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Message from the President

Bishop Philip Huggins

A Lenten Practice:

I have learnt a lot from the insights of receptive ecumenism as they apply to our relational life.

Here are a few learnings:

1. Orient towards one another from the perspective of our unity rather than division. That is, assume we have common ground in our humanity and faith. This is important in overcoming tribal stereotypes — ‘evangelical’; ‘Anglo-Catholic’; ‘comes from Sydney’; ‘doesn’t come from Sydney’, etc.

2. Be open to our continuous transformation through meeting someone ‘different’.
What can I learn from the other to improve my discipleship of Jesus? What advice do they have for me, if I ask?

3. Keep seeking deeper communion. Keep looking for what we might do together that is helpful.
Keep doing this! Our culture amplifies and assumes conflict, division and alienation between people. A counter-cultural approach is ‘good news’. Deeper than the endless conflicts lies a yearning for unity and peace. This yearning is in the faces of little children! “You must become as children …”

4. Jesus’ stories and teachings in the New Testament keep speaking into our daily world. Be unselfconscious in speaking of Jesus. Let free the transformative power of our Risen Saviour! The One who says “Look, I make all things new”. (Revelation 21:5)

5. Keep open to where God’s mercy can be conveyed in word and deed.

Be attentive to one’s motivations: we don’t do things “for the Church” or “for our better reputation”. We do things because God’s mercy is needed and we can help.

With prayers in our Lenten season.

If you are interested in knowing more about Receptive Ecumenism, the scholarship of Gerard Kelly is very grounded and insightful. See Gerard Kelly, A New Ecumenical Wave.

Ruddock Inquiry on Religious Freedom

Last week (late February) I was invited to speak to this Inquiry, based on the National Council of Churches in Australia submission made in January.

It was a positive discussion.

In summarising my submission, I took two hats:

One from Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was locked up all those years, treated very badly, stepped out of his tiny cell with a transformative spirit to be the National Leader of a new day dawning in South Africa: Without a trace of bitterness or desire for vengeance he embodied the kind of leadership needed to strengthen and sustain Human Rights

Human Rights intersect in their interconnected manner, sourced always in the divine image given us all by the Creator.
I was encouraging that Australia, land of so many blessings, be likewise an inspirational leader glob- ally. Especially these next three years when Australia sits on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.

The other hat I took to the Inquiry was Bishop Humphrey’s Peshawar hat, now seen by some of you.

This was both to amplify our responsibility to support religious minorities whose freedom of religion, free speech, freedom to change religion is persecuted and abused, including Christians in Pakistan.

I also conveyed, with the hat, the necessity for law and grace to intersect.

I said that Human Rights Law (about which Australians should be better educated), needs to have a sustaining spiritual practice.

Through careful listening to the divine and each other, through prayer and meditation, we seek to be compassionate towards all. Like Jesus in the Gospels: attentive, responsive, helpful in practical ways.

Hence, though those folk in the Peshawar Christian Hospital could have been understood if they had treated a Taliban leader differently (given their sufferings) they were kind, capable and focussed on his healing.

I told the Inquiry these people were not to know that their spontaneous response, meant their Hos- pital (and they) were off the Taliban list, just as we never know where our thoughts, words and ac- tions might lead. All we can do is practise compassion with no other agenda than the other’s well- being.

Our embodying of Human Rights principles requires a depth of spiritual practice with practical application in compassionate service.

These were the things I tried to emphasis. In discussion, other matters intersected: the role of aid in helping Christian minorities (say in the Middle East) stay in their homelands; refugee intakes and settlement policies; the value in exploring a possible Bill of Rights; the need for better education about human rights.

Essentially, I was trying to encourage Australia to be a global leader through our own best practice and our international leadership.

Bishop Philip Huggins