Australia Ethics Music the Church

Letter from Australia 81 – Unmasked – Church, Dan, Ravi and Willie

 “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It was a great joy to be back in St Thomas’s yesterday – I enjoyed the fact that we are no longer spaced out and it was great to see people.  There is nothing quite like real Christian fellowship!   It’s still frustrating and bizarre that we are not allowed to sing.  Given that people can sing in praise of sportsmen at the cricket and footie, I am confused as to the ‘scientific’ reason why we are not allowed to sing the Lord’s praise in church!   However, there was one thing that I was really surprised at – how nice it was to worship with people whose faces were not covered with masks!   It makes a great difference being able to see people.  Masks are no longer compulsory in churches in NSW, although our leaders suggested that we should still wear them.  75% of the congregation ignored that –  there is a reason for wearing masks in a crowded indoor environment where there is significant community spread but there is no reason why, in a State that has had zero community transmission for 28 days that we should wear masks.  But masks have become the shibboleth issue for politicians.  In Victoria Chairman Dan has ordered people to wear masks in the open air at all times – so I read in today’s paper of one farmer in an area 450km from Melbourne, which has not seen a single case of Covid for six months, being required to wear a mask as he goes about his work!

Dan Andrews and the Blame Game

Dan Andrews amazes me.  He has more chutzpah than Nicola Sturgeon!  After boasting that his quarantine scheme was ‘gold standard’, there has been a small outbreak through one of the quarantine hotels (only 15 cases so far).  Because of this he has again shut down the whole State (at a cost of $1 billion to the economy) and he was ‘economical’ with the truth in justifying that.  He claimed that it was ‘spreading at the speed of lightening’ and that it was far more contagious.  The British variant is around one third more contagious than the normal Covid – and a decent track and trace system should be able to handle that.  So far since Dan’s ‘speed of lightening’ remark there have been three cases…and none of the 11 workers in the airport café where the ‘highly contagious’ worker was based have tested positive.  Dan is also rather good at blaming other people – so the poor man who ended up in ICU was blamed because he did not ‘declare’ his nebuliser – something which he vehemently denies.

Ravi and the Blame Game

Blame shifting is of course not limited to wannbe be populist politicians in Victoria.  It’s part of the human condition.     I don’t really want to say anything more about the Ravi situation, but for me personally last week was a bitter week.  I just feel nauseous at the deceit and hypocrisy.  When Premier asked me to write this article – I really did not want to – but because I had said we should wait until the evidence was in, I felt that, when it was, I should.  I had been asked to do one when the Spa allegations surfaced,  but after a conversation with Michael Ramsden, I felt I could not do it – mainly because I believed that it was highly likely that Ravi was guilty, and moreover he informed me about the full investigation and so I thought it should wait until the investigation was over.

The whole situation has evoked so many emotions – discouragement, sorrow, anger and even relief.  What I mean by the latter is the feeling that we dodged a bullet.  After starting Solas we seriously thought about just becoming part of RZIM.  I’m glad we didn’t.  There were several reasons – not least for me the lack of clarity from Ravi about some issues, but above all I hated the corporate culture and the whole celebrity thing.  It just didn’t feel right.   But I had no inclination or indeed thought of any kind of abuse.  The only think I knew about in the past few years was the credentials farce and the sexting allegations a couple of years ago.  I thought the Board would deal with both.  Besides which there were so many good people involved with RZIM – who knew so much more than me – so why wouldn’t I trust them?  My biggest concern, in terms of what I knew,  was actually Ravi’s acclamation of Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding sermon as having been ‘the Gospel reaching the whole world’.   His lack of discernment for someone so intelligent was disturbing.  But I could not have imagined what else was going on.

I have to say that the response to the whole situation from many people – including Christians has been mixed.   Varying from wonderful comments from ex RZIM worker Dan Paterson and this revealing, humble and helpful article from David French – https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/you-are-one-step-away-from-complete  to, at the other extreme, the vindictive, bitter and prideful.   Somehow my reading of Sibbes this morning was very appropriate:  ““He that talks of other men’s faults gives an intimation that he is innocent, and he had need be so.  It is easy and plausible.  Men glory in it.  It feeds corrupt nature to talk of other men’s faults, but to come home to a man’s self, that is a hard thing.  It is without ostentation or applause”

I think in all the talk we are missing something – we have forgotten God.   Sin is against other human beings, and indeed also ourselves, but ultimately the horror of sin is that it is against God.  Again Sibbes “nothing hurts us but sin, because nothing but sin separates us from God.”

In a deeply disturbing situation like this we can allow our upset and anger to morph into a blame game.  Ravi of course rightly bears the brunt.  I fear for him.   But then as French’s article points out there was a real problem with the RZIM board who did not listen to Ruth Malhorta, the former public relations manager from RZIM who has behaved couragously in challenging the culture, when it cost her.  (this letter from her sets out where things went wrong). –   Others want to go wider and blame the patriarchy and all men – still others think this is a great weapon to attack the church with – although I have to say in this regard that the atheist who did most to expose Ravi’s wrong, Steve Baughman, has been wise and gracious in pointing out that Ravi’s behaviour does not negate the Christian message and should not be used in that way.    There is an element of truth in all of these things.   The trouble is that it is just never quite as black and white as we like to think  – ‘the good guys over here, the bad ones over there’.   We are all sinners.  A statement which should not be used to excuse sin, nor to blame victims of particular actions.  But we do like simplistic narratives.

One of the things in the report that shocked me, was not just the details of Ravi’s abuse (and who knows how much more there was elsewhere in the world?), but the fact that one couple sought $5 million from Ravi to keep silent about the sexting scandal – and that they signed a non-disclosure agreement after getting $250,000.  That is hardly the action of someone who is desperate for the truth to come out!   Although to be fair perhaps they regretted it later and sought to be released from the NDA.  Ironically it was when I first became aware (late last year) that Ravi had paid $250,000 to the people he was suing, that I realised something was really wrong.   Again ironically in demanding money in order to keep silence, the couple gave Ravi a defence and prevented themselves being able to speak out.  Please note I am not saying that seeking to make money out of what happened to them is equivalent to what Ravi did.  But neither was it right.

I have much more sympathy with the massage workers who were exploited  –  Ravi used his position and the Lord’s money to abuse them.   But note the hypocrisy of a society which tells us that women who sell their services are to be treated as ‘sex workers’ not prostitutes, nor victims; and yet when the consequences of that immoral and stupid position begin to be seen, they are surprised and upset.   The fact is that men (and some women) need to stop treating women as commodities, to be bought, used and exploited just because the men have more power, money and influence.

Sowing the Wind, Reaping the Whirlwind

Our society is in a Hellish mess – we want sexual freedom and ‘liberation’ – yet we cannot see nor cope with the consequences.  Such liberation brings slavery – whether to our own lusts or in a more literal sense.   Is it not incredible that one of the fruits of the ‘sexual revolution’ in the 1960’s has been the re-introduction of  slavery into the Western world?  (incidentally I suspect that what Ravi did in bringing over ‘masseurs’ to the US could fairly be described as sex-trafficing- at least according to the Miller report).    The Church is supposed to be separate from all this – yet it seems as though just as we have copied the models of the world, so some leaders seem to have adopted their morals – at least in private if not in public.  I guess none of this is new – Paul wrote 2,000 years ago –   “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”.  (1 Timothy 5:9-10).

What a mess!  Maranatha.

Let me leave with something a bit more positive.  One lunchtime last week, feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that has gone on, I took my packed lunch to my favourite spot in Sydney – the Botanic gardens.  Once again, I was reminded of the beauty that God has created in the midst of the ugliness that we have brought.

And then another gift is the gift of music.  Whilst we were having lunch in Lane Cove – one of our favourite areas – this young man, Graham, who is a classical musician was playing.  It was all Scottish and Irish jigs – he told me his dad was a musician in a folk band – and he always did better busking when playing Celtic tunes!   He will go far.

 

Not only has the Lord given us the beauty of nature and of music, but he has also provided the remedy for our sin.  The fact that some people misuse that to exploit and justify their sin, no more negates the Gospel, than when some people misuse nature and music does not negate the gifts of music and Gospel.  It just shows the perversity of the human heart.   Lord, create a clean heart within us, and renew a right spirit…(Ps 51).

See you next week…

David

PS.  Willie Philip has this excellent article on why he, and other church leaders, are opposed to churches remaining closed in the current situation.Here is just one paragraph.

Willie Philip –   https://thecritic.co.uk/meeting-others-to-worship-is-a-lifeline/

We must care for people as whole human beings, and Covid 19 is not the only threat to health and wellbeing. Our congregation of 500 in the heart of Glasgow is diverse in age and background, including some of the most vulnerable in the city. I have witnessed first-hand real suffering through lockdown, not least a huge increase in loneliness, misery and untold damage to mental health. I have witnessed people, through not seeking care in order to ‘save the NHS’, develop life-threatening conditions. Most tragically, I witnessed the death of a former drug addict, many years clean but relapsed through isolation and despair.

PPS.  Here are this weeks Covid Prayer notes – 

Letter from Australia 80 – A Significant Birthday, an Educational Insult, The Wrong Side of History and the Free Church

 

23 comments

  1. David, this statement seems rather ambiguous. Who is the ‘he [who] vehemently denies’?
    ‘Dan is also rather good at blaming other people – so the poor man who ended up in ICU was blamed because he did not ‘declare’ his nebuliser – something which he vehemently denies.’
    It seems to me that Dan Andrews has consistently avoided blaming the person using the nebuliser

    1. Not at his first conference – which is why he ended up in so much trouble – and then Dan passed it on to someone else to carry the can. Its his government. He ultimately is responsible for the cack-handed way they have handled all of this.

  2. “Dan Andrews amazes me. He has more chutzpah than Nicola Sturgeon! ”

    … And that’s without even mentioning the “Safe Schools” fiasco or the Anti-Gay Conversion Therapy Bill. 🙁 🙁 🙁 My friend has the theory that these policies are all geared towards sppealing to the inner-city Melbourne Greens voters.

  3. It is interesting David that you talk of the wind and whirlwind, an allusion to a speech made by bomber Harris in WWII with the “wind” being Luftwaffe attacks on the UK and the “whirlwind” epitomised by a 1,000 bomber attack on the German city of Cologne.

    I just see another church leader that has gone astray, and him being enabled. The church and society has always had “mess”. It was the religious authorities that plotted for Jesus’ death and his execution that was carried out in the hands of secular authorities.

    I don’t deny that humanity it not without sin, this is self evident. The line between good and evil is drawn through ever human heart and what person would cut out a piece of his heart. But just as you rightly quote Paul about some falling into temptation, he elsewhere encourages having hearts and minds heavenly focussed. And there is positivity in this for every human is created in the image of God. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8).

    We don’t overcome sin by obsessing about it or ignoring it, but by acknowledging it’s existence and integrating the whole of ourselves into good with faith and attending to the good works that God has prepared for us in advance. When God created humanity he saw it was good!

    I propose doctrine of original goodness, to balance the doctrine of original sin. This is the only way I know to not become depressed but rather have “the joy of the Lord is your strength” in the light of events such as the ones you describe David.

      1. Ahh – that’s my ex-RAF showing through Apologies – for putting the cart before the horse there!

        I guess Hosea is where bomber Harris got that from then?

  4. David,

    Thank you for your article and ministry. I find your blog helpful and thought provoking, and a great accompaniment to my brekkie!

    Re Ravi: for me, this has once again highlighted a huge problem within Christendom. That of parachurch ministries. The Western Church has an over reliance on these ministries which have little to no truly Biblical accountability. The marketing is slick, often the content is excellent, but the reality is that too often they are the vehicles that feed the celebrity culture which is rampant within the Western Church. The result is then devastating – Christian ‘celebrities’ feel they are above scrutiny and story after story like Ravi’s emerges.

    When Ravi was close to death there was a video circulating on social media. It was a tribute to him, outlining he was the greatest apologist who ever lived. Regardless of the allegations which have emerged, it speaks to the culturewithin evangelicalism. Can you imagine Paul or those around him saying this? It seems a long way from, “I am the least of all the saints, not worthy to be called an apostle”

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not decrying parachurch ministries per se, I’ve personally benefitted from many. Nor am I blind to the fact that Ravi’s actions have sadly been mirrored too many times in the Church. But what Ravi has done, has in part I believe, been facilitated by a culture that we in the wider Western Church have fostered. We place men on pedestals they were never meant to be on. And unnecessary parachurch ministries are feeding this.

    As you know, the term parachurch means alongside the church. When this happens the result is so helpful: expertise and support is given to the church in areas that local Pastors simply wouldn’t have the time or resource to develop. But do we really require ministries that publish the latest sermons of Pastor X or Y? That is exactly why the local Church exists, to proclaim the gospel in their specific culture and locality, where pastoral relationships are built and community contact alive. I’m not saying those sermons aren’t helpful, or that the wider Church shouldn’t benefit from their ministry in the right setting. But…IMHO we are fostering a very dangerous culture that promotes men, and sets them up as easy targets for the evil one. Then, when men fall, our people are left devastated and doubting.

    Ravis actions were truly awful. Ultimately the result of a sinful nature that infects us all. “There but for the grace of God go I”. But surely they highlight the need for a radical rethink on the culture we’ve created within the Church?

  5. Hello David,
    Thank goodness ‘Gods Beauty can always been seen ‘ for the Believing Christian and the world.
    Taste and see that The Lord is good,blessed is the one who takes refuge in him Psalm 34v8
    Ravi Zacharias didn’t and we don’t know why but God does and that is enough to extend ‘A Forgiveness Service ‘Expressing God in his Goodness ♥️
    We can forgive the hurt Ravi caused ,he sinned against us and his God .
    Ravi ‘s plight could be used for a turnaround in present times .Repentance means to turn around (180°turn)towards God ,a complete change of direction and putting this into action will bring reconciliation to us and his family ,the meaning of the Bible ♥️
    This in turn ♥️will show and declare God’s Love is never defeated between the body of Christ and the world ♥️God’s Beauty in the universe and Forgiveness for each other .
    This is the antidote bringing Glory to God and bringing others to Him ♥️
    Gillian

  6. That young guy looks to be a fine violinist but maybe not such a great fiddler. I would have put a few coins in the fiddle case. Sadly most people are just passing by. Mind you, Joshua Bell didn’t take in many dollars when he played anonymously outside a subway station in NY.

  7. Yes, the Sydney Botanical Gardens are beautiful. When I was in Oz in November 2017 I had a wonderful Sunday afternoon walk through them.

  8. The articles I read in Christianity Today stated that the massage therapists who were abused by RZ were not providing a sexual service – they were providing treatment for his back problem. He was the one who crossed the line and behaved in a sexual way with them.

  9. I was just reading that article you Tweeted about the new C. S. Lewis film and this para caught my eye:

    “Stone believes that people can particularly relate to Lewis in the bleak times of Covid-19, just as they did during the Blitz, listening to his famous BBC radio talks: “Those broadcasts were so successful Pub owners were saying ‘quiet everybody, Mr Lewis is on’ … They’d all tune in. He talked in a way that they all understood, explaining his faith in the context of hardship and the war.””

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/15/quiet-cs-lewis-is-on-why-subject-of-new-film-could-be-right-for-now

    Why is Lewis so remembered when Rev. Dick Sheppard, who did the broadcasts prior to him and was equally popular at the time, is almost forgotten now? Sheppard’s broadcasts helped people come to terms with the First World War, the Depression and the political uncertainty in the lead-up to WW2. Do you think Lewis’ children’s books keep him in people’s minds? His Christian books for adults remain widely avaiable best sellers whereas you have to hunt around Amazon and Ebay for rare, second-hand Sheppard books.

    Dick Sheppard isn’t a household name nowadays – many people would stare at you blankly if you referred to him in conversation – whereas Lewis is universally recognised.

    Both certainly had strange relationships with women – Lewis by wedding Joy in a marriage of convenience and then falling in love with her and his unusual relationship with Mrs Moore, and Sheppard by marrying a woman who dabbled in Tarot and seances – not a good look for a priest!

    Both Sheppard and Lewis had Anglo-Catholic leanings if I understand them rightly but Lewis aldo has a broader appeal amongst evangelicals of all denominations so perhaps that is it. It is interesting also when one considers Lewis was “only” ever a layman while Sheppard was a trained minister with a huge amount of practical experience in difficult areas. Thoughts?

    1. Jean – thanks for your comments…just to let you know I don’t normally encourage people to post more than one response in a day…so if some of your posts don’t appear its nothing personal!

  10. The problem is that too often in Christian organisations, anyone who raises concerns about the leadership or the direction gets labelled as a troublemaker rather than the concerns being taken seriously.

  11. re PS-
    Willie Philip and his 26 co-petitioners are being funded by an English company (Christian Concern) which derives its funds from whom? They rushed precipitously into this court action after a few days notice. Charitable activities are permitted to continue through lockdown, we just need to organise. it is the group physical gatherings that are precluded. 800 new cases a day on average for Scotland. In one week in January, 120 cases linked to church attendance. In a country where church attendance is less than 2%, that’s high.
    Mainstream churches in Scotland are not supporting this legal action.
    Watch Moderator of Free Church here:
    https://freechurch.org/news/moderators-message-19feb21

    1. Catriona – can I offer some advice when you seek to argue against something.

      1) Don’t play the nationalist card and don’t misrepresent your opponents. Christian Concern is not an English company any more than the Free Church is a Scottish company. why play the nationalist card? Christian Concern is a UK charity.

      2) Avoid conspiracy theories – funded by whom? They are a charity who are funded by donations – the same as every other charity.

      3) Don’t say things that are demonstrably not true – Willie Phillip and the other ministers did not rush into court action after a few days notice. It was a carefully considered action taken after several months.

      In addition can I make the following points in response to your comments.

      Most charitable activities are not permitted – as regards the church meeting for public worship, meeting for prayer, visiting the sick, doing childrens work etc are not permitted.

      Where did you get the information that 120 cases were linked to church attendance?- it would be good to see the source. I am surprised it is that low. The last statistics had church attendance in Scotland at 8% – where did you get the 2% figure? Given that there have been 200,000 cases in Scotland – 2% would be 4,000 cases at church. The figure you give is not high. It is incredibly low and kind of proves the point.

      Yes mainstream churches are not supporting this action – but then mainstream churches in Scotland tend not to support anything that is biblical and critical of the government. I watched the Moderators address and to be frank found it disappointing. It seems as though the Free Church has forgotten it was founded on the principle of spiritual independence – the State not having the right to tell the Church what to do in spiritual matters. We have moved a long way from the spirit of our forefathers.

  12. 1) (a) By English company I mean a company registered in England and Wales. A Scottish company would be one registered in Scotland. There is nothing ‘nationalist ‘ about my use of the term. It’s a separate jurisdiction. Here is what CC say about themselves on their website. ”Christian Concern’ is a trading name of CCFON Ltd. CCFON Ltd is registered in England and Wales (Company Number 6628490).
    Registered office: 70 Wimpole Street, London W1G 8AX”.
    (b) I thought the Free Church was established by a trust deed, and is not a company in the legal sense.
    (c) As far as I know Christian Concern is not a charity. If it were, it would be regulated by either the Charities Commission (for England and Wales) or OSCR (for Scotland). It could be a cross-border charity registered in both countries but it isn’t. A charity would not be permitted to take political action, which clearly Christian Legal Action (the inhouse department) does. Some of their causes I would support. In this particular case I would suggest the churches will be open again as soon as public health considerations permit.
    2) Because CCFON are not a charity their accounts are less accessible. Because they are a company registered in England and Wales one could buy a copy of their accounts. I have not done so. I don’t know who has funded them.
    3) The action by CC in England and Wales was considered from May 2020 onwards. That did not apply to Scotland. The first reported letter from Dr Philip to the Scottish Ministers was dated 6 January, apparently sent on or about 11th January 2021. The churches in Scotland were closed from 8th January 2021. Prior to that they had been open for several months. The pre-action letter was dated 15th January demanding a reply from Scottish Government within six days, before the Judicial Review petition was lodged on 28th January. This information is all on the CC website.
    4) I got the 2% figure from a lecture by Mez McConnell in ETS in 2014, you were there and didn’t challenge him. So I thought that would be reliable. Taking the figure you propose of 4000 for a year then the figure for the second week of January would be expected to be 80. I got the figure of 120 from the daily government briefing.

    I hope this clarifies matters for you.

    1. Yes that is helpful – CC is not a charity because it is an advocacy group. The Free Church is a charity.

      The 2% figure is for evangelicals…not church attendance as a whole in Scotland. Even with that figure 120 is insignificant. There is no evidence of significant transmission or added risk from church meetings. Could you let me know which government daily briefing…? I would be fascinated to discover how they worked out that 120 people from one church were infected with Covid….

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