Martyn Iles

Where to Now for the ACL?

27 February 2023

5.5 MINS

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.

Biblical Focus

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:

Great Blessings

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.

Special Thanks

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!

The Future

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


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  1. Kaylene Emery 27 February 2023 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Thank you Bill.
    For me this out come answered some unasked questions and I am always revived in clarity. Like you I will wait n see with ACL and of course continue to pray for the grace of God to remain with them.
    As for Martyn …..he has my prayers and my deep appreciation. No doubt he will proceed via the light of God into an even deeper relationship with Him.

  2. Leonie Robson 27 February 2023 at 10:39 am - Reply

    God bless Martyn Isles.
    What a wonderful young man.
    If we shall know them by their fruit, he’s produced a bumper crop.

  3. Gordon Dandie 27 February 2023 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    In discussing this yesterday, my friends and I agreed that politicians only listen to numbers. As Martyn helped in tripling membership of ACL, surely that has influence in the political arena. Let us pray that this is not lost.

    • Jim Twelves 27 February 2023 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Gordon, very well said. I can’t think of any ‘sensible board’ replacing their leader when they have witness huge practical and spiritual growth.

  4. Tony 27 February 2023 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    Nailed it, Bill. Thank you for articulating what I’m guessing many thousands of us are feeling.

  5. Warwick Marsh 27 February 2023 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Congratulations Bill. You have given us a thorough and gracious analysis of this very sad situation! Here at the Canberra Declaration we have been moving actively towards more prayer & the unswerving proclamation of the Gospel for well over a decade!

    Revival & Reformation are the only way forward for us all. There is no hope for both us and our nation outside of Christ. This old hymn says it all.

    My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame
    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

    On Christ the solid rock I stand
    All other ground is sinking sand
    All other ground is sinking sand

    Let us pray the very best for Martyn Iles and ACL as they both seek to move ahead!

  6. Jim Twelves 27 February 2023 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Bill, thank you for this clear analysis of a very sad day, from my perspective. I did not agree with everything that Martyn said, but I will say, I saw a reflection of Billy Graham when I saw him ‘preach’ the gospel to thousands in Sydney, late last year.
    I am really excited for him now, though the transition must be extremely public and traumatic. I believe the best is yet to come for Martyn, I am convinced he will not go quietly!
    I am also praying for ACL, for their staff and thousands of volunteers who now find themselves in troubled waters; may God lead them – Isaiah 48:17.

  7. Bill Muehlenberg 1 March 2023 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Many thanks everyone.

  8. Arthur Hutley 1 March 2023 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Thankyou Bill for being another voice for the Gospel. I have commented in a couple of places and have emailed Jim with my thoughts. I am so disappointed with the action and the tardiness of the Board to reply with any explanation for their reasoning. The action leads to a suspicion that they have been bullied into a less aggressive stand for Jesus allowing for a secular endeavour to be the course of action. Even if they felt Martyn was leaning one way at the expense of the other surely a better approach would have been to heartily support him is his evangelical message and then as a second venture strengthen the political arm of ACL . Surely the proclamation of the Gospel and the support of the faithful must be paramount and then , as a consequence ,the strengthening of the scriptural principles would be supported into political lobbying to at least maintain and then increase Christian values into legislation . The post of Wendy Francis interviewing Tim Costello was at best a very weak approach and no way an answer to the behaviour of the board. I trust the action and lack of foresight will not in any way hinder Martyn’s ministry and people will continue to support him. Now it behoves the board of ACL to demonstrate that they can be trusted to put personal priorities to one side to keep the following of ACL active and fruitful for the Kingdom.. May God bless both ventures together with our country as a whole.

  9. Bill Muehlenberg 2 March 2023 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Thanks Arthur.

  10. Derek Keating 29 March 2023 at 6:56 am - Reply

    Thanks Bill, a very thoughtful and well written article.
    I don’t think the ACL Board realise that with Martyn’s departure we have lost a hugely unifying person, application and presentation of the Gospel.
    The murky world of politics needs the gospel – ACL and the wider Christian community don’t need more politics.

  11. Ian Walsh 29 March 2023 at 8:31 am - Reply

    Yes, Martyn is an amazing young leader and what he wrote was gracious. However, Bill, you haven’t said anything about Jim Wallace’s letter in response and that is a pity, because it does give a slightly different perspective on what was being processed. I am one who has great respect for both men.

  12. Jillian Stirling 29 March 2023 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Good comment. Stephen Chavura gave us a link to ACL to ask any questions we liked and promised they would answer. The silence has been deafening. I too wonder if he was chided for his stand on vaccines and covid. If so that in line with most Christian organisations and churches.

  13. Chris Gregory 29 March 2023 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    What a disappointment, and to me, a very short sited decision. Yes Martyn was so gracious and did not enter into what could have become a very public stoush. Like others, I believe the Board was very wrong. It maybe that because he was prepared to speak out about certain activities in the public realm, they felt threatened. But is it not that because Christians have not been prepared to stand up in public for what is right and what is wrong that as a nation we are where we are. One cannot ‘sit on the fence’, be politically correct so as to retain our ‘freedoms’ (so called). We as Christians have not entered public life, local councils, political parties etc and have left it to others most of whom have no ethical values, but merely seeking a ‘job for life’. Yes of course it costs us when we stand up for what is right. We have left it to others to run the education of our kids, teach ‘alternatives’ at our universities, destroy ethical standards of behaviour, and we wonder why we are in a mess. While Martyn was with ACL, there was hardly a week that went by when something he said was in the media. Now that voice appears to have been shut! I pray, (and we all should) that Martyn is provided another public platform to share the good news in a sound legal, biblical, ethical and forthright manner.

  14. Geoff Earl 30 March 2023 at 10:01 am - Reply

    I remain dismayed at this decision and am still at a loss to understand the reasoning behind it which I do not believe to have been thought through properly. Martyn’s unique gift was his wonderful ability to relate Scripture to political and social issues in a clear and forthright manner. This will be sadly missed, and I doubt that his replacement (whoever that may eventually be) will be able to articulate a biblical response to issues in the way that he did. A very sad day for us all.

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