The Year of Our Lord two thousand and eleven has not been an easy one for ACCESS Minstries. CEO Evonne Paddison’s call to CRE volunteers to implant the gospel in schools, evangelise and convert the great “mission field” of unsuspecting young children to her discriminatory brand of biblical fundamentalism, was fully exposed.
Referring to a significant flaw in Victorian legislation as “a God given open door”, Evonne had in 2008 laid bare her plans to “go and make disciples” because “without Jesus, our students are lost”. Things became steadily worse with blatant denials of this intention coming from ACCESS at the same time numerous examples of calculated exploitation were being made public. The Victorian branch of the Education Union confirmed proselytising was a reality, voting for an end to ACCESS Ministries abuse of curriculum time. Perhaps the most damning confirmation was Evonne Paddison’s arrogance and fumbling at damage control, which merely fed distrust of the ACCESS “mission”.
The ACCESS theme of denial hasn’t wavered. It has only been buttressed by passive-aggressive opposition to grass roots reviews, absurd claims of being under attack from a malignant minority and litigious conduct orchestrated to silence exposure of confronting class material. Yet, things haven’t changed and even the most stubborn on the inside of ACCESS must see the fallibility in apportioning blame. There is a real need for ACCESS to motivate the troops, do a little house cleaning and beg for help. As Evonne says about indoctrinating our children, “The need is great but God is greater”.
Six days ago ACCESS were advertising for a curriculum writer, with “a passion for Christian ministry amongst children”. Okay, can’t get more clear in admitting overt ministering than that. Secondly, “training and experience in education and theology”. One hopes. But will ACCESS begin reciprocating with parents, teachers, community leaders and child health professionals? No. ACCESS will “stand firm in our commitment to serve our community, our society and our schools”. This Sunday ACCESS are running their CRE – Forward Together forum at The Melbourne Town Hall;
Lisa McInnes-Smith is a motivational speaker Victorian taxpayers have been supporting as an ACCESS Ambassador who is, “a huge fan of kids… I love to see kids get the word of God, get the encouragement from CRE teachers”. Pumping out a message to, well pretty much anyone, to join ACCESS and become a CRE volunteer Lisa sings the praises of ACCESS. “You’ll be blessed, the kids will be blessed and the community will flourish”. Motivational speakers specialise in moving listeners toward a predetermined outcome.
Lisa is first up on Sunday to get the crowd into the right frame of mind. As the Keynote she will spell out the basic framework and exaggerate the importance of ACCESS, whip the crowd into a positive frame of mind and drill the core intention of Sunday’s rally into the minds of attendees. Namely one of commitment, community service, devotion to the goals of ACCESS via CRE and the importance of joining as a team to move forward. As a Christian herself one may expect her to overlap into Inspirational Speaking and perhaps relay personal experience. In this case it’ll be the sort of account listeners will want to experience. No doubt the only way to do so will be through ACCESS.
The crowd will be softened up for Evonne Paddison – CEO of ACCESS Ministries. Evonne will reinforce the vision of ACCESS – to cover 80% of Victorian schools by 2012. To ensure “We Are There”. Apart from joyfully looking forward with inspiration, listeners will be fed a distortion of facts to create the illusion of being needed – indeed wanted. Paddison will rewrite history turning the appalling conduct of ACCESS Ministries, their failure of Victorians and exploitation of children into something to be proud of. Again the urgency and duty of ACCESS’ vision will be pumped out. Paddison believes this is her right and that any opposition or concern is most definitely wrong. Her tone will probably be much the same as usual, but her message will stress that ACCESS has been “under attack”, using this as an affirmation that ACCESS is indeed doing the work of God and fulfilling the intention of Jesus. As she stated in 2008;
It involves going where he went along a path of suffering carrying a cross and in this way becoming like him and reflecting him to a lost world. We are to be disciples and make disciples, we are not looking for a stress free pampered existence, not seeking popularity, not seeking health and wealth and happiness but followers of Jesus who have taken up crosses. Reflecting his glory will inevitably mean following his path of humiliation and loss for the sake of bearing fruit. For the sake of winning others… Can one have followed far who has no wound? No scar. Christ has called us to follow him through the glory of suffering to the glory of eternity. To follow and share that with him. Seeing and reflecting his glory is the mark of discipleship.
These then are the principles for discipleship for all generations.
Bishop Hale insists ACCESS has not breached guidelines, despite the many accounts of them doing just that. As Chair of ACCESS he’ll also give a glowing appraisal along with a solemn but truly worthwhile duty. One supposes it will be business as usual for Hale. The reality is this rally is confirmation of ACCESS’ concern at being caught out and asked to explain. To date they haven’t, preferring to sabotage and distort justified opposition. The rally title, Forward Together is testament to the impact all facets of community concern has had on the rather smug and dismissive attitude of ACCESS and particularly Evonne Paddison. Far from a vocal minority being unhappy with their conduct, criticism also comes from many practising Christians and other religious identities.
ACCESS Ministries is in reality centuries out of touch with a secular society tolerant of multi-faith and multicultural expression. They have operated Religious Education largely in breach of educational guidelines, and can seemingly continue to get away with it as governments court the powerful Christian Lobby. Yet even this misguided protection of votes has limits. Not only is their brand of fundamentalism one of strident exclusion, it is also one of superstition over science and guesswork over evidence. It is quite simply unhealthy and unwelcome.
As such Victorian students are treated as second rate pawns denied proper education about religious diversity and simple targets for conversion. No amount of moving forward together will change that.