Andrew Thorburn

Andrew Thorburn: Press Release from the Presbyterian Church of Tasmania

8 October 2022


The Presbyterian Church of Tasmania expresses its deep concern at recent events surrounding the resignation of Andrew Thorburn as chief executive of the AFL’s Essendon Football Club. We believe that this marks a watershed moment in Australian history — the day we’ve departed from some well-established common law principles, social tolerance of different views and freedom of religion, to being a society where only certain views are permitted in public life.

While Israel Folau was discriminated against for his own beliefs, we note that Mr Thorburn was forced to resign from his post merely because of the particular church he belongs to. While we commend him for his faithful Christian stance, we lament that there is apparently now a religious test for significant employment posts in Australia.

We note that the ethical position Mr Thorburn’s church — City on a Hill — takes on the subjects of abortion and sexuality, are the same as that of the mainline Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.

Will the Essendon Football Club now no longer welcome people who have sincere religious convictions from being involved with the club, at either an administrative, coaching or playing level? For example, GWS player Haneen Zreika has announced she will be opting out of the upcoming AFLW pride round. Will Zreika also be discriminated against and thus persecuted for her faith?

We also note the inconsistency of the Essendon Football Club stating that they support “wholeheartedly the work of the AFL in continuing to stamp out any discrimination based on race, sex, ‘religion’, gender, sexual identity or orientation, or physical or mental disability”, whilst at the same time forcing Mr Thorburn to resign because of his religion.

While Mr Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, is entitled to his own view, we are in a dangerous place as a nation when the leader of a political party or corporate board members seek to impose — through name-calling and implied threats — their own personal ideologies on everyone else. It could be easily argued that such behaviour is itself “appalling, hateful, bigoted, unkind and exclusive”.

The Presbyterian Church of Tasmania will continue to uphold the Bible’s teaching, that marriage should only ever be between a man and a woman, and that the lives of unborn babies must always be protected. This is for both the flourishing of families and all of human life. What’s more, in a democratic society, we believe everyone should be free to believe and practice their own faith, without the fear or threat of losing their jobs.

We continue to pray for our political leaders (especially Mr Andrews) and would like to remind them that they, like us all, will one day have to give account before Almighty God.

We also urge our people to pray, stand firm for the faith, and not give in to the opposition from those who reject our Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.

Finally, we ask those whom God has placed in authority over us in this world, for the freedom to live out our faith, without intolerance or discrimination.

On Behalf of the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Tasmania
Mark Powell (spokesperson)
Social Justice Commission
Presbyterian Church of Tasmania

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  1. Jenny Barnard 8 October 2022 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Thank you Presbyterian Church of Tasmania, for having the courage to stand on the Word of God. May God bless and use you as you continue to preach the Gospel of Salvation for all, freely available because of Christ Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.

  2. Kaylene Emery 8 October 2022 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    Thank you to Mark and the Presbyterian Church of Tasmania your stance on these issues goes a long way to restoring my faith in our Church leaders .

  3. Dr Philip Matthews 9 October 2022 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    This declaration is classic hypocrisy and epistemological nonsense. Christian denominations actively discriminate in employment because they only want to employ people who think like them. In many cases even other Christians are excluded if they belong to a different denomination. The article complains that Andrews named homophobia as the issue. One ought to expect an Australian leader to call out discrimination in all its forms. It seems like the Presbyterian church is only interested in social justice on its own terms.

  4. Ian Moncrieff. 13 October 2022 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    In reply to Dr Matthews above, ….Christian denominations and organisiations choose employees “who think like them” very deliberately, because how a person thinks is how a person acts. Christians are called to act like Jesus Christ.
    He demonstrated and instructed his followers to love; give; reconcile; forgive; be patient; do good; kind; faithful; merciful and self controlled. Where is the harm in these attributes?
    How much different Australia would be if we ALL “loved our neighbor as ourselves”.

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