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EFAC Australia

General

One of the big challenges for many evangelical churches at present is the large cohort of Baby Boomers who make up the mix of people who participate in our churches. Many churches that embraced a contemporary approach to worship in the 1980’s now have a reasonable cohort of baby boomers. There are many challenges and many opportunities associated with this phenomenon. At St Hilary’s we have several hundred baby boomers. What this means is that we are now seeking to minister to multiple generations in the same congregation at the same time while still seeking to be family friendly and attractive to younger families. As you are probably aware this is a big challenge! One of my colleagues Mark McDonald has done some interesting thinking in this space.

As a Baby Boomer myself I’d like to think that I’ve got the right outlook about the future so that I can continue to learn and grow as well as contribute for many years to come.  I recently wrote to following piece for our church newsletter, which captures something of this unique challenge for me and many others.

‘The Age newspaper recently ran an article suggesting that by 2057 the average life expectancy for newborn girls born in the UK will be 100. 50 percent of today’s 20 year olds can expect to live to 100. In response two English writers, Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton have just written a book ‘The 100-Year life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.’ The book is an examination of the seismic shifts that will – must – occur as the population ages.

“We are saying we have a tremendous opportunity to use this amazing gift of time, but we must do so wisely and that means the deferral of gratification: saving more, exercising more and eating less.’

‘Personal reinvention in all spheres will be very much part of the new world order. The 100-Year Life focuses on a protracted ‘juvenescence’, or state of being youthful, open, flexible and adaptable to change.’                                                    The Age June 7, 2016

I, personally, like the idea of ‘personal juvenescence’. If God blesses me with a longer life than I had previously mentally expected then one needs to be juvenescent to embrace it. It needs to be added, of course, that it is the Lord who numbers our days and none of us knows how long that will be. Not all will enjoy good health and some will face significant challenges in growing older due to health challenges. At the same time as the authors suggest we need to be thinking about these extra years the Lord may bless us with and be open to new possibilities as we move into the third phase of life 1-30 years (Childhood to Young Adulthood) 30-60 years (Adulthood) 60-90plus years (Mature Adulthood).

As a faith community we have a smaller percentage of people who in the past were referred to as ‘Seniors’ compared to most churches. At the same time we have quite a group of people who have retired in recent years or who are/will be retiring from full time work either at present or shortly. Over time our percentage of ‘Seniors’ will become larger. All of this has significant implications for the shape of our ministries as well as how we continue to renew our churches life. There are many new possibilities but also many new challenges for us as a church. One of the most obvious will be how we sustain our ministry financially.

If we are to be juvenescent both personally as well as a church then we can each benefit from being members of a cross generational community where we mix with younger people as well as our peers. As a church we have a strategic priority called ‘Boom’. The idea is to support people to pray, plan and think creatively about these extra years that God is blessing them with. We want to be a community that is committed to extending God’s kingdom in all sorts of ways especially amongst those who are being given the gift of extra time in this life?’

Stephen Hale

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continues its work in Newcastle as this issue of Essentials is being prepared. All dioceses of Australia have been affected by the Commission and its requests for information and its public hearings.  It is painful to hear how the Lord’s sheep have been so badly abused and mistreated. As well some feel as though it has “sucked the oxygen out” of the leadership of the church.

There is a strong motivation to retreat from it all. Not to hear any more reports. To retreat to whatever spiritual comfort zone we prefer and get on with an un-engagement with the bad world out there.

Child abuse is not the only stress point for us. The ongoing debates about marriage, sexuality and, more so now, gender add further motivation to keep our heads down. What seemed to be a simple matter of redefining marriage turns out to be part of a much larger social reconstruction of identity and human relationships. Where did this come from some of us ask? And what do we do with it?

In this issue we have some helpful examples of how to apply the scriptures to these issues. It is encouraging that applying the scriptures is still a good idea. More than a good idea. We should expect that the Creator who has revealed himself in word and deed, and spoken by his Son, should have provided sufficient revelation for us to be able understand how to respond to these changes.

But it is apparent that applying the scriptures is not always a simple matter. This is partly because often “the issue is not the issue”. That is why thoughtful analyses of the issues, such as we have in this Issue of Essentials, needs to go hand in hand with applying the scriptures.

Although it feels that we are reacting in these debates, they are also exposing open doors for the gospel as they reveal how some people are thinking. It may look a lot like Romans 1 but Romans 3 still describes what God can do. And wants to do. And is doing. Through disciples who have the scriptures and the Spirit.

Dale Appleby

This issue of Essentials seems to be dominated by Bishops and Academics. And it is very encouraging on that account. Bishops are called on to teach the scriptures and exhort with wholesome doctrine. Christian academics ought to be students of God's word who in turn can teach others, clarifying, explaining, exhorting others to be hearers and doers of God's word.

Such encouragement is always needed, not least in the present. Conflict is part of our lives. Unfortunately often within the life of the church. Many are confused by disputes within the church. And increasingly by debates in the wider community. Some have abandoned their loyalty to the scriptures in the face of friends who live in ways they once would have seen as inconsistent with the Bible.

Confusion and conflict sometimes make retreat attractive. Which is a pity since there are many pressing issues in our society to which Christians can make important contributions: indigenous issues; the environment; refugees; family life; economics; politics even.

Confusion and conflict sometimes expose our insecurity and lead to ungracious and unhelpful ways of responding. We have much to be thankful for in the examples of brothers and sisters who speak winsomely and clearly about many of these matters. Not least the bishops, academics, and ordinary folk who keep on speaking the gospel in the sure and certain hope that God's gospel is still the way people come to know the living God.

With an election and possible plebiscite ahead, we should pray for those who have opportunities to speak (all of us in fact) that we will do so graciously, clearly and boldly.

A Brief History of Gender and its Significance

Daniel Patterson

Dan Patterson is an Australian writing a PhD on gender at the University of Aberdeen School of Divinity, History and Philosophy. He co-ordinates www.embraceidentity.org

Introduction

The topic of gender has recently captured the public’s attention. One reason for this is the radical attempt by some organisations and theorists to “queer” gender. What follows describes, albeit in brief, the historical and theoretical backstory that has lead to the development and use of queer theory to achieve this end. Evangelical responses to this issue will be greatly enriched by better understanding the history that has brought us to this point. This article is not an attempt to engage the debate, but is focussed on the more modest task of explaining the historical and theoretical parameters of the debate. 

A Very Brief History

Questioning gender norms in the past has catalysed significant changes to culturally embedded gender norms. Following is a brief recount of how gender has been under question for over 100 years, and how each new wave of questioning of gender norms can be characterised by distinct emphases falling under the broad banner called feminism. The historical questioning of gender norms can be divided broadly into three feminist waves, each offering a depth of social analysis the previous wave did not achieve. 
It is not accurate to say that queer theory is feminism or even a kind of feminism, but one is able to identify queer theorisation as having emerged from and in response to perceived inadequacies of a particular formulation of feminism of the 1980s.1  

The One and the Many

There is always a struggle to see what we share with those strangers who are our neighbours. How can we find truth and love in these conflicts with our multiplicities?

Dale Appleby

Some in the social sciences have observed the decline of the old seventeenth century liberal theory that individual reason and individual need could explain all aspects of the social order. Instead of a universal human nature shared by all people, 'culture theory' said that there were multiple ways of being human, all of which could only be understood in their context. Religion replaced by rationalism. Rationalism replaced by multiple and equally valid ways of being human.

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