7 December 2022

People should be able to hold different views on complex matters: Thorburn

Andrew Thorburn resigned as chief executive of the Essendon Football Club. Picture: SEN sports

Kirralee Nicolle

5 October 2022

It would be unfortunate if people of faith were sidelined from participation in professional and public life on account of personal religious belief, according to the Archbishop of Melbourne. 

The statement comes after the resignation of Andrew Thorburn as chief executive of the Essendon Football Club. 

The club said this came after the board made it clear to Mr Thorburn he could not continue to serve as chair of the board of City on a Hill while serving as chief executive of Essendon Football Club. The club said this was in response to the discovery of website material and sermon content from the church which described abortion and homosexuality as being sinful. 

Archbishop Philip Freier said in the statement that he found clergy leader of City on a Hill Archdeacon Guy Mason to be a person who put God’s unconditional love for all as first in his life and in his interaction with others.

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Dr Freier said in 2016 he had joined the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican leaders in affirming a statement that homophobia was unacceptable in the Church. 

“I have seen nothing in Andrew Thorburn’s reported comments that contradict this position,” Dr Freier said. 

He also said it would be unfortunate if people of faith were sidelined from participation in professional and public life on account of personal religious belief.  

“Everyone should expect to be judged on their behaviour not on their religious beliefs,” Dr Freier said. 

A statement from the club made on behalf of president Dave Barham said the club board respected Mr Thorburn’s decision to resign.  

“As soon as the comments relating to a 2013 sermon from a pastor, at the City of the Hill church came to light this morning, we acted immediately to clarify the publicly espoused views on the organisation’s official website, which are in direct contradiction to our values as a Club,” the statement said. 

“The Board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as Chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as Chairman of City on the Hill.” 

Mr Thorburn posted a response to the statement on his LinkedIn stating that he loves all people and has always promoted and lived an inclusive, diverse, respectful and supportive workplace. 

“Today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many,” Mr Thorburn said.  

“I was being required to compromise beyond a level that my conscience allowed. People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect. Behaviour is the key. This is all an important part of a tolerant and diverse society.” 

He said he sometimes disagreed with what he heard in church but believed strongly in the right of people to say them. 

Essendon Football Club and City on a Hill have been approached for comment. 

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