May Letters

Concerned Ferntree Gully Uniting Church members are standing against the death penalty.

As a protest, some have been wearing white blouses or shirts, whenever able, as a symbol of hope and solidarity with Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. News coverage shows them both wearing white shirts.

As a church member, I have discovered that constantly wearing white has been a spiritual experience. It reminds me to be vigilant in remembering those on death row and upholding them in prayer.

In the document, Dignity in Humanity: a Uniting Church statement on Human Rights, para 2 reads, “the Uniting Church believes that every person is precious and entitled to live with dignity because they are God’s children, and that each person’s life and rights need to be protected or the human community (and its reflection of God) and all people are diminished.”

I believe regardless of the crime, taking a life is too drastic because capital punishment is no deterrent and revenge is not justice. As the saying goes, “Two wrongs do not make a right”.

Mercy and forgiveness are the way forward for our human community.
We are asking all people of good faith and heart to stand in solidarity with Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, by wearing a white blouse or shirt as often as possible. People can also attend prayer vigils and join the mercy campaign.

Please pray that Andrew and Myuran will be at peace throughout this ordeal and that any State supporting the death penalty ceases to act in this barbaric, senseless and unacceptable way.

For more information on the mercy campaign visit

Ray Higgs
Ferntree Gully Uniting Church

Let’s be clear on children and custody.

Once again an organisation I respect has let me down in providing an answer to a very, very challenging question: I refer to the question of whole family migration and the simplistic Editorial in March Crosslight ‘Tears for forgotten children’.

Perhaps I should start by suggesting a bit of care in allegations of Forgotten. No, for many of us, not forgotten – but the solution eludes our best efforts. And we care about them in their home countries, that there may be good development and peace. But some still come.

The writer makes the assertion that these children should be removed from custody. But does this mean leaving their mothers, separating from them? Surely this would bring more trauma than ever? We cannot support such separation. So in fact this means that if they are moved the mothers must go with them – to ensure good family life, food, school etc.

But, hold on, this means separating wives and husbands. Surely we can’t support that. So the fathers must be let go with the wives and children.

Ah! In effect we are not asking that children be removed from custody, but that entire families should automatically be freed from custody.

This would have huge ramifications in the international scene, in Europe especially, in fact any country where there are resource or living space limits.

It would make us a great target for family migration from the developing world and could lead to very real problems – many of us who are specialists in the field and take our stewardship seriously are concerned that our grandchildren may live in a very troubled society – our population is growing rapidly, we are paving over the good soils, using all of the rainfall, counting on yet unproven bounty from the tropical north, pondering the impact of climate change.

I urge those discussing the matter to think the matter through – and to be careful with allegations.
Dr David F Smith AM
East Melbourne

Penny Mulvey approvingly quoted the Uniting Church document Dignity in Humanity: a Uniting Church statement on human rights and the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches on the dignity of all people who are made in the image of God. But this editorial rang hollow to me when a human was not defined, therefore leaving the fate of human beings not yet born unclear. Does “… the equal rights of young and old, of women and men, and of all persons irrespective of their origin or condition” include babies in their mother’s womb? Is the unborn baby of equal value and dignity to his or her mother?

Peter Horton
Birchip VIC

Julian Knight is pleading to be at least considered for parole and the Uniting Church owes him a hearing.

Soon after Knight was imprisoned for the Hoddle St slayings, the Uniting Church commissioned him to supply some cartoons for the report on prison justice. This report was soon buried under an avalanche of criticism and copies would be hard to find, but the fact is that the UCA thought at the time that Knight was at least a human being.

Knight has served the minimum time ordered by the court, some 28 years and is now begging for mercy.

Indeed his Petition of Mercy which he forwarded to the Governor of Victoria this year is available for reading online.

There is now a website which has been established for prisoners to plead their cases.

I felt the impact of Julian Knight’s slayings perhaps as much as anyone for I was the Uniting Church minister in Collingwood on that dreadful night.

I feel nothing but horror concerning his actions and he deserved a very lengthy term in prison. But I am a Christian and I believe in the quality of mercy. I believe Jesus when he said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach deliverance to the captives.”

I am asking the Uniting Church to at least examine the Julian Knight case and determine whether his is a cause that calls for mercy.

David Bell
Birchip, VIC.

I was very disappointed with Andrew Juma’s report about the ‘Understanding Islam’ seminar held at North Ringwood Uniting Church on 18th March. He totally misrepresented or misunderstood what I said in my talk. I did not make any comparison with Jesus and Muhammad nor did I quote from Exodus 20, as the report implies. Mr Juma outlined some superficial similarities between Jesus and and the early ministry of Muhammad, while he was a powerless preacher in Mecca from 610 to 622 AD. However it should have been very clear from my talk that ultimately the lives of these two men moved in quite opposite directions. According to the gospels, Jesus eschewed violence, healed the sick, raised the dead, respected and cared for women and children, and went to the cross praying forgiveness for his enemies. According to Islamic sources (Qur’an, Sira and Hadith), Muhammad, during his Medinan ministry, 622-632 AD, took up the sword, attacked surrounding towns, beheaded prisoners of war, had enemies assassinated, enslaved whole tribes, and married ten or so women, including a six year old girl, consummating the marriage when she turned nine. It is unfair to the earliest historical records to pretend that Jesus and Muhammad are in any way equivalent.

Nor did I mention “both Christians and Muslims committing atrocities in the name of their religion throughout history.” I was asked only to speak about Islam and its history. I pointed out that some Muslims throughout history and up to the present day draw on the violent (Medinan) verses in the Qur’an and Muhammad’s warlike example in Medina to justify their bloodthirsty acts. It is hard for us, if not impossible, to justify any historical or present day atrocities if we follow the teaching of the New Testament and the example of Jesus.

As we seek to understand Islam and to love Muslims in the name of Christ, it is important that historical truth, as presented by both traditions, does not become a casualty.

Dr Bernie Power
via email

Thank you for another excellent edition of Crosslight. My great uncle Padre James Gault, mentioned p.14 Feature article Rev. Andrew Gillison p. 13,14, was known for “Padre Gault’s Stunt Book”, a record of his stunts, often literary and greatly enjoyed by soldiers who had left school early, while they waited in Le Havre, before going to The Front.

This ties in with my appreciation of Penny Mulvey’s article “The experience of ageism” p.2 and “Attitude key to positive ageing” p. 8. My son David, aged nearly 42 in a wheel chair, is resident in Uniting AgeWell, the name changed from Uniting Age Care during his time there. David is friendly with residents 40 years older than himself, introducing family to his new friends, making jokes in the style of his great grandfather’s brother, Padre James Gault.

Uniting AgeWell is to be commended on the excellent atmosphere created by Executive Officer, Valerie Lyons, and staff in providing a home for residents of all ages without discrimination.

Louise Joy (by name of Gault until 1961)
Via email

People who forget their history are likely to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Crosslight correspondence of late seems to reflect anxiety over what Uniting Church members ‘believe’.

One writer even suggests that reading Bishop Spong’s books might be a ‘step in the right direction’. Such, I fear, would be a futile exercise, leading to further confusion.

The UCA must never forget her traditional beliefs which go far back in history ,through the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. Our best source of inspiration and direction remains the Basis of Union and faithful exposition of the Hebrew and Christian Scripture.

Congregations would be well advised when calling a Minister of the Word to ensure that he or she will affirm adherence to the Basis of Union. If the Church fails to supply ministers of this conviction then our people will be well advised to worship regularly within congregations of other denominations who do know what and in whom they believe.

Rev George Grimmett
Glen Waverley, VIC

I see that the discussion is continuing about John Bodycomb’s question: What we do when we are worshipping God and who we relate to?

Thomas Aquinas was one of the leading thinkers who argued for the existence of God. For Thomas the being of all things cosmic and human could be projected into the ether to give a knowledge of the reality of God, the being of God.

We can follow his guidance. An important human reality like father can be projected into all of reality to give the Eternal Father. Similarly, the mother is important and one can project from this to the Eternal Feminine.

God is in and beyond the metaphor. There is one God eternally Father and Feminine.

Rev Rowan Gill
Altona, VIC.

Thank you for publishing the article ‘Time to listen’ in the March edition of Crosslight. As a society we need to have the discussion about domestic violence, and push toward lasting solutions.

What I write, should in no way be considered as detracting from women who are victims in the overwhelming majority of domestic violence cases.
Men who are being physically abused within a relationship experience a different trajectory to women. Very little support infrastructure is geared toward supporting men and their children. Seeking help from professionals or friends, usually results in ignorance and indifference toward the victim.

Isolated by being caught between male programming of toughing it out and a lack of support. Men in this situation might feel they are sitting in their own garden, waiting for the next abuse, alone. If he is lucky, some remarkable people will sit with him. Remarkable because they don’t accept the societal default, only seeing someone in need.

Acknowledging that men can be victims of Domestic Violence in the article, was a remarkable thing to do. Thank you.

Name withheld

Why has domestic violence by men fallen off the radar in the society and in the church? Or do you actually think that women are not capable of dishing it out? I deplore domestic violence in both sexes when found. A friend of mine (male) was on the receiving end of a barrage of swearing and verbal abuse from his wife when she hit him. He called 000. The police came and interviewed and took him away in the divvy van because they stereotyped him (male) as the perpetrator, despite his protests. When asked why he didn’t’ hit back, he said she would have loved that because she could go to the judge and say he hit me. And who would believe the husband? No one. The press has portrayed men as bastards in domestic violence whilst promoting women virtually as sin less. Sorry, did I miss something? I thought Eve was the first one to sin, or did I miss that too?

Eugene Curtis
Mildura, VIC

The Mission Liaison Group has been flooded with goods to send to cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu. The first container left Port Melbourne on April 12 and is due to arrive in Port Vila on April 24. Since many of the goods arrived without any indication of who the donor may have been, MLG wants this acknowledgment to be thanks from MLG on behalf of the people of Vanuatu.

So much has come in – as well as sufficient funds that a second container has been bought and is being filled.

Since Swire Shipping has offered a cyclone-relief discount on the first and second shipment, there may be sufficient money for a third container.

The first concentrated on household goods: crockery, pots and pans; food; water; clothes; tarpaulins and tents.

While the second will include the same goods, it will be oriented more towards school needs: exercise books and filled backpacks.

Whether a third happens will depend not so much on what goods are received but more on whether sufficient funds are received.

It’s been a wonderful response: a response that warrants thanks to everyone involved.

John Connan
Via email

The March Crosslight made me cross.

On the front page someone needing help, as many folks do. Then on page 3 the development application lodged. I can’t believe it – we don’t need a fancy building. No wonder people don’t want to know about Jesus, because they look at this. I’m so glad I don’t belong to the Uniting Church now.

Jan Peterson

I was encouraged to hear that a journalist from Crosslight came with about 250 others to listen to the ‘Understanding Islam’ seminars held at the North Ringwood Uniting Church. However, I was mystified by his report. Mohammad’s years in mecca involving the removal of idols and a peaceful message were reported, and compared to Jesus (which was not done in the seminar). However, the second half of Mohammad’s life and teaching in medina was not reported. It is his example in medina of unprovoked attacks and slaughter, beheading prisoners of war and slavery (sexual or otherwise) that bothers people, especially when we see this imaged on our TV screens weekly. The opposing demonstrations about Islam on Easter Saturday with some claiming it is a ‘racist’ issue illustrates this confusion.

The second of the seminars was interesting in another way with the respectful Muslim speakers getting most of the airtime. We heard two different explanations of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We heard that Muslims are to follow the example of Mohammad as he lived a perfect life. These speakers did admit that parts of his life appeared imperfect, but this does not detract from the fact that he lived a perfect life. It seems we need to grasp a different logic as well as a different perspective of history if we want to understand Islam.

It is good to hear that Crosslight is committed to this journey and I look forward to reading a complete and balanced article next issue.

Doug Utley
Park Orchards, VIC.

Thank you Rev Dr Geoff Thompson for your article on The Resurrection, it made me sit quietly to reflect on your words.

Your interesting proposition that ‘the resurrection was a fairly modest act’ and something that was less comprehensive than Christ appeared to promise, was indeed profound. But…perhaps might I suggest it is our limited view that is the problem.

Throughout the ages humankind and Christians in particular have called on God to be a ‘fixer’. “Come o mighty one and bring peace …come o mighty one and change our world”. This is the cry and the expectation that has often led to despair and loss of faith.

“I come to bring you eternal life” – the words we overlook and, in expectation of earthly comfort and freedom from pain and suffering, ignore.
We as humans are free to behave as our conscience moves us. Those of us with a Christian background try to adhere to our historical doctrines of faith, hope, love and charity, but teeming millions are not of such a persuasion.

Christ’s life, death and resurrection, revealed to us a completely new and stunning example for our life’s journey on this ‘disturbed’ planet. Jesus’ promise of eternal life is so overwhelming that we seldom stop to consider its true impact on the human existence.

Imagine death as a martyr, or on a battlefield, or however you will, and then imagine resurrection. We, ordinary, fallible humans, can claim resurrection – eternal life – an everlasting life with our creator, in His Kingdom, where order and justice prevail and we may fulfil all that we were created to be.

I believe that resurrection is the most overwhelming essence of Christianity. Our own resurrection, the almost incomprehensible promise our faith ensures. Not resurrection in an earthly sense, but a spiritual resurrection into the presence of God.

Christ came into a world of cruelty and disharmony, where God had given humankind freedom of choice. God did not send Jesus to ‘fix’ the world – He sent Him to ‘show’ the world a different way. In suffering the worst depravity humankind could devise, Christ showed and led His followers to resurrection and ascension to eternal life with His father. I wonder if that is enough to satisfy those who doubt the adequacy of Christ’s ministry, and God’s purpose in sending His beloved son.

Margaret Gambold
Elder – Kennon Memorial Church
Sassafras, VIC.


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