Ministry in isolation

Ministry is what I do. It’s what I’ve done most of my working life. While I’ve not always kicked goals and there have been seasons of injury, I’ve stuck at Christian ministry believing somehow that what I do matters. In the last two months, though, my confidence has wobbled.

Since late March, we Australians have been in isolation. Along with all places of public gathering, my church is closed, my neighbourhood and city shut down.  For seven weeks there have been no services, no visiting, no meetings with staff or pastoral encounters of any physical kind. Day after day it’s just me, my home office and this wretched computer screen. 

I’ve done all right, and I’ve nothing to complain about. Australia has been spared the tragedy of numbers — infections and deaths — that other countries have staggered under. What’s more, I have a roof over my head, a job that pays the rent and keeps the pantry full, and a loving family around me. That said, my sense of what it is I am meant to do and to be as a minister is challenged. 

The word ‘ministry’ is amorphous at the best of times. My Oxford Australian dictionary offers the generic “to render aid or service; the actions of a kind-hearted person.” In the context of the church, we normally aim for something more specific, more theological. I have long imagined the ministry of a pastor as accompanying a community of people in the life of faith: encouraging, teaching, supporting and believing with and in them as the people of God.  Whatever its particularities, it’s a very hands-on business. There’s nothing remote about it. It depends entirely on encounter and presence. If I am the hands of Christ among a community, then those hands need to get dirty. Christian ministry is a very physical and fleshy thing. So what do we do when all the physicality is gone? 

I don’t know really. I wish I could say I’ve had a revelation. I haven’t. I’ve struggled from the beginning and as we emerge out the other side, in some ways I feel none the wiser. That said, I do feel more sure about some things that, for me, are important to ministry and to the core of what I do.

Ministry is community

There are some who have claimed this time of social lockdown as purifying for ministry — an ideal opportunity for the distractions to be stripped away and for all that interrupts the bold proclamation of the gospel to be let go.  But gospel without the blemished flesh of community is not good news. It’s empty. Indeed, it’s impossible. By community, I mean that messy, funny, aggravating, awkward, ridiculous business of being the church — not some vague notion of church that floats in the middle of nowhere and demands nothing of us, but a real, local flesh-and-blood body of people that manifests Jesus while occasionally smelling bad and singing off-key. I reckon what I’ve discovered afresh is that the messy distractions and interruptions that come with people — people of all stripes and colours pressed up against one another — lie at the heart of ministry. They are not marginal to it. 

The virtual sucks!

There are many who champion the rise of the ‘virtual’ as a new signpost for ministry today. While they’re all much more hip than me, I’m still not convinced. Sure, the whole virtual thing has been good for a bit. I’ve learned a lot during this season about the role of social media, the potential of digital formats and online networking platforms. I’ve gone from Zoom novice to master in a matter of weeks. I’ve become the producer of video content that has honed my ability as a communicator and stretched by pastoral instincts. Regardless, ministry and the virtual remain the most awkward companions. While virtual mediums might be a handy addition to the ministry toolkit, the word’s definition points to their limitations: “almost or nearly as described, but not completely …”  I reckon I’ve discovered for myself that while the virtual can aid ministry, on its own it’s a crock!  

I confess, I hate emails. I always have. I loath phone conversations and Zoom just leaves me exhausted. But as a classic introvert, I really thought I’d do better at all this. I even thought I might secretly enjoy it. But, honestly, all it’s done is mess with my head, because ministry and isolation just don’t go together. Not for me.

I want coffee. I want to sit across from you in a cafe or perch at your kitchen bench; to hug when we meet; to smile at your stories and cry with you when life hurts. I want to pray with you and hear about your grandkids. I want to sit in church with you and sing together and meet your eye when I stand in that old pulpit; to break bread with you and remind you of God’s endless grace. I want to intercede with you for the world and advocate with you for justice, to work at welcoming strangers and loving our neighbours together. I want to bake you a cake and share a slice of pizza at Stellini Bar and imagine with you the life that God calls us to live. 

Because apart from all of that, I’m not sure I know what ministry is. 

Violence and ‘biblical manhood’

The horrific tragedy of Eurydice Dixon’s rape and murder in Princes Park in June was close to home. I live in Parkville just across the road from where Eurydice died. The park is where my partner and I walk every morning. Even more, my daughter Ali lives in a share house in Carlton just blocks away. The route Eurydice took that night is one she walks. Though shaken by the tragedy of this woman’s death, I was more deeply impacted by Ali’s response. She is 23. Standing with thousands of others at a candle lit vigil in the park, Ali’s tears were more than momentary. Her feelings of vulnerability, fear and rage were sustained, confronting, and mirrored in the countless young women who surrounded her. As I stood in this crowd myself, the intensity of these feelings was overwhelming.

In Ali’s case, her despair is heightened by her studies in social work. In her recent placement at a women’s prison, she confronted the fact that every woman she connected with was the victim of domestic violence or childhood sexual abuse, most commonly at the hands of husbands, fathers, brothers, and uncles. As they are elsewhere, the statistics around domestic and sexual violence in this city are shocking, the overwhelming majority of cases in which men are the perpetrators. As today’s paper reminds us, though Eurydice’s story may have gripped our community in a particular way, there are countless other stories, equally appalling, we do not hear.

I have felt many things since that night. Most deeply I have felt inadequate. I have struggled to know what to do or how to respond. While I may be able to say ‘I am not violent’ or ‘I am not an abuser,’ I cannot say ‘this is not my problem.’ Standing with my daughter, I understand afresh that this is my dilemma as much as it is hers. This is so because I am her father, of course, but there is more to it than that. It is mine because I am a citizen, a neighbour, a church leader and, most significantly, a male. The stark realities of male violence and their underlying causes are mine as much as they are anyone else’s. But what to do with that reality, that’s where I stumble. And I am not alone.

There is much talk today of a “crisis of confidence” among men. The goal posts have shifted, we are told, as traditional roles have been up-ended; the image of the male as provider, protector, leader and defender is no longer assumed. Apart from the fact that we have proved ourselves atrociously poor stewards of such roles, the underlying assumption that they are ours for the claiming is now vigorously questioned. And rightly so.

As a member of the church, I am part of a community that struggles with this “crisis” in a particular way.  It is often argued by Christian men that the answer to our predicament is to reassert our authority, to retake our God-given roles as leaders and protectors. According to this view, the “radical feminisation” of society has led to the emasculation of men and the disorder that has followed. Conversely, it is only by reclaiming what’s called our “biblical manhood” that Divine order will be restored and society healed. What this order includes, of course, is the “complimentary” role of women to comply, to submit and to go back to their kitchens. Such is the passion behind this view of things that the call to re-embrace manhood becomes a call to arms. We are urged, in the words of Brad Stein’s anthem of Christian manhood, to “grab a sword, don’t be scared; be a man, grow a pair.”

To be honest, any talk of “biblical manhood” makes me nervous. I have a sense that, in truth, this coupling of leadership with testicles has little to do with Christian virtue and more to do with a base need for men to reassert their dominance.  Type the word “masculinity” into Google and countless images come up of shirtless men flexing their biceps. Traditional views of manhood are equated with power. Thus when we men feel powerless, vulnerable, emotional, afraid or uncertain, we have learned to identify such feelings with weakness and emasculation. Consequently, we lash out at the shifting of traditional roles and want desperately to reinstate them. But to whose benefit? Rather than finding a way to hold our vulnerability, to name our emotions, or to own our fears and responsibilities as human beings, we grasp again for power.

The fact is, this idea of “biblical manhood” is challenging. While images of masculinity abound in the bible, they are so tenuous and various as to be, at best, illustrative but rarely prescriptive. Think of David and Jonathan: David the warrior and slayer of giants, a philanderer who can’t keep his pants zipped; his dearest friend Jonathan, a man of letters and poetry, moderate, wise and politically manipulative. Take brothers Jacob and Esau: one a hairy outdoorsman and the other a mother’s boy, hairless and soft of skin; one given to underhanded deception and the other to bouts of uncontrollable anger. Think of disciples Peter and John: gregarious Peter, fickle and full of bravado, a risk taker who wears his heart on his sleeve, and John, quiet, unassuming, leaning against the breast of Jesus with deep affection. The truth is, while the bible is full of ‘manly’ stories, none provide stellar models of manhood. From beginning to end, these men are as broken and fragile as they are heroic.

Personally, as I think of those young women, my daughter included, gathered at the memorial for Eurydice Dixon, I struggle to see how the benevolent re-application of male authority could be an answer to their despair. Indeed, I cannot imagine how the call to reclaim the balls of a “biblical manhood” has anything to say to this tragedy that is not deeply offensive.

If I find anything in my faith relevant to this issue, it is not a call to Christian manhood, but the persistent call of Jesus to be human, fully human. Foundational to the Christian faith is the belief that we are made in the image of God. In this is our common call to personhood, and it is ours no matter what our gender, race, religion, sexuality or the colour of our skin. This shared identity, affirmed and reclaimed in Christ, is what binds and obligates us to each other.  If the God-given roles of leadership, providence and protection are ours — and I believe they are — they are not the exclusive rights of office or gender. Rather, they are responsibilities that we share as those made in God’s image.




Finding meaning in chaos

I saw it on Buzzfeed: 27 ways to get your sh*t together. Who knew there were so many. Or that my sh*t was so deep. According to the Urban Dictionary, when our lives are ‘together’, our thoughts are straight and the future under control. It sounds good to me.

I don’t like mess. I don’t like things out of control. Chaos drives me mad. I prefer life that’s ordered — to know where I’m going and to move there with purpose. The trouble is, sh*t happens. I’ve learned the hard way that chaos is part of life. No matter how careful the plans, things go awry—aspirations fizzle, relationships break, and schedules overheat. Regardless of how together we are, our daily lives are ordered and random, fortuitous and unfortunate, and often all in the same hour.

When it comes to the language of spirituality, chaos gets a bad rap. It’s assumed that a centred life is one that moves progressively away from chaos — it’s a journey to serenity. It sounds great, but it’s rarely true. The fact is, even in a meaningful life a good dose of chaos is par for the course. Even more, the disordered sh*t is as spiritually formative as the together kind.

The demonisation of chaos has at least three side effects worth naming. First, it can leave us feeling like failures. If we assume chaos to be a sign of dysfunction, we become blind to moments of beauty that are part of our daily, disordered lives. The fact is, it’s often in chaos that we laugh most heartily, feel most deeply, and reach out most readily for the help of others. Second, it can deny us opportunities for growth. The hard truth for me is this: things flourish in the midst of chaos that die on the ordered vine. Chaos begets life and wisdom; chaos begets patience, humility, forbearance, and dependence. As much as I hate to admit it, I grow as much in chaos as I do by quiet streams. Third, it can stultify creativity. It’s a fact of nature that in the midst of chaos the dynamism of growth flourishes. Some of the most astounding beauty in the world flows naturally from bedlam.

Certainly, for a religious bloke like me, there is one more affirmation of chaos that is the most startling of all. The sacred text of my faith makes an unavoidable point: chaos can be the power, the wisdom and the freedom of God in our midst. An element of chaos, it seems, is the stuff of life with God. Apparently, I can’t live without it.

The parenting dance

I can’t dance to save myself. If there really is a condition called ‘two left feet’, I’m terminal. I remember waltzing lessons in the high school gymnasium. My unsuspecting partner was the lovely Georgie Peach. Any chance of my year 8 infatuation being reciprocated was in tatters once I’d stomped on her feet so many times she had to sit out the remainder of the class nursing her bruises. Decades later I’m no better. Truly, I reckon the connection between my brain and what’s below the knees is permanently ruptured.

To be honest, my parenting often feels the same. If good parenting has a rhythm, I struggle to find it. The meter of the dance is mystifying. Knowing when to step in and when to step back, when to hold close and when to let go is constantly puzzling. I misjudge it as often as I get it right. Generally my kids are patient with me, but sometimes, with bruised feet of their own, they tell me to back off — though in language less restrained.

The trouble is, reading the cues is difficult. We all know there are times when our kids push us away while, unconsciously perhaps, they’re hoping we refuse. Teenagers can be as confused by their own resistance as we are baffled by their mixed messages: I love you; I hate you; I need you; I don’t want you; go away; please stay.

Of course, the challenge is about more than reading cues. There is an inner wisdom to the dance than can be just as elusive. While I might sense it in my reflective moments, there is scant time for reflection in the ‘heat’ of exchange. Or when we see our kids hurting. Parental panic is a thing. But the questions are persistent. When is it my parental duty to lead and when should I follow? When do I offer my fraternal wisdom and when do I shut up and listen?

We all want our kids to be resilient and street-smart adults, empowered to ‘make the call’ and, even, free enough to fail. But we also love more deeply than we can rationally fathom. Our drive to protect is instinctive and strong. It kicks in with force if we intuit danger or pain of any sort. At the same time we know just as deeply, though not as instinctively, that intervention is not always in their best interests, nor ours. Sometimes we need to let our kids have the dance floor to themselves. But when?

The one encouragement that I hold onto in all of this is that the parenting dance is a slow waltz. Parenting is no one-night stand. It’s a long-term relationship. When I get it wrong and bruise my kids’ feet or they bruise mine, we’ll dance again tomorrow. And, who knows? We might even get it right. What’s more, ours is a dance of love. As I remind myself often, when my kids know they are loved and they know that our relationship is for keeps, there’s room for bad days. Even with two left feet, the waltz continues.

Taller than me

He’s taller than me. I said it couldn’t happen, but it did and he is. He’s my son and I look up to him.

Before having children, I imagined having children. In particular, I pictured my role in raising a son and the impact I’d have upon his life. My responsibility was to shape his mind, character and faith. For me it was a calling and one I approached with equal parts privilege and trepidation. When I first held him in my arms, I understood my vocation afresh. Fathering was a sacred trust. I would be his dad — his guide and provider, someone he could always depend on, a man to emulate and look up to.

It’s all true of course. At our best, we fathers are those things and more. So are mothers. Deliberate or not, we are formative agents of influence. As a pastor, I see it played out every day. The gulf between those who have been parented well and those who haven’t is wide. But what is equally true is that as we shape our children so they shape us. Now as I look up to my son, I know more deeply just how much he has formed me. The truth is, I am a different person for having him in my life.

I am more humble in expectation. My son has taught me that good parenting has so little to do with grand vistas and life plans. For the most part, it is borne out in the most ordinary commitments made and remade every day. As an idealist, this has been a hard lesson for me. It still is. Taking each day as it comes, showing up again tomorrow when I’ve dropped the ball today, and, more often than not, accepting that ‘good enough’ is really the best I’ll ever be. And as for those aspirations I had for his faith … they may never be exactly as I had planned. I know that now. But when I look up at my son — when I see his goodness and beauty — I am reassured that all of this is ok.

I am more present to life. Children, especially in their earliest years, have a way of grabbing you by the shirt collar and wrenching you into the moment. Even when you’d rather be elsewhere. And they do it over and over again. Nappies, nap times, feeding, laundry, reading stories, bedtime routines, homework, hockey games, and midnight taxiing — all of this shapes your focus and draws you in time after time. So much so that as they get older, the attention they once demanded from you transforms into the time you crave with them. When I look at my son I know, more forcefully than at any other moment, that now is the time.

I am confronted by my own fallibility. In so many parts of life I am competent. I speak, I lead, I write, I envision, counsel, direct and manage, and in all of this I’m affirmed. I like it that way. But then I come home. In parenting I routinely feel incompetent. In one of the most important and long lasting roles of my life I am mostly at sea. I fail as often as I succeed. All that is less than it needs to be in my character and skill-set is cast in stark relief. But when I look up at my son, I see grace in human form. I see grace at work in him, in me and in all that really counts.

I know heartache, joy and longing more intimately. No one could have told me just how much I would love my children, how deeply and passionately I would care, how proud I would be and how cut when things go awry. Sometimes love for my children makes my heart sing, and other times it hurts. Frankly, there are times when I really wish I didn’t care so much. Because love, deeply felt, can manifest in unhelpful ways, trampling over boundaries essential to growth and good relationship. Love’s most natural instinct is to step in when, sometimes, stepping away is what’s needed most. But it is love of this depth and drive that forms us as nothing else can. I look up at my son and I know that I am different for it.

Parenting is not the only path to maturity and change. There are so many other ways to travel. But it has been significant to me, a pathway on which I have been formed as much as I have formed. No doubt, this fathering business has shaped my character, highlighted my frailties and honed by understandings of faith and life as much as anything else I have done.

Perhaps looking up to him is more appropriate than I had thought.

[Thanks to my brother Mark for the photograph and to an article I read twenty five years ago that’s still worth reading: David E. Nowak, ‘Formative Parenting: Formed, Forming, and Being Formed.’ In Studies in Formative Spirituality, 1986, 7 (1): 75-90.]

The Pastoral Dishrag

Like a kitchen sponge, pastors absorb. It’s part of our role. We are not clinicians with clients. We are pastors within communities. Professional distance is not our thing. Enmeshed in the relationships of ministry, we soak things up. Like pastoral dishrags, we absorb pain and struggle, disappointment and anger, anxiety and longing. And we do it every day. It may not be listed in our job descriptions, but a certain amount of absorbing goes with the territory.

Sometimes it’s part of our daily commitment to listening. As pastors, we listen empathically. We feel with people. It’s not that we feel pain for them. Though I often wish I could relieve others of their struggles, I can’t and I shouldn’t. Differentiation is a good and healthy thing. The fact remains: our availability to absorb something of the pain of those we care for, ‘to walk the mile and bear the load’, is a mark of good pastoring.

At other times it’s gathered up in our role of representation. Whether we relish it or not, we pastors are the public face of an institution much bigger than we are, and one that has caused its share of hurt and exclusion. Sometimes we are at the receiving end of the anger that results, anger that has to be directed somewhere and at someone. As pastor of a historic city church—one that has establishment written all over it—I absorb my fair share of community angst and disappointment. It’s hard to avoid.

And then there is the soaking up that is more personal and closer to home. Routinely, we pastors must absorb disappointments in our own ministries or in the ministry of the churches we lead. Certainly these deeply-felt critiques can be unreasonable or misplaced—words that say much more about the critic than they do about the church or its pastor—but we still hear them. And then there are those that are justified, critiques that identity failures we have no choice but to own. Our willingness to absorb does not always set things aright, but it’s an essential first step.

Whatever it is that we absorb—pastoral, institutional or personal—there are moments when the vocational dishrag sits limp and heavy in the sink, so full of all that is has soaked up it can take nothing more. There comes a time when the dishrag has to be wrung out and left to dry before being taken up again. Frankly, dishrags that are not routinely soaked, rinsed and aired begin to smell.

Identifying ways to wring out the dishrag on a regular basis is essential to our longevity in this business. The disciplines of dishrag laundering are worth noting for every pastor, no matter how elementary they sound. Here are three of mine.

dirty dish ragConfession—Daily rituals of personal confession go a long way to keeping the dishrag in good shape. By confession I do not mean simply, ‘I have sinned.’ Certainly confession is about owning our failures, but even more it’s about naming our daily dependence upon God and acknowledging the boundaries of our humanity. Every morning I pray a simple prayer which includes the words, ‘Lord, grant me the humility to know my limitations.’ We know its truth: there are no messiahs in the church apart from Jesus. Our daily confession puts that into words.

Accountability—Pastors need places and relationships in which they allow others the right to speak into their lives, to name what they see and voice what they hear. If the dishrag is on the nose, you need someone who can tell you. Call it whatever you will—spiritual direction, peer supervision, mentoring, or simply meeting with a colleague for coffee and honest conversation—the routine rituals of accountability in pastoral leadership are non-negotiable. Discerning the difference between healthy absorption and slow drowning is something we can’t do alone.

Rest—I’ve learned the lessons of rest from experience. Like many others, it’s only been in failing to give rest its proper place I’ve learned its worth. Frankly, the stench of an unrested pastor can fill a room and the damage we do to ourselves, our churches, and those we love is nothing short of rank. Leave a heavily soiled and wet dishrag to sit unlaundered for too long and there’s no other course of action than to bin it. Routine disciplines of rest provide the space we desperately need to keep the dishrag in use longer term.

I drink tea with old ladies

Not so long ago I sat listening to a young and gifted pastor tell his story of ministry. With rungs on the board, books to his name and much to be proud of, he’s a leader with growing influence. A line of youthful pastors-in-training were seated in the front row taking down his every word. I was inspired as they were, but I was also troubled.

When this pastor was asked about his priorities in ministry, he quipped, ‘Well, I certainly don’t sit around drinking cups of tea with little old ladies!’ There was an immediate chuckle across the room. This ‘image of irrelevance’, a well-used cliche in the church, was instantly recognisable to those listening. Its inference? When it comes to ministry that is ‘strategic’ and ‘missional’, there are certain activities that just don’t rate.

On one hand, his point is understandable. There is a valid need for the contemporary pastor to distance him or herself from the equally cliched image of the elderly country vicar sitting with genteel parishioners, teacup in hand and the village church across the field behind them. Nestled securely in the age of Christendom, the vicar’s primary task was maintenance. How different the place of the church today and how demanding the ever-changing nature of our task.

On the other hand, this young pastor’s image of irrelevance is deeply flawed and betrays a view of ministry that needs challenging. The diminishment of his words is extraordinary. The crass dismissal of age and gender to begin with; add the word ‘little’ and the designation is nothing short of insulting. And then, of course, there’s our understanding of what constitutes worth in the ‘investment’ of our time.

I do drink tea with old ladies, and with old men too. Granted, it’s a time consuming business, but I understand it to be as central to my pastoral calling as anything else I do. Oh, and not one of them is little. More often than not, when it comes to character and spirit, they tower above me. Very often these women and men have given their lives to the church. They are the shoulders upon which young pastors like this one stand. While they are certainly not saints to be venerated, they are gifts to be valued and esteemed.

Too often older people in our congregations become invisible to a church and its leaders infatuated with youth. The designation of ‘little’ speaks volumes about how older people in our communities feel and what priority we give to their voice, to their experience and participation. The truth is, when they are diminished, we are all diminished.

So, I’ll take mine with milk and one sugar thanks.

Baptists and same-sex marriage

I am a Baptist and I support gay marriage.

I know that among Baptists I am in the minority on this issue. I also know this sets me apart from friends and colleagues I hold in high regard. But that’s OK. Given our aversion to creeds, our adherence to freedom of conscience among believers, and our commitment to the autonomy of the local church, we Baptists have room to differ. And we do. What troubles me is the energy with which some gatekeepers of Baptist life move to distance our denomination from people like me whenever our view is made public.

Back in July last year, my good friend and fellow Baptist pastor Nathan Nettleton appeared on ABC television’s Compass program expressing his support for same-sex marriage. That this is his personal view he made crystal clear. The very next day, Australian Baptist Ministries (ABM) hurriedly posted on its website a press-release entitled Marriage is not for same sex couples, say Baptists, claiming ‘the numbers’ and firmly distancing itself from Nathan, painting him some sort of ecclesial lone-ranger. Most notably, it expressed ABM’s regret that Nathan should ‘fail to consult with Australian Baptist leaders’ before expressing his views on national television. In fact, Nathan is one of the most open and consultative Baptist pastors I know, and he certainly did talk with denominational leaders prior to his public appearance on the issue. That he and his position should be dismissed so easily is poor form on our part.

Last week another piece appeared, this time penned more personally by Rod Benson, consultant ethicist to ABM, in response to the ‘renegade Baptist pastor’ Mike Hercock. Like Nathan, Mike also speaks in support of same-sex marriage and does so publically. Boldly titled Baptists overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage, a statement correct in itself, Rod’s article goes on to rather crassly discredit Mike as a lone promoter of an un-Baptist, un-biblical and un-Christian position. Again this ‘renegade’ Baptist is isolated from the faithful majority and summarily dismissed.

I don’t know Mike personally, but as colleagues in ministry surely we owe him more respect than that. Follow the thread of comments that flow from these pieces and you find others in our Baptist fold who want us to ‘distance ourselves’ from Mike ‘until he admits his error.’ It sounds like the old practice of shunning is making a comeback.

It feels to me as though we Baptists are afraid of the public perception that we hold a diversity of views on issues like this one and I really don’t understand why. If ABM can write submissions and ‘policy documents’ on behalf of the majority—ones that I personally don’t adhere to and have never been asked to affirm by any representative Baptist body—why can’t we allow Mike to write his submissions without branding him a traitor to Baptist truth and goodness? Aren’t we bigger than that?

I have no beef with the right of all Baptists to state their views on this and any issue with conviction. Absolutely. But please, wherever we stand on this issue or others, let’s do so without discrediting the integrity of the one we disagree with, belittling their commitment to faithful discipleship, or, worst of all, distancing ourselves from them. After all, we are Baptists together in ministry and mission.

I, for one, stand with Mike and Nathan on this issue. I am well aware that we hold a minority view among Baptist leaders. But I am grieved deeply when our perspective on this issue sees us branded ‘renegades’ who fly solo or unauthorized edge-dwellers who tarnish the good Baptist name. We are not members of some marginal far left faction who can be dismissed because ‘the numbers’ are against us. Personally, I would like to think that I have a little more credibility than that. To suggest that my ‘error’ renders me an unfaithful disregarder of what is true and biblical is simply ignorant of my position and my ministry.

Rod Benson, a fellow Baptist leader I respect, makes the claim that he is ‘not aware of any other Baptist minister in Australia [apart from Mike], ordained or otherwise, who has taken such extraordinary steps to express his personal views on the subject of same sex marriage.’ While this may be true as some technical tally of words written, what it infers more broadly is simply wrong.

Let me say again as I have said in many other places and forums: I am a Baptist and I support gay marriage.

Simon Carey Holt
Senior Minister
Collins Street Baptist Church