Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thanks to all who attended Synod in Townsville on the weekend of 14th to 16th June 2019. The presentations from around the Diocese were a real highlight and showed the diversity of our church in North Queensland. Two Canons were passed: the first allowed for the payment of all leave entitlements at the time of retirement or leaving the Diocese and the second varied representation at Synod so that Ministry Units with more than one fully stipended minister receive additional members of Synod. Please download the new versions of the Canons 1 and 20 from the Diocesan website. There were also two motions concerning the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals and action on climate change, which are attached to this bulletin.
Many people worked hard to make Synod happen, and special thanks are due to the Diocesan Office, our Cathedral and The Cathedral School. We also noted with regret the retirement of our long-serving
Treasurer, Mr David Rockley. Thank you and may God bless you as you continue to serve in our Diocese.
Coming of the Light
On 1st July 1871 the light of the Gospel was brought to the Torres Strait, when missionaries from the London Mission Society landed on Erub (Darnley Island). In 1915 this work was handed on to the Diocese of Carpentaria and every year on 1st July Torres Strait Islanders celebrate this day when the God revealed to them in culture was fully revealed in the light of Christ. This year we celebrate the 148th Anniversary of the Coming of the Light! I will take part in the services on Erub and Archdeacon Chris will celebrate at All Souls’ and St Bartholomew’s on Thursday Island.
Every year a day is set aside as Sea Sunday and it is observed in most ports where Mission to Seafarers (MtS) have a presence. We depend on seafarers for almost all our imports and exports: our country would stop without their work. Most seafarers working on ships coming into Australian ports are from countries such as Bangladesh, the Philippines, the Ukraine and China. Often the seafarers are underpaid, sometimes badly mistreated, and always a long way from family and friends. MtS have been dedicated to the welfare of seafarers for almost two hundred years.
This year we will celebrate Sea Sunday at St John’s South Townsville on Sunday 14th July at 9 am. If you are able to join us, you would be most welcome! A flyer is attached – please feel free to print and publicise.
Mts Sea Sunday 2019.pdf
Religious Freedom and Freedom of Speech
The Israel Folau case is rather messy and not entirely clear cut: which is good reason for being hesitant to add yet another voice to the din. Legally it is an issue in contract law. Mr Folau’s employer has inclusiveness towards LGBTIQ+ people as one of its corporate objectives which Mr Folau was bound to observe as part of his contract; and Mr Folau in his public comment that homosexuals will go to hell has in the opinion of his employer broken that contract.
Mr Folau apparently is contending that his obligation to observe his contract cannot be used to compromise his freedom to publicly express religious views.
It should be noted that Mr Folau has used an erroneous translation of the scriptures, apparently conflating Galatians 5.19-21 with 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 and 1 Timothy 1.9-10. The conservative Christian viewpoint would be that it is the genital behaviour that is forbidden in these verses; other Christians would see it more specifically as a condemnation of male prostitution and paedophilia. The words in question from 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1 are malakoi (which in classical Greek meant an effeminate male, especially one who was a prostitute) and arsenokoitoi which is a word invented by Paul and seems best to mean “he who lies with a male”. Given they are joined together in the list, it could be translated as proscribing “men who have sex with men” (the more conservative interpretation) or a more restricted meaning of “those who have sex with male prostitutes”. Nowhere is simply being gay or lesbian condemned in the scriptures: sexual orientation is of itself not sinful. Sin for all people – straight, gay or otherwise – will depend on how they use their sexuality. Mr Folau is therefore in error in saying that homosexuals go to hell and as Anglicans we do not condone his comments.
However many Anglicans and other people would support his right to make these comments (even if in error), on the general grounds of freedom of religious expression. The key issue here then is not homosexuality but rather is the exercise of religious freedom. This then leads to further questions about the limitations on religious expression. Clearly there are limits: religious talk that justifies racism or violence is outside the pale. Many Christians with far greater passion and scholarship on these issues are lining up on either side to declare it is either egregious hate speech or just a genuine statement of sincere conviction which should be protected even if it appears to breach Mr Folau’s contract with the Australian Rugby Union.
It should also be noted that if Mr Folau is successful in his arguments regarding the immunity of expressions of religious viewpoints under contract law, then it could have interesting implications for religious institutions such as schools. They will be hard put to justify disciplining members of staff who publicly put forward religious viewpoints at variance with that of the institution: such staff members will just as surely assert their claim to religious freedom regardless of contractual obligations.
Accordingly I am not sure that the case of Israel Folau is the best case upon which to sort out these issues, especially as any resolution is going to be in the very limited field of contract law. This will give no protections or clarifications in the area of criminal law or other fields of civil litigation and I doubt that the moral issues are going to be much illuminated. This is the wrong case on which to expend our resources and the Diocese will not become involved. Individuals of course are free to express their own view and join public discussion as they see fit.
However, I think the main lesson to be derived from all of this is that questions of freedom of speech in general and freedom of religion in particular do need to be clearly sorted out. We can no longer rely on the common law to deal with these issues and other human rights. The time has come for a Bill of Rights which provides legal force for the ethical issues that are at stake and I expect pressure to build on the current Commonwealth Parliament from all quarters to legislate on these issues. I know that our local members of parliament have a strong interest in this issue and I have already spoken to one MP. I invite anyone who is interested in working with me on this issue to contact me so that strong and coherent submissions can be made to our parliamentary representatives.
Archbishop Keith Rayner AO recently celebrated the 50th Anniversary of his consecration as a Bishop: a remarkable achievement and this Diocese congratulates him for his many years of faithful service. More recently another Keith was elected as a Bishop: Fr Keith Dalby (Rector of St John’s Gordon in the Diocese of Sydney) has been elected to the Diocese of The Murray. In spite of our theological differences on issues such as women’s ordination we have been good friends for many years and I look forward to being at his consecration in Adelaide on Friday 16th August this year.
I note with sadness the death of the Rev’d Geoff Harvey. Fr Geoff worked as a non-stipendiary minister in the Mackay area. His funeral is at St Charles Church, Mackay this Friday 28th June 2019. I am grateful to the Rev’d John McKim for providing Geoff with pastoral care over many years.
The Right Reverend Dr Keith Joseph
Bishop of North Queensland
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