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WHAT DOES COVID 19 MEAN FOR THE CHURCH CALLED TO BE A COMMUNITY

By Australian Newsletter

Humans are fundamentally relational beings, dependent and incomplete by design; no one can be who they truly are in isolation. But Australia is a socially fragmented society.  The average Aussie moves every 6 years, 40% of marriages end in divorce and busyness is a virtue.  As the pandemic forces everything to a halt and contains us to our geographic locations, the Church is faced with an opportunity to help change the fabric of our society.  But for the first time in living memory, churches are being forced to close their doors.  It’s a challenge that many pastors likely didn’t think their congregations would have to face, but for the foreseeable future, all regular gathering has come to a halt.

The Church is also called to serve the poor and protect the vulnerable, to etch out a place for them.

Psalm 82: 3 “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.  4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Isa 54: 2  “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes

So how does the Church help restore community and provide for the vulnerable without a physical place to do so?  Some of Christians Against Poverty’s (CAP) partner churches are already providing stunning examples of what this could look like.  The Grainery in the NSW Hunter Region is one such church.  Calling their community to step up and be the church, the young adults pastor wrote to the church’s young adults last week saying:  “As young adults, most of us are the healthiest, more able and mobile in our community at this time.  In contrast we have many people in our church who are vulnerable, isolated and need extra support over the coming weeks.”

“With many ministries and events altered or postponed, many of us who normally serve at church, are now available to help in other ways.  The church is encouraging healthy members to get creative in how they reach out an help their community with things such as; creating care packages and kids craft packs and delivering them, cooking meals for the regular attendees of Grainery Care (community outreach program), making check-in phone calls, taking time to visit, play games or lead a fun activity for isolated families and children, setting up technology for older people so they don’t miss out on church over live-stream.”

Of course, all these activities will have to consider Government restrictions on gathering and movement.  But these are logistics to be overcome, the church is pulling out all stops to ensure no one is left isolated!  Already, stories are emerging of CAP clients struggling through the crisis.  It’s heartbreaking.  However equally, there are stories of how churches are continuing to support them through the CAP Debt Centres and CAP Money courses.  One family, a mum, dad and 4 kids aged 1 through to 9 have lost their income due to the crisis.  They reached out to their case worker who was able to but their debt repayments on a hold.  The client was full of relief and reflected:

“It is such a blessing that we did reach out when we did.  If we didn’t have you now, it would be devastating”  What a gift it is to be able to provide for people in their season of need.  Even as advice and measures keep changing, there are ways you as a church can help people practically.  As individuals scattered around towns and cities, together you can reach many people.  Here are some practical ways as Christians to show love to our communities.

• Go the local shops for those who can’t or are scared to
• Pray for neighbours (leave a note in their letterbox telling them you are a Christian and offer to pray)
• Donate money and items to foodbanks and charities caring for the vulnerable.  By giving instead of hoarding, we demonstrate that it is God who we trust.
• Regularly check-in with isolated people over the phone
• Keep giving blood, as the need will increase and potential donors decrease
• Display gratitude to service workers (mail carrier, supermarket assistant) they are likely feeling overrun and encounter a lot of stressed out people
• Offer to help single parents with childcare needs; drop off a meal, a box of diapers or puzzles for the kids
• Buy a gift card from a local small business to redeem at a later date (stock up some for Christmas presents)
• Send an encouraging text message to any of your friends who are medical professionals, and offer to help their partner or family
• PRAY

But the reality is many Australians are going to face economic crisis.  CAP is here to equip the local church with practical tools for helping people through financial crisis and give them the tools to achieve financial wellbeing.  Our communities need the hope of Jesus more than ever and now is a time for the church to step out to reach people that are feeling hopeless.  As A. W. Tozer put it, “A frightened world needs a fearless church.”  And as Jesus said the world would know his disciples by their love.  As a church, how will you respond to COVID-19 for your community?  Find out more about what you and your church can do to help: https://www.capaust.org/Get-Involved

Source: Rosie Kendall, CEO, Christians Against Poverty, Australia

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UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA INTRODUCES GENDER INCLUSIVE BATHROOMS

By Australian Newsletter

The University of Canberra is revamping its toilets to accommodate transgender people.  Whereas the traditional model is to have toilets for men and women there is now a third category it’s calling “gender inclusive bathrooms”.  The university said, “The bathrooms can be used by anyone of any identity or gender.”  “We are going round the university looking at where it’s possible to have three different types of bathrooms,” the university’s deputy vice-chancellor, professor Geoff Crisp, said.  There were cost implications and new multi-gender bathrooms were more likely in new buildings, but it was “important to have bathrooms that will accommodate people’s differences of identity”.

The changes are part of a raft of measures the university has taken to reduce discrimination.  Senior staff are also being trained to identify their own unconscious biases against women and other groups.  One prejudice, for example, comes because some men assume that quiet women lack authority and that means they don’t get promoted.  “There’s a lot of unconscious bias around behaviour,” Professor Crisp said.  “Men are often more outspoken and aggressive in their body language,” he said.  An assumption might be made that a lack of those qualities meant a lack of leadership ability.  “Just because you don’t bang the table, doesn’t mean you can’t lead.”

The university has just been honoured in a project set up by the Australian Academy of Science and by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.  The organisers say the aim of the project they’ve called the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) is to increase diversity in universities, particularly the number of women in senior positions in scientific departments.  But it has rejected the idea of accepting “blind” applications where the name of the applicant is withheld so interviewers and the HR department can’t work out whether a man or woman is applying.  Professor Crisp said it was usually possible to work out someone’s gender from other information in a resume.

Rather, the university was concentrating on raising awareness about discrimination and training staff to spot prejudice and counter it, including in themselves.  The issue of toilets has been problematic elsewhere.  It fires up intense emotion.  In London, one theatre put in new “gender neutral” toilets and some women born as women objected.  When Scott Morrison became prime minister, a sign on the toilet door said that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was “committed to staff inclusion and diversity” and invited staff and visitors to “please use the bathroom that best fits your gender identity”.  Mr Morrison was quoted as calling it “political correctness over the top

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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SEASON OF PRAYER DURING THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC

By Australian Newsletter

We invite all of our members to continue to pray for our people as the Corona 19 pandemic continues to impact our nation and the nations of the world.

This week let us pray:

* for our Prime Minister, State Premiers, the Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, State Chief Medical Officers and all front-line medical personnel who are leading us as a nation through the difficult situation this virus is causing, and the impact it is having on our nation.  Pray that they will be given the physical strength to keep going, and the wisdom to make correct decisions which are insightful and impacting.

* for the spread of the virus to be supernaturally slowed

* for the aged, the disabled and those with pre-existing conditions to be especially protected

* for the success of the announced rescue package, that employers will enter into the spirit of the package and re-hire and/or keep their staff on their pay roll.

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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QUEENSLAND RELIGIOUS GROUPS FIGHT MOVE TO MAKE GAY CONVERSION THERAPY A CRIME

By Australian Newsletter

Religious schools and organisations are fighting a move by the Queensland government to make LGBT related conversion therapy a crime in the state.  In late November, the Queensland government introduced legislation that would, among other amendments to health legislation, make the practice of conversion therapy to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity punishable by up to 18 months in jail.  The examples provided in the legislation include aversion therapy, psychoanalysis or hypnotherapy with the aim of changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality, but it also extends to counselling and group activities.

The legislation, which followed a 2018 Human Rights Law Centre review into conversion therapy practices in Australia, has the strong support of medical bodies, such as the Australian Psychological Society, and human rights organisations.  Christian organisations and schools, however, have expressed concerns that the legislation might prevent them from being able to counsel people on sexuality and gender based on their interpretation of Christianity.  Christian Schools Australia, along with three other Christian schools organisations that represent 80 schools in Queensland, told a parliamentary committee the legislation was “dangerously imprecise” and places Christian schools at risk.

The associations argued “genuine” questioning of sexuality and gender identity must be allowed.  “Students must be able to seek advice from school staff about their sexuality or gender identity and school staff must be able to respond to those questions,” they said.  “The Queensland government must guarantee that Christian schools can continue to teach a traditional Biblical sexual ethic and a biologically and medically accurate view of sexuality.”  Associated Christian Schools, which represents 38 schools in Queensland, said that the legislation as drafted could prevent religious counsellors from “communicating the institution’s religious doctrines and beliefs on sexuality and/or gender identity.”

The association also argued that adults giving informed consent should be able to freely participate in counselling regarding their sexuality and gender.  Renew Ministries, which says it is part of the ex-gay conversion therapy group Exodus, told the committee it “does not support or practice shock treatment, aversion therapy, and people who come to Renew do so voluntarily.  “The inference is that Christians may in the future be dictated to as to what they may believe, say, or choose to follow,” the submission states.  “This is looking to be an attack on Christians who are same-sex attracted but want to live according to their own personal definitions of their sexuality.”

The Queensland Law Society (QLS) also expressed concern, stating there was a lack of evidence needed for the new offences, and said it could have unintended consequences.  “QLS is concerned that the prospect of criminal prosecution may fetter otherwise legitimate aspects of psychological and psychiatric treatment.  “Some providers may be concerned that reasonable clinical interventions might be captured within the definition of conversion therapy.”  The legislation does not appear to be in conflict with the federal government’s proposed religious discrimination legislation.  Attorney-general Christian Porter has said the federal legislation would not override state-based criminal law.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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POLICE CANNOT KEEP UP WITH PEDOPHILES

By Australian Newsletter

The number of known child sex offenders in NSW has increased more than 500% in the 5 years since 3 year old William Tyrrell went missing.  The sheer volume of known sex offenders has made it virtually impossible for police to keep tabs on them all.  The NSW Police Force says there are “serious problems” with the child sex offenders register, which was designed to monitor the worst pedophiles as they move around the state.  The list is often incomplete, with some offenders never added, while others drop off inexplicably.  A new computer program, introduced to fix the problems, is already failing.  The problem is worst on the mid-north coast, where hundreds of sex offenders are known to live.

Media organisations are prevented by suppression order from revealing the exact number of pedophiles living in and around the village of Kendall when William went missing.  The number has been said, in court, to be “shocking”.  The police force established the Child Protection Register in 2001, which aims to identify the presence in a given community of serious sex offenders, including men who have killed or raped children.  However, from 2014 it has been bedevilled by “systematic issues”.  Part of the problem is the sheer weight of numbers: in October 2003, there were 916 people on the register; by last year, there were 4344.  Yet there has been no proportionate increase in resources.

System flaws resulted in child sex offenders “being in the community without being monitored by NSW Police”, according to a recent report by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.  There has been one case in which a person reoffended while unmonitored.  The first police on the scene of William’s disappearance thought the boy may have been snatched.  New documents show they searched the child protection register for local names on day one of his disappearance.  Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has proposed a national, public register to include the name, date of birth and photograph of known pedophiles, as operates in the US. Opponents say it will lead to an increase in vigilante justice.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID 19) THIS SUNDAY

By Australian Newsletter

This Sunday (29th March), Churches across Australia in whatever form they may meet, are asked to include prayers for the Coronavirus Covid 19 pandemic and its impact upon individual people and our nation as a whole.  The recent shut down of worship services will make this more difficult however Churches are asked to be creative in how they pray for what is affecting so many of our people.  Organisers of the season of prayer, of which the National Day is just one day, are amazed yet delighted by the strong support that the season of prayer has generated.  The shutting down of places of worship has been a challenge to Churches overall, but, there have been many creative ways in which congregations are responding to the situation.

For individuals and Churches participating in the season of prayer we provide the following prayer points for your use.

* Pray that people will turn to God in their fear and that the church will seize the unprecedented opportunity to make Jesus known to those without hope in Christ.  Pray that Christians everywhere will truly be God’s representative to people, not only now but in the financial crisis ahead.

* Pray that this virus will be stopped in its tracks.  That the medical researchers will get a download from Heaven on how to quickly develop a vaccine to counteract COVID-19 and a cure for those who have become infected.

* Pray for the healing of those affected by the virus and also for them to be comforted while they heal.  Pray for the eradication of the virus from their bodies and for the healing of every infected part of their being.  Pray also for no lasting effects in their bodies from this illness.

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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EUTHANASIA AN UNFOLDING NATIONAL TRAGEDY

By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) values and supports every human life, particularly at the end of life when research for cures and world’s best palliative care should be the priority.  Recently we received the tragic news that 52 Victorians ended their lives in the first 6 months of their new assisted suicide regime.  This figure far exceeded the toll estimated by the architects of the scheme.  We mourn these deaths and are disheartened that some want even more deaths.  Assisted suicide advocates are urging more euthanasia service providers in country Victoria. We need to take a very deep breath. A great many of these deaths were physician-assisted suicide.

The Victorian government assured us that doctors would only have to administer suicide drugs in the rarest of cases.  As we see in many debates of this nature, what the advocates once said would never be necessary is now what they want.  They get us to accept one radical change by saying that’s as far as we go, but afterwards they bob up and list another.  In this instance, the assisted suicide advocates said doctors would be protected from having to raise euthanasia with their patients.  Now, that’s what they are calling for.  The Victorian report also highlighted how not all family members supported suicide, but watched on as it happened, nonetheless. We are desensitising people.

The news coverage about these deaths ends on the confused note that these euthanasia deaths are okay, but seek help if you are contemplating suicide.  Assisted suicide advocates are also urging the Federal Government to overturn the ban on using a telephone service to promote suicide.  The endgame is clear, unrestricted, suicide on demand.  Already we have a foretaste of the more aggressive model for assisted suicide via the bill proposed for Tasmania by Mike Gaffney MLC.  The bill goes much further than the current models legalised in Victoria and Western Australia.  In those states, a person must be terminally ill and have only 6-12 months to live.

Mr Gaffney’s bill removes the terminal illness requirement.  People who have an irreversible medical condition could access euthanasia without the need of a psychiatric assessment.  Euthanasia medical advice could be by video link, a process with no rigour.  Fortunately, telecommunications services cannot be used to promote suicide, though advocates are also looking to overturn that law as well.  Then there is the nightmare if Mr Gaffney’s bill becomes law.  It proposes, after 2 years of euthanasia being given to adults, consideration be given to extending it to children.  The advocates’ plans are now clear, more aggressive laws the moment they have passed supposedly sedate versions.

Queensland Labor members are pushing Premier Palaszczuk to pass euthanasia laws before the State Election on 31 October this year.  NSW Nationals MP Trevor Khan was starting a ‘cross-party’ working group to legalise assisted suicide but was rebuked by party leadership for doing so while public concern was rightly focused on bushfire relief.  South Australia has doggedly resisted attempts to legalise euthanasia, with another push undoubtedly on its way.  For years ACL has highlighted the dangers of euthanasia.  We have a huge 2020 ahead of us to halt the march of assisted suicide laws and to advocate for world’s best palliative care, pain relief and compassion for our suffering fellow Australians.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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