Rev Chris Duke, Convener of the PCV’s Church and Nation (C&N) Committee took time out to talk about the C&N’s recent Religion in the Public Square Colloquium 2019 (C19 for short) that was held in November 2019.
Are you pleased with the outcomes? We have heard comments such as, “This is the best colloquium I have attended and I have attended every single one,” and “Where did you find Joseph Boot? He is my new favourite speaker!”
CD: We are really pleased that so many people have said it was an excellent colloquium and were blessed by it.
And we are delighted with the way God has answered our prayers. The current committee had never run an event like this before and so there were a few practical hiccups, but God has been gracious and clearly blessed our efforts. Under God the turnout was very encouraging and each of our speakers presented something unique and important for our time.
From all accounts, it sounds like C19 was a fantastic success in every sense of the word. Would you tell us about the behind the scenes work that went into organising the colloquium?
The C&N Committee had its hands full in the months and weeks leading up to C19. We began our preparations eighteen months ago by identifying potential international speakers. We are very thankful that all the speakers we invited were happy to accept, especially our international speakers, Joseph Boot and Matthew Tuininga.
This has been a work of faith, involving not only many hours of planning, administration and collaboration with those outside of the PCV, but also a considerable outlay of funds with no certainty about attendance numbers. In all this our Committee had a strong sense that we were doing God’s work and prayerfully committed all things to Him.
What are the aims of the Colloquium and how do you think these were met?
CD: Christians who take a stand for biblical perspectives on issues such as gender, sexuality and the sanctity of life – whether it be in the parliament, the office, the school council, the home or the playground – are increasingly marginalised. There is a pressure to abandon the truth and embrace the ‘wisdom’ of the current age. Most of us are probably tempted to remain silent. We may wish we could withdraw from society and retreat to the safety of our churches.
Jesus, however, calls us to be the salt and light in the world.
The Committee’s goal was summed up well by the Colloquium’s title: Faithfulness to Christ in a Hostile Culture – Equip Yourself to Stand.
We wanted to engage speakers who had specialist expertise combined with Bible-informed conviction to help us resist these temptations and fulfil our calling. Our prayer was that Christians be equipped to stand in the public square. We believe that in C19, God has provided for his Church.
Will the talks be available online for download or to listen to?
CD: Yes, in the coming weeks we plan to make the talks available to be downloaded for a fee from the website so that people who attended C19 can review material that was particularly challenging or helpful, and that those who were unable to attend can benefit from the excellent panel of guest speakers assembled for the event. We hope that the benefit and effect of C19 can thereby be multiplied around Victoria and beyond.
Tell us about the Church & Nation Committee and the work it does and your role as convener.
CD: The C&N Committee exists to speak both to the Church and also on its behalf, in matters that relate to the intersection of the gospel and culture.
For example, in recent months the Committee drafted a position statement on the newly introduced Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2017) which was presented and received at the General Assembly of Victoria in October. We also produce a monthly Church and Nation Update which sums up important state and federal legislative developments and cultural issues that God’s people need to be aware of and praying about.
We are also authorised to speak on behalf of the Presbyterian Church to government (e.g. by writing submissions) and to society at large on these issues, always seeking to be faithful to Christ and the Bible.
We recently submitted our views concerning the draft Religious Freedom Discrimination Bill to the Federal Government on behalf of the denomination. Post colloquium we also submitted our response to the Andrews Government’s proposed ban on LGBT Conversion Practices and encouraged church members to make their own submissions too.
What do you think members of the Presbyterian church can do equip themselves to better engage with the issues facing the church today?
CD: Firstly, I’d recommend that our members avail themselves of the monthly Church and Nation Update that are sent out by email to all PCV pastors and elders through the PCV News Network and are also posted online on the Church and Nation Facebook page (and in the near future on our website). Interested individuals can also request to go on our emailing list.
Secondly, I’d say to all who missed C19 is, in the coming weeks, to download the audio from our website once it’s available. You can also download and listen to the audio from previous C&N colloquiums from the same site.
Something else that any Christian can do is get involved in public debate about the key issues of our time. Write your own submissions to government when they seek community input. Learn to contact your ‘Member of Parliament’ no matter which side of politics they are on. Most politicians will be prepared to listen even if they don’t agree with you.
We encourage the members of our congregations to engage with the democratic process, get involved in community life, perhaps even in politics, and wherever God places us, there let our light shine (Matthew 5:16).
We congratulate the Church and Nation committee for their efforts in organising the recent colloquium and we highly recommend you check out the recordings when they are made available online.