Brenda Croft, Senior Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, writes in the introduction to the exhibition that
Riley's images reflect what he has described as the 'sacrifices Aboriginal people made to be Christian'. They resonate with loss -- experienced not only by the individual, but also by entire Indigenous communities -- loss of culture and land in an enforced or sometimes embraced exchange for Christianity. Biblical elements abound in Sacrifice: the cross laid on the chest and standing out sharp against the sky in an unseen cemetery; the shimmering skin of the fish is in stark contrast to the parched earth; the oozing liquid in the dark palms of the black Christ-like figure evoking his struggle on the cross; and the granules of sugar, flour and coffee echoing the rations meted out to Aboriginal people on missions and hinting at the struggles present-day communities face with the onslaught of drugs.
|Riley's photographs in the exhibition include this mystical image, Darell (1989). Curator Gael Newton describes it as "very enigmatic, with the young man's soft-lit face, eyes lowered and closed, in a Zen-like meditation." This beautiful picture brings me to pondering "How much of the beauty is from the subject and how much is in the work of the photographer?|
A few hundred metres north of us is the Canberra Meeting House (pictured below) of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The North Canberra Baptist Church is near the Friends. A Korean Full Gospel church meets at the Baptist church and another Korean fellowship meets in the Finnish Lutheran church.
Our own church, St. Philip's Anglican (above), is technically in the next suburb, but is only 15 minutes' walk away.
The Canberra City congregation of the Uniting Church of Australia is nearby.
There are Vietnamese, German and English language congregations at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic church (Central Canberra Parish) ten minutes' walk from us in nearby Braddon, and another Catholic church an easy walk from us. Half a kilometre from us is another congregation of the Uniting Church, St. Columba's (picture below), just up the street from the Canberra City Temple of the Salvation Army.
Then there's the Hope of God congregation that meets near us and chapels at the Australian National University residences including Burgmann College and the John XXIII chapel (below), as well as the University chaplaincy. No doubt I've missed quite few!
Our most spectacular neigbourhood church, one street away, is the Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox War Memorial Church of St. Nicholas.
Built in Ukrainian Kozak Baroque style, the church is white rendered with cupolas made from bronze. There are Byzantine mosaics on the outside walls depicting the Mary and the saints. A memorial centre, opened in 1988, is located next to the church and was erected by parishioners of Australia and New Zealand. A memorial stone nearby is dedicated to the victims of the artificial famine in the Ukraine during 1932-33, the Holodomor.
Gracious God, grant that that by our common commitment to you, and our one faith in Christ, we may recognise your presence and grow more and more into unity with each other. Make us truly one, O God. May we so to recognise your presence among us in differing ways that our desire for true community in our churches and society may be increased, and our yearning for the unity of your Church be strengthened. As you lead us into the future, give us the hope that, united in the name of Jesus, death will not prevail, our divisions will be healed, and we will attain fullness of life, love and light in your new creation.
My mother's note on the back of the family group says it was taken at my chistening at "St. Mark's Camberwell" (in Melbourne). But my baptismal certificate says I was christened at "St. John's Chapel" by Neale G. Molloy. The Revd. Canon Neale Molloy OBE (1911-2003) was a particular friend of my father and director of St John's Home from 1940 until 1976.
St John's Home for Boys was established in Canterbury Victoria in 1921. By 1958, the home had also began caring for young girls and changed its name to St John's Home for Boys and Girls. It is now a ministry of Anglicare. I was born while my parents were live-in supervisors at St. John's home for older boys, St. Martin's, while my father, recently returned from war service, was studying social work and education.
This morning, the very day after hearing the news that I do not have cancer, I've been well and truly exhorted by today's page from John Baillie's A diary of readings.
The fear of death often proves mortal, and sets people on methods to save their lives which infallibly destroy them. This is a reflection made by some historians, upon observing that there are many more thousands killed in a flight than in a battle, and may be applied to those multitudes of imaginary sick persons that break their constitutions by physic, and throw themselves into the arms of death by endeavouring to escape it. This method is not only dangerous, but below the practice of a reasonable creature. To consult the preservation of life as the only end of it, to make our health our business, to engage in no action that is not part of a regimen or course of physic, are purposes so abject, so mean, so unworthy human nature, that a generous soul would rather die than submit to them. Besides that a continual anxiety for life vitiates all the relishes of it, and casts a gloom over the whole face of nature; as it is impossible we should take delight in anything that we are every moment afraid of losing.
I do not mean, by what I have here said, that I think anyone to blame for taking due care of their health. On the contrary, as cheerfulness of mind and capacity for business are in a great measure the effects of a well-tempered constitution, a man cannot be at too much pains to cultivate and preserve it. But this care, which we are prompted to not only by common sense but by duty and instinct, should never engage us in groundless fears, melancholy apprehensions, and imaginary distempers, which,are natural to every man who is more anxious to live than how to live. In short, the preservation of life should be only a secondary concern, and the direction of it our principal. If we have this frame of mind, we shall take the best means to preserve life, without being oversolicitous about the event; and shall arrive at that point of felicity which Martial has mentioned as the perfection of happiness, of neither fearing nor wishing for death.
-- Joseph Addison, The Spectator, 29 March 1711.
|Now, if only I could get rid of those extra kilos! Definitely don't want to have to hunt this much to find it!|
there it is."
It is . . . respect for transcendent order that has led Australians to recognize the fundamental importance of marriage and stable domestic life at the heart of society, and to expect that political and social forces -- including the media and entertainment industries -- recognize, support and protect the irreplaceable value of families. They appreciate that pseudo-forms of 'marriage' distort the Creator's design and undermine the truth of our human nature, confusing a false sense of freedom with the true freedom of choosing the definitive gift of the permanent "yes" which spouses promise to each other.More helpful than vague condemnations of "pseudo-forms of marriage" are the Pope's rightly expressed concerns about Australia's refugee policies and our lack of progress in bringing about oneness between Australia's indigenous and immigrant peoples. The Pope noted that "practical commitment to ensuring the rule of justice and promoting peace is a widely recognized trait" of Australia's people.
The laudable resolve to work for peace on an international scale must be matched with an equal determination to attain justice at the local level. I know that your Government has assiduously addressed concerns regarding the reception of refugees, in order to ensure that humanitarian considerations are incorporated within immigration detention policy and duly monitored. In regard to the Aboriginal people of your land, there is still much to be achieved. Their social situation is cause for much pain. I encourage you and the Government to continue to address with compassion and determination the deep underlying causes of their plight. Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness -- two indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our future is filled with a well-founded hope in the peace which springs from truth.Australians have already shown much greater interest in and concern for these warnings than the Pope's statements about 'pseudo marriage'.
Benedict XVI is right when he says:
In countries such as yours, where the disquieting process of secularization is much advanced, many young people are themselves coming to realize that it is the transcendent order that steers all life along the path of authentic freedom and happiness. Against the tide of moral relativism which, by recognizing nothing as definitive, traps people within a futile and insatiable bid for novelty, the young generation is rediscovering the satisfying quest for goodness and truth. In so doing they look to both Church and civil leaders to dispel any eclipse of the sense of God and to allow the light of truth to shine forth, giving purpose to all life and making joy and contentment possible for everyone.To allow people to publicly affirm and formalise permanent monogamous same-sex relationships will allow just what the Pope is seeking, the making of "joy and contentment possible for everyone". Refusal to allow such recognition encourages young gay people to feel that their love is transient and has no enduring worth, feeding the very moral relativism that the Pope deplores.
The Pope truthfully speaks of 'the true freedom of choosing the definitive gift of the permanent "yes" which spouses promise to each other'. Whether or not in a public ceremony, many same-sex couples have chosen this 'definitive gift' through a permanent "yes" to each other; James and I have. It's no pseudo-commitment; it's for life.
A stunning first-half volley from midfielder Josip Skoko, perhaps the best of his career, provided the difference, and gave a singing, flag-waving crowd of 95,103 cause for celebration and optimism. The squad leaves for Europe today in good spirits, and in great shape."
-- Michael Cockerill in The Age this morning (26 May 26)
Good luck, gentlemen!
photo: The Australian
|Just what I needed to see, after way too many medical tests lately.|
The tree waves in the wind
But does not break unless
The bough is over-burdened.
When spring disrupts the dead days
Buds, leaves, and birds praise God
In song and silent sound
The dead dock, stiff
With last year's pride
Leans unwillingly in the gale:
My heart Lord [or, more to the point my body] , is unyeilding.
My joints are stiff
The knuckles of my knees
Refuse to bend.
The knife is at my kneck,
My back breaks.
I will say my matitudinal prayers
From a crippled position,
Perhaps the Lord will hear?
It falls to me read Acts 2.1-2 in French. I soon remembered that English speakers are not the only ones with the luxury and dilemma of a variety of Bible translations from which to choose, thus:
Le jour de la Pentecôte, ils étaient tous ensemble dans le même lieu. Tout à coup il vint du ciel un bruit comme celui d'un vent impétueux, et il remplit toute la maison où ils étaient assis. (La Sainte Bible, tr. Lois Segond, ed. rev. 1970, 37 words)I've chosen the last, as it seems simpler; it's the equivalent of the Today's English Version/Good News Bible.
Quand le jour de la Pentecôte arriva, les disciples étaient tous rassemblés au même endroit. Tout à coup, un grand bruit survint du ciel: c'était comme si un violent coup de vent s'abattait sur eux et remplissait toute la maison où ils se trouvaient assis. (La Bible du Semeur. International Bible Society, 1999, 45 words)
Quand le jour de la Pentecôte arriva, les croyants étaient réunis tous ensembles au même endroit. Tout à coup, un bruit vint du ciel: comme si un vent violent se mettaient à souffler, et il remplit toute la maison où ils étaient assis. (La Bible en Français courant. Alliance Biblique Universelle [UBS], 1992, 43 words)
James will read some other verses in Korean, but these are verses 1-2. The Korean Revised Bible has been a proud part of Korea's Christian heritage and was last revised in 1961. However, as the orthography rules have been changing, and because of changes in the everyday language of Korean people, a New Korean Revised Bible was published in May 1998, after fifteen years of patient work.
What is it with the churches and sex? No, it's not Catholics and condoms this week, but Protestants and gay relationships. The issue threatens to disrupt the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland amid mutterings about another Disruption.(The Disruption of 1843 was a schism within the Church of Scotland, in which 450 ministers of the Church broke away over the issue of the Church's relationship with the State, to form the Free Church of Scotland.)
It was only a matter of time before the explosive issue of homosexuality burst through the attempts to sideline it. The Rev Basil Fawlty's nervous admonitions not to talk about the war have failed. Strangely, what has triggered the contentious matter's rise to the top of the agenda is a report from a group which is not normally associated with controversy.Ferguson goes on to describe the people and groups drawn up on each side, and in the middle, of the forthcoming debate in the Church of Scotland. Some ministers, " said that they would not be able to continue in ministry if the vote went against them." Astonishing.
The Kirk's legal questions committee is no sleeping cell for theological terrorists. But tomorrow it will ask the assembly to permit ministers to conduct ceremonies marking civil partnerships. [The controversy is about part 15 of the report published here.] This is the Presbyterian equivalent of lighting the blue touch-paper and retiring. The committee, in its wisdom, decided to take up the question of whether ministers and deacons, if approached, could bless such partnerships without being disciplined by the Kirk. They opted for the view that ministers' freedom of pastoral conscience must be safeguarded. This means that if a cleric were approached by, for example, a couple of Christian gays, he or she should be free to consider the case on its merits. The committee also sought to safeguard the rights of those who, in conscience, could not affirm legally-recognised same-sex relationships. In other words, the legislation would be permissive rather than mandatory.
The evangelicals are right to argue that the church shouldn't allow its agenda to be dictated by cultural trends; the weakness of their case lies in their talk about the "plain meaning of scripture". The same phrases were used not only in relation to women's ordination, but in the historic argument about slavery. The few biblical texts about homosexuality are not free from abiguity; not only that, evangelicals are as guilty of "pick'n'mix" in relation to texts as anyone.Just so. As Ferguson says, "What is it with the churches and sex?"
Historically, churches have made up their minds on major issues both by studying the scriptures and by seeking the guidance of the spirit in the light of new knowledge. We know things now about the spectrum of human sexuality which were unknown to biblical writers.
My own mind was changed by the experience of meeting Christian gays. I know same-sex couples of tremendous faith and long-standing commitment to each other who would put many heterosexual couples to shame. Bless their relationship? Of course. They should be part of an inclusive and open church.
There is a real struggle here. But the Kirk, like other churches, needs to engage in that struggle without becoming an over-my-dead-body war zone. In the way in which it handles this debate--and it may need time for more study--its credibility as a community of integrity and reconciliation is publicly on the line.
After a difficult debate, the Church of Scotland has voted in principle that it should be left to individual ministers to decide whether or not to mark civil partnerships, which are now law in the UK. The decision went through after two votes. The first saw the attempt to have ministers halted from carrying out ceremonies marking civil unions was rejected by 322 votes to 314. The legal committee's motion carried by 372 to 240. However, The Scotsman reports that a binding decision was avoided when the assembly voted to have the decision sent down under the Barrier Act 1697 requiring the 46 presbyteries to consider the matter. If a majority of them approve of the assembly's view, a definite decision will be taken next year. But if they do not, the assembly will have to reconsider.
The resolution says:
Whereas the Civil Partnership Act 2004 does not confer on ministers or deacons the power to create civil partnerships;
Whereas a service marking a partnership under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 is to be distinguished from the joining together of a man and a woman in marriage;
Whereas ministers and deacons are uncertain whether they may expect to be charged with a disciplinary offence in the event of conducting a service for those who have contracted a partnership in terms of the Civil Partnership Act;
Whereas ministers and deacons who are unwilling to conduct such services are entitled to have their opinions protected;
And whereas the diversity of view on the matter means that the availability of such services varies from parish to parish;
The General Assembly declares as follows:
- A minister or deacon who conducts any service marking a civil partnership does not commit a disciplinary offence in terms of Act III 2001 (as amended).
- No minister or deacon shall be compelled or obliged to conduct such a service against his or her conscience.
- Where a minister or deacon officiating at such service has been approached by the parties in the first instance, or where a minister or deacon so approached officiates in circumstances where the parish minister has declined to officiate, such minister or deacon shall not be deemed to have intruded upon the sphere of ministry of a parish minister in terms of section 18 of Act II 2000.
The soloists included graduates of the School of Music of the Australian National University; Erika Tolano sung three solos and was outstanding, particularly in "Where shall I fly?" from Hercules. Also very fine was tenor Daniel McMillan who sang "Where'er you walk from Semele. James and I hear Daniel practising somethimes as he and friend Nicholas Ng are our pleasant neighbours. Nick is also a musician -- a composer and ethnomusicologist and doctoral candidate.
In my ignorance, I had heard little of this music before, and my appetite was well whetted. I greatly enjoyed the show and was glad to enjoy the standing ovation at the end.
This is encouraging to me as I bought one of these machines less than a week ago!
According to the ABC Stephanie Watson, manager of the awards, ResMed is leading the world in vital areas of product development -- "their designers have a lot to be proud of."
The Australian Design Awards is Australia's only national product design awards program. More than 250 products across 11 categories were entered this year. An international panel of designers from America, Sweden, Korea, the Netherlands and Australia shortlisted the entries to 104. The entries were then assessed by a panel of industry professionals, who spent a full week judging the originality, design, safety and commercial viability of the products. The Australian Design Awards is recognised by the Australian Government and the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design as the peak promotional award for the Australian design.
If not treated during sleep, sleep apnea can narrow or close a person's upper airway to cause snoring or, in some cases, stop airflow for as long as 10 seconds. This sleep disturbance may occur several hundred times a night resulting in tiredness and may contribute to other serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression. A treatment machine uses a flow lightly pressurized air to keep the upper airway open - CPAP ('Continuous Positive Airway Pressure').
I've used a conventional machine for some years with reasonable success, but the automatic machine is already giving me better sleep. It's not cheap, however. You shouldn't buy and use one without medical advice, but if you do know just what you need, you can save a bundle by shopping around and buying online from a reputable company.
Unlike conventional CPAP devices, the AutoSpirit delivers air at a pressure level that varies automatically as the patients needs change during sleep.
Mr John Tucker, CEO of Standards Australia, said that this is one of the most important developments in the treatment of sleep disorders and goes a long way to improving the quality of life for hundreds and thousands of Australians. Australian Design Awards judge, Mr Robert Tiller, head of one a leading Australian design consultancy described the ResMed sleep apnea machine as a high quality product with "so much technology squeezed into such a small space". "It is a comprehensive design and beautifully executed. Years of design achievement have lead to a hero product, extremely well considered and designed perfectly to do the job."
ResMed also won the 2006 Western Sydney Industry Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Most Outstanding Large Business category.
It's great to see an Aussie company producing such a superb high-tech product, exported world-wide.
My greatest desire as a Christian minister has always been to point to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. He is the loving Saviour and Lord of all who have turned to him in repentance and faith. I want to align my teaching to the merciful message of the Bible.I wish all Christian writers were as clear in their adherence to Jesus Christ!
. . . Since becoming Archbishop of Sydney I have found that I am expected to be an instant expert on all sorts of topics . . .A temptation Dr Jensen would do well to avoid, especially when it comes to homosexuality, on which he says both too much and too little -- too much in repetitive, simplistic assertions and too little in careful argument and discussion based on the scholarship that took him to the principalship of a leading theological college.
If I am willing to make a comment, I always attempt to speak from the expertise and knowledge that is uniquely my own as a Christian minister. . . . My aim is to provide a biblically-based Christian critique and opinion on the question of community concern at hand. I want to ensure that a Christian view, based on biblical teaching, becomes part of community discussion alongside other community voices.Too true.
Discussions on human sexuality and sexual relationships are part of an even more important debate on the nature and rights of human beings. Are we to be seen basically as individuals, or as individuals in relationship with others? Western culture has become intensely individualistic, which suits the drive to economic liberalism and globalisation, but may not meet our real needs.
Human sexuality is seen as a matter of individual choice, freedom and justice for the individual. Families struggle to find time for relationships, and faithful, fruitful relationships are not cherished, honoured and supported by the community.Yes, but the former is not a consequence of the later. Properly exercised, choice, freedom and justice will support families, as well as people in other forms of relationship.
Sex has become a commodity rather than a joy.Sadly true, but sex would be less a 'commodity' in society if the churches could be clearer and more open in their appreciation and celebration of the goodness and joy of God's gift to us of sexuality.
The Christian churches of the West have been shaped by these developments.So far, so good.
Without doubt a key issue for the church is that of authority. As an Anglican, I accept that the Bible is God's word and that its teaching determines the content of Christian faith. It is clear that its teaching contradicts the individualism of the age in which we live.
I believe that the biblical view is actually much better for the well-being of the whole human family.
The issue before us in this debate on human sexuality, on marriage and sexual relations outside of marriage, is the question of God's authority, and the true nature of humanity. One way of avoiding the central issue of debate is to label those holding the biblical views as "fundamentalists" and "puritans". That is a shame, because there are issues involved here which have a profound bearing on human well-being.Here we see here the usual problem. Dr Jensen asserts that his interpretation and application of the Bible is the only one that honours God's authority. He assumes that only those who understand the Bible as he understands it can possibly be correct.
Traditional, scripturally-based Christians believe that marriage is a God-ordained relationship between a man and a woman, and that sexual relationships outside of marriage are sinful relationships.
I recognise as well, however, that in a sex-obsessed culture such as our own, such teaching presents people with agonisingly difficult choices and a call for self-discipline out of keeping with the mood of the times. Those who seek to live like this deserve every honour and care; those of us who lapse -- and who does not lapse in all sorts of ways? -- come to know something of the grace and love of the Lord as we turn to him afresh.Mercifully true, given the assumptions Dr Jensen is working from.
. . . Traditional, scriptural Anglicans from the West are joined in opposition to liberal secularist views on human sexuality by the majority of Anglican Christians and their bishops from the developing nations.I would say, on the other hand, that it is entirely possible to support a greater role within the church for people in faithful monogamous same sex relationship, while remaining conservative and 'non-secularist' (e.g. in acceptance of the creeds, and the essential doctrines of the faith, including, if you please, the authority of scripture).
The point at issue is whether the Bible speaks the truth about our relationships and especially our relationship with God.No, Dr Jensen, the point at issue is whether your understanding as to what the Bible says about human relationships is correct and whether God requires others to agree with and apply your understanding.
The great danger is that the biblical teaching about sin is being redefined through this issue of human sexuality. If we weaken on the biblical teaching on the nature of sin, we weaken on the identity of the Saviour from sin. It will no longer be clear that Jesus is the unique Saviour of the world.This is simply not true. Whatever we define to be sinful, whatever God clearly shows us to be sinful, Jesus can never be less than Saviour. There are many sins concerning which the church says so little. Is the place of Christ as Saviour diminished thereby? Of course not. His role as Saviour is inherent to his very name and being, to which the church contributes nothing. Exactly what conduct, by whom, in what circumstances makes up this sin to which Dr Jensen attributes the power to redefine the identity of Jesus as Saviour?
It is no less problematic, in any case, to judge the conduct of one's sisters and brothers in Christ, who do not concur in one's poorly articulated interpretations of the Bible.
The efforts of liberal theology are, in human terms, endangering the gospel enterprise of the church. If we do not stand here we will not be able to stand anywhere.Dr Jensen seems to say that if his interpretation of the Bible concerning faithful monogamous same-sex relationships cannot be enforced on the church, the entire cause of the Gospel will be lost. This is would appear to be a viewpoint singularly lacking in epistemic humility. It also greatly diminishes the very authority of God that Dr Jensen is so keen to protect (not that it needs protecting.) For myself, I have the utmost confidence that God the Holy Spirit will bring about a right understanding and application of the truth concerning human sexuality. But we do not assist the work of the Spirit if we diminish the Spirit's role in bringing wisdom to the church, wisdom that encourages us to think and pray carefully about the application of the scripture to our own lives and society.
Avoiding the risk of a transgression has become more important to us than holding a difficult position for God, and it is this that is killing us. -- Fr Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
Surprisingly -- although maybe not -- the issue of homosexuality has become the test case and the contentious issue inside most Christian denominations today. It divides otherwise reasonable people, and they move into fear, accusation, and quick absolutes or Scripture quotes -- on both sides -- to settle the seeming dust. When we deal with the issue of sexuality and gender, when we appear to be tampering with the basic archetypes of male and female, everybody gets defensive or aggressive. It's a sure giveaway that we are dealing with something very important and very mysterious. We are on holy ground, which always both attracts and intimidates at the same time. So the first thing we must do is take off our shoes.
In other words, we must tread lightly and with respect for the other, no matter on which side of the issue we find ourselves. Fundamentalist assertions are just as bad as fundamentalist rejections. The true gift will be found in the middle somewhere, not by avoiding the struggle but by entering into the mystery of human love, and letting it teach us and stretch us, until we are finally capable of hearing God in all things -- even those things that at first appear dangerous. We must hear both the experience of healthy homosexual love and the social critiques of those who are trying to preserve other social and spiritual values. Both have something necessary to say, and both are hard to hear from the other side. So keep those shoes off until you can tiptoe over to the other perspective, and even, if we can dare to imagine it, to the perspective of a good God.
Once other believers can see that gay men and women are concerned about the values of faithfulness, and are willing to preserve the normative value of heterosexual marriage for the sake of human life's continuation, many of their fears will be lessened. Once gay women and men can expect trust and respect from other people and from society, I think we can begin a civil and truly spiritual conversation. We are still in the early stages of creating that conversation and that climate. Remember, true spirituality is always telling us to change, and not giving us weapons to change other people. How different Christian history would have been if we had just learned that one simple lesson. But somehow the human ego was not ready for that much participation in the mystery of transformation. It is so much easier to spend our lives'converting' others than to undergo the always painful task of personal conversion. It is more attractive to feel ourselves'right' than to continually admit that we are also partially wrong.
After working with people as a priest for over 31 years, I have come to an extraordinary conclusion: we come to God not by doing it right, but by doing it wrong. This is obvious to me now, although it does not really become obvious until the second half of life. By then, if we are honest, we have seen the pattern in ourselves and in others. You understand mercy and grace by looking backwards. Looking forwards it is just a nice theory, but not yet 'good news'.
Why, then, are we so obsessed with the bad news of being right? Why do we spend so much time trying to concoct a worthy ego? Whether we are homosexual or heterosexual, can't we just 'hold a difficult position for God'? Jesus appears to be doing just that, as he hangs archetypally between the good thief and the bad thief on the cross -- naked before reality. He also pays the price of hanging on this collision of opposites, and it seems very few are willing to join him there. The realm of true faith, liminal space as I call it, will always be 'narrow' and 'only a few find it' (Matthew 7:14).
Homosexuality is emerging as the issue that institutional religion finds itself structurally most incapable of resolving. It reveals, like nothing else, the very limitations of managed religion. Denominations have to please constituencies and donors; they have to appear mainline and'solid' to maintain their religious credibility. They find themselves incapable of dealing with genuine mystery because of their penchant for grand universals. They must preserve their authority and never be caught without an answer for everything. And, worst of all, they find themselves more and more incapable of dealing with the exceptions (precisely where Jesus was at his best!) because they are intent on being normative. All of these concerns are actually legitimate and understandable, but fortunately Jesus suffered under none of these social constraints. Quite simply, he was able to speak the truth to each person -- as they needed it, when they needed it, and in a way they could hear it. All for the sake of leading them into union with God.
Once we know this is our only goal, the process becomes less paranoid, less controlling, and much more hopeful. Looking backwards at history and at our own lives, we learn that God 'uses all things unto good' (Romans 8:28). It is almost the only lesson of the Bible. There are no superiority positions in the Bible, only broken people who are used by God in spite of, and often because of, their mistakes. Later notions of perfection emerged with mathematics, the only area of life where it applies. It is not a biblical concept at all, except when it refers to the Godhead itself; it never refers to humankind. The worthiness road is a dead end. Where is the cut off point from unworthiness to worthiness? All we can do is desire, hope, and ask. So let's join the grand parade of being human, let's surrender to the purifying process of learning how to love. It is an identical process for both homosexuals and heterosexuals, and we are all losing valuable time by trying to resolve this 'love mystery' in our heads or inside our separate group. I used to think that the opposite of control was just non-control or giving up. Gradually I have come to see that the true opposite of control is, in fact, participation.
The Gospel does not ask us just to give up control. That would be too simple, and even an abdication of the necessary tension. It asks us to participate in the mystery of active loving. Here, we are never in charge; here, we live in a luminous darkness; here, we are never sure that we are doing it right, and -- even better -- we no longer need to be sure. This is the 'difficult position for God'. And this is why it is called faith and not certitude. . . .
I am very pleased to speak in support of the Civil Unions Bill. It is important to me and indeed to the whole community. I was there when this law reform process began 6 years ago with a series of resolutions from ACT Young Labor that led to the Labor party putting this to the electorate in 2001. And I am very proud to be here today to vote for this bill.
This bill is about recognising and strengthening relationships. It is about supporting loving, caring relationships regardless of the sexuality of those involved. Just last week I stood in this chamber and spoke about how good governments seek to lead on important social issues. This government believes all loving, committed relationships deserve to be treated equally and to be celebrated.
This government is standing up for what it and the citizens of the Territory overwhelmingly believe in. The Civil Unions Bill forms part of the Stanhope government's commitment to reform all areas of ACT law that discriminate on the grounds of sexual preference or gender identity. It is a commitment that the government is taking to two elections and it is a principled commitment that has brought strong support from the community.
One of the reasons that people of Canberra voted so strongly for the Labor party at the last two elections was that we stand for progressive social reform. Good governments set the social agenda for their communities. They govern as leaders, not as followers. It is the duty of the government to reflect the much wider interests of our society and the common values of fairness and tolerance that bind us all together.
Mr Speaker, gay and lesbian Canberrans are part of our community. We are not nameless, faceless people who live on the margins of society. Gay and lesbian Canberrans deserve the respect and dignity afforded to others, we deserve equality. This bill affords us equality under the law. The equality is not only functional and practical but it is also highly symbolic. It allows us to hold our heads up high as equal members of the community and to celebrate our relationships. It is about dignity.
Mr Speaker, despite the Stanhope government taking this reform process to the electorate on two occasions, and winning the support of the community quite decidedly, the federal government is threatening to intervene in this Territory's law making process. The federal Attorney-General, Phillip Ruddock, has made a series of outrageous statements about the federal government's intention to overturn this ACT legislation. This is despite his earlier comments, and I quote, "That the matter of civil unions is a matter for the states and territories."
Mr Speaker, Mr Ruddock's first instinct was correct. Civil unions are a matter for the states and territories. And the amendments that have been circulated by my colleague, the Attorney-General, will address the concerns raised by the Commonwealth. If the federal government now seeks to intervene and say, "No", to civil unions it will be endorsing discrimination against people who choose, for whatever reason, not to marry or who in fact cannot marry.
Saying, "No", to civil unions is to say that some relationships are more legitimate than others, that some loving, committed long-term relationships are for some inexplicable reason of lesser value. I find that an unacceptable proposition. And so to do many Liberal MPs. Dr Mal Washer, the federal Liberal member for Moore has said that:
"This country is civilised enough to get beyond the fact that people are different. If same sex couples have a commitment to one another, then it is reasonable for us to allow them recognition of their union."
And Warren Entsch, the Liberal member for Leichhardt in far North Queensland, who I quote is a, "Fierce heterosexual", has said:
"What we want is equal treatment for two people that are committed to each other. You are always going to get those fundamentalists who we are never going to convince, but the more I talk to people about it, the more support I get."
Mr Speaker, what is really at play here is a battle between the progressives and the conservatives for control of the social agenda in this country. The late Professor Manning Clarke spoke in his hstory of Australia, of this struggle in Australian life in terms of the enlargers taking on the straighteners. He said:
"This generation has a chance to be wiser than previous generations. They can make their own history. With the end of the domination by the straighteners the enlargers of life now have their chance. They have the chance to lavish on each other the love that previous generations had given to God, and to bestow on the here and now the hopes and dreams they had once entertained for some future human harmony."
Mr Speaker, I call on those members of the Liberal party who still hold liberal values to stand up now and oppose the straighteners. If they do not take a stand on these issues then the Liberal party will have given up its last vestiges of liberalism and the transformation to fundamentalism will be complete.
I also call on the Liberal party to stand up for our local democracy. If there is any member opposite who supports their federal party vetoing this legislation then they should resign from this place right now. They not only disrespect to their constituents. They are saying that they do not believe in local democracy, that they do not believe in the right of ACT residents to make decisions about how they are governed and by whom they are led.
Mr Speaker, there are often those motivated by religious convictions, who believe that same sex relationships are immoral and that those relationships should be discouraged at every turn. They are, of course, entitled to hold such views. But just as we tolerate the right of this minority to disagree, and let us be clear that they are a small minority of Canberrans, I would welcome, as would the community, a reciprocal tolerance to put the alternate view.
We live in a secular liberal democracy, and while much of our tradition is based on a Christian ethic, I do not believe that organised religion has the monopoly over morality or ethics. Governments permit divorce, abortion, sex before marriage, and child bearing out of wedlock. None of these things had affected the right or ability of Christians to live by their religion. And there is no reason why civil unions will either.
Mr Speaker, another great furphy in this debate is that civil union are some way of undermining marriage. This is simply not the case. Civil unions do not undermine marriage. The easiest way to assess this is by applying the general principle. Does the conferring of rights on a minority ever undermine the majority. The answer is no, it never does. I do not think anyone's marriage is undermined because Andrew and Anthony living next door to them will have their relationship recognised in law.
Mr Speaker, we often also hear that marriage has a special place in society and should be elevated to a status above all other relationships. But what does this mean in practice? Should a married person be treated differently in relation to a sale of a motor vehicle? Do married people deserve greater protection under the Witness Protection Act? Or on the other hand, should both parties in a same sex relationship be able to claim the first home owner's grant? The answer to these questions is clearly no. We should treat all relationships the same. And that is the practical effect of what is proposed with this change to ACT legislation.
Mr Speaker, there is strong public support in the enactment of civil unions. A recent news poll taken in February 2006 found that 52 per cent of respondents supported the introduction of laws to formally recognise same sex relationships. Support for civil unions was even higher amongst younger Australians and women. I know that Canberrans want a fair, open and inclusive society that respects and embraces people in non-traditional relationships. It is time our law reflected these changes in society in formally recognising same sex relationships.
Mr Speaker, I would like to make some observations on the Registration of Relationships Bill that Mr Stefaniak has proposed on behalf on the Liberal party. In the context of the recent amendments to the Commonwealth Marriage Act, this bill can really only be viewed as offering grudging tolerance of same sex couples. It is better than nothing, but really it is just a recognition by the Liberal party that absolute opposition to any form of same sex relationship recognition would be politically untenable.
I consider this a win for the progressives. It is hard to imagine that the ACT Liberal party of 2003 would propose such legislation. In fact three years ago, the conservatives were trying to block the Tasmanian law reforms that they are now champion in this place. Those opposite cannot continue to walk down both sides of a street on this issue. Saying to gay and lesbian Canberrans on one hand, "We do believe in you and we value you as members of our society", but on the other hand saying, "By the way, you cannot have access to a civil union."
If they really do value gay and lesbian Canberrans, they will come out and support the Stanhope government's civil union scheme that enables people in loving relationships to make a legally recognised public declaration of their commitment.
Mr Speaker, it takes more than showing up at Mardi Gras to demonstrate support for the community. You have to take a stand in this place where the laws of the territory are made.
Mr Speaker, strong relationships deliver important benefits for us all. We all define ourselves in some way by those we choose to share our lives with. Love, trust, intimacy and commitment are to be found at the heart of all good relationships. There is no good argument for allowing only opposite sex couples to form alliance and celebrate their relationships and to deny that right to same sex couples.
Those who oppose the Civil Unions Bill have frequently talked about its alleged dire effect on families. This ignores the fact that gay men and women have families too. We are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles and we are parents. Mr Speaker, this government has seized the opportunity to support family and to say plainly that no one deserves to be excluded simply because of his or her sexual orientation, we have drawn a line in the sand. Mr Speaker, the Civil Unions Bill encourages and empowers and protects couples who want to make their relationships loving, long-term, stable and committed.
We all should embrace such relationships because they enrich us all. Mr Speaker, the passage of this bill will remove a form of discrimination that is intensely felt by Canberrans who have been living quietly in long-term loving relationships. It will also help ensure that all our citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, are shown the dignity and respect to which they are entitled.
Mr Speaker, discrimination has no place in our society and I strongly commend this bill to the Assembly and hope that this legal recognition will prompt more people in same-sex relationships to come forward proudly into our community.
Mr Speaker, finally I wish those couples that choose to formalise their relationships under this new law long and happy lives together. I know that their commitment will be recognised and embraced by the vast majority of their fellow Australians.
- The Howard federal government had argued that the Bill improperly equated civil union with marriage (which is a matter for federal law). Therefore the first change was to state that "a civil union is different to a marriage but is to be treated for all purposes under territory law in the same way as marriage", acknowledging that mnmatriage under overuling federal law can be only between one woman and one man.
- The federal government also objected to use of its civil marriage celebrants to celebrate civil unions, so a separate register of ACT civil union celebrants has been created.
- Except in exceptional circumstances, 16 or 17 year olds may now enter a civil union only with ther permission of parents or guardians and the Children's Court.
- The bill now recognises a "union entered into by any 2 people under the law of a foreign country" rather than a (same-sex) marriage solemnised in a foreign country, as federal marriage law denies recognition of foreign same-sex marriages.
- Rather than changing many ACT laws to say "marriage includes a civil union" the Bill now amends ACT law to say "marriage or civil union".
When federal Parliament next meets in June 2006, the Howard Government will have its first opportunity to use the federal power over territories (as distinct from states) to overturn what will by then be the ACT's Civil Unions Act 2006. The ACT has met the federal concerns fully and should be allowed to make laws to celebrate the personal relationships of its people in a just, equal and fair way.
Much good lobbying work was done by the ACT's Good Process group.
But there's still doubt about whether the Commonwealth will let the legislation stand, even though the ACT amended its Civil Unions Bill to attampt to satisfy the federal government. The federal Attorney-General is waiting to see the detail of the ACT laws before deciding whether to block them. Philip Ruddock says he was concerned the initial version of the legislation equated civil unions with marriage. "I've yet to see it and I've asked for my officials . . . now that it's been finalised, to obtain it and they'll brief me on it and I'll make some further comments," he told the ABC today.
The ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, says the laws should worry the federal government no longer.
Well, I hope that they don't because there's no reason for them to feel that the union is equal to marriage. In fact a very explicit amendment moved in the debate in the Legislative Assembly last night was to make clear that a civil union is not a marriage, and the reason it's not a marriage is that it does not meet the criteria under the [federal] Marriage Act. [That is, between one man and one woman] . . . My very strong view, and the advice I've received from the Justice Department here in the ACT is that there really are no grounds for the Commonwealth to argue that this in any way trespasses on their powers to make laws in relation to marriage.
[C]learly there's been a lot of interest in this legislation, both here in the ACT and indeed across Australia. I think the important thing is that this opportunity is now available, and the ACT is saying very clearly that regardless of your sexual preference there should be the opportunity to enter into a union which is recognised under law.
[W]e will now commence on the process of establishing the registration scheme for our own civil union celebrants, and then people will be able to register to enter into a civil union. We anticipate that process will take between two to three months before people can formally enter into a civil union.
My sole chemical vice, 1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-
2,6(3H,7H)-dione, a psychoactive water-soluble purine alkaloid, commonly known as . . . .
Sex without a condom is manslaughter when one partner knowingly conceals HIV positive status. Non-consensual sex is rape, but without a condom it is also murder or attempted murder when the rapist knows that he or she is HIV positive.
Such crimes have happened to millions of women, especially in Africa, causing millions of preventable deaths of women and their children. Is not the Vatican embarrassed that it has helped cause millions of murders and manslaughters?
Not long after Freakonomics came out, Steven Levitt and I had a public debate at a salon in downtown Manhattan. The subject was crime. [. . .] It was a straightforward back-andforth. Levitt got up and made his case. I got up and made mine. But halfway through, I glanced over at Levitt and had a realization that I'm not sure I've ever had before with an intellectual opponent--that if I made my case persuasively and cogently enough, he would change his mind. He was, in other words, listening.I am struck by this, not because of any relationship between crime rates and legalised abortion. What impresses me is the example of Levitt as a listener, someone "with the humility to go wherever logic and discovery lead"; humilty, and the courage to change one's mind -- qualities we need desperately in the church.
This is not a great moment for listeners in American society. The public conversation is dominated by those whose minds are unalterably made up, and we have come to view the man or woman whose views remain steadfast, even in the face of overwhelmingly evidentiary assault, as a kind of moral hero. Those people are not heroes, of course. They're usually just stubborn.
In Freakonomics and in his astonishing, wide-ranging academic work at the University of Chicago, Levitt, 38, reminds us that we owe a bigger debt to those with the humility to go wherever logic and discovery lead them. Does the possibility that abortion reduces crime raise uncomfortable questions? Of course it does. But Levitt believes that if we are to have an honest conversation about things like crime and abortion, we are obliged to consider those phenomena in all their dimensions. It takes a certain amount of courage to make an argument like that. And by the way, if you can come up with some good evidence to the contrary, Levitt will listen, and if you're really convincing, he's the sort of person who will change his mind. That takes courage too.
Anglican Journal 4 May 2006 - Canada's Anglican bishops unanimously endorsed a motion expressing "grave concern" about proposed legislation in Nigeria that "would prohibit or severely restrict the freedom of speech, association, expression and assembly of gay and lesbian persons." Their motion also called criticized the (Anglican) Church of Nigeria for its support of the legislation.The legislation is inconsistent with the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the bishops said in their motion, which was passed at their spring meeting held April 22-27. They said they were "especially grieved" by the support for the legislation given by the Church of Nigeria, noting that the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops called upon churches to "listen to the experience of homosexual persons."The proposed laws, said the bishops, "criminalize civil and religious same-sex marriage as well as the public and private expression of same-sex affection, all public affiliation between gay persons and even publicity, public support and media reporting of the same." The proposals "would make the very act of listening to homosexual persons impossible."In unusually strong language, the bishops said they "disassociate" themselves from the actions of the Church of Nigeria and called upon Anglicans around the world to listen to and respect the human rights of gay people.I am sorry that Australia's bishop do not do the same.
Related earlier posts (newest first):
- Nigeria: more facts and some suspicions
- A cagey Nigerian game
- Nigerian church turns to policies of the Inquisition
- Dr Williams, please act now
- Compelled to ask whether the global Christian community has lost not only its backbone but its moral bearings
- Mwamba's message of maturity
- Open letter from Changing Attitude to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to the ACO and to ACC officials
- Signaling the existance of gay Nigerians
- Nigerian disgrace
- Changing attitudes
- Stoning and power
Last weekend, after wrestling with the question of which of the world's too many troubles to mention in the intercessions at Sunday Eucharist, I empathised with Phillip Adams' lament in his column in the Weekend Australian Magazine(29-30 Apr). An extract:
I understand why fewer people are reading newspapers. I sympathise with the millions who don't watch the news or SBS, or listen to Radio National, or read important books, or attend lectures on urgent issues. If you know about the woes of the world, then "compassion fatigue" can be more comprehensible than reprehensible. And if you're lucky enough not to know, then who can blame you for wanting to censor the incoming signals? I can begin to empathise with those who dull the pain with drugs or shopping.
It seems I spend my time writing or broadcasting on wars, genocides, child soldiers, torture, climate change, George Bush, terrorism, refugees, West Papua, species extinction, John Howard, AIDS in Africa, ethnic cleansing, salinity problems, deforestation in the Solomon Islands, fundamentalists, social injustice, political chicanery, right-wing lunacies and the Vatican's blanket ban on condoms. And that's just Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday it's on to the death penalty, the decreasing incidence of voting in Western democracies ... before looking at really serious problems such as the mess the AL--bloody--P is in and the millions who'll die when the bird flu pandernic breaks out.
So bring on Donald O'Connor falling over the furniture, or Gene Kelly waltzing with his umbrella. Bring on anything that's silly or harmless and doesn't cause cancer or add to greenhouse gases.
And it just occurs to me that waltzing is a very funny word, and that our national song is about a waltzing swagman who commits suicide over a sheep, which reminds me of all the problems in the rural sector, particularly the endless drought at the farm, and the depression afflicting swaggies, Les Murray and the ex-premier of Western Australia -- and me, whenever I think of John Howard.
Darfur, petrol-sniffing [in remote indigenous communities], Cronulla [race-riots], domestic violence, arsonists lighting bushfires-- a laugh a minute. It's like being trapped in a revolving door with a hundred hopeless problems, like being beaten on the head by the vanes of Don Quixote's windmill, like being condemned to spend eternity dancing with Pauline Hanson [retired right-wing politican] or attending a dinner party with Phil Ruddock [Attorney-General of Australia]. Only it's even worse: like waking up and finding that Bush is still president.
I try to cheer myself up thinking that I'll soon be dead, but that could take months. . . . Then, all of a sudden, I feel a hint of hope. Not too much--just enough to rejoin the human race, that sad and sorry mob who muck everything up. Yet humanity can claim one great victory. We made Singin' in the Rain.