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Hypocrisy and Hate in Anti-Christian Victoria – AP

There is an astonishing development in Australia….For me it is absolutely chilling and threatening.  This is not just about Victoria – its about the whole of Australia – and the Western world.  There have been many canaries in the coal mine – but this is the first time I have seen this – someone being persecuted and losing their job, not because of something they said or did – but purely because of the church they belonged to.  Not a cult – not an extreme sect – but a mainstream church with no history of extremism.   Read, weep, pray and wake up….(This article first appeared in Australian Presbyterian here).

Hypocrisy and Hate in Anti-Christian Victoria – AP

Sometimes an event occurs which is of much more importance than the mere sum of what happened. This week one such event has shown the Australian church has just how far down the rabbit hole our society has gone.

Essendon AFL is an Australian rules football team.   Based in Melbourne it has a membership of over 80,000 and although having fallen on hard times recently, it is still considered to be one of the big four in Victoria. This week it appointed a local businessman, Andrew Thorburn as its chief executive. He lasted one day. The story is best summed up by the Herald Sun headline.

“Essendon’s chief executive Andrew Thorburn has stepped down after shock link to church was revealed”.

Notice the language. This was a ‘shock link’. Not to a strip club. Not to a gambling syndicate. Not to a drugs scandal – they would barely have raised an eyebrow. This was a shock link to a church. This was not a link to ‘controversial’ social media posts (aka Israel Folau). The new CEO was forced out not because of anything he said or did, but simply because he is linked to a mainstream Christian church which teaches the Bible.

The implications of this are enormous. The message is clear. According to much of the Australian press, the business community, the sports administrators and politicians such as Dan Andrews, no Christian should be permitted to play any significant part in public life.  At least in Victoria, and doubtless coming soon to a State near you.

Why was Andrew Thorburn forced out?

It’s worth noting the comments of the Essendon President, Dave Barham.  Earlier in the week when Thorburn was appointed he enthused: ““In Andrew, we have secured a highly credentialed leader, with a proven track record in development and building the leadership capabilities of his people……Andrew’s focus will be on running Essendon like a club, with a renewed focus on our members and the core reason which we exist – football……Our recent appointments of Brad Scott and today with Andrew, demonstrate our commitment to leadership and providing the right environment to ensure we achieve sustained success as a club….Andrew is a man of great integrity and exceptional vision.”

So, what changed? Why was this ‘’man of great integrity and exceptional vision” forced to resign? Barham made it clear ““Essendon is committed to providing an inclusive, diverse and a safe club, where everyone is welcome and respected. The board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as chairman of City on the Hill.”

The Board declared that this was nothing to do with religious beliefs. (Clearly the club’s ‘values’ don’t include telling the truth. This whole debacle was entirely about Thorburn’s religious beliefs.) There is a sense in which you have to admire Barham’s chutzpah. If Essendon really were a club where everyone was welcomed and respected then he would welcome Andrew Thorburn – but by ‘acting’ on the basis of the beliefs of Thorburn’s church, the Essendon Board have told all Muslims, Catholics, Evangelicals and others that they are not welcome. Only those with pre-approved beliefs will be welcomed. Those who blaspheme against ‘progressive’ doctrines will be suitably excommunicated. Welcome to the fundamentalist church of the Woke!

In theory it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their religious beliefs. As Barham pointed out ““In interview processes you’re not allowed to ask about people’s religious beliefs. It’s against the law. But what we did, as soon as we saw them, we acted”. In other words, once they did check Thorburn’s religious beliefs (or the beliefs of the church he belongs to), they then decided to discriminate and determine that he was not a suitable candidate.

What are City on A Hill’s Unacceptable Beliefs?

Reading the media and listening to Dan Andrews, one would think that City on a Hill was a Westboro Baptist type extremist cult. As it happened I shared the platform at the Belgrave Heights Convention with their senior pastor – Guy Mason.

He was gracious, compassionate and articulate. Not someone who you could in anyway describe as intolerant, hateful or bigoted. Unless you have switched off your mind and swallowed the Dan Andrews dictionary of approved words and thoughts!

The press trawled and this is what they found from a 2013 sermon: “We believe that we must be a voice for the voiceless, stand for the rights of the unborn baby and be pro-life…Human life begins at conception. All women and men have intrinsic value and worth as images of God. Abortion denies the voice of the most vulnerable……. Whereas today we look back at sadness and disgust over concentration camps, future generations will look back with sadness at the legal murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings every day through medicine and in the name of freedom”. 

Sex is designed for marriage, and marriage for fulfilling God’s mandate for humans to ‘be fruitful and multiply’…. Lust is a sin, sex outside of marriage is a sin, practising homosexuality is a sin, but same-sex attraction is not a sin.”

Like the Catholic church, the Orthodox church, the Evangelical church, the Muslims and many others, City on a Hill holds that abortion is wrong and sex outside marriage (including homosexuality is wrong). And yet the demons are in so deep that even The Australian referred to these beliefs as ‘controversial’.


Premier Dan Andrews is not a stupid man.  He knows exactly what he is doing. Hence he commented referring to City on a Hill: “Those views are absolutely appalling. I don’t support those views; that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry is just wrong,” 

“All of you know my views on these things. Those sorts of attitudes are simply wrong, and to dress that up as anything other than bigotry is just obviously false.

Andrews said this without ever having been to City on a Hill or spoken to its people. He just spouted his judgmental bigotry, knowing the impact it would have. Once you stir up the Twitter mob you know there will be blood. He threatened Essendon with withdrawing his membership. Little gets done in the Victorian Establishment without the approval of Chairman Dan. Unless you have the Andrews approval sign you are going nowhere. It astounds me that almost none of the press picked up on the bigotry that was being displayed here. If Dan believes that belonging to a church which disapproves of abortion and homosexuality disqualifies you from public office (or even being a CEO of a private company), then why does he not immediately resign? After all he is a member of a church (Catholic) which disapproves of abortion and homosexuality). Andrews condemns City on a Hill – but says nothing about the Catholic Church or the Muslims. He is a hypocrite. Of the worst sort.

When Dan Andrews stated that ‘that kind of intolerance, hatred and bigotry is wrong’, he spoke better than he knew. He wants to ban the wrong kind of intolerance, hatred and bigotry. His kind is perfectly acceptable. The question then becomes: if  Christians cannot be CEOs, can they stand for parliament?  Work for the Government?  Or in hospitals, schools and the police? Given that the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Muslims and many more all share these ‘wrong’ views, is Andrews seriously suggesting that none of us are welcome in Australian public life? How tolerant, diverse and inclusive!

Those who warned that the passing same sex marriage would lead to this kind of discrimination have been proved correct. And that the failure of the Coalition government to protect religious freedom is going to prove devastating – allowing Dan Andrews and his fellow ideologues to bully, coerce and remove from public life, any who do not share their doctrines.

The New Religion

This is a new religion – one which has largely taken over the elites and civic institutions of our society.  The Age newspaper again expressed it well: “Thorburn’s personal beliefs could upset the Bombers’ AFLW side, which preaches diversity and inclusiveness”.  

They ‘preach’ diversity and inclusion. They preach it, but they don’t practise it.

They even have their own heresy hunters. Witness Purple Bombers (the LGBTI Essendon supporters’ group) founder Jason Tuazon-McCheyne who triumphantly declared: “It’s the right decision. Andrew made the correct decision for himself and the football club, but I did not expect him to choose the church. We’re very relieved as a result. This is a good outcome.” 

Jason clearly thought that, as it often does, the intimidation would work. He was surprised that anyone would choose the church rather than bow to his ideology.

How Should We Then Live?  

The comedienne Tracy Ullman forewarned us about where we were going a few years ago.  Her short skit on the BBC was prophetic.

But things are even worse than she foresaw.   It’s not just that we are discriminated against because people think we are weird – in the progressive Brave New World we are now the Bad Guys.

We must also pray for and against leaders like Dan Andrews. We pray that like Saul, God will change their hearts, cause them to repent and become more gracious, loving and tolerant.    And we pray that he will restrain the arm of wicked men.  That we may have peace to proclaim and live the Gospel.

Some Christians (including sadly some Christian leaders) will feel that this is all just a storm in a teacup and that if we just shut our eyes, it will all go away. In an Aussie perversion of the doctrine of God’s providence and sovereignty, they just declare ‘she’ll be all right’!  How does this affect ordinary people?

Let me go back to the Belgrave conference I shared with Guy. I think of the young people who said to me ‘you can’t say that.  You go to jail here for saying that.’! Or the young Catholic teacher who thought it would be breaking the law to teach Catholic doctrine. Imagine that.  We live in a country where young people think they are breaking the law if they teach the Bible, and Catholic teachers think they are not permitted to teach Catholic doctrine. They may well be right!

As Christians we have to speak out.  It may be the wise thing not to put online sermons which can be used as evidence in our blasphemy trials – (although that is at best a  delaying measure because the progressive inquisition will find their way – so expect the knock on the door and the Twitter mob to follow).  I am inclined to think we need to go the opposite way. If the feminists can have the courage to take on the Trans ideologues publicly, perhaps we can have the courage to proclaim God’s truth in all circumstances.  If enough Iranian young women can stand up to their own fundamentalist mullahs – can we not stand up to ours?

If this had happened to my football club (Dundee FC) I would no longer support them. ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ is a lesson that Essendon need to learn. Dave Barham said the reaction from club members, staff and players to the rapid dismissal was positive. “I think they appreciated the fact that we have values and that we stand our ground,” he said. Maybe Mr Barham needs to hear that the hateful, intolerant and bigoted values of Essendon are not our values. Why would Christians give their money to a club that is determined to discriminate against Christians?!

If I had the vote, there are no circumstances in which I could be persuaded to vote for an anti-Christian hate filled bigot like Dan Andrews. But I guess there will always be some turkeys who vote for Christmas.

Steve McAlpine’s Being the Bad Guys has turned out to be prophetic.  I suggest you read his take on what has happened here. 

Perhaps we could follow the example of Andrew Thorburn. His response has been gracious, thoughtful, compassionate and intelligent (not that that matters to the Progressive Inquisition). These words, in particular, struck me:

However, today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many. I was being required to compromise beyond a level that my conscience allowed. People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect. Behaviour is the key. This is all an important part of a tolerant and diverse society.

Despite my own leadership record, within hours of my appointment being announced, the media and leaders of our community had spoken. They made it clear that my Christian faith and my association with a Church are unacceptable in our culture if you wish to hold a leadership position in society. This grieves me greatly – though not just for myself, but for our society overall. I believe we are poorer for the loss of our great freedoms of thought, conscience and belief that made for a truly diverse, just and respectful community.

My faith is central to who I am. Since coming to faith in Jesus 20 years ago, I have seen profound change in my life, and I believe God has made me a better husband, father, and friend. It has also helped me become a better leader. That is because at the centre of my faith is the belief that you should create a community and care for people, because they are created by and loved by God and have a deep intrinsic value.

As it happens, I do sometimes disagree with things I hear in church – but I believe strongly in the right of people to say them, especially when taken in context. Reducing complex matters to a sentence is dangerous. Australia has a long tradition of diversity and religious freedom, and that must include preserving space for religious people to be able to express their religious beliefs.

The Sermon that Exposed Australia – AP



  1. Dear David,
    I so often give thanks for your work, and your sane and spiritual counsel.
    On this occasion, perhaps the issue is not as straightforward as you (and many others) portray it.
    As a resident of Victoria, we know very well what our Premier thinks. But he holds the office by democratic process, and I think we are duty bound to respect that.
    We live in a wicked and sinful world, and it is no surprise that we have to deal with this on a daily basis. There is a price to be paid for following the suffering Saviour.

    We live in a fabulously wealthy and safe country, and we enjoy all the trappings of this, but perhaps take it for granted and feel that we are somehow entitled to be treated better than those in very different circumstances and countries where there is zero tolerance for Christians. We must all give account to the Lord, and we cannot point the finger at the unrighteous when the time comes.

    There are many things and organisations in our communities that hold ‘core values’ which are incompatible with a faithful testimony to the Lord. You have to choose. Whether you are at the top or the bottom of a company / organisation, the fact is that we must choose whether our loyalty to Christ will be sullied by all that we might be required to endorse / celebrate / affirm etc.

    It is not easy to live and earn a living as a Christian in many parts of the world. Perhaps this is now coming closer to home, and we will not be as free to climb to the top to fulfil our potential as once we may have thought.

    1. Thanks David…I’m not sure I disagree with you. Even if he held the office by non-democratic process I would be biblically bound to respect as God’s servant and pray for him (Romans 13 – 1 Timothy 2). I don’t think this is about wanting the trappings – its about being in a democratic country founded on Christian principles….when the foundation is removed tyranny will follow (for everyone – not just biblical Christians!). BUt yes – you are right – there may well be a particular price to pay for this. However the issue overall is black and white. Dan Andrews is an evil, lying, hypocrite who knows exactly what he is doing. I still think its a good idea to stand up against evil!

      1. Quite so, David.
        If the Sovereign Lord had placed me in Russia of China, my obligation is clear.
        I’m grateful for the foundations that previous generations have laid for my freedom and safety in the UK and Australia. The erosion of those freedoms has been active for decades now. Perhaps the appreciation and diligence of succeeding beneficiaries (present company) has not always been what it might have been.
        We are too much in love with our comforts and enjoyments to notice until the alarm sounds.

    2. Australia may be a ‘wealthy and safe country’ in general. But perhaps no longer safe for Christians.

    3. I must disagree with your statement that “we (individual Christians and/or the church) cannot point the finger at the unrighteous when the time comes.” Who else is there to call out unrighteousness but those called by God to be light and salt, those who know God’s righteousness and love it and wish to see it advance? Not to do so is unloving and unjust.

      1. My comment pointed to the time to come when we must give account to the Lord for all that we have done / should have done / should not have done.
        We may be inclined to be ‘keyboard warriors’, and it is a very popular thing to do I admit. But is this really our calling?
        Rebuking leaders seems to be a global hobby at the moment, and it hides a multitude of sins in ourselves, and removes us from many a useful private service that only the Lord sees.
        Am I alone in recognising that I am not a ‘Prince’, not called to be a judge, and I do what is in my power to relieve any suffering of those within my orbit. I leave the ordering of nations and societies to the Judge of all the earth, knowing my own sins and sinful ways.

      2. I don’t think it is helpful to type derogatory comments about keyboard warriors on a keyboard! I’m also not sure that being what you term a ‘keyboard warrior’ is popular. It’s also a cheap shot and a generalised statement that rebuking leaders is a hobby that covers up our own sin. It is also the case that releaving suffering may include rebuking leaders and advocating for justice and change. Imagine if William Wilberforce had said that it was only his own private religion that mattered and that it was not his place to rebuke leaders or seek to change society – and that he would leave that to the Judge of all the earth. Such pietism sounds good – but it is not biblical. Of course I suspect that that is not what you meant (although it is what you wrote)…..we do need to be careful about how, and to whom, we speak. But there is still a place for the prophetic today – and not everyone who engages in it is a self righteous hypocrite seeking to cover up their own sin!

      3. It isn’t what I meant or what I wrote.
        William Wilberforce was an elected leader and Christian, who made it his purpose to abolish slavery. He set out to do this consistently for roughly 20 years. This is a good example of a Christian man who used his life, position and influence to do a righteous thing which points to the need for others in their own life, position and influence to do the same.
        Personal letters written directly to a person is surely more measured, effective, and respectful (typed or handwritten) than a comment rushed off in the heat and emotion of an issue being raised in the public media.

      4. Yes – Wilberforce used personal letters and conversations. He also used the technology of the day. He used newspapers, pamphlets, political rallies, sugar boycotts, parliament and other means! So today we use the technology we have. Not quite sure what your problem is! Of course people can get it wrong – and not every one is called to that. But be careful about denigrating what others are seeking to do, just because it is not your calling.

  2. In one way this is absolutely stunning, yet we see scripture being played out. Matthew 10:14-15.

  3. As I read down this article I was thinking about how awful this situation is. The persecution of a Christian just because of the beliefs of his Church is deeply worrying. And then I got to the comment from Dan Andrews, the Premier of Victoria: “Those views are absolutely appalling. I don’t support those views; that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry is just wrong.” And I thought, okay, he doesn’t like what Christians believe on certain moral issues but where’s the intolerance? I don’t have to believe that adultery is fine in order to love people who commit adultery. But then came the real shocker. This Premier thinks it is appalling to believe that practising homosexuality is a sin. And it turns out he is a Catholic.
    The situation reminds me of the poem by Martin Niemöller:
    “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
    First they came for the members of City on a Hill… Did all the members of Essendon AFL who are Christians resign en masse in the aftermath of the attitude expressed by Essendon President, Dave Barham, or did they just look the other way and think it had nothing to do with them?
    It would be encouraging if the Catholic Bishops Conference of Australia would make some comment about the statements from both Dave Barham and Dan Andrews but somehow I don’t think that that will happen.
    Incidentally, do Essendon AFL continue to employ Catholics? The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it very clear that it is the belief of the Catholic Church that practising homosexuality is a sin. If their Church holds such an appalling view, why aren’t all Catholic employees dismissed? That might, just might, get the CBCA to make a comment.

    1. From The Age:

      “Peter Comensoli, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne and until Wednesday, an Essendon supporter, says it is troubling and bizarre that newly appointed club chief executive Andrew Thorburn was forced to quit his job because of his Christian beliefs. … Comensoli says he is so “appalled” at the message sent to faith communities by Thorburn’s treatment, he is looking for another club to support.

      “It really concerns me deeply,” he told The Age. “It is quite a bizarre reality we seem to have entered into where people are being judged unworthy to lead because of some of their basic Christian beliefs.””

  4. -Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle-

    Fingers on keyboards are maybe our best answer. Share-‘Anglicans for Life’-led by Georgette Forney. Share-‘Silent No More’-referencing the testimony of Alveda King (niece of Martin Luther King Jr).

  5. Something of a side issue, but it turns out that City on a Hill is an Anglican Church in Melbourne, but seems to sit outside normal Anglican polity, having started multiple church plants, (what happened to Parish boundaries?) and describes Mr. Thorburn as its Chairman(?). Very strange title for an Anglican church.

    The good part in the story of Mr. Thorburn’s resignation is that someone actually said, “I’m not going to cave in”. Given the choice between CEO of Essendon, a prestigious football club, or Chairman(?) of City on a Hill, he chose his church. That is something to celebrate in these days of back tracking on cultural and religious issues.

  6. “And then I got to the comment from Dan Andrews, the Premier of Victoria: “Those views are absolutely appalling. I don’t support those views; that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry is just wrong.” ”

    And yet today’s news reports him as sending his children to a Catholic school. Hypocrisy or what?

  7. David
    Thanks for your clear writing on “Essendon” and Mike Carlton.
    There is something that does trouble me about both.
    A lot of commentators take issue with the Church “view”. Dan Andrews said “ those views are absolutely appalling “.
    What troubles me is that in the absence of strong communication from the Church others are characterising Church views as suits them and to align with popular secular thinking.
    Don’t you think the Church could do more to explain that we love Jesus, who loved diversity and inclusivity and championed it. Jesus loves homosexuals, women with unwanted pregnancies and even me.
    In this sense there is no clash of values.
    But then the argument may go further, do we uphold gay marriage and abortion? No not under a Church setting but we do support the law and our leaders as Jesus told us to.
    Can’t we turn Church “views” around to accentuate loving people and leaving judgement on sin to God ?

    1. Thanks Bruce….

      I would agree except this. It is precisely because we love homosexuals etc that we challenge ungodly livestyles – because they do so much harm. As for supporting the law – no – we don’t support unjust, immoral and wicked laws. If we talk about loving people – and leaving out sin – it just ends up being talk. If we love people we will help them (and us) deal with sin…. And we do leave judgement on sin to God. But just because that is the case – does not mean that I have nothing to say about racism!

      1. Thanks David, I think I agree with where you are coming from and from the small window we are using out theology is similar BUT I think you can lead with love not “challenge” or judgement.
        Christians often seem to take a superior position but we should all take a position of grace.
        It doesn’t just end up being talk because the Holy Spirit will always shine a light on sin but the first followers of Christ were known for their love.
        You are correct to pick me up on support for unjust, immoral and wicked laws, perhaps if I had used ‘follow’. There are thousands of laws that we could see through this lens and as Christians we may not ever support them but as law abiding citizens we follow them, I think a case of what Jesus meant by “render unto Caesar what is his”.
        My main point is that the Andrews statement was about not being able to support these “views”.
        No matter what defence we make I see more and more people including Christians having similar difficulty with Church “views”…not because it is necessarily true but because the Church spends so much time on what you call “challenging ungodly lifestyles” that it is an easy target. Indeed the Church itself is splitting on such issues.
        I am trying to make a case for flipping the narrative to Churches following Christ and being full of love, grace, diversity and inclusion.
        Please do not hear me saying we should just float along with society and stand for nothing. I do not want the bible compromised but love and building relationships is what Jesus modelled to the outcasts and troubled of society. It is precisely the troubled and outcast who are offered the same forgiveness as I was and will be blessed in Christs Kingdom.
        Imagine if the Church was again known for these “views”and not pharisaical superiority.
        Thanks again for your writing. I identify with Andrew Thorburn and you have helped me think all this through.

      2. I think the problem is generally the other way round – the church spends very little time challenging ungodly lifestyles! It’s not an easy target and you get hammered if you dare to question anything in contemporary society (usually by your fellow Christians!)…

        We are attacked not by ‘the troubled and the outcasts’ but by the rich, elites and powerful.

        It depends what you mean by love, grace, diversity and inclusion….! Who could be against them?!

        I don’t think the problem is that the Church is not known for these views….the problem is that the world hates Christ – and therefore will hate his church. It’s not a question of either Pharisaical superiority (which is wrong) or getting the world to like us – there is another way!

      3. Salt and Light. Speak the Truth in love. Live for Christ, proclaim Christ. Speak for Justice. Challenge Evil. Spiritual warfare. Preach the Word…..

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