Onwards and upwards for Martyn Iles.
Most folks have heard the news that the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, Martyn Iles, is moving on. Or, perhaps more accurately, has been given his marching orders by the Board. That has caught most of us by surprise, and it raises a lot of questions.
Let me first give a very brief historical overview of the ACL, and then share a few thoughts on what I think about this new development. The ACL was formed in 1995 by John Gagliardi and a few others, and was then called the Australian Christian Coalition. In 2000 Jim Wallace took over as the head, and in 2001 they changed their name to the ACL. Jim was followed by Lyle Shelton in 2013 and Martyn in 2018.
I have known all four of these men, and have worked in various ways with them over the years. Indeed, at one point I was invited to move to Canberra and work with them in research and related things, sort of as Jim’s right-hand man. It was a tempting offer but I did not follow up on it, and in 2006 I started CultureWatch instead. But I have been friends with all of the leaders and have worked alongside them in one capacity or another over the past few decades.
So this was a bit of a surprise announcement. Martyn was very polite and gracious in what he said, but it sounds like the Board members had different ideas about where the ACL should be headed than Martyn did. He began his letter this way:
After five incredible years as managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, my employment has been terminated by the Board.
I hasten to add that there is no question of misconduct. Rather, the Board has reviewed ACL’s strategic direction and decided I am not the right person to lead the revised strategy, which focuses more primarily on political tactics, less on the gospel. Having heard this articulated, I absolutely agree with them that I am not the right person for that vision. I have always been a preacher first, a politician second (or third…).
Please pray for the Board as ACL passes through this process, that their decisions would advance God’s will.
Although I think the strategy isn’t the right one, I leave without bitterness. God’s providence works through all things, including our own disappointments.
Meanwhile, I expect God to open another door. Indeed, some things have already started to happen in that regard — please follow me on social media for those updates in due course (links below).
I will feature the rest of his letter below. But it seems Martyn was keener to keep a strong Christian emphasis on all their work, while the Board wanted a more political focus. At least, that is what is being said out loud. Many are wondering if certain things were making the board less happy with Martyn, including perhaps his becoming more outspoken about lockdown mania, mandatory medicine and the like.
I suppose all that and more will come out in the wash, and in the days ahead we will learn more details of what caused the split. One thing we can say is how very Christlike and full of Christian grace Martyn was in what he wrote. There was no trace of bitterness or resentment. And he urged us to keep praying for the ACL.
As to his having to step down, I think everyone agrees he was first-class and did a superlative job of running the growing organisation. He has a background in law, is very bright, articulate and wise in what he says and does, and has been a force for good for the ACL.
And hey, I have to admit to some bias here. Anyone who has parents that name their son after the late great Martyn Lloyd-Jones can’t be all bad! So he comes not just with a great mind, buttressed by his legal training, but he has had a rich Christian and theological background as well.
As to the ACL wanting to ease up on the ‘Christian’ stuff and concentrate more on lobbying and straight-out political activism, that is up to them. They have already changed their name once. Maybe they will again and now call themselves the Australian Conservative Lobby, or some such thing.
If that is what they want to do, that is their choice. But I tend to side with Martyn here. I too have long been involved in political lobbying and the like, and I know of its importance. But the more I have done this, the more I have come to believe that unless there is a strong Gospel feature, unless there is a strong Christian connection, it will be all rather limited in its effectiveness and long-term success.
While these discussions have been had for 2000 years now, our fundamental problems are not so much political or social, but moral and ultimately spiritual. Seeking to help fix the former without dealing with the latter is never going to get us very far.
As I have written elsewhere, secular conservatism can only be of limited use, and without the Christian component, its power and influence will always be quite restricted. I have spoken about such matters in terms of secular conservative media outlets, such as Sky News. I have compared it with a somewhat more Christianised conservative media giant, Fox News.
At the end of the day, folks need to decide what they want to do and how they will do it. Hopefully, all the parties involved in this split will be pressing on to seek God and discern what He would have them do. For my part, I think Martyn is a champion, and I am sure wherever he next goes and whatever he next does, he will continue to shine for Christ and do a fantastic job.
And he joins many others who have been shoved out or pressured to leave. For example, think of state and federal Liberal politicians such as Bernie Finn, Cory Bernardi and others. May they all go on to bigger and better things. So God bless you, Martyn. We all love and appreciate what you are doing for Christ and the Kingdom. And we will keep you in our prayers.
The rest of Martyn’s letter is as follows:
It is hard to account for all that has happened over the past 5 years. It has been massive and surprising.
But it has been good.
The Lord has blessed our work immensely. I could fill books with all that has happened. From Israel Folau to Babylon and everything in-between, it’s like a great wind just blew, and here we are.
In terms of metrics, ACL’s annual income, supporter numbers, donors, and staff numbers have all roughly tripled.
A technologically sophisticated digital campaign platform has recently been completed, to coordinate and empower some 10,000 volunteers (and growing).
The ministry of The Truth of It has brought together massive audiences, and gone global, reaching millions.
And the gospel has been declared to the nation, in mainstream media, on alternative media, and through the distribution of millions of gospels by volunteers. In my view, this is our greatest achievement.
I believe Australia has been blessed. That has been God’s doing.
I want to thank you, as a supporter, for being part of this movement. Thank you to those who donated, volunteered, turned up, or simply signed up.
To my staff — I owe you a great debt. Your support has been unflinching. A more faithful and talented group of 40 people can scarcely be found anywhere.
I wish to single out Dan Flynn, for your sacrificial service to me, to ACL and to the Lord.
Also, Israel Folau. A man who still inspires me because of your courageous testimony, against all odds.
Most of all, however, thank you to all of you who prayed. The burdens were impossible. The spiritual attacks were intense. The stakes were so high. But your prayers got us through — more than you will ever know!
ACL is now a huge people-powered activist movement making truth public. The fundamentals are so strong.
Please pray for the Board as they look to appoint a new CEO who can carry the baton forward in a way that accords with their goals.
As for me, please connect with my Facebook and Instagram pages to keep in touch.
It has been the great privilege of my life. Thank you — and again, I say, thank you!
Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo: Martyn Iles/Facebook