How did you come to be the PCV Law Agent?
The Law Agent is an officer of the General Assembly. Following Brian Bayston’s retirement as the PCV’s Law Agent of 41 years I was formally appointed to the role by the Assembly in 2015. Before then, my introduction to the work of the PCV had come personally in the life of the Reservoir and later the Bundoora congregations and then also professionally as I was privileged to work in legal practice with Brian at McCracken & McCracken.
Why does a denomination need a lawyer, and what does the Law Agent do?
Sooner or later, any organisational citizen seeking to carry out its purposes, whether they be commercial or charitable, will find itself grappling with all kinds of issues with legal ramifications. The PCV’s Law Agent acts as its first port of call when it is looking to address a legal question and as someone who can identify a potential legal issue on the horizon. This, hopefully, brings some level of comfort and certainty to those engaged in the mission of the Church in its various parts. In particular, the Law Agent has a responsibility to act for the PCV in specific transactions and matters where its legal interests are affected. The Law Agent is also responsible to advise the various agencies and personnel within the PCV where matters of civil law intersect with the PCV’s affairs and interests. The Law Agent therefore interacts with a range of PCV officers across congregations, presbyteries, the Assembly, its committees and trustees of church property. The Law Agent also participates as a member of certain Assembly committees.
How can a Christian even be a lawyer (considering what appears to be a prohibition on Christians suing in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:40, or making oaths in Matthew 5:33-37)?
The premise of the question is that there is an incompatibility between being a lawyer and being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. I respectfully disagree! Although it can be challenging even on a daily basis, it is a wonderful thing to be able to integrate one’s faith with one’s calling wherever that may be. A Christian lawyer will hopefully appreciate that they are the beneficiaries of God’s grace and are called to do good works by being God’s instruments. We can serve God by showing his love to our neighbour clients and colleagues.
The particular Biblical examples cited above, then, speak more about how I, as a Christian lawyer, can be faithful in my calling rather than whether or not I should even consider legal practice as a vocation. So, in the case of disputes among believers (1Corinthians 6:1-8), I have a role to play in helping my Christian clients see what it looks like to live in obedience to Christ by encouraging them to first consider all other avenues to resolve their matter. In the case of Jesus’ teaching on oaths in Matthew 5:33-37, this challenges me to pursue integrity and truthfulness in my practice and to encourage my clients to do the same.
Do you have any advice to Christians considering a career in law?
It is always sensible to try to discern what God is calling you to do. If that calling is to legal practice, then prayerfully consider how you might faithfully serve God and your neighbour in that sphere and how your faith might be integrated across all areas of your life. Practically, it can be of great value to connect with Christians already in legal practice to get an understanding of how they meet these challenges and to discover where, within the broad spectrum of legal practice, you might be best placed to serve with your particular gifts.
This article originally appeared in Fellow Workers Winter 2021 edition