A Prayer of Thanks

I was interviewed by the Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Reverend Richard Humphrey, on the day after I formally announced my resignation as Bishop of Tasmania (26th July 2015).  At the conclusion of the interview which occurred during the 10am Sunday Worship Service, The Dean prayed the following prayer which he adapted from the Service for the Ordination of Bishops, APBA:

A Prayer giving thanks to God for Bishop John’s 15 years of ministry as Bishop of Tasmania

Almighty God, by your Son Jesus Christ
you gave many excellent gifts to your apostles,
and commanded them to feed your flock.
We give thanks for your servant John, who was called to be our bishop.
We thank you that filled with your truth and clothed in holiness,
he has been a pastor of your Church
diligently preaching your word,
and rightly teaching your people
to the glory of your name, and the benefit of your Church.
We give thanks in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

You can listen to my interview with the Dean here

Tasmanian Anglican Article: The dawn will come

As I was praying recently a certain heaviness descended upon me, maybe because of continuing events: the persecuted Church around the world, the pain of women and children suffering domestic violence, my own country’s indifference to asylum seekers – it was all so sad.
I recalled the scene which concludes Allan Paton’s majestic novel, ‘Cry the Beloved Country’: the tragic figure of the stricken father awaiting the dawn which would herald the execution of his son.
The father’s heartbreaking lament over his son and country is yet fused with the comfort of the coming of another dawn, for he is the impoverished Anglican priest of a rural African village. The father’s lament led me to write the following, drawing my own lament into a shared yearning for the new dawn:

Cry the beloved country

The dawn will come
The Son of Man will come,
and we with Him
will bathe in a new dawn
the dawning of God’s rule on earth,
as it is in heaven.

Do you hear the cry: “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus”?

Do you hear the martyr’s
final, “Oh, my Lord Jesus”?

Do you wait in this faith?

Do you await the coming of the Son
in glorious splendour,
the dawning of a new heaven and a new earth?

Oh, we await, with yearning
while working
with deep assurance,
for the dawn does come,

the Sun does rise
the Son did rise
the Son is risen
the Son will come again!

God the Father, ever watching,
ever yearning for wayward children to come on home.

God the Son, ever interceding,
expectant to the dawn of His coming again.

God the Holy Spirit, ever working,
preparing the world for the new dawn of the Son’s coming reign.

God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
bless, guide and guard you,
this day, and every day. Amen.

Discomfort: Our current state. Comfort: New Dawn. The Comforter: The Holy Spirit who abides with us and indwells Christ’s people, comforting us, even in our discomfort.
(“Cry the Beloved Country: A story of comfort in desolation”. Allan Paton, (1944) Penquin Books, Ringwood Australia 1958, P236).

*See my earlier reflection on this same passage, Looking to our final emancipation

You can read my article here: Tasmanian Anglican

Hear our Cry: Address @ Service for Family Violence

Family is intimacy. Violence destroys.

That the two words: family and violence are joined in Australia today is violation.

Violation of love, trust, honour, dignity, compassion, vulnerability, togetherness, health – a violation of wholeness, integrity, of all that is family.

The idea that family violence and domestic abuse should happen is unthinkable.

That, in fact, it does happen is shattering.

Shattering of family.

  • Shattering of that hallowed trust: the family.
  • Shattering of intimacy, love, vulnerability and safety.
  • Shattering of body, minds and spirits.
  • Shattering of families, friendships and society.
  • Shattering of our stereotypes and stereotypical responses.

Australia, Tasmania, we are broken, our true humanity shattered: that is what violence in our families and abuse in our domestic life has brought upon us.

Where can we start? What can we do?

  • As we have done, we must grieve with victims.
  • We must break the silence about violence and coercive behaviours.
  • We must prioritize the safety and care of victims.
  • We must recognize and challenge abusive behaviours especially within our midst.
  • We must work effectively toward the healing of women, children and men.
  • We must recognize and confess our mistakes in our understanding and responding to victims of family violence and domestic abuse.
  • We must learn and receive training in pastoral care.
  • We must learn from others, and work in partnerships with them.
  • We must change our culture to value the innate dignity and value of every person: every woman and man, girl and boy – whoever they are and wherever they may be.
  • We must reflect the heart of Jesus.

But we Christians have made mistakes in responding to family violence and domestic abuse.

So let us be specific about how in the Church our theology can lack the wisdom of pastoral care, and how we have misapplied theology, adding to the harm suffered. The following examples will show that this problem of misapplying theology, is made worse if we try to deal with an issue as complex as domestic violence, without first taking the time to learn more about its common patterns and pitfalls.

Example 1: Hard work is required of offenders.
Sometimes the problem has been that we have been so convinced of the importance and liberating power of a particular doctrine, that we use our favourite packaging of that doctrine as the first step, or even worse, the only step or tool, to help deal with issues, even those issues as complex as domestic violence.

For example, some clergy have rushed to pronounce absolution (forgiveness) and reassurance to the perpetrator.

There is nothing wrong with the theology of absolution, but had we taken the time to become more aware of the high re-offence rate, and the layers of minimizations and projections of blame that family violence offenders use to blind themselves and resist change, we would have proceeded much more slowly and carefully.

In fact, if we want to talk about the grace of God to these offenders, it is best to avoid absolutions or passages like Psalm 103 verse 12, ‘as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us’. Otherwise, just as alcoholics do, offenders will just misuse these precious words to give them even more fuel to avoid facing up to what they keep doing, and thereby avoid responsibility for the hard choices ahead.

Instead, when the time is right, we can talk about the utter grace and welcome God offers when we are prepared to learn to live continuously all day long in the light, fully seen and not kidding ourselves, as the First Letter of John chapter 1 puts it. If we offer to help an offender learn to live 24/7 ‘in the light’ where his failures, beliefs and self-talk are continuously opened up to God, we have more of a chance to work with him on his blindfolds, and his projections of blame, minimizations, etc.

However, do not raise the hopes of the offender’s partner, as offenders have strong self-defence mechanisms. It is much safer for a woman suffering violence or abuse if the offender moves out while working on these or other issues with specialist agencies.

Oh Lord, teach us to be better shepherds.

Example 2: Forgiveness does not equate to restoration of relationship.

It is true that God’s grace is available for all, and that God calls us to extend that forgiveness to others. Our fault is that in the case of family violence, we have too often applied these in a simplistic fashion that has not helped either victims or offenders. Some have applied the forgiveness issue in ways that resulted in women feeling obliged to stay in very violent situations. Let’s look again.

We know that ‘forgive one another’ is God’s command, and also his gift because it assists both the ‘wounded person’ and the ‘wounding person‘, to gain freedom from the past. In time it permits the wounded one to move forward even though they have been badly hurt – so yes, our goal is certainly to forgive the past. Forgiveness is about the past. But you can’t forgive the future!

I believe some of us have misapplied this when we conveyed that the second part of the question about what happens in the future, must always have only one answer – we have conveyed that forgiveness of the past in every case has to lead to restoration and reinstatement in the future. I don’t believe this is true.

When the problem is that someone has repeatedly abused their position of ‘power and authority’ to severely damage those they had ‘power over,’ being forgiven does not bring with it an automatic right to be reinstated back into that same position of ‘power and authority’.

This is especially so where those ‘without power’ would be at risk of severe and lasting damage. One can forgive the past, but still make a separate choice that protects the vulnerable into the future.

For example, some women once married to very dangerous men have come to a place where they can forgive the past, but they live under assumed names, because to do otherwise is to risk their future. Were we to insist that a woman and her children risk their lives and sanity to go back to a very violent man, I suspect we would be in the category for which Jesus condemned the Pharisees ‘you load people down with a burden they can hardly carry, and you do not lift a finger to help them.’ (Luke 11:46)

Now that we are even more aware of the long term damage to children who live with family violence or domestic abuse, we need to be even more careful in the way we apply forgiveness of the past that it does not in every case lead to restoration and reinstatement in the future.

Oh Lord, teach us to be better shepherds.

Example 3: Violence violates the marriage covenant.

We can rightly be committed to preserving marriage, but we have sometimes laid the blame for a destroyed marriage on the wrong person. It is terrorizing and repetitive violence that has broken the covenant of the marriage, not the need for refuge and safety.

Oh Lord, teach us to be better shepherds.

Please hear the following apology. It comes from my heart.

  • To those who have been harmed by violence and abusive behaviours, we say sorry for any ways we have made your journey even harder.
  • We are sorry for those times when church leaders were slow to listen or slow to believe or understand your story.
  • We are sorry for those times we did not recognize how cruel and controlling a range of abusive behaviours can be.
  • We are sorry if you were not told emphatically or often enough that the violence is never your fault, and that abuse is not love.
  • We are sorry when our attempts to help have left you and your children exposed to more risk.
  • We are sorry for those times when our theology has lacked the wisdom of wise pastoral practice.
  • We are sorry when we have made you feel weighed down with a sense of failure and feeling responsible to make things right.
  • We are sorry for those times we thought we knew best, but you really needed to make your own decisions in your own time.

The audio of the sermon Hear our Cry can be found here

A copy of the Hear our Cry order of service is available here: Domestic Violence Service July 2015

You might like to listen to the sermon Domestic Ephesians 5 (Domestic Violence) preached on Sunday 12th July by the Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Reverend Richard Humphrey.

‘Inspirational Words’: Launceston Church Grammar School

Tristan Jamson, a student from Launceston Church Grammar School shared the following ‘Inspirational Words’ at my final Bishop’s Day School Assembly:

History is a wonderful thing. From history we learn of our most significant achievements and our biggest mistakes. We hear of the voices, ideas, actions and contributions of the great heroes of humanity. We see the atrocities that have been brought upon society by war, hatred and ignorance.

History is very special, because it gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the events that have shaped our world into what it is today. It gives us an ability to confidently make judgements as to whether certain past events were good or bad, whether we want to see more like them or why they never should have happened in the first place. But the thing about history is that it is forever being written, by us.

I’m sure for some of you, history means just another less-than-stimulating class time experience. But realise this.
Every day you live you are given the chance to contribute to history, to engage with the world around you, to make your mark and to be more than just another face in the crowd. Being part of history isn’t all about revolutionary events with a global audience. History is made from the day-to-day and what you choose that day to be. Whether it be achieving something of importance to you, or just helping out a friend. Whether it be playing your part in your team’s win or volunteering your time for a worthy cause. Whether it be making someone view an idea in a way that they’ve never viewed it before or standing up for something you believe in and not taking ‘no’ for an answer, no matter how insignificant the details may be. You are constantly changing the course of history by getting up everyday and doing what matters to you.

This year Australia lost a true statesman. Malcolm Fraser, Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister, who was in office from 1975 to 1983, passed away on the 20th of March 2015 at the age of 84. Fraser was a man who believed and advocated very strongly in universal equality, and he never let politics get in the way of showing this. He endorsed most vocally the value of multiculturalism in Australian society and his legacy of this still exists today in the form of the SBS and the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council. In one of Malcolm Fraser’s last ever interviews, when asked if he wanted to be thought well of in history, he answered, “I suppose at my age whatever historians right about me has all pretty well been written. If history thinks well of you that’s fine, but history has thought well of some pretty disreputable characters at times. Maybe what’s more important is to try and do your best and to know for yourself that you’ve tried to do your best, and have stuck by ideas or principles that you think are important.” So consider this.

We will not all be the Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi of a civil rights movement. We will not all be the Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs of the development of modern technology. We will not all be the Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking of physical sciences. We will not all be the Leonardo da Vinci or Pablo Picasso of the arts. You may not even have the honour of being captain of the Grammar surfing team. But what is important is that you contribute to the world what you would have yourself contribute, so that you may be satisfied when you have to leave it. We are all given a life on the known condition that it must one day be taken away from us. We are all born with the knowledge that our existence cannot and will not last forever. Such a thought is of course sad to think about, but it can be a very liberating feeling to accept that your time is limited. So do not wait to make history in your own right. Do the things that matter to you. Be the change that you wish to see in the world, so that you may have the ability to say that the one you left was better than the one you came into.

Live your life so that you may have no regrets. As the timeless Latin expression goes, Carpe Diem; seize the day.

You can’t afford not to, because you simply have no time to waste.

(permission to publish granted)

Sparklit 2015 Book of the Year: Shortlist

Sparklit encourages life-changing Christian writing so that lives, communities and cultures are transformed as people discover Jesus in a way that is authentic and culturally meaningful.

The Australian Christian Book of the Year, Young Australian Christian Writer and Teen Writer awards are given annually for original writing by Australian citizens. These awards recognise and encourage excellence in Australian Christian writing.

The 2015 Australian Book of the Year Shortlist details are:

The Suburban Captivity of the Church: Contextualising the Gospel for Post-Christian Australia by Tim Foster (Acorn Press)
Captains of the Soul: A History of Australian Army Chaplains by Michael Gladwin (Big Sky Publishing)
Jonathan Edwards and the Church by Rhys Bezzant (Oxford University Press)
Time Poor Soul Rich by Anne Winckel (Ark House Press)
A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible by John Dickson (Zondervan)
The Wisdom of Islam and the Foolishness of Christianity by Richard Shumack (Island View Publishing)
What if? by Kristen Young (Fervr)
Giving Generously by Rod Irvine (Barton Books)
The Gospel of the Lord by Michael Bird (Eerdmans)

The Australian Christian Book of the Year will be announced during the 2015 SparkLit Celebration Supper on Thursday 13 August, commencing at 7:30pm (St Alfred’s Anglican Church, Blackburn North, Victoria)

Buy tickets online or use your credit card and call 1300 13 77 25 or write to admin@sparklit.org

15th Anniversary Ordination as Bishop

Today is the Anniversary of my Ordination as Bishop of Tasmania on St James’ Day, 25 July 2000.

As I reflect on that humbling, joyful, overwhelming occasion I am reminded of the St James The Apostle Day prayer (APBA page 616) and the prayer’s ongoing seeking of God’s strength for ‘self-denying service’. May the Holy Spirit empower this spirit of Christ within and through me. Amen.

O gracious God,
whose apostle James left his father and all that he had,
and without delay obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ:
pour out upon the leaders of your Church
the same spirit of self-denying service
by which alone they may have true authority
among your people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

See explanation of St James the Apostle, 11th Anniversary of Bishoping

Prayer for our Churches

Paul Cavanough shared the following prayer points at our Wednesday staff devotions:

These are my eight prayer requests for churches in 2015:

For greater emphasis on prayer. Many, if not most, churches have a woeful emphasis on corporate prayer. Churches who do not give prayer a high priority are churches without God’s power.

For standing firm on biblical truth. Culture is trying to push our congregations away from the truths of Scripture. We cannot yield to that pressure. If we do, our congregations cease to be true, biblical churches.

For greater unity in our churches. There is too much infighting in many of our congregations. And there is too much disunity from church to church. The world is watching our fights. “Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us” (1 John 3:23).

For greater intentionality in evangelism. The typical church in Tasmania is doing very little to share the gospel of Christ boldly and intentionally. May we be so grateful for what Christ has done for us that “we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

For greater emphasis on groups. Churches should grow larger by growing smaller. A church member not in a small group is not fully committed to the body.

For membership to be more meaningful. For many churches, membership has become nearly meaningless. For others, membership is a perceived entitlement, much like club membership. I pray that membership in our congregations will become truly biblical as the Apostle Paul demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 12.

For clear plans of discipleship. Too many congregations cannot clearly articulate how members can become more obedient followers of Christ.

For more ministry involvement and impact in our communities. I pray that our churches will become known by the positive impact they have in their respective communities. As we obey Acts 1:8, we must first be obedient to our own Jerusalem.

These are my eight prayers for our churches.

  • What do you think of them?
  • What are your prayers for your congregations?

(Paul acknowledges his reading in this area from ‘Lifeway Christian Resources’, ‘The Christian Leadership Journal’, and many others who have written on the topic of prayer and work life.’)

NAIDOC Week 2015

Aunty Idas table_NADOC week 09072015I spent time Thursday afternoon of NAIDOC Week 2015 at Wybalenna on Flinders Island, Tasmania, and reflected on the terrible tragedy of the indigenous suffering, dispossession and death.

The challenging words of my beautiful sister and Elder Aunty Ida West continue to inspire my commitment to peace making and reconciliation.
“It’s pretty important you know, the land, it doesn’t matter how small, it’s something … just a little sacred site … that’s Wybalenna.  

There was a massacre there, sad things there but we try not to go over that.

Where the bad was, we can always make it good”.

1995 – Aunty Ida West.

[Words from the inscription on the table in the ‘Aunty Ida West Healing Garden’ at the Wybalenna Chapel. See following photograph.]

Chapel and Auntie Ida West's Healing Garden in Chapel grounds

See also, Liturgy of Reconciliation  and  Reconciliation Week; ‘See the person, not the stereotype’  and  Celebration of Reconciliation   and  The Water Ceremony  and  Ecumenical Reconciliation Service.

Tasmanian Anglican Articles – June 2015

Over the last few months both Gayelene and myself have seen how God has been involved in our future plans.  My article which is titled “Do we see God’s hand”? is not just about us ending this part of our season here in Tasmania but to remind you of how God wants to be involved in your lives.  May you be encouraged as you read my article.

……God’s tender hand in the life of all his followers is affirmed again and again in the Bible: See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:16)
God values each and every one with the value of his own self-giving; God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:10) and Christ promises his ongoing presence with his disciples: Look. I am with you until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)…….
My full article is available here: From the Bishop

Other articles include:
Palm Sunday in Huonville
St James Hall, New Town

Ordinations 

Parents as pastors  

Holy Trinity, Launceston 

Give up vain and fruitless cares 

Faithprints  

St Johns, Launceston

Forget Your Age!

Anglicare News – Research

Anglicare – Volunteers

Launceston South Combined Parish

KLT Summer program

KLT – More activities

in-da-net

Family Violence & Domestic Abuse Synod Motion

Domestic Abuse/ Family Violence
That this Synod,

  1. deplores the horrific levels of family violence in the Tasmanian Community,
  2. grieves with those who have suffered the pain and trauma of any form of domestic abuse,
  3. recognises that such abuse occurs within the Christian community and the congregations of the Diocese of Tasmania,
  4. maintains that family violence is absolutely unacceptable in any circumstance, and
  5. commits the Diocese of Tasmania to work to changing community values from those which allow this abuse to occur to those which foster respectful and safe relationships.

Further this Synod urges the Bishop to

  1. further use the Office of the Bishop to raise awareness of family violence and all forms of domestic abuse,
  2. ensure that copies of “Responding to domestic abuse: Guidelines for those with pastoral responsibilities”, (Church of England, 2006*) and other suitable materials are made available to Anglican organisations and parishes (clergy, pastoral workers and members of Parish Council) within the Diocese of Tasmania to facilitate a culture of awareness in organisations, parishes and parish leadership, and seek responses from Anglican organisations and parishes on this material so that within 12 months a resource for the Tasmanian Church can be prepared thereby a) ensuring that clergy and pastoral workers are adequately equipped and resourced to respond to family violence and all forms of domestic abuse, b) implementing protocols and standards for pastoral, parochial and organisational responses to family violence and all forms of domestic abuse.

The Very Revd Richard Humphrey’s speech for the first part of the Motion & The Venerable Helen Phillips sermon to conclude the motion can be found here: RCH Speech to the First part of the motion_Synod 2015

Responding to domestic abuse: Guidelines for those with pastoral responsibilities (Church of England, 2006) can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/media/1163604/domesticabuse.pdf

A recent speech by the Governor of Tasmania entitled Towards Ethical Relationships: addressing sexual and family violence is valuable in thinking through these issues and can be viewed here: http://www.govhouse.tas.gov.au/sites/default/files/speeches/webber_lecture_-_20_may_15.pdf

Media report on the Synod’s work on Domestic / Family Violence is here.