LETTERS TO THE EDITOR – DECEMBER 2018

Written exam

I am glad to see Wal Dower read our letter published in the October edition of Crosslight. It’s good to receive a response and we had had quite a few.

We would like to make it very clear, however, that we do not reject doctrine that cannot be proved by science. On the contrary, we see there is a scientific view and a spiritual view and, despite many attempts by some in the scientific field, spirituality is a valid and important part of our lives.

With regard to the virgin birth debate, we need to look back into the earliest Christian writings. The first writings were the letters of Paul between 50 and 65 AD, and in these there is no mention of virgin birth and, if I remember rightly, miracles.

Thomas was probably written before Mark but is has no miracles. Next was Mark, about 65 AD and he makes no reference to virgin birth. Matthew was written in about 75 AD and he brings into his version the virgin birth with the wise men – however, it is deeply flawed.

I should point out that I am not a scholar but have gleaned this from several very reliable sources.

Luke then wrote his version in about 85 AD and he says Mary was a virgin but there was no indication she stayed that way. John, written about 20 years later, ignores Jesus’s early years.

We question many aspects of the gospels, particularly the miracles. If we were to believe in an intervening God then Christians would suffer less sickness and injury but in the real world that is not the case.

To us the teachings of Jesus do not prevent problems, but they do give us an inner strength to cope. That is the spiritual strength that we receive that enables us to see the “Kingdom of God on Earth”. We would strongly recommend the writings of Elaine Pagels and Bishop John Spong to those who wish to look deeper into the faith.

Bill Norquay

On behalf of the Glen Waverley Uniting Church Friday Discussion Group

Warm reminder

I congratulate the Synod’s Justice and International Mission unit for the convention it recently held. The theme of “peacemaking” rightly focused on questioning the militarism which animates Australia’s major political parties’ vote-buying.

However, there was a notable gap in the agenda – climate change. This topic was passed over in favour of domestic violence, tax justice, combating racism and the victimisation of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.

A distinctive Uniting Church in Australia should find its raison d’etre in goading apathetic politicians to action on global warming. The Gospel imperative of Jesus directs us Christians to fight for climate justice.

Along with the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, our UCA members have a key role in challenging the supine posture of the Morrison Government (“coal is good for you”) regarding the monstrous Adani project.

As glaciers melt, the earth and oceans heat up and congregations like ours at Crossroads Werribee want to work with JIM staff on strategies for preserving this planet.

Neil Tolliday

Werribee, Vic

Crooked scenes

‘Tis crook at Christmas! The nativity scenes are all set up, and all is well with the world. Well, almost.

In a number of these advent depictions you will see Joseph holding a crook, but he was a carpenter. Is Joseph minding it for a shepherd who is admiring the baby? Or is he inspecting the workmanship of the whittler who whipped up the crook one quiet night in the shepherd’s fields?

Sometimes there are no shepherds to be seen, but Joseph is still left holding the crook. Did the shepherd present it to him as a gift before departing? A crook could be handy for Joseph as a walking staff on a trek to Egypt, or to fend off wild animals in the night, or for kindling wood to start a fire.

It may even be used to hook a stray goat for dinner, or to catch a fish from a river … if Joseph can find a bit if string and a bent nappy pin.

All this reminds me of a little boy who came home from church and told his mother, “I sat next to the bishop … and now I know what a crook is”.

Anyway, check your Christmas cards for crooks this year.

Melva Stott

Anglesea, Vic

Beyond belief

I was astounded to read the response from Bill Norquay (on behalf of the Glen Waverley Uniting Church Friday Discussion Group) in the October edition of Crosslight.

Firstly I’d like to acknowledge the importance to a right of opinion, however, that being said, Bill’s assertions regarding the most fundamental issues of our Christian faith, indeed that which defines our Christian faith, seem to have been done away with to such a point that I have to question how his discussion group identifies with the church at all?

To claim that the creation, virgin birth, miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ are myths is agnostic in the extreme and at complete odds with the Apostles’ Creed from which UCA charter is drawn (amongst other sources).

This is an alarming stance from a group identifying with the UCA!

Shane Kew

Warragul, Vic

Home truths

We cannot allow the letter from Sarah Nankervis (Crosslight, October) re community housing for people with a disability to go unchallenged.

We are parents of a 46-year -old daughter with a moderate intellectual disability. With four other ladies she has now lived for eight years in a supervised community residential house. Ms Nankervis asks if our daughter and others “can have full and meaningful lives” in such an environment.

Let us assure you she does. She regards her house as her true home. She and her housemates enjoy their home life. They are a group of people living together, who participate in running the unit accordingly to their abilities. Skilful and experienced staff provide the necessary caring environment for this to happen. This makes a tremendous contribution to the lives of residents and families.

Ms Nankervis suggests these people should be allowed to “make mistakes”. Some mistakes can have terrible consequences. Does she seriously suggest they be allowed to make mistakes with medication? Should they be exposed to the risk of being lost on public transport – a situation that in today’s society could threaten health and safety?

Every weekend our daughter and other residents go into the community to do activities of their choice, with the aid of a support worker. These excursions have given the residents rich and varied experiences. Yet whenever she goes out from her house she wants to return there at the end of the day, as this provides her security.

We know many other families in our situation feel the same way as us.

Robin and Bernard Shanahan

Knoxfield, Vic

With thanks

I write with two thanks – one to John Bottomley for his thoughts expressed in October’s Crosslight and one to Crosslight for sharing those thoughts.

As a retired farmer and someone who recently attempted to retire from lay preaching (after 60 years), there never was a “divide between the church and the (my) world of work”. God was there in the living soil. God was there in the variety of plants. God was there in the trees. God was there in the landscape. And we share 90 per cent of our genes with our fellow mammals, horses, cattle, sheep, dogs etc. God is certainly there.

Members of our country parish understood this and shared the duty to provide clean healthy food and leave the soil and landscape in a better state than we found it. Is this a humanist or Christian ethic? Certainly, the wider church never seemed to know it. Young clergy sent out on an early posting were not equipped with that knowledge, but our nation’s First Peoples saw the divine in the whole landscape.

Mr Bottomley comes to this from a different environment but writes: “Neither church nor nation trust in God’s governance of our whole lives, private and public. And our rejection of God’s word for our world of work is now near terminal. The synod has been captive to this idolatry of a Godless world of work for decades.” How sad but, from my experience, true.

Ian R Farquhar

Launceston North Uniting, Tas

Out of the question

The Elders of the Kyabram Evangelical Uniting Church have instructed me to write to you expressing their concerns regarding the letter from Bill Norgay (Crosslight, October) representing the Glen Waverley Uniting Church Friday Discussion Group.

Our Elders are dismayed that a group within a congregation of the UCA would dismiss the very basis of our Christian beliefs and ignore the principles of the UCA’s own Basis of Union. If we hold to the belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, who are we to question the truth of creation, the fall of man and our saviours’ birth.

It is acknowledged that the UCA embraces diverse theologies regarding the way we understand the love of God and his work in the world, however we still confess the God of the Apostles Creed as our standard of faith. Any deviation from this would indicate that we no longer acknowledge the omnipotence of God and instead favour our own wisdom.

Religion without faith and the fundamental beliefs in the inerrancy of the God’s love, grace and mercy is not an expression of Christianity, it is merely an expression of one’s own ego

If the Glen Waverly group do not accept the teachings as recorded in the Bible, Christian doctrines and dispute the very basis of faith, perhaps they should join a social or service club!

Suzanna Gorman

Kyabram & District Uniting Church, Vic

What are we?

Why?

Why are we the dominant race?

Why do we exist?

Why are we here today?

Why not yesterday?

Why are we called human?

Why are we called what our friends call us, our names?

Why is anything anything?

What is anything? Everything? Nothing? All but none?

What are we? Monsters? Animals?

What is an alien?

We call anything strange or new alien so why do we have such difficulty finding alien life?

Truly we find it whenever we discover a new species

Or newly learn of an old one

So out of all of the questions I have already asked you today I ask you this:

Why is a stranger not an alien?

When you go home or have a moment to think contemplate this question because truly are you not an alien yourself?

If not to yourself then to the girl at the grocery store or the man who walks his dog every day?

To anyone in another country or any stranger you may pass why are you not an alien?

Or are you?

Charlotte Oates Pryor (aged 11)

May 2018

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