22 - 28 July
Australia granted exemptions for 75 foreigners with "critical skills" in religion or theology out of about 20,000 issued in the first half of this year; celebrating 150 years since the Bible arrived in the Torres Strait; Rowan Williams and Andrew McGowan pay tribute to Desmond Tutu as he approaches his 90th birthday; the C of E wrestles with a plan for 10,000 lay-led churches by 2030 and its traditional model of parishes and clergy; a Year 11 student on the life lessons modelled by grandparents... and much more.
July 28 2021
August’s TMA will be available to subscribers from later this week and in churches on Sunday 1 August.
The Australian Government granted exemptions for 75 foreign nationals with critical skills in religion or theology to enter the country in the first half of this year. The Department of Home Affairs confirmed it issued the travel exemptions under the critical skills category, using the codes for minister of religion or religious assistant. About 20,000 travel exemptions were issued between January and June this year overall, mostly in the critical skills category. The category of expertise in “religious or theology fields” was added to the list of critical skills in August last year.
It's called Zulai Wan — or the Coming of the Light — the day 150 years ago when Christian missionaries brought the Gospel to the Torres Strait and changed Islanders' lives forever. Keriso Ministries apostle David Gela, along with Torres Strait Islander community representatives and elders, have organised 15 days of celebration in Cairns to mark the anniversary of the missionaries' arrival in 1871.
Modern, multicultural Australia appears less attentive to the Bible than the old white Australia, but the popularity of new translations continues to surprise, writes Robyn Douglass for US publication The Living Church in a review of Meredith Lake’s award-winning The Bible in Australia, first released in 2018 and revised, updated and reissued in 2020. Similarly, the Bible remains a powerful inspiration for artists, from writers to rock musicians, not all Christians. “But as Lake makes clear, the Bible has never been confined to the churches,” Douglass writes. “The success of her study suggests there is still plenty of interest in the sacred text, and perhaps a new generation curious about the source of inspiration for many Australian institutions.”
Former Archbishop of Canterbury (Lord) Rowan Williams writes that the tension between truth and reconciliation has run through the “long and extraordinary life” of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission after apartheid ended. Archbishop Tutu celebrates his 90th birthday this October.
Desmond Tutu’s contribution to the end of apartheid has been so remarkable in part because of its strong grounding in his faith, writes former Trinity College Warden Andrew McGowan, now Dean and President of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University. “Tutu's work suggests every culture and tradition may dig deep for what it brings to present divisions, and that the way to address oppositions based on identity may be to embrace our own.”
The Myriad initiative, which envisages the planting of 10,000 lay-led churches by 2030, is shining a light on what is already happening in the Church of England, according to Bishop Ric Thorpe of Islington. But Dr Thorpe — who leads the Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication, home to the Myriad church-planting initiative — apologised for the “hurt and frustration” over fears for parishes and the role of clergy caused by communication of the work. “What we are for is parish. It is at the very heart of our mission and our call. We are for parish priests who have been working in such challenging conditions and we deeply value them. We are for the Reformed, Catholic tradition of the Church of England with its clear understanding of the role of priests in proclaiming the gospel, teaching the Apostolic faith, and administering the sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism. We are for good governance and safeguarding.”
The Church of England has been heavily criticised after a priest took his own life due to a mishandled inquiry into false child abuse allegations. Father Alan Griffin, 78, died in November 2020, having spent a year under investigation without ever having the allegations set out to him. Coroner Mary Hassell said the claims were "supported by no complainant, no witness and no accuser". The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, said in part in a statement: "Following the inquest, we have commissioned a 'Lessons Learned' review so that we can fully reflect upon the diocese's actions, and the coroner's comments, in the period leading up to Alan Griffin's death."
Former Brisbane Roman Catholic priest Peter Kennedy, now 83, is part of a small group of Australians who have been cast out of their religions. For some, it's a badge of honour after a long fight. For others, it can be a deeply traumatising event. Here are some of their stories.
Gillian Bouras, an expatriate Australian writer living in Greece, ponders a conversation between former US President Obama and Christian award-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson. Obama remarked that the “most important stuff” he has ever learned came from novels; he went on to make the connection between the reading of novels and the concept of empathy. “The concept of empathy is often in the news these days, even if the reading of fiction isn’t,” Bouras writes. “Indeed, even certain politicians have been instructed to receive empathy training. This is a sound idea, and acknowledgement of the necessity of empathy, and all credit to the person who recommended it. But I just wonder whether, in a simpler time, such training would have been necessary?”
Michaella Curtis-Morris, a Year 11 student at Bayside Christian College at Langwarrin South, reflects on the life lessons she has learned from her grandparents. “Grace has been shown many times by my grandparents,” Michaella writes. “As grandchildren we seem to be the ones that cause them grief. It is the grace that is shown in the face of this annoyance that makes grandparents so special.”