Newsstand 17 - 23 December
Dr Freier's Christmas message; Why churches are breeding grounds for conspiracy theories; UK comes to terms with Christmas restrictions; faith leaders call for decriminalisation of LGBTIQ peoples; and more
December 23 2020
The December TMA has been sent out to parishes and is available here. TMA staff wish all our readers and online users a Happy and Holy Christmas and a joyful, healthy New Year.
Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne Dr Philip Freier says this Christmas we should remember the "almost unimaginably good news" that was God's intervention in human history in his 2020 Christmas message. Remembering the challenges of the past year, from bushfires which devastated much of the country at the start of the year to the pandemic which caused hardship across the nation, Dr Freier said it was good to "pause and rejoice".
Evangelical Christians have been particularly drawn to QAnon, a conspiracy theory purports that a figure called Q leaves cryptic clues on internet forums about a "war" being waged between child-abusing global elites and figures within the Trump administration. It's something that Pastor Rob Buckingham, the founder of Bayside Church in Melbourne, has noticed both on social media, and in conversations with friends.
No one is obliged to go to church on Christmas Day, including clerics whose health would be compromised, the Archbishop of Canterbury told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday, the morning that tier 4 restrictions came into force. But Christmas was not cancelled, he said. “The celebrations are cancelled ... But [Christmas is] not cancelled, because at the heart of Christmas is Jesus coming into the world, God coming into the world ... This is a moment of God saying: ‘I am with you in the mess and I have overcome the darkness. There is hope.”
Senior faith leaders from around the world are coming together at an event backed by the UK government to call for an end to the criminalisation of LGBT+ people and a global ban on conversion practices. More than 370 figures from 35 countries representing 10 religions have signed a historic declaration ahead of a conference on 16 December in a move that will highlight divisions within global religions.
Former Sydney accountant Vanda Gould, who avoided millions in tax through a complex offshore ownership scheme, has been sentenced for prison for tax evasion. One of the four companies the High Court ruled was controlled by Gould donated millions to Sydney Anglican groups.
The Anglican Board of Mission Australia and Melbourne-based Anglican Overseas Aid are among Church agencies helping the Diocese of Polynesia respond to emergency needs and help longer-term recovery after Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Yasa stormed across Fiji bringing devastating winds on 17 December, with gusts reaching up to 350km/h and waves surging up to 12 metres. Four people have been confirmed dead and one person remains missing.
The coronavirus pandemic has silenced many choirs for most of the year, yet in a regional NSW town, the clear, young voices of a chamber choir fill the air above a schoolyard. Choir director Marie van Gend said the St Columba Anglican School chamber choir, based in Port Macquarie, had adapted through the changing regulations of the pandemic. "In March we were all closed down, and then in Term 3 we got together and then stopped again, and this term we were told we could come back but with only five people at a time singing, which is a whole different challenge, especially working with adolescent voices," she said.
The Revd Dr Sarah Bachelard, Anglican priest, philosophical theologian and the founder-leader of Canberra's Benedictus Contemplative Church, says Mary has traditionally been a symbol of radical and fruitful interiority. But Dr Bachelard is interested in what Mary offers in relation to this spiritual crisis of our culture.
Former Melbourne priest and academic Andrew McGowan, now Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, says Donne’s real point was not just compassion for others, even during a plague, but the necessity of attention to the self. "The ability to look death in the eye and know it will claim us, too, but also that it does not have the last word, may better equip us to face the challenges of the grim present and to view the future differently." Professor McGowan writes.
The controversial Provost of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, Kelvin Holdsworth, says Conversion Therapy is dangerous to individuals and causes harm. "It should be mocked, ridiculed and defunded," he says. "However I’m convinced that trying to ban it will not succeed and indeed that doing so has the potential to do more harm than good."