Letter from Australia 68 – The Church as a Safe Space.
Dear brothers and sisters,
A report came out this week which was both devastating and encouraging. I am referring to the lengthy and through report of ThirtyOne:Eight into allegations of bullying and coercive behaviour by Steve Timmis and Crowded House. I don’t want to go into all the details – you can read the report for yourself if you are interested – https://thirtyoneeight.org/news-and-events/news/news-2020/crowded-house-report-published/
but perhaps the response from the elders of the Church will give you sufficient: https://www.thecrowdedhouse.org/news
The current elders at The Crowded House fully and wholeheartedly accept the conclusions of the Learning Review conducted by thirtyone:eight and published on 29th October 2020. From the Review, there is evidence of a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour in the name of our Christian vision and ministry, and evidence that in some instances people have experienced significant emotional and psychological harm. For too many people their experience was that their concerns were not adequately engaged with, our leadership was not properly accountable, our governance was weak, and our pastoral care insensitive.We wish to make a full and unreserved apology to all those who have been harmed.We want to thank those who contributed to the Review for making their voices heard at this point, and we understand that there is a need for much healing.
This is particularly sad for me because although I don’t know either Steve or Crowded house all that well, I was, and still am appreciative of their ministry and writings. I spoke at one of their conferences – but only once – (that does tend to be my pattern- I get to speak once at conferences – it’s enough to give anyone a complex!) But my particular interest here is because of my friend and colleague Steve McAlpine whose testimony in writing about, and pointing out, some of the things that were wrong, was both courageous and compassionate. His interview with Dominic Steele on The Pastors Heart is revealing and compelling.
The fact that there is abuse in the church should not be a surprise – to anyone who believes the bible. It’s not just the illegal (of which there was no indication in this report) but also the sense in which people can be manipulated and coerced. We also need to be aware of the danger that a right concern about possible abuse in one form, just leads to abuse in another. We swing from one side to another – we can move from denial that any such thing that anything could happen to one where every accusation is believed, and people’s lives are devastated by false accusations. I was delighted that Steve in the Pastors Heart interview, did not describe himself as a ‘victim’.
I’m not sure what the answer is to all these situations – except of course repentance, humility, love and the necessity for biblical church discipline. I’m sure that celebrity culture and the predominance of ‘network’ ministries, independent of church discipline is part of the problem.
However, Steve has this week also written of another danger – people using the fear of abuse to shut up and shut down those of us who hold to Christ’s teaching on sex and marriage. This article is superb – https://stephenmcalpine.com/the-push-to-define-conversion-therapy-as-everything-and-anything/
Church should be a safe space – but that does not mean it should be a space that is safe from biblical teaching! When I wanted to say that Third Space should be a ‘safe space’, I was told that that language did not really work here in Australia. Why? Because the ‘Safe Space’ schools programme here is a Trojan horse for indoctrination into an anti-Christian sexual philosophy – much like the Time for Inclusive Education programme was in Scotland. We live in a complex world – it’s better for us to stick with the Scriptures and follow the Lord – rather than attempt to sort things out according to our own wisdom.
Meanwhile on a lighter note here are a couple of photos from a Sydney which is rejoicing in three days with no community transmission of Covid….
Give Thanks to The Lord
I love this photo. Each Thursday I attend, and sometimes speak at, a lawyers restaurant. When I walk to work afterwards it is a joy to walk past this memorial in the centre of the city and remember that modern Australia was largely founded upon Christianity. When Christianity prospers then Australia flourishes. When we turn away from the Lord we soon become aware that ‘righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people”.
The Trees Praise His Name
At this time of year the city is full of colour, especially the purple of the Jacaranda trees – I walked from a station in the Inner West to meet a wonderful Thai Christian worker in a ‘street Thai’ restaurant which made me think again about just how tasty real Thai food is! The walk itself was a joy – along narrow alleyways bedecked with these Jacaranda trees. Someone had told me that the area I was in, was quite ‘run down’. All I think is that if this is what you call rundown, you have no idea what rundown is!
Here are a couple more…
One other life lesson – I was amused watching my granddaughter trying to eat spaghetti with chopsticks…it was a great example of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’. Eventually she got some! The Scripture encourages us to such endurance – to pray without ceasing and not to become weary in doing good. At the right time we will reap a reward…
See you next week…
Yours in Christ