FOR the past two weeks the Hunter has seen the worst of Newcastle Anglican Church as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse explored how it responded to allegations of abuse by clergy over decades.
On Sunday, and in subsequent days, we have also seen the best, after a service at one of the diocese’s Central Coast parishes, at Gosford, was interrupted by One Nation supporters in mock Muslim outfits.
Gosford parish, led by priest Rod Bower, has turned the other cheek. Reverend Bower has called for calm and communication over outrage and a punitive response.
It’s what Jesus Christ would do, and what he did, Reverend Bower said.
He has placed a sign outside his church inviting One Nation founder Pauline Hanson to lunch to talk about immigration, asylum seekers, refugees and her views on Muslims, because his Christian faith tells him to, he said. He would also like to extend an invitation to Hunter-based NSW One Nation Senator Brian Burston, who wants to ban the building of mosques and limit Muslim immigration, says multiculturalism has not worked, but says Hanson’s former fears about Asian immigration were out of date because “the fear of being swamped by Asians has abated”.
Reverend Bower believes One Nation’s leaders can’t wash their hands of protests like the one at his church on Sunday.
The Party for Freedom which staged Sunday’s event had no “official affiliation” with One Nation and its stunt was “counterproductive in the serious argument One Nation are calling for”, Hanson said.
She called for “a proper debate as a community”. Reverend Bower has taken her up on the proposal and issued his invitation.
On One Nation’s website the party writes that “Australia is a country built on Christian values”. It writes that Islam’s “religious aspect is a fraud”, and that it is a “totalitarian political system... masquerading as a religion”.
Reverend Bower would like to speak with Hanson and Burston about the Christian values One Nation purports to represent – of loving your neighbour as yourself, and how Christ teaches that the meek and merciful are “blessed”.
When we’ve lost faith in politicians, corporations and even faith itself, it is heartening to hear a churchman leading the community on a moral issue and standing up for the basic tenets of his church.