Deloitte Australia chief executive Adam Powick has become one of the first corporate leaders to make public their support for Andrew Thorburn – who stood down as the boss of Essendon football club because of his role as a church chairman. In a note on his LinkedIn, Mr Powick said he had watched the engagement and resignation of Mr Thorburn – the former National Australia Bank chief executive held the Essendon job for just one day – with “embarrassment and exasperation”. Mr Powick, who runs one of the country’s largest professional services firms, said the scandal had left him “with a much deeper sense of disappointment and concern”.  “At Deloitte, I get to experience first-hand the power of diverse teams and thinking and can see how additive this is both from a cultural and performance perspective,” Mr Powick, an Essendon supporter, wrote.

“The forced resignation of Andrew Thorburn is so disturbing,” he wrote, adding: “What should have mattered in this process were Andrew’s proven leadership skills and values, not his cultural background, gender, sexual orientation, faith or personal beliefs.” “These events could easily be written off as an isolated sports administration issue but that would be missing the point. In reality what happened is deeply significant, not just for my footy club, but for society in general and we need to properly take stock and learn from it.” Mr Thorburn resigned as the chief executive of Essendon, after it emerged he was chairman of a City on a Hill church that had posted Biblical views on homosexuality and abortion on its website. At the time, Club president Dave Barham said the club had acted on revelations that the church had said acting on same-sex attraction was “a sin” and another likening abortion to concentration camps.

Those sermons had been made before Mr Thorburn became chairman of the City on a Hill church. However, Essendon told the businessman that he must pick between the two roles. “I want to stress that neither the board nor Andrew was aware of the comments from the 2013 sermon until we read about them this morning,” Mr Barham said. “I also want to stress that this is not about vilifying anyone for their personal religious beliefs, but about a clear conflict of interest with an organisation whose views do not align at all with our values as a safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming club for our staff, players, members, fans, partners and the wider community.” Mr Thorburn, however, said it was “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”.

Mr Thorburn went on “I love all people, and have always promoted and lived an inclusive, diverse, respectful and supportive workplace, where people are welcomed regardless of their culture, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation,” he said. In his post, Deloitte’s Mr Powick wrote: “The fact that Andrew felt he had to step down because of his association with a church group is difficult to comprehend, as is the widespread commentary supporting this move.” “For me, this shows a profound lack of understanding of what it truly means to live and work in a diverse, inclusive and tolerant society where people are judged by their demonstrated actions, behaviours and capabilities, rather than their personal characteristics and beliefs,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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