What happens when a Christian’s values clash with workplace values? Andrew Thorburn decided to resign from his new job at a football club one day after starting work. KAMAL WEERAKOON, a GS&C committee member, takes up the issue, provides the facts behind the Essendon Football Club-Andrew Thorburn imbroglio and offers some helpful conversation primers for you to consider.
- Andrew Thorburn has been a long-term member of City On A Hill church (COAH), Melbourne. He is chairman of the church council.
- COAH is an Anglican church, part of the Melbourne Anglican Diocese. It belongs to the evangelical minority of Melbourne Anglicanism.
- As part of that evangelical Anglican minority, COAH holds to traditional, Biblical views on sexuality. COAH therefore teaches that:
- Having same-sex desires is not itself sinful *(see footnote);
- Acting on those desires is sinful;
- Homosexuality is no more (and no less) sinful than other sexual activities outside of heterosexual marriage e.g. lustful thoughts (Matt 5:28); adultery.
- As part of that evangelical Anglican minority, COAH also holds to traditional, Biblical views on childbearing. COAH therefore teaches that:
- Life begins at conception;
- Abortion is therefore the killing of a defence-less human being;
- Pregnant women should be supported and encouraged to keep the baby, not pressured into have an abortion.
- These views on sex and childbearing have consistently been held by Christians throughout the last two millennia, and are currently believed by Christians all over the world – especially in the ‘majority’ world of Africa, Asia, and South America.
- The Presbyterian Church of Australia also holds the above views on sex and childbearing.
- In 2013, sermons preached at COAH set out, among other things, the traditional Christian ethics summarised above.
- Andrew Thorburn is an experienced CEO of major organisations. While he was CEO of NAB, the bank instituted many activities (purple days, rainbow days) to deliberately include sexual and gender minorities.
- The Essendon Football Club in Victoria appointed Mr Thorburn as their CEO.
- Before Mr Thorburn’s first day as CEO was completed, the club board convened an emergency meeting and presented him with an ultimatum.
- The club judged COAH’s views on sex and childbearing to be unacceptable;
- As chairman of COAH, Andrew Thorburn would, regardless of what he actually believed or said or did, be considered to agree with and support those views;
- Therefore the club could not permit him to be both chairman of COAH and CEO of their club.
- When faced with that ultimatum, Mr Thorburn sided with COAH, traditional Christian morality, the global church, and Christ Jesus. He resigned as CEO of Essendon.
SUGGESTED CONVERSATION STRATEGY
I suggest you try communicate in the following way to colleagues, friends and family who are interested in discussing the issue:
- Yes, Andrew Thorburn and his church hold to traditional views on sex and childbearing – “and so do I …
- … because we believe Jesus is really good, and what Jesus says about sex and childbearing is right.”
- I believe Jesus is good because he died and rose to give me eternal life with God, which, by the way, is better than sex.
- I believe Jesus’ views on sex are right because he’s our creator God. As our creator, he can tell us how to live well – in our sex lives, and in childbearing, and everything else.
- Andrew Thorburn didn’t even get a chance to explain all that. Would you like to find out why I believe Jesus is good, and why his views on sex and childbearing are right? Well …
- Let’s have lunch together. Let me show you this one verse in the Bible – it’s called John 3:16. I can summarise why I think Jesus is good from that one verse.
- Want to read some sections of the Bible with me? There’s this passage called Ephesians 2:1-10. It shows why we don’t naturally want what’s good and why we need Jesus to make us good.
- Want to visit my church? Come on, prove you’re more open-minded and tolerant than those crazy Victorians.
Footnote: *Strictly speaking, same-sex desires are ‘sinful’ insofar as they are oriented towards the wrong kind of person. God intended people to be attracted to the opposite sex, not the same sex. COAH intends to accept the unchosen nature of those desires; not burden people with guilt for merely having those desires; and yet call people to exercise sexual self-control by not acting on them