The plan for ‘Welcome Wednesdays’ is fairly straightforward. On Wednesdays between 10am and 1pm, the Upper Room will be open for a cuppa, conversation, craft (BYO or learn something new) and friendship. All will be very welcome. June 13 is our starting date!
Keith is a Queenslander who was ordained a Minister of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in 1982. He has served in the parishes of Bell (Qld), Naracoorte (SA) and Hamilton (Vic) as well as being a full-time Presbyterian Chaplain at the Royal Children’s Hospital (Melbourne, Vic.). He has also served the Presbyterian Church of Victoria as its Moderator. Since 2013 Keith has served as the Minister of the Alice Springs Mission Church under the direction of the Presbyterian Inland Mission (PIM), but has now settled in Bendigo. He is married to Jenny and they have 1 son, 4 daughters, 5 grandsons and 3 grand-daughters!
Barnabas Fund is launching a new campaign to reclaim the heritage of freedom of religion which previous generations of Christians endured hardship, persecution and even death to achieve.
Barnabas Fund is seeking a new Act of Parliament to guarantee seven fundamental aspects of freedom of religion. These freedoms wen developed by various mechanisms over the last five centuries including English common law, the federal constitution and international treaties, but are now under threat. An Australian domestic law to protect and guarantee them is urgently needed.
In Canberra’s Parliament House sits the only copy of Magna Carta in the southern hemisphere. Magna Carta’s ringing call 800 years ago that “the English Church shall be free” is an affirmation that was foundational to the development of freedom in Australia. The gradual development of full freedom of religion in the following centuries eventually led in 1901 to the Australian federal constitution specifically stating that, “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.” However, this only applies to the Federal government, and the courts have over the years significantly limited the extent to which it protects freedom of religion even then.
Even before we became an independent nation, the Magna Carta’s affirmation that “the English Church shall be free” had over the centuries been worked out into seven specific aspects of religious liberty:
• Freedom to read Scriptures in public (achieved 1537)
• Freedom to interpret Scriptures without government interference (achieved 1559)
• Freedom of worship (achieved 1689)
• Freedom to choose, or change your faith or belief (achieved 1689)
• Freedom to preach and try to convince others of the truth of your beliefs (achieved 1812)
• Freedom to establish churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. (achieved 1812)
• Freedom from being required to affirm a particular worldview or set of beliefs in order to hold a public sector job, stand for election, work in professions such as teaching and law, or study at university (achieved by the repeal of various ‘Test Acts” between 1719 and 1888).
However, most of these freedoms, which we inherited when Australia was born as nation in 1901, have never been specifically incorporated into law. They are therefore vulnerable to being eroded by those who are either intent on imposing a particular ideological agenda, or by politicians who are simply ignorant of the enormous importance previous generations played in developing freedom of religion. That’s why we shall be calling on Christians to claim the freedoms our forefathers endured hardship, persecution and even death to achieve.
Why Barnabas Fund is doing this
For many years Barnabas Fund has worked to support the persecuted Church, particularly in Muslim-majority contexts. However, as we have done so, we have become aware of how much freedom of religion is under threat in the West.
A new ”’Test Act” is being brought in by the backdoor
In the last year we have seen people working in both the public and private sectors fired because of their Christian beliefs.
These include a Melbourne IT specialist engaged to work on the “safe schools programme” sacked after privately expressing concerns during a staff meeting; an 18-year-old children’s party organiser sacked after putting up an ‘It’s OK to vote no’ filter on her Facebook page during the SSM postal survey; and a high profile campaign targeting accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers forcing one of its senior executives to step down from the board of ACL-linked Lachlan Macquarie Institute. Meanwhile, in what looks like a form of reintroduction of the University Test Acts that existed in colonial era Britain, a Christian student was suspended from university for a semester after respectfully answering a question at a party about his views on same sex marriage.
Reprinted from the Mar/Apr 2018 Barnabas Fund magazine
It’s time to act! Come and hear a representative from Barnabas Fund. Their ‘Fair go with Religious Freedom’ Tour is coming to Bendigo on Tuesday April 24th meeting at Bendigo (St John’s) Presbyterian Church, 35-41 Forest Street, Bendigo.
12:05pm (45 minute session, lunch provided)
7:30pm (90 minute session)
Enquiries: Rev Philip Burns 5443 6189
The last words spoken by dying people can be sad, weird or anything in between. Elvis Presley said, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Joseph Wright was a linguist who edited the English Dialect Dictionary. His last word was “Dictionary.” Multimillionaire, Richard Mellon enjoyed a game of Tag with his brother through seven decades of his life. When dying, Richard whispered, “Last tag” to his brother who then was “It” for four years until his death.
In John 19:30 we find out what the last words of Jesus were. He said ‘it is finished’. But what was it that was finished? His drink? His suffering? His life? What is sometimes not so clear can be sorted out by going back to the original language that John used. While Jesus spoke in Aramaic, John, like the rest of the gospel writers recorded everything in the common Greek tongue of the day, Greek. And in that language, Jesus said just one word, and that word has the meaning, ‘it is finished, it stands finished and it will always be finished’. A servant would use this word in replying to his master, ‘I have completed the tasks you gave me to do’. A financial or accounts manager in the business world of this time would use it to mean, ‘the debt is paid in full’.
The death of Jesus was no accident. He willingly embraced the cross. His death was not an example either. His death was a payment. And by saying ‘it is finished’, Jesus expressed that salvation of God’s people was now complete. The debt had been paid leaving absolutely nothing to pay. Salvation is God’s work on our behalf.
The story is told of a rather eccentric evangelist called Alexander Wooten who was approached by a young man who asked him ‘Sir, what must I do to be saved?’ Wooten replied ‘it’s too late’ and went on with his work. The man became troubled by this and replied, ‘Do you mean it’s now too late for me to be saved? Is there nothing I can do?’ ‘Too late’ said Wooten, ‘it’s already been done! All you can do is repent and believe!’ Everything hinges on what Jesus completed. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace to be received by faith. This last word of Jesus is a lifeline to the believer. Let His Name be your last word.
Rev Philip Burns
Have you got some plans in place for Easter this year? Maybe you have. It’s a busy time for travel and holiday making and also the last of the warmer weather. Central Victoria is a great place to visit and there’s lots to see and do in Bendigo. So, if you are planning a visit, then join us on Good Friday at 9:30am and Easter Sunday at 10:30am to hear again the ‘old, old story’ that is ‘ever new’ of Jesus the Lamb of God, crucified in our place and raised from the dead for our salvation. Morning tea follows both services. All very welcome.
We joined in the Global Hymn Sing.
We’re tuning up our voices…to take part in tomorrow’s ‘Global Hymn Sing‘.
One of the responsibilities of being the Moderator (elected representative) of our denomination, is the task of visiting local churches throughout the state ov Victoria. Next Sunday, February 25th, is our turn to have that privilege and so to host the current Moderator, Rev Robert White, with his wife Sue. Robert has served in parishes in Tasmania (St John’s, Hobart) and Victoria (Essendon and Geelong West) and is now in his second year of being Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. He is pictured here leading the Communion service at the 2017 General Assembly.