Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Over the last few weeks our lectionary readings have dealt heavily with money. We have had the parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16.1-13), where Jesus ironically commends the manager for being good at doing the things of this world: the Shrewd Manager is a very good cheat and liar who desires greatly money. Jesus then completes the parable by pointing out that one cannot serve both God and mammon. Those who observed St Matthew’s Day on 21st September would have heard the story of Matthew being called by Christ. Matthew was a tax collector, and in following Jesus he gave up a very lucrative profession and most of his wealth.
Throughout the Gospels we have this challenge: of giving up our money and wealth in order to follow Christ. It is clear from stories such as that of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31) that greed and the love of wealth can cut one off from the love of God. But money itself is not inherently evil. Like other material and worldly goods (such as alcohol and sexual pleasure) it is something that is very good when used in the right place and time. Clearly when money is used to sustain life, pay for education or health care, relieve the poverty of others, or build up the Church, it is being used for great and good things and brings blessing both to those who give and those who receive.
Therefore money like other material possessions can be a blessing from God, provided it is used correctly. However we are taught that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6.10). It is the love of money – rather than money itself – which is the problem. When we give the love to money that we ought to give to God we commit a form of idolatry and we serve mammon rather than God.
So being wealthy itself is not an issue. A Christian whose wealth is honestly obtained can be a successful businessperson and in so doing can be a great blessing to those around them: an ethical and responsible employer, a person who builds up the economy, a benefactor to those less well off. This is because they recognise that the aim of life is to love God and neighbour, and they use their wealth responsibly to meet those aims. They know that ultimately the material blessings of their life comes from a far greater source.
What applies to individuals applies as much to communities. Wealth also adheres to groups such as nations and churches. The same teaching can also apply: a nation that is fixated on money will lose its way on moral issues. The Church must also be careful about money. Both a nation and a church must use its money wisely and in the case of the church that means using its resources to fulfil the Great Commission and the Great Commandments of Jesus.
This is a great challenge for the Anglican Church. Due to our history we have often inherited substantial church properties and some Dioceses (not North Queensland) have also inherited substantial liquid assets such as shares and cash. There is a risk that our property and money run us, rather than being used for carrying out God’s mission. On a visit to England I met many vicars who spent most of their time worrying about money to fix the church roof or the church plumbing: they had inadequate time for being with their people or carrying out God’s mission. I got the impression of a church in danger of being imprisoned by its buildings.
This is also a risk for us here in North Queensland. Many of our buildings are old and in need of high levels of repair and maintenance, and also incur increasingly high insurance premiums. However they are often centres of great mission and loving communities, and a highly recognised part of the streetscape of the local community. As we move into the third decade of this century, we need to review how we use our limited resources and our church buildings. We need to be a church that uses its material resources, as well as its human resources, for building up the Kingdom of God.
Same-sex Marriage and Gossip
My position and that of the Diocese on the issue of same-sex marriage has been made clear a number of times using electronic media and other means. Whilst I am on record as supporting same-sex marriage as a civil matter required to give legal equality to same-sex couples, I am also on record as stating that same-sex marriage is not a sacrament: and further that the Church within the Diocese of North Queensland is not moving towards either conducting same-sex marriages or having a liturgy for blessing of same-sex unions. To be quite frank we have far more important concerns to worry about, such as euthanasia, climate change, and issues about religious freedom.
Apparently rumours are being spread again that myself or other clergy in North Queensland have performed same-sex weddings or blessed same-sex unions. Such rumours are both false and malicious. The Bible strongly condemns gossip (for example Proverbs 16.28; Psalm 34.13; Matthew 12.36; 1 Timothy 5.13) and I commend this good teaching to you. Ignore gossip, be it by word of mouth or based on an inaccurate report on a blogger’s website. We as a Church have far more important things to do: gossip simply exhausts and diverts all of us from telling out the Gospel of Jesus.
Torres Strait Regional Council
This week the Torres Strait Region clergy and people will meet on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th October, at the Church of All Souls and St Bartholomew (and adjacent church hall) on Thursday Island. We will be considering the future of the church in the Torres Strait: my vision is of a church built firm on Christ, strong in its culture, and taking the Gospel to the rest of Australia which so desperately needs it. Please pray for all gathered together on Thursday Island this week.
To the Reverend Mervyn James, made Deacon at Holy Trinity Church Mackay on 10th September 2019. Deacon Mervyn was for many decades an ordained Pastor in the Lutheran Church but has been a faithful member of the Anglican Church for some years. God willing, Deacon Mervyn will be ordained as a priest on 15th December 2019 at St Luke’s Church at Sarina.
It is also intended to make Daniel Tibau Stephen a Deacon at the Church of All Souls and St Bartholomew on Thursday Island this Thursday evening 3rd October 2019. Please pray for him and all the people of the Church of the Ark of the Transfiguration on Ugar (Stephens Island) where he will continue to minister.
Congratulations also to all those being confirmed. This is a big step in the Christian life where a young adult takes for themselves their baptism promises. In particular, please pray for the twenty young people to be confirmed at St Alban’s Church at Yarrabah this coming Sunday, 6th October 2019.
The Right Reverend Dr Keith Joseph
Bishop of North Queensland
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