Chapple took the opportunity to write to the Prime Minister’s Expert Panel currently tasked to consider the intersections between the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and other human rights in Australia. Here is the case he put.
Allan Chapple is Senior Lecturer in New Testament at Trinity Theological College, Perth, WA

I believe it is crucial to be clear about the issue that is at the heart of the review you have been asked to conduct. In my opinion, the fundamental issue is not whether—and if so, how—religious freedoms are to be protected; it is whether—and if so, how—Australia is to remain a genuinely democratic society.

What are the defining characteristics of ‘democracy’? While this is not the whole answer, I believe that the most essential feature of democracy is the protection of certain fundamental freedoms. And the clearest indicator of a nation's commitment to democracy is how well those basic freedoms are preserved when there are powerful reasons for disallowing any of them, at least for a limited period. So when we are at war, and must quickly build up military forces capable of defending us, conscription of able-bodied citizens is an obvious strategy. But when we are truly democratic, we have made provision for conscientious objectors, even when many believe that our national interest should over-ride their freedom of conscience.

That is what I believe is the most basic and important question we are now facing as a nation: are the freedoms that lie at the heart of democracy, and which have long been taken for granted in our country (even though they may not have been legislated appropriately), to be upheld? The freedom that is most at stake here is what has been known traditionally as ‘freedom of conscience.’ As in the case of the ‘conscientious objector’, the committed pacifist, this is not just a matter of holding private opinions; it is about living by one's fundamental convictions about what is good and right, even when doing so brings me into conflict with institutions and groupings in society and with key aspects of the national agenda. The majority of my fellow-citizens may disagree strongly with my convictions, and may well be very unhappy about the problems I cause by living by them-but in a democracy, my right to hold and live by my convictions is acknowledged and protected. [I understand, of course, that work needs to be done to distinguish genuinely held and proper convictions from fantasies and delusions, immoral dogmas and obsessions, and so on-but the big question is whether we do believe that this fundamental freedom must be granted and protected, even if it isn't always easy to work out the best way of doing so.]

Seen from this perspective, the key issue is not freedom of religion, for that could be understood as permitting people with religious beliefs to meet together: to go to the mosque or synagogue or church, and so on. But if that is all that this freedom involves, it necessarily defines religious belief as only private opinions to be expressed only in private gatherings and personal rituals. While some religious beliefs might be of this kind, the major religions in Australia have in common the fact that the convictions their followers hold are meant to be lived out, not only at home or at the mosque/church/and so on, but also in the public domain.

As a result, this matter has real personal consequences for me. I write as someone whose family was not religious, who became a Christian by conviction during my teenage years, and who still holds strongly, even passionately, to those convictions more than five decades later. Because of what lies at its heart, if I were to accept that Christian commitment is a merely private matter I would effectively be abandoning that commitment — and that I cannot do. So the question you have been asked to consider can be stated like this: will I be allowed to live out my Christian convictions, even when this means being a conscientious objector, out of step with majority beliefs and practices?

I thank you for the opportunity to put my views.

Allan Chapple

28 January 2018

Find out more about the Religious Freedom Review at -
pmc.gov.au/domestic-policy/religious-freedom-review

Essentials 2018

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Navigating the seas of diversity

In the following piece, three Christians share stories of what their experience of a push to embrace diversity has been like for them, and how they have thought about and responded to the various sides of the coming of diversity into their work lives.

Workplaces and corporations have lately become more and more reflective and intentional about their culture and values. They spend more time and effort identifying the environment they wish to foster and the values they want their workforces to embrace and work by.

One of the values getting plenty of attention is diversity, and one of the diversities of human beings that is an especially hot topic is the LGBTQI kind of diversity. What effect is all this having on Christians in workplaces where such diversity is being championed, and where there is sometimes an expectation that an endorsement of all these diversities is the way to be on board in the modern workplace?

The following three Christians are probably far from alone in having to figure out how to navigate these waters. Different workplaces no doubt expect different levels of conformity to particular views, and also different Christians feel that their Christian integrity requires different kinds of response. Perhaps we need gently to help each other find our way through the shifting and varied challenges and opportunities that the focus on diversity brings.

Roger Coetzer, WA

I have worked for the same employer for the past 10 years and over this time I have seen an increased focus on the topic of diversity and inclusion. The diversity and inclusion agenda has mainly been driven through training courses and in particular through senior leaders and executives promoting diversity and inclusion in a number of forums.

The communication and messaging I have received on a weekly basis from senior leaders and executives in a number of cases has had a section dedicated to diversity and inclusion. What I found interesting is that even though we are talking about diversity and inclusion the majority of this communication and messaging mainly centres on the LGBTI community, which also encompassed marriage equality. The marriage equality debate especially received a lot of airtime when the government confirmed the postal survey. There has also been a small focus on culture diversity but there has been little to no mention of diversity and inclusion around someone’s beliefs or religion.

As a Christian in the workplace I have found this very challenging because I am fully supportive of promoting a safe work environment and having a better understanding of each other regardless of religion, beliefs, race, sexual orientation or cultural background. All communication and messaging came across that the only voice to be heard was from the LGBTI community. Now there have been some good aspects to the training—mainly getting a better understanding of the struggles and challenges that the LGBTI community face—but there has also been an assumption that off the back of this you will be an advocate and promote their way of life and this is where I as a Christian feel my integrity as a believer starts to be compromised.
I think a lot of godly wisdom is needed to navigate how we uphold our Christian values in a secular work environment and at the same time still have the confidence to share the gospel. The conclusion I have come to is that I will actively promote that everyone in the workplace, no matter what your background, beliefs or sexual orientation, must be treated with dignity and respected and that we cannot elevate one over the other. It is then through individual relationships, where questions are asked and respect is built, that I pray God will open people’s hearts and minds and use me to share the gospel.

Adrian Fry, WA

In early 2017 my employer issued a range of workplace values, formalising a slow movement that had been gaining momentum over the previous two years. Over the previous couple of years the staff had been invited to participate in Aboriginal awareness, disability awareness and LGBTI ally training; and so when diversity featured as one the corporate values it was hardly a surprise.

Most of the values were innocuous, or generally positive: requiring staff to be diligent, provide excellent customer service and act with integrity are good values for any organisation, however the organisation’s framing of their diversity value was a problem. The diversity value statement required all employees fully to accept and endorse the LGBTI sexual framework and ethics—as detailed to staff in the prior training. The LGBTI training had made it was clear that any act, belief or statement that did not accord with the LGBTI sexual ethic could be regarded as an act of harassment and discrimination—and any act found to be harassment or discrimination would be punishable by termination of employment.

As a Christian it seemed evident that there was an inconsistency between what I believe and the beliefs that were now required of me. The Christian faith already contains a robust sexual ethic, with such convictions as God creating people as male and female (which is an affront to the notion that people can create our own sexual identities—which is itself a key part of the LGBTI sexual ethic) or that sexual relations outside of a heterosexual marriage were sinful. Through the lens of the new value of diverity, such a claim or belief is seen as an example of the worst kind of homophobia and should be self-evidently incorrect to any reasonable person.

In spite of the subtle change in culture that had happened over the pervious couple of years I was surprised that any organisation would set the bar so high, rather than at a pluralist ‘live and let live’—which I would have been comfortable endorsing, as it would simply require respect for each other—rather than requiring all staff to take on a specific set of beliefs.

However, after confirming the precise details of the new values with the executive, it was made clear to me that any beliefs I had that did not square with the new values would be a problem for my ongoing employment with the organisation. So I found another job and quietly left the organisation about 8 weeks after my meeting with the executive.

After nearly a year after the events I have these three reflections:

1. When Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow and to trust him to provide for our needs, we need to take him seriously. It’s terrifying to be threatened with job loss because of your faith in Jesus, and perhaps just as terrifying to trust God in the midst of it happening, but it’s been amazing to see God provide for us over the last 12 months.

2. My greatest fear for other Christians facing a similar situation is that they will forget the gospel of grace as announced by Jesus, and choose silence and quiet acceptance over faithfulness to God. I fear that we will forget that God is capable of righting every wrong that is done to us, and instead we decide to defend our patch when really we’re called to love sacrificially as the church. It’s very difficult to tell someone that God loves them when you’re busy sharpening swords and preparing to fight the culture wars or battles in court.

3. It’s been a very long time since we had an obvious enemy anywhere, and I hope we don’t stop praying for and ministering to those who hate us. It seems that as the gospel has receded from our culture, we’re seeing the things that have always been there. In spite of my experience I’m not pessimistic about this change, for a long time it’s been difficult to see any difference between a middle-class Christian and their middle-class neighbour, and I think that will change, and I think that will be a good thing for our witness to people about the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Tam Jonker, WA

Workplace diversity and its aid, diversity training, are becoming more prevalent in our workplaces, and I had some experience of these while working for a multinational organisation. It was an experience that irritated me and gave me heart, made me think and notice things about others’ reactions, led to conflict and started a longer conversation.

On the face of it, diversity within the workplace is a good thing. I know that studies show diverse workplaces are better able to make good decisions, have increased productivity, higher employee morale, greater innovation and creativity and the list goes on. Additionally from a Christian perspective, workplace diversity embodies a core Christian value of equality. If we naturally favour those like us and familiar to us, it does not surprise me that we would need to make a conscious effort to treat others with equity when they are unlike us and their ways might be unfamiliar and require us to learn and adjust to their diversity. And so I am basically well-disposed to diversity training, as it focuses on the practicalities of life in a diverse workplace, for example; the need for colleagues to be inclusive, understanding and patient with each other.

However, it is also true that many Christians feel threatened by diversity training. Why might this be, and and what can (and should) we do about it? Here are some observations that come from the diversity training that I attended in a multinational organisation.

My first observation is that there was conflict in the room in the training I attended. This conflict was caused by the change that the diversity training was aiming to bring about in the workplace. The changing nature of the workplace is no different to any other change – there are winners and losers with change. Some people were vocal about feeling threatened by diversity (if the company has gender targets, will I lose my job or miss out on the next promotion to a woman?). Others were vocal about the potential benefits (maybe I will get a promotion this year and won’t be overlooked just because I have young children). This conflict was uncomfortable. But uncomfortable conflict is not always bad – in fact, in this situation it was positive that people could voice their opinions and be heard. Despite the conflict in the room, a longer conversation started that day.

The second and more prominent issue that arose for me was that the diversity training I did conflated diversity with an LGBTQI agenda. This included a harsh criticism by the diversity trainer of societies’ failure to accept LGBTQI people in the past and was expressed as a rant against religion, particularly Christianity – whose teachings are the moral foundation upon which Australia has historically been built.

As I listened to the diversity trainer and watched people’s reactions (again, some vocal in support, others more circumspect), I was irritated that the training was largely limited to the idea that all people should accept LGBTQI values. However, it got me thinking.

First, I strongly disagree with the idea that all people should accept LGBTQI values. Jesus calls us to love, accept all people and treat all people equally. He does not call us to accept all value systems. But, secondly, given that I disagreed with the trainer, I had to ask myself what diversity is actually about. I walked away with an appreciation that, at its heart, workplace diversity encapsulates the core Christian value of equality. Jesus treated all people equally and instructed us to do the same. If I have a problem with treating all people, regardless of age, race, gender or sexuality equally, perhaps I need to examine my own heart.

Then, thirdly, in the situation where diversity was confused and conflated with a demand for acceptance of LGBTQI values and a corresponding attack on religion, I realised that I had to accept and take some responsibility for the fact that many things done in the name of religion are racist, sexist and elitist. This is not just a historical phenomenon, it continues today. It became apparent to me that it was only by accepting those things, and apologising for them, that I could have a voice.

I then took heart that equality and inclusivity were on the agenda! This gave me the ability to say that despite the terrible things that have happened and continue to happen in the name of religion, criticising someone for holding a religious view is the antithesis of what diversity training is about. Far from being inclusive, it is exclusive and shows a lack of understanding.

Lastly, I also spent time observing the reactions in the room. Often the most vocal people are also the most wounded. I made a mental note of people to strike up a conversation with at a later time – without the gaggle of onlookers.

 

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