Letters to the editor – December 2016

Savage cuts to aged pensions

In June 2015 Scott Morrison, the then minister for social services, stated: “The current generation of aged pensioners had a deal with the government over their lifetime that if they worked hard there would be an aged pension at the other end.”

Scott Morrison has either deliberately or mistakenly decided that only single pensioners with investments of no more than $153,908 and couples with no more than $261,262 are in need of the aged pension. Above those points the asset and income tests reduce the pension by much more than the extra investments can earn.

Tony Abbott won his last election with the solemn promise that he would not touch aged pensions. The legislation imposing these savage cuts to the pensions of over 1000 retired Uniting Church ministers and their widows on 1 January 2016 and the hundreds of thousands of other aged pensioners on 1 January 2017 was clearly a blatant breach of that promise. Even worse, it will destroy the retirement plans of hundreds of thousands of the present and future retirees who were working and paying taxes in 1973 when the means-test-free pensions were legislated. There was no suggestion that the recipients had to need it – they only had to reach the retirement age.

Malcolm Turnbull should show true leadership and immediately admit Tony’s legislation was a blatant breach of an election promise as well as being grossly unfair. A prompt announcement that he will either defer the start date or, better still cancel it, is called for – before parliament starts its Christmas holidays on 1 December.

This would be the best early Christmas present he could possible give to the affected
pensioners, their caring families and friends.

Robert W Parry FCA
Yarrambat, VIC

ACCESS decision

Rev Cameron McAdam states in his email that “the changes that had taken place in ACCESS governance over the last 15 or so years didn’t allow for a Uniting Church voice to be heard”.

About that time the CEO of ACCESS changed from being a Uniting Church person to being an Anglican. The chair of the governance board was a Uniting Church person, who failed to be re-elected at the next Victorian Synod and had to step down from the board. An Anglican was elected as the next chairperson and the Uniting Church and Anglican Church each had three members who had been elected by the ACCESS council to be board members. In more recent years this was reduced to two to give other denominations a chance to participate on the board.

The Uniting Church and Anglican Church both originally had 10 people on the council. This was reduced more recently. Whereas in earlier years all members of the council were involved in creating curriculum, a new CEO focussed on a corporate model, reducing participation of the council. This caused angst.

This person was replaced by a CEO who was an educationalist. People were employed to write the curriculum. Others were invited to contribute. The Uniting Church is a theologically diverse church and the people who served the Uniting Church on the board and the council of ACCESS Ministries were very committed and faithful and believed that, in serving the Uniting Church on ACCESS council and board, they were being the Uniting Church voice.

Annette Blazé
(ex council and board member of ACCESS Ministries).
Christian soldiers?

The correspondence generated by the Crosslight August discussion, ‘Ministry of War’ is a timely reminder of the impact of war on us all. It prompts a reading of historians such as Peter Fitzsimons’ World War I trilogy (2015) and Peter Stanley (Saturday Age 1 November 2016).The role in war is examined by Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Changed Religion for Ever, (Lion, 2014).

The slaughter was incomprehensible. In August 1914 a French NCO reported:

“Heaps of corpses, French and German are lying every which way, rifles in hand. Rain is falling, shells are screaming and bursting… thousands of dead were still standing, supported as if by a flying buttress made of bodies lying in rows on top of each other in an ascending arc from the horizontal to an angle of 60 degrees.”

A German Unitarian declared that Christ calls soldiers into deadly strife. “Jesus would [not] shirk from or delay in seizing! He would take bayonet and grenade and bomb and rifle.”

Although we are at war even now, fortunately we do not hear such Australian voices. Military remembrance does take place but the ceremonies marking the repatriation of a dead soldier from overseas are less public now.

Bill Freeman (Crosslight), supports military chaplaincy and funerals. He observes protocols for the draping of an Australian flag with its several crosses. I observe that Christ’s cross makes for peace.

‘Notes for the Funeral Service’ (Uniting in Worship, p. 425-430) were significantly expanded to take account of a serious controversy about the Australian flag in funerals. They make clear that the Christian funeral acknowledges a person’s life before God. In 2005, when controversy about this issue was most heated, abusive messages were received by the minister, even death threats. This presses the question of how the church is to declare Christ’s peace.

How can we proceed? I believe we must take seriously Jesus’ teaching to love enemies (Matthew 5-6). His followers are not at liberty to avoid his teaching. Remarkably, in the first three centuries of the church, nonviolence was its normal practice.

Christian ministry, shaped by peacemaking and blessing, may and must be given to all. Serious negotiation will be needed to support Christians who refuse to serve in the military forces. If a non-uniformed military chaplaincy were to be adopted, chaplains would refuse to act as military agents. That is thinkable because the cross of Jesus Christ and its message of blessing will mark out our whole life as his.

Rev Wes Campbell
Castlemaine, VIC
Promotion of sin

It should be with deep concern that all members of the Uniting Church who claim Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and in doing so accept the rules that God, our Loving Heavenly Father has given us to live by, find an edition of Crosslight (no. 270 Oct. 2016 on pages 11-13) a feature article that actively promotes homosexuality. The Scripture in many places plainly states that this practice will not be tolerated by God, it is sin and God hates sin.

There is a very real danger that those who are not conversant with God’s laws, having read this feature article in Crosslight which is distributed through the Church, may be lured into believing that this type of immorality is quite OK as there was no mention of the consequences for those who choose to disobey God’s Laws. Once this type of article that promotes sin seeps into a church then the church becomes a synagogue for Satan.
Ephesians 5 verse 6 warns “let no one deceive you with empty words for because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience”.

Page 13 of this article goes into some detail of the overwhelming acceptance in Australia for homosexuality. This should come as no surprise to anyone who loves and serves the Lord, for Australia is proudly proclaimed now as a secular society. A secular society is a Godless society. As Crosslight sees fit to publish a feature article promoting sin, can it be expected that future editions will promote and justify murder, stealing etc? For there is no
difference, all sin is of the devil.

The Church has a duty of care, and for this article to be published in its monthly newspaper with no warning, it has neglected its duty.
An urgent follow-up article is required to explain that without repenting and ceasing from sin no one can be saved.

Mark Leonard
Westbury, TAS
Milk money

During the service on 30th October, our minister dedicated the boxes for the Christmas Child Samaritan’s Purse Project. A very worthwhile project in which many people collectively or individually participate from year to year. Great cause.

During the same service, Mr Ross Walker talked to us about the importance of the Christmas Bowl Appeal now in its 65th year. He spoke of social justice for all. Yes! As Christians we are duty-bound/privileged to do something for others. This year the focus is on Zimbabwe (formerly rich Rhodesia) teaching farmers new methods of working the land so that they can grow food even when the rains fall and hunger is less prevalent. Great cause!

But, what about our own dairy famers? According to recent media reports we might soon have to import milk as prices at the farm gate are too low, lower than the cost of producing milk.

Now, if we support social justice for everyone, shouldn’t we do something for Australian famers? Ask politicians to stand up for them. Remind them that farmers also vote, don’t they?

Jantine Labsvirs
Carrum, VIC

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One Response to “Letters to the editor – December 2016”

  1. Ian David Turnnidge

    Mark Leonard’s warning to the Church reminded me of the parable of the wheat and the weeds. One of the hardest things for those of us in the church is to treat each other with respect and dignity, especially when there are theological differences, and even different ways we read the Bible. Jesus’ friends included people labeled ‘sinners’, and his is remembered as one who always reached out towards those marginalised. For the GLBTI community to be amongst the wheat and the weeds of both the Church and the wider community is perhaps the space where Jesus would have us, demonstrating and reflecting God’s love rather than being concerned about the ending of the parable.
    Ian David Turnnidge, Phillip Island