Last week, the Lachlan Macquarie Internship ran a three-day short course for pastors and church leaders on the outskirts of Canberra.
The aim of the program is to empower church leaders with a greater understanding of the democratic process and inspire them with the impact the church can have on society, and challenge them to think politically and strategically about issues facing Christians in Australia and around the world.
Nine church leaders attended this year's program, titled 'Engaging Politics'. They came from across Australia including Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, and represented a number of denominations such as Baptist, Orthodox, Anglican and Presbyterian.
- Nick Aroney, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Queensland's TC Bierne School of Law, and the author of the Lachlan Macquarie Internship curriculum
- Jim Wallace, Deputy Chairman and former Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby
- Lyle Shelton, Managing Director the ACL
- Nick Jensen, Course Manager and director of the Lachlan Macquarie Internship and of Leadership Development at ACL
Pastors had an opportunity to hear from parliamentarians from both sides of politics.
The pastor's course ran for the first time last year. Mr Jensen spoke to ACL's Katherine Spackman about the course prior to its commencement. Listen to the interview here.
Visit this link for more information and to keep informed about upcoming pastor's short courses.
I had the privilege of being in Federal Parliament last week as the budget was handed down. I don’t know if anyone quite expected the extent of the explosion on mainstream and social media. Most of it was complaints of course, some justified such as the disproportionate cuts to foreign aid, but overall I had unease about the mindset behind the complaints.
It seems that now whenever there is a problem, it is the government’s responsibility to do something about it. Even Christians often fall into this trap. We treat the government as Saviour and put our hope in its sovereign arm. The reality is, however, that the State needs the Church.
A recent study published in the American Political Science Review (May 2012) explored what caused some countries to develop into successful modern democracies, while others nearby turned into harsh and corrupt dictatorships. It turns out that it was not economic conditions, strong media colonial origins, or even political ideologies. Instead it was the number of Christian missionaries in that country in 1923!
These missionaries spread not only the gospel, but also religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, voluntary organisations, and political reforms. An article in Christianity Today explains this amazing discovery in more detail.
What this means for today is that the Church has always played, and will continue to play, a foundational role in public policy. Without active and sacrificial Christians and communities, the State quickly loses not only its moral compass, but also its ability to deliver justice, prosperity, and effective programs.
At ACL we are looking to develop the next generation of leaders who can positively influence the public square. Leaders who have the understanding, skills, networks, and character to withstand such a challenging environment. Leaders who are faithful and effective, committed to seeing a just and flourishing society.
That is our vision. A vision which people may be doing studies on in 100 years’ time as they discover that it is the body of Christ, not the Government, through which salvation comes.
Applications for the Lachlan Macquarie Internship are now open, with the next program running from August 17th to November 21st.
There has been a fair bit of ink spilled lately over the ACT Government’s unwillingness to attend a church service at the beginning of this political term. The new Speaker, Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne, has proposed an ecumenical service where people can pray for and bless their leaders. Although it would involve a Christian liturgy, leaders of other faiths have been invited to contribute as well to the service.
I may perhaps be a little biased, but the decision to refuse to even send a representative to such an event seems unwise. The latest census data from 2011 shows that around 52% of Canberran’s resonate with the Christian tradition, and another 8% belong to other faith communities.
The reason given from the government was one of ‘principle’, indicating that this would compromise the ‘secular nature’ of the Assembly. By ‘secular’ we can assume that they mean there should be no formal connection between government and religion. If this is the case however some consistency is required. Initially it would be prudent to remove the crosses on the ACT flag, and surely the ‘Goddess’ standing at the public entrance to the Legislative Assembly should be relocated.
Why stop there though if we are truly to remove any formal religious connection? Every MLA with ‘minister’ in their title will need a name change due to its Christian roots. The seating in the Assembly will need to be rearranged as well, based initially on a church-choir seating model. In fact, the very foundation of the Westminster system is based firmly on Medieval Christianity, so naturally this would need to go as well to preserve the ‘secular nature’ of our government.
Quite simply, I believe that there is a serious misunderstanding of what ‘secular’ or ‘separation of church/state’ actually means in Australia. It certainly does not mean that our elected officials need to stay away from religion and expressions of faith. Faith is a part of our history, our culture, our values, and the way many of us live our lives. To therefore reject a simple act recognising this significance is, I believe, not what true representative leadership is about.
In fact, I think that leadership is at its best when it works with faith. Our lawmakers need to be regularly reminded that there is a law and morality higher than the ones they decree. Those in positions of the greatest power need to be continually called to the profound humility that there are greater powers in the world. Those who command authority need to think deeply about the daily practice of sacrifice and service we expect of their position.
All in all, I fail to see the great threat of a community of people gathering around their leaders to bless them, pray for wisdom, and demonstrate support for their representatives no matter what they might believe. Leadership can be incredibly lonely, compromising, stressful, and unappreciated, and I am certain that our new assembly will need all the help they can get.
Nick Jensen is the Director of the Lachlan Macquarie Internship. He spoke with the ACL's Daniel Simon about the current internship, now in its last week, and the vision behind the 14-week intensive worldview training programme.
Open House is a three-hour talk show airing across Australia on Sunday nights, exploring life, faith and culture from Christian perspective. Nick Jensen, the Programme Manager of The Lachlan Macquarie Internship, spoke to Leigh Hatcher on Open House last Sunday about the program and how he's working to instil a Christian worldview in tomorrow's leaders. He also spoke on the importance of Christianity in world politics, particularly in raising up people of value, integrity and faith to shape the way public policy is formed.
To listen to Nick's interview, click here.
For more information on The Lachlan Macquarie Internship and to apply, please visit the website.
Nick Jensen (left) is the Manager of the Lachlan Macquarie Internship and will be speaking to Open House's Leigh Hatcher on Sunday, August 26th. The Open House program is broadcast on Christian radio stations between 8 and 11pm. Tune into your local Christian radio station to hear about the internship program and it's purpose or alternatively listen online.
Before the last ACT election in 2008, our local government responded to a question regarding Canberra’s prostitution industry with the following: “There is no illegal sex industry in Canberra due to our well-regulated legal prostitution system”.
I wonder if the response would still be the same today?
Click here to read the full article.
With all the drama of the federal election, it is easy to miss what is happening in the surrounding areas of the federal parliament building! We must, however, not forget that the greatest impact we can have is transforming and redeeming our own community in Canberra which so often has flow on effects to the rest of the nation.
Please click here to read the rest of Nick’s letter.