May 2014 Letters

Climate change from global warming is arguably the biggest calamity the world is facing today.  Sadly, the current Coalition government in power refuses to acknowledge climate change as a danger to the world and the former government’s modest initiatives to combat climate change are being dismantled out of arrogance and ignorance.

There is a parallel with the climate change situation today and the collapse of the Tower of Babel project recounted in the Book of Genesis, 11:1-9.  We cannot take this story literally as written in the Bible, of course.  However we can put together the background to the Tower of Babel story from history.

The invention of brick-making, agriculture, animal husbandry, metallurgy and writing took place in Mesopotamia around that time; a technological revolution in human history similar to the industrial revolution that started in the Western world 300 years ago. This revolution completely changed the face of Mesopotamia. People became prosperous. Emigrants from other parts of the world with different languages and culture arrived in Mesopotamia to participate in the new found wealth and glory.

Just like humankind today thinks that there is no limit to our technological power, the Mesopotamians thought there was no limit to the power of their technology. They decided to build a tower to reach the heavens and beyond.  We don’t know why the tower project collapsed; possibly diseases arising from overpopulation, or other reasons resulting from the technological revolution, or even a natural disaster.

Today we face a calamity as a consequence of greenhouse gases from burning the coal that has fuelled the industrial revolution. We have the power to overcome the approaching disaster, but the greed and arrogance of the ruling classes make it impossible to take remedial action.

Dr Bill Mathew
Parkville, VIC.


Having retired over a year ago and having done a bit of ‘catch up’ travelling. I find myself in the position of being able to read most of Crosslight.

Thank you for such an interesting and wide-ranging publication. What it covers is impressive. I was intrigued by the film reviews in the April edition and by a number of items in this May’s edition.

I will send the two articles on Zimbabwe to a relative in New Zealand, she herself and some of her family are refugees from that country.

I was grateful for the opinion piece ‘What is money for?’ and the editorial and moderator’s reflection. I found the first piece quite challenging and trust that it reaches the halls of Canberra.

The editorial and the moderator’s reflection were finely balanced on the problem of combining Christian values and current business models.

David Beavis
Templestowe, VIC.


I am sure the Major Strategic Review team that assures us that our responses to their questionnaire will be included in key findings is acting with good intention.

My concern is that the process seems to be built on the old assumption that the real church is a centralised bureaucratic structure that needs a vision and that conducts ‘stakeholder’ workshops. For many years now we have known the local congregation is the real mission-outpost of the Church. When will our mindset change?

We love synods, presbyteries, committees and commissions of review. RE Bieber said: “The place where the Body of Christ becomes apparent as a body is where believers renew their commitment to their Lord, to each other, and to the wounds of the world week by week, as they have done unbrokenly in the congregation for 20 centuries even while the structures above them have risen and fallen.”

Ted Curnow
Langwarrin, VIC.


I disagree with many of the comments made in the letter by Beryl Bartacek (“Speak Up”, May 2014).

One international public figure who has recently caught the world’s attention in a positive way is Pope Francis. This shows that when a faith leader is an individual with great warmth, compassion and integrity, the faith leader will command the respect and admiration of the majority of people of good will.

Similarly, such Christian leaders as the Rev Tim Costello and Fr Bob Maguire (along with the occasional UCA figures) are frequently among those requested by media outlets to comment on a variety of issues within the wider community.

While there is admittedly a lack of intelligent reporting on faith-related issues in much of the commercial media, there are a number of programs on the ABC (both television and radio) in which it is possible to hear intelligent discussions of issues involving faith and spirituality, with informed Christian perspectives being clearly expressed (frequently alongside the perspectives of other faiths and philosophies).

With the comment that “other religions … are not criticised”, perhaps we’re not reading the same papers.  As a Christian, I read various criticisms of Christianity in many publications and yet I still feel personally safe.  If I were either a Jew or a Muslim and if I read some of the inflammatory comments about either faith that I regularly find in any metropolitan daily newspaper (particularly in the ‘letters’ page), I’d be frankly nervous for my own safety.

Some of the criticism of Christians in the public arena seems to develop from occasions when there is an obvious ethical inconsistency.  If a politician wears his/her Christian faith upon his/her sleeve, yet promotes policies that seem to reject the compassionate way of life lived out by Jesus, this inconsistency should be noted and mentioned.  Not to do so would show a greater level of contempt for Christianity than noticing it.

And, finally, with the comment that Christians “seem to be turning our cheeks”, isn’t that what Jesus told us to do anyway?

Rev Dr Bob Faser
Claremont, TAS.


I am not a great fan of infant baptism. Let me explain why. On Sunday we read from Acts 2. In verse 38 Peter, preaching to the multitude, said inter alia “repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and your sins be forgiven”.

I ask – how on earth can an infant know their sins will be forgiven? And later, when they learn they are Christians – what if they don’t want to be? I made my decision to follow Christ and be baptised in my late teens. I did so in the Billy Graham tradition – publicly.

As I have always considered that decision to be the most important one I have ever made in my life, I am glad I did it in that fashion.
Herein I agree I have a bias towards adult baptism. Normally when we have an infant baptism our numbers are swelled by family and friends.

Unfortunately we rarely see any of them again. But if you ask me should anyone be denied infant baptism I would reply – never.
To use a fishing analogy, one could cast into the water scores of times but only receive a solitary bite. We long for that bite.

Kevin McIntosh
Gladstone Park, VIC.


In regards to ‘Fire Safety’ (May) and the moderator’s article (March) consider the following . . .  On Black Saturday we followed our plan and successfully defended our property. Since then I have spent many hours listening to people talk about the ‘what ifs’. We have also been running a weekly community meal.

Whether to stay or go in the fire season is not a simple decision as there are many variables. We all need a fire plan, not just those in high fire risk areas, one that includes plan A, B and C. If the decision is to leave, it has to include to where and the trigger to leave.
Fires don’t only happen on code red or total fire ban days. We need accurate and timely information, which was lacking on Black Saturday. Information given the past fire season created confusion.

‘Wait and see’ was not what killed people on Black Saturday, it was the firestorm. Whether a decision was right is often based on outcomes and hindsight.

The real problem that has affected people’s mental health is the victim blaming that has occurred since Black Saturday. Whether it is being told ‘you saw the smoke’ or asked ‘why did you stay’. A school chaplain told our son our family should have left, a decision outside a 14-year-old’s control.

Some left and were told by CFA to return home, some tragically. Others evacuated family members to what they ‘believed’ was a safer area. Yes, some people left at the late stage – for some a tragic outcome, for others it saved their lives.

There were people who should be dead going against bushfire advice but lived; while others who did what they believed was right who died. Unprepared houses that survived, while others well prepared were decimated.

We need to respect decisions that were made under difficult circumstances with the information available. The families of the deceased have found themselves having to defend decisions made, compounding their grief. As Christians we should be giving them our love, support and understanding and consider what Jesus would say and do for these people.

Bev Johns
Kinglake West VIC.


My mother (aged 94) has asked that I write as some way of honouring the memory of a very deeply loved and respected Methodist /UCA minister, Lloyd Phillips. She was surprised that nothing had yet been published about him, so I suggested she be the one to do it!
I remember fondly family holidays in the manses that he and wife Joan and boys lived in, and how he christened me and my brother and sister. His gentle, genuine manner, approach to social issues, family concerns combined with his intelligent, fresh approach to the Christian faith made a deep impression on me as a teenager.

My mother writes: As a previous member of the Murrumbeena Methodist Church I would like to pay tribute to Rev Lloyd George Phillips who died recently 23/3/14. I had a great admiration for Lloyd’s ministry as he followed the footsteps of his father Palmer Phillips. I was a close friend of Joan (nee Williams), his wife, and so was always involved with them as a family. I remember him as a young student minister at Murrumbeena in 1944, then when he and Joan went as missionaries to New Guinea. After a few years they returned to Victoria, to Hopetoun Casterton, Ballarat, Burwood then Wesley, following the well-known Irving Benson (with his famous public service announcements that were broadcast over Melbourne).

Following his term there Lloyd became director of Marriage Guidance of Victoria full time. On retirement they went to live with their elder son, David, in Erine, NSW.  Lloyd was 95 when he died.

Noel Newbold (nee Knight, Wilson)


It is with considerable disappointment that I read the terms of the Major Strategic Review as set out in the questionnaire in the April Crosslight. There is no reference to the structure of the UC which is arguably the prime cause of the poor decision making which has led to not only the need for disbursement, but also to some of the poor decisions subsequently taken in the disbursement process. A non-hierarchical system of interrelated committees where no-one is ultimately responsible and committees are often unaware of the decisions and actions of other committees inevitably leads to poor outcomes.

I wrote in the February Crosslight of my experience on Synod Standing Committee and the failures in its decision making procedures. Now is the time for the UC to consider a totally new framework at all levels – one which clearly defines lines of accountability, and has a minimum number of committees. (For example we could abolish the large and unwieldy presbytery system which we can no longer afford, and replace it with small clusters of churches with a designated senior minister in each cluster.)

There are many changes which could be made and many organisational models we could consider, and there are professional bodies who could offer guidance. The lack of an option for structural change in the MSR questionnaire implies that change will be within the current framework, hardly one which is responsive to the changing times.

We cannot ‘create a reformed vision for our church’ if we continue with a structure which, in its failure, has had a detrimental impact at every level of the UC.

Bryan Long
Balwyn VIC.


Recent letters from victims of abuse in our church would indicate that these situations are not being satisfactorily resolved.
If we as a church fail to act with compassion we fail to be as Christ to the victim, and this is plainly not acceptable. Given this evidence I suggest that the process of involving church councils is not effective and we need advice from persons trained in psychology.
I pray that synod as our leaders are hearing these stories and will act to overcome these destructive influences in church life.

Robert Serpell
Eltham, VIC.

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