“All good things come to an end” is an expression of an earthly truth. At the end of this week I leave my position as the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Armidale. Sadly I must also lay down my pen as the writer of articles for the Extra and Express. My guess is that this news will be greeted with a range of responses.
Over nearly a decade I have written many articles, some controversial, some fun, some just expressing disappointment or a communal grief. Whether you have appreciated the articles or not, it is interesting to consider the past decade of Australian history as captured in some of the “Faith Matters” articles.
Early upon my arrival, the Royal Commissions into Institutional Abuse exposed the evil underworld of the paedophiles and failures of institutions to protect the innocent. This cult of evil included icons like Rolf Harris and other television identities. The predatory behaviour of movie makers saw the rise of the “Me Too Movement”. The decision on same sex marriage was delivered by the Australian voters and the agenda quickly turned to transgender issues. Our politicians became culpable when changing abortion laws without any referendum. On some occasions the private lives of political leaders have not promoted public trust in such office. The past decade has brought us into the “sexular” age and culture and there is little doubt that it is an age of confusion.
Internationally, MH17 was synonymous with acts of evil along with the ongoing scourge of terrorism. The Trump phenomenon has divided many and I can’t remember a time when so many Australians showed an interest in international politics. “Fake News” became the headlines but a thinking population was not surprised. An entertainment industry covered in makeup, making entertainment of the news while advancing political agendas, can’t avoid the criticism of being fake. The international issue of asylum seekers revealed an Australia that struggled with its greed verses the need - a symptom not uncommon to business and investors everywhere. Religion was increasingly blamed for all the ills in the world as international amnesia left behind the murderous and atheist regimes of the 20th Century. In Australia, Special Religious Education in Schools was subject to attack by those who fear education. A decade has past, one filled with confused hatreds and fears, finger pointing and blame, without a willingness for serious self-reflection and accountability.
Freedom of speech and religion weighs unresolved upon our national agenda. Israel Folau expressed his opinion and the ARU crumbled under Raelene Castle at the hands of sponsors. Words like “progressives” and “elites”, once unheard of in the general public, found their way into common parlance. Interestingly the “social media” platforms descended into the “unsocial media” platforms, giving rise to the “cancel culture” with its tribalism and unwillingness to enter into intelligent debate, preferring instead to take to the streets in defiance of authority and often with violence. To an investigative mind, this can only be a recipe for community confusion.
In a decade so interested in environmental issues, the decline in manners, respect, listening and polite intelligent debate has proven an environmental disaster missed by most, without which there can be no hope for the environment as a whole. “Hope”, of course, is a most precious gift to our past decade with a country brown beyond the farmer’s fence. The uncropped western plains, the grazing on drought stricken long yards and the absence of depressed sellers at the sale yards made hope essential. The fires that took what the drought left made hope essential. The COVID-19 pandemic with its isolating outcomes and its attack on human pride made hope essential for a nation that should be learning humility. What a decade!
More could be said but I am thankful for the privilege of nearly a decade writing for my beloved community. I thank those of you who entered into respectful dialogue with me and I have prayed for those who have not been so respectful. I have learnt many things and where apology is necessary I offer it.
I began with the words, “All good things come to an end”. That is not entirely true for those who know the value of faith in the Jesus Christ of whom I have often written. His life and teaching offered wisdom amidst the confusion. His death offered forgiveness for those sins born out of our confusions. His resurrection from the dead promised that not all good things come to an end which is a confusion we all need cleared up. With a good heart I admit that I have only wanted God’s best for all people hence my emphasis on Jesus Christ. I firmly believe experientially and existentially that God alone can assist us in our confusion and that God is the hope of life we all need and on whom our faith must rest.
I look forward to the next Bishop taking up the mantle of this writing privilege.