Update: The Presbyterian Church of Australia has since adopted this as the official position of the national church.
The Presbyterian Church of Tasmania has said the resignation of Andrew Thorburn as chief executive of the AFL’s Essendon Football Club is a “watershed moment” in Australian history, marking a departure from well-established common law principles, social tolerance, and freedom of religion.
The former chief of the National Australia Bank resigned from his position at the club less than 24 hours after his appointment after it was revealed he was chairman of the church he attends.
Detractors dug up a near-decade-old sermon from the City on a Hill church, in which Thorburn’s pastor espoused a biblical view of sexuality and lamented the horrors of abortion.
Essendon president, Dave Barham said in a statement that the club acted as soon as the comments relating to the 2013 sermon came to light by clarifying the views of the organisation’s official website, which Barham said are “in direct contradiction to our values as a club.”
“The board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as Chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as Chairman of City on the Hill,” Barham said.
The Presbyterian Church of Tasmania responded to the news, lamenting that “there is apparently now a religious test for significant employment posts in Australia,”
In the October 6 press release issued on behalf of the state Moderator, Mark Powell, spokesperson for the Social Justice Commission, warned that the nation is in a “dangerous place” when politicians and corporate board members seek to impose their personal ideologies on others through the use of name-calling and implied threats.
Powell noted that the ethical position held by Thorburn’s church is not extreme or fringe but is the same position that is upheld by mainline Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.
“Will the Essendon Football Club no longer welcome people who have sincere religious convictions from being involved with the club, at either an administrative, coaching or playing level?” Powell asked, noting the recent news that a Muslim AFLW player has opted out of an upcoming pride round.
The church also drew attention to the club’s inconsistency in stating that they support “wholeheartedly the work of the AFL in continuing to stamp out any discrimination based on race, sex, ‘religion,’ gender, sexual identity or orientation, or physical or mental disability.”
Powell went on to urge church members to stand firm for the faith and not give in to the opposition from those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.
You can read the entire statement here:
The Presbyterian Church of Tasmania expresses its deep concern at recent events surrounding the resignation of Andrew Thorburn as chief executive of the AFL’s Essendon Football Club. We believe that this marks a watershed moment in Australian history – the day we’ve departed from some well-established common law principles, social tolerance of different views and freedom of religion, to being a society where only certain views are permitted in public life.
While Israel Folau was discriminated against for his own beliefs, we not that Mr Thorburn was forced to resign from his post merely because of the particular church he belongs to. While we commend him for his faithful Christian stance, we lament that there is apparently now a religious test for significant employment posts in Australia.
We note that the ethical position Mr Thorburn’s church—City on a Hill—takes on the subject of abortion and sexuality, are the same as that of the mainline Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.
Will the Essendon Football Club no longer welcome people who have sincere religious convictions from being involved with the club, at either an administrative, coaching or playing level? For example, GWS player Haneen Zreika has announced she will be opting out of the upcoming AFLW pride round. Will Zreika also be discriminated against and thus persecuted for her faith?
We also note the inconsistency of the Essendon Football Club stating that they support “wholeheartedly the work of the AFL in continuing to stamp out any discrimination based on race, sex, ‘religion,’ gender, sexual identity or orientation, or physical or mental disability,” whilst at the same time forcing Mr Thorburn to resign because of his religion.
While Mr Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, is entitled to his own view, we are in a dangerous place as a nation when the leader of a political party or corporate board members seek to impose—through name-calling and implied threats—their own personal ideologies on everyone else. It could be easily argued that such behaviour is itself “appalling, hateful, bigoted, unkind and exclusive.”
The Presbyterian Church of Tasmania will continue to uphold the Bible’s teaching, that marriage should only ever be between a man and a woman, and that the lives of unborn babies must always be protected. This is for both the flourishing of families and all of human life. What’s more, in a democratic society, we believe everyone should be free to believe and practice their own faith, without the fear or threat of losing their jobs.
We continue to pray for our political leaders (especially Mr Andrews) and would like to remind them that they, like us all, will one day have to give an account before Almighty God.
We also urge our people to pray, stand firm for the faith, and not give in to the opposition from those who reject our Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.
Finally, we ask those whom God has placed in authority over us in this world, for the freedom to live out our faith, without intolerance or discrimination.