So reads Matthew 16:18.
Garrett’s so-called “federal inquiry” into the proselytising of ACCESS Ministries and their stated, observed and reported intention to “make disciples of our children and young people” has miraculously “cleared” them of doing any such thing.
Backed by the bizarre claim that not a single substantiated complaint has been received, ACCESS Ministries is now free to build and you are free to pay for their bricks and mortar.
This is how a “God given open door” works in system where the state funds evangelism in schools. You can forgive the politicians for handing over the money and refusing to uphold the principles of our school system … this is a group who openly and with no sense of modesty or introspection proclaim:
We know with absolute certainty that our message and the centre of our faith remains the same. It remains firm because the one we serve is the same yesterday, today… forever. And his purposes will not be thwarted.
Just why this kind of talk does not permanently place them in the “no go” zone, as far as vendors for organizations that should be hired by the Commonwealth or State … is one of the great mysteries of our time.
In The Age today Jewel Topsfield and Dan Harrison report;
A FEDERAL investigation into the Christian group that provides religious education in Victorian schools has found no evidence that its chaplains tried to convert students in breach of government guidelines.
The federal and Victorian governments ordered inquiries after a recording emerged of Access Ministries’ chief executive Evonne Paddison telling a 2008 conference: ”We need to go and make disciples.” […..]
But federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the investigation found there had been no breach of the guidelines and no further action would be taken. He said he had received an explanation for the comments made by Dr Paddison and was satisfied the group was not trying to convert students.
Access Ministries had recently sent a letter telling chaplains who also taught Christian religious education in schools to stop doing so to avoid any blurring of lines in the roles.
”There are very strict guidelines in place to ensure that chaplaincy service providers do not engage in proselytising or misuse their positions, and we will fully investigate any complaints,” Mr Garrett said.
Victorians and the Education Union who have voiced concerns – and voted for an end to ACCESS funding have every right to be appalled at this whitewash. The concerns raised are specific to CRE and the evangelical passion of volunteers. Volunteers who in the main have less than one days training. Manufacturing a “solution” wherein chaplains have been told to no longer conduct CRE is poppycock. More so, this raises an entirely new dynamic. Is Paddison now admitting chaplains did proselytise to children or is this just a token gesture to “avoid any blurring of the lines”?
Last month, for example, ACCESS Ministries and education department representatives were invited to partake in preparation, and contribute to genuine parental evaluation with Hawthorn West Primary’s school council, then decided to have the DEECD shut it down. Why?
It is because they claim that schools are “obligated to offer special religious instruction when it is made available by providers”, suggesting that the council had overstepped it’s obligation to comply with the Education and Training Reform Act, 2006. In other words: “you have no choice”.
We recently found out her goal to “reach every child in Victoria” includes independent schools – some of ACCESS Ministries harshest critics. Paddison sees it as her business to change this. Reported in an Age opinion piece two days ago, was Paddison’s pronouncement at the ACCESS rally;
Those poor independent schoolchildren – I don’t want them to miss out
One of the basic tenets of the Victorian Education Act is that public education should be secular, a sentiment that first emerged in the 19th century, and was reaffirmed in the past decade when the act was reviewed.
Whilst a few people seem to want no religion in schools, the intention of the secular principal is to have school avoid catering to religious beliefs or religious identity. The schools would not “promote” religion. This was a wise choice in days when Protestant and Catholic rivalries were high, but there now can be only less doubt about the wisdom of this approach today in a country fed by the rivers of every faith, and home to many who profess none.
When put this way, we hear that SRI is “entirely voluntary… that’s the beauty of it”. But of course, this is nonsense, and runs counter to the stated goals, aims and ambitions of those who are doing missionary work in our schools. It is in every way offensive to parents who are essentially pressured to not evaluate CRE and to remember there is no choice.
The problem is very simple. The wording of the legislation includes the word “may” offer religious instruction. It is conveniently interpreted as “must” offer RI. From here flows the ridiculous notion that it is compulsory for schools to allow these misguided and opportunistic purveyors of fantasy and bigotry into our children’s presence and thence begin misrepresenting the very world in which they live. As Paddison declared;
We must give our children and young people a model of discipleship that promotes belief in, and responds to the word of God. And trains them to abide in it. It teaches and models for them the love of God and how to be in a community of faith to love one another and love God’s word. We need a model that is marked by fruit bearing and involves our young people in evangelicalism and disciple making.
We need a model that points to the glory of Christ in his incarnation his work on the cross his resurrection is exultation and sees his disciples continuing that work and reflecting in in his world. We are constantly tempted to water this down in order to attract young people through our activities, our music, our fun, or whatever it is. Resist the temptation to replace substance with superficiality.
Our gospel is not in need of massaging for acceptability. It alone will transform lives and bring salvation. My view is that we have every opportunity to create new congregations through our schools ministries, as we do this we have the responsibility to fulfill the great commission of making disciples. We need to see our Scripture teachers, our chaplains, especially as facilitators of this as established Anglican churches.
We need to be missional. As leaders in the church we are called to be leaders and enablers of god’s mission for his world…. Our task is to have a biblical model of discipleship that is presented in a contextually appropriate manner… What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools. Without Jesus, our students are lost.
Our churches in the West are on a slow death march. We have the opportunity to create life. It may be uncomfortable but so what? What a commandment, make disciples. What a responsibility. What a privilege we have been given.
Let’s go for it.
Inviting, and further funding operations who have this kind of view of things is a malignant and corrosive presence in our education system. If you don’t object to this on the grounds that you believe it, imagine if a religion which you didn’t believe felt that Australia’s schools should cater to their beliefs in this way.
Peter Garrett must be proud that he is the rock (and piggy bank) on which this exploitation is being built.