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EFAC Australia

General

The “good old days”?

The olden days feature in this issue. Some may wish to label Peter Brain’s article as a product of the “sentimental generation”. John Yates article maybe might be regarded as antiquarian by some.

These articles remind us of the problem of what happens a generation or so after the “good old days”. Or after a big revival. Both Methodism and Pentecostalism can be see as heirs of the eighteenth century revival. Nowadays neither look like the kind of religious communities overseen by Whitfield and Wesley.

We rightly praise God for the remarkable growth of the church in Africa, Asia and South America. But what will sustain the present life of those churches to the grand children and great grandchildren of today’s saints?

Forms continue but hearts change. Ideas and doctrines change slowly, as much under the power of the culture as under the power of the Word and Spirit.

Five Centuries Later

We don’t manage to theme each issue of Essentials, but we have made a special effort this issue to honour the five hundredth anniversary of the posting of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses by majoring on Reformation themes. There’s a trio of feature articles by a trio of Peters. Firstly Peter Brain looks at justification by faith in the heart of the pastor, then Peter Jensen reflects on the strange and precious gift of the Bible, and lastly Peter Adam urges us to benefit from the reformation of prayer that Cranmer brought to the church in the Book of Common Prayer. Another Reformation feature has Paul Bartley relating how a Reformation study tour has catalysed his interest in the historical actors, aims and outcomes of the Reformation.

Our lead articles are perhaps less obviously connected to the Reformation, but consider that anxiety over guilt before God was a powerful experience for Luther, and the joyful discovery of justification before God through faith in Christ’s atoning death electrified him and his age. What, then has happened to the sense and burden of guilt in our own age, and the desire to be morally justified? Is it still with us? In our opening leader I recommend a recent essay that explores these questions powerfully, and in our second leader, Frances Cook writes candidly of the way her Bible reading helped her in her own feelings of self-condemnation.

by Bishop Stephen Hale

Bishop Stephen Hale has been the Lead Minister at St Hilary’s since 2009. A recent media focus has been on the growing number of people who no longer carry any cash with them as they go about their daily lives. In this article Bishop Hale discusses the implications for us and for our churches

For the first time, cards account for more of our purchases than cash. Whether it’s payWave or myki, Opal or MyWay for the small things, or Visa, MasterCard and debit cards for the big ones, we are using cards more often than ever before and taking less cash out of ATMs than at any time in the past 15 years.

A new Reserve Bank report released last week finds that an astonishing one-fifth of Australians carried no cash whatsoever on the day they were surveyed, up from 8 per cent three years before. The typical amount carried fell from $55 to $40. The typical amount secreted away around the home (such as in bedrooms and under fruit bowls) is $100.

Only for payments of less than $10 did cash still hold its own, and predominantly among older and poorer Australians.

Ironically there has been a jump in the number of people using $100 notes. This applies for people, it seems, who only pay cash!!

Traditionally in churches people put money – cash – in the plate. The Offertory was an act of devotion during public worship having been reverently collected and then received by the minister with a prayer of thanks and offering. In the 70’s and 80’s this was partly altered as people used envelopes to put cash/cheques in the envelope and put them in the plate. The next evolution in the 90’s was the introduction of Direct Debit/Credit Card Authorisations. At our church we’ve been at the upper end of the percentage of people who give electronically – 85% to 90%. In other churches it may be more like 60 – 70%. Research indicates that most churches that rely heavily on traditional forms of electronic giving have static offertory incomes because most people do not adjust (i.e. increase) their giving from one year to the next. The critical thing these days is to eliminate the steps. If you’re relying on people to take home a form and complete it, chances are you’ll get a limited response.

At present in the church I lead we’re going through another revolution as more and more people give via the Push Pay App. Approximately 43% of our current giving now comes via PushPay. Given we only introduced this less than two years ago this is a major shift. The huge advantage of PushPay is that people can manage their own giving and can adjust it instantly. Your information is loaded in the App and it is a two-step process to give or manage your regular giving. People can spontaneously give to particular appeals or other appeals via the App. With an App like PushPay people can manage their giving in the same way as most people now manage their other financial transactions by having it pre- set and digitised. There is also the challenge that if they’re not happy with something they can act immediately!

These changes have significant implications for us and for all churches. We still have offertories but as we all know only a small amount is given by a small number of people. In 2016 we introduced an offertory at each of our Sunday Schools because some parents became aware that their children had never seen them give any money at church! Some people still use envelopes and many still have Direct Debit arrangements or Credit Card transfer authorisations. As indicated a growing number of people are choosing to use PushPay. Recently I was told that a Pentecostal Church nearby has the standard two offertories (tithes and then another after the giving appeal). They have volunteers who stand in the aisles with tap and pay machines!

It would be true to say that for a range of people these sorts of innovations are personally challenging as they impact the sense of piety and expectation they have around the idea of making an offering to God.

Our church is on a journey in this space. Most of us are evolving how we mange our finances and make payments. We don’t have all the answers and we are currently checking out what other leading churches are doing in this space. I recently spoke at the Diocesan Training Program for new Incumbents. None of them had heard of PushPay!

In one sense that’s not surprising as most of them are leading smaller churches which rely on fairly traditional approaches. Unfortunately the traditional approaches are being surpassed by contemporary  technology.

Many of you I’m sure will be wondering, has this worked? Has your giving gone up?

The answer is yes. Last year our giving grew by 6% and it has grown again in 2017. Is this due to the new technology? It’s probably too early to know. We’ve also grown numerically. I’ll let you be the judge on that one. I would suggest that with 43% uptake in less than two years it has been an important shift to be a part of, especially for younger people.

N.B. There are no fees for the individuals who give, but PushPay charges organisations an annual service fee that may vary based on certain factors.

The Politics of Rage

Dale Appleby

"The Second Coming: On the politics of rage". Christos Tsiolkas. The Monthly Dec 16-Jan17

The White Queen: One Nation and the Politics of Race. David Marr Quarterly Essay 65 2017

Christos Tsiolkas concludes his article by bemoaning the impact of anger in public debate: “...but this rage and this pornography of wrath, it is proving dangerous.” (35). His discussion claims that rage is everywhere and expressed by all kinds of parties. “There is a narrative of this anger…: that the rage festers in the disenfranchised white working class of the globalised capitalist world.” (30) A narrative he says, which is mistaken. “We are fooling ourselves if we believe the rage is only misogynistic or rural, only white and right-wing, baby-boomer and not millennial.” (30)

His view is that it has invaded all aspects of public discourse. Some if it is the language of elites used against those who don’t speak that language – the less educated for example. “...identity politics has become a weapon to punish any ambivalence of thought and expression, any incorrect use of gendered, racial or theoretical nomenclature, and to launch accusations of bad faith.”

(31) Some of it is exacerbated by “..the internet, which allows for a lubrication and indulgence in wrath just as much as it does for lust” (30). It shows itself in the increase in dichotomies, false distinctions and separations. Each group thinking in their own bubbles, class divisions and lack of understandings. His suggestion is that “We have to relearn listening and we have to relearn argument, to free both activities from the indulgent wrath of the new digital age.” (34)

David Marr discusses the rise and influence of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party. Despite her appeal to those disaffected with politics and politicians, those fed up with the influence of elites, and her positioning as part of a working class and nostalgic group, her central appeal has to do with race, according to Marr. The focus of the rage against other races has changed over the years. At present it is Muslims. Previously it was Aborigines and Asians. Dr Anne Aly agrees with various researchers who think that there is around 14 per cent of the population that are clearly hostile to Muslims and another 10 per cent that hold vaguer fears towards Muslims (17).

Marr thinks Hanson has harnessed the fear and anger of this part of the population. Her power, he says, is not just that it has won her another term in the Senate, but that she holds sway over a significant voting block which affects the fortunes of the major parties. Hence the gradual and unashamed adoption of many of One Nation’s policies by the Government, and the refusal of any of the leaders of the major parties to call her on her racism. Because that would immediately alienate a group which the major parties need to woo.

Marr’s essay outlines a deliberate use of fear and racial hatred to promote a political agenda. Hanson would say that she is merely giving that 24 per cent of the population a voice. Marr’s conclusion is that “the far right where politicians are spending so much energy harvesting votes these days is not Australia. Nearly all of us are somewhere else, scattered around the centre, waiting for a government that will take this good, prosperous, generous country into the future.” (95).

Both essays are rational and irenic. Both are speaking the language of their group. Marr’s is an attempt to explain and dismiss. Tsiolkas offers some advice about listening and arguing. And a plea to give up anger. But what is the alternative, or antidote, to engineered anger?

At a community level, fear and engineered hate are ways of reinforcing tribal boundaries. Because tribal boundaries are felt as means of retaining security. Listening and arguing better may be of some help to those who want less tribal conflict. But some of the talk needs to be inside the tribe to identify other ways not to be afraid. And leadership that shows a path for righteous anger not to become festered anger.

I was at a meeting of EFAC members recently at which the discussion came around to the kind of hate that is directed towards evangelicals. Some of it is passive, of course, and most of it may not be addressed directly. Yet there is a strong antipathy to what evangelicals are perceived to stand for. Inside the evangelical tribe there is a strong desire to listen and argue gently, humbly and in a conciliatory spirit. There is also anger particularly by those who are chronically marginalised. But evangelicals don’t need to be afraid and they don’t need to feed their anger. Either as members of a church or as citizens in a nation.

What they do have is a way of thinking, living and feeling that follows the principle of “blessing those who curse you”, and of “doing to others what you want them to do to you”. Marr wants a government to lead this nation into a better future. Christians still have the opportunity to show their church and nation (and political parties) how the tribes of the earth can listen and argue and grow together in friendship.

Dale Appleby, who has steered Essentials so capably since Spring 2013, has stepped out of the editor’s chair, and deft ly manoeuvred me
into it. I could not persuade him to write a farewell editorial, but then again, as he will stay on the editorial team, it is not really goodbye (just see Dale’s piece on rage and fear in politics, which you will find in the Caboose, down the back of this issue). Dale displays there his characteristic concern for the state of Australian society and the opportunities Christians (especially evangelical Anglican Christians) have to
contribute to the life of our communities and our country. Thanks, Dale for your excellent work as Essentials Editor. May you not slip away too quickly!

This issue brings other glimpses of Christians working hard to contribute to the good of community and church. Karan Moxham writes about life and ministry at Nungalinya College in Darwin, and Kaye and Ian Malcolm write about starting free English classes in a local church, for the benefit of those who appreciate an English speaking context accessible to those whose fi rst language is not English. Th ese are inspiring and very Australian stories.

The ever-evolving conversation in our culture about gender, homosexuality and moral nonconformity makes its mark on this issue too, as part 2 of my essay on same-sex marriage. I hope that Essentials can help us think through the various issues at stake as sympathetically, insightfully and faithfully as possible.

Instead of many book reviews, we have one substantial review essay this issue, by Tim Foster, of John Barclay’s book, Paul and the Gift , a fresh account of Paul’s theology of God’s grace, engaging especially with Romans and Galatians. Has Barclay healed the rift in Pauline studies that the New Perspective has opened up? Tim makes his call in this issue. 

There are other treats of various kinds tobe found in the following pages. I hope you fi nd our winter issue engrosses you as you warm yourself by the fire. We plan for our next issue to have a Reformation theme, as we remember with gratitude aft er 500 years the blessings that God
brought to his people through Martin Luther, those who prepared him and those other reformers who followed him. If you think you’ve got the right stuff to contribute to that issue, do be in touch. 

Ben Underwood, Editor
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