Folau’s full-blast Fundamentalism faces fiery reaction

Fiery reaction after Israel Folau links Australian bush fires to same-sex marriage

18 Nov, 2019

Israel Folau claims same-sex marriage and abortion are to blame for Australia’s bushfires. Video / The Truth of Jesus Christ Church SydneyNZ Herald

In his latest sermon, Israel Folau has linked the bush fires and drought which have ravaged NSW and Queensland to same-sex marriage and abortion legislation.

Speaking at The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Kenthurst, northwest of Sydney, Folau has again delivered yet another sermon which has taken aim at homosexuals.

During the 10-minute recording, the 30-year-old says the timing of the bushfire crisis is no coincidence but only a taste of God’s judgment should nothing change.

“I’ve been looking around at the events that’s been happening in Australia this past couple of weeks, with all the natural disasters, the bush fires and the droughts,” he says.

He then reads from the Book of Isaiah in the Bible. “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.”

Folau links the passage to the twin disasters of bushfire and drought and, in turn, the legalising of same-sex marriage and abortion.

“The events that have happened here in Australia, in the last couple of years – God’s word says for a man and a woman to be together … they’ve come and changed this law,” he says.

“Abortion, it’s OK now to murder, kill infants, unborn children.”

“Look how rapid these bush fires, these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time. Do you think it’s a coincidence or not?

“God is speaking to you guys. Australia, you need to repent and take these laws and turn it back to what is right.”

While Folau says his comments come “out of love”, the former Wallaby’s stance has sparked outrage around the world.

Folau claims same-sex marriage and abortion are to blame for Australia's bushfires. Photo / Facebook
Folau claims same-sex marriage and abortion are to blame for Australia’s bushfires. Photo / Facebook


Sky News contributor and devoted Christian Gemma Tognini said Folau’s message saying it makes her “desperately sad” and called his views “manure”.

“As a Christian I feel so desperately sad reading that because that’s not the nature of God, that’s not the heart of God … I feel like wearing a T-shirt saying ‘not on my team’.

“At least I will say this, [Folau] is willing to say what he thinks and stand by his beliefs … That being said, there’s no such thing as freedom from consequences.

“It’s almost as if he’s acting as if he doesn’t care if he ever plays rugby again — and he may not care.

“I just look at him and say ‘why would you say such divisive, hurtful things?’ It’s a hurtful thing to say to someone who has lost their home in a bushfire — that God hates you and he’s punishing you. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s manure.


Anglican minister Peter Kurti hit out at Folau, saying his message is “outrageous” and incorrect given “God’s wrath” targeted the wrong people.

“If God really was going to punish us for changing the law on abortion (and) changing the law on marriage, it’s the Parliament House in Macquarie St and the Parliament House in Canberra that should have been the target of God’s wrath — not the mid-north coast and south Queensland,” he told Sky News. “If God was angry, God’s aim was off.

“These are outrageous views and they are up there with the religious fanaticism of the Greens. But … we live in a free country and if this is what Israel Folau believes — and he’s not a politician, he’s not voting resources … he’s a preacher talking to his congregation — surely in Australia we want to defend his right to do so even though we can think the views he expresses are completely wrong and offensive.”


Cardiff-based rugby writer Paul Williams slammed Folau as a fool while others sarcastically said “God must be so proud” of the former league star.


I wouldn’t be too surprised if Israel Falau, once a great Rugby Football player, turns his career into a platform for a new vocation in conservative fundamentalist preaching! Since his very public expulsion from Australia Football (because of his public campaign against LGBT+ people) , Falau has ramped up his disrespect for such people to the point where he, like many fundamentalist preachers, blames the recent Same-Sex Marriage Laws and Abortion in Australia for the recent disastrous fires in New South Wales and Queensland.

Folau’s use of Scripture to back up his claims, is an unfortunate sign of his scriptural fundamentalism, whose advocates quote the Scriptures to prove their own theories about any human behaviour they might deem to be unaccptable to a righteous and vengeful god.

Unfortunately, there are many conservative sola-Scriptura Christians who can be caught up in this system of ‘Cod Theology; which often shows its face in times of natural disaster. For those with a refuge mentality, it can be – in some strange way – affirming of their own fears and fantasies about the god they believe in. Sadly, it can often increase their innate prejudice against people they see as in any way ‘different ‘ from themselves.

Such evidence of a ghetto mentality, which encourages a cult of self-righteousness, can be an unhealthy understanding of the mission of Jesus Christ which, above all, has given human beings the possibility of freedom from fear – in the secure knowledge that the God and Father of Jesus is not a monster, but a patient, loving Father of all who look to Jesus for hope and salvation.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ecumenical peace-making in South-Sudan

Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury to visit South Sudan together

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

November 13, at the Vatican, Pope Francis received His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

During the cordial talks, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that, if the political situation in the country should allow the establishment of a transitional government of national unity in the next 100 days, at the expiry of the agreement signed in recent days in Entebbe, in Uganda, they intend to visit South Sudan together.

The decision follows Pope Francis earlier, in a meeting with the Ecumenical Council of Churches of South Sudan, expressing his desire to visit South Sudan.

The Council is an expression of the Ecumenical Council of Churches that was founded in 1965 as the “Council of Churches of Sudan” as a means to help the marginalized areas of Sudan.



What a good sign of the way in which Heads of Churches – when they decide to apply their commonality in Christ – can makes a united effort towards peace-making efforts in our world that might otherwise not be undertaken.

This unity in Christ has to be incarnated in joint action that will then supply real evidence of the fact that ‘in Christ’, those things that divide us cannot really be compared to the power of Christ to unite us and work through us. This current decision to work together in South Sudan, by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, can only serve to demonstrate that Christians, when they look past their institutional differences, can bring about outcomes that might otherwise seem impossible. As Gabriel said to Mary at her annunciation: “Nothing is impossible for God!” We just have to be open and willing for grace to enter into our conversations for God to close the gaps.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Synodality isn’t just an option, it’s the only way to be church

Nov 13, 2019

by Daniel P. Horan – Opinion – Theology – NATIONAL CATHOLIC RECORDER

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego arrives for the first session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 7, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Last week, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy delivered the 2019 MacTaggert Lecture at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. In a manner in keeping with his typical erudite yet accessible articulation of church teaching and recognition of the pressing signs of our times, McElroy made a case for a broader embrace of what he called “the type of synodal pathway that the church in the Amazon has been undergoing.” 

Visit EarthBeat, NCR’s new reporting project that explores the ways Catholics and other faith groups are taking action on the climate crisis.

Drawing on his own experience as a participant in the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region last month and having overseen a local synodal process in the San Diego Diocese, McElroy identified four ecclesial characteristics that result from a more-synodal existence: a missionary church, a participatory church, a welcoming church, and a church of harmony. In addition to his own experience and theological grounding, McElroy situates his remarks within a deep spirituality informed by the Gospel, an observation also made this week by my NCR colleague Michael Sean Winters.

In many ways, McElroy is carrying on the tradition of another California bishop, the late San Francisco Archbishop John R. Quinn. In fact, McElroy was ordained by Quinn and served first as his episcopal secretary and then his vicar general. Quinn also requested that McElroy preach at the vigil service for his funeral in 2017, so it should be no surprise that there exists such continuity in thought and ministry.

Quinn is remembered as an extraordinary pastor and a talented theologian with a profound appreciation for the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the meaning of church as expressed in Lumen Gentium. For someone ordained to the priesthood nearly a decade before the opening of the council, it may surprise some people that Quinn had such a deep and seemingly intuitive understanding of the church as fundamentally the people of God and the need for broader consultation of the laity in church leadership. 

As NCR executive editor Tom Roberts summarized after Quinn’s death, “In speeches and writing, Quinn called for decentralizing church governance, giving far more influence to local communities in the choice of bishops and diminishing the role of the Vatican Curia.”

Additionally, his research reflected an ecclesiology emphasizing the primacy of the baptized and the dynamic role of the Holy Spirit’s operation in the church through synodality.

Such is the case with his last publication, the little 2013 book titled, Ever Ancient, Ever New: Structures of Communion in the Church, in which he writes: “One of the earliest structures of communion were synods.” Far from a modern departure from unilateral governance or teaching authority, synods as a structure of communion predate the Constantinian shift within Christianity during the fourth century and “were a witness of a deep and enduring conviction that the Church is one and that it is catholic and apostolic.”

As McElroy rightly acknowledged in his lecture, “such a synodal pathway is not foreign to the church in the United States, nor is it beyond our capacities. Last year, the church in the United States, completed a significant dialogical process in its fifth Encuentro … the Encuentro process sought dialogue, reflection and action on the level of the parish, the diocese, the region and the nation as a whole.” Hispanic and Latinx Catholics are already modeling what a broader, consultative and dynamic mode of being church looks like.

Theologian Natalia Imperatori-Lee, in her excellent recent book, Cuéntame: Narrative in the Ecclesial Present, notes: “The Encuentro gatherings are theologically significant because they put into practice the participative and collaborative process of church governance endorsed by Vatican II, emulated by the Latin American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM) at Medellín, and echoed by contemporary systematic theologians.”

Too often the experiences of Hispanic and Latinx Catholics are viewed within the context of the United States as “new” or “foreign” or “emerging,” and therefore subjugated, minimized or dismissed. (This is the case despite the fact that Hispanic Catholicism, with its manifold cultural iterations, has been present in what is now the United States since pre-colonial times.) As with the rise of dismissals of the recently concluded synod for the Amazon, the ignoring or rejection of the Encuentro process by many white and Anglo Catholics is a form of racism. And, ironically, it is also a rejection of what the church might look like at its best. 

Too often the experiences of Hispanic and Latinx Catholics are viewed within the context of the United States as “new” or “foreign” or “emerging,” and therefore subjugated, minimized or dismissed.

A broader sense of synodality beyond that consultative body of bishops in Rome is about proper recognition of the place of all the baptized faithful in the prudential discernment about church decision-making and governance. It is not a call to do away with hierarchical leadership. No, the church is not a democracy. But neither is the church a monarchy wherein local bishops, bishops’ conferences, or even the pope rules by fiat. The church is a “hierarchical communion,” as Lumen Gentium explains, but one whose ministers arise from and are oriented to the service of all the baptized. The operative noun is “communion,” which refers to a deep bond of relationship rooted in baptismal equality, and this sense is too often lost when church leaders and the laity succumb to what McElroy calls “the bunker mentality” and “the culture of maintenance.” 

Pope Francis has routinely signaled the need for greater inclusion and openness in the church. This ecclesial and evangelizing vision is best summarized in the pope’s continued call that all Christians embrace their call to be “missionary disciples.” The responsibility for welcome, inclusion and evangelization is one shared by everybody, regardless of their position in the church. It is an empowering message, but one that also bears co-responsibility and demands active participation on the part of the laity, as McElroy explained. 

On the one hand, I completely agree with McElroy and Quinn before him — that a fuller recovery of the ancient synodal structures, which have been renewed in part under Francis’ leadership, is a way forward in the midst of what McElroy calls “this moment of turmoil and stasis for our church.”

Yet, on the other hand, I wish to make a stronger claim. I would suggest that synodality is not merely an option to be recovered, but is in fact the only authentic way to be church. And the broader church in the United States would do well to learn from the wisdom and example of Hispanic and Latinx Catholics, who have provided at least one living model of the ancient Christian tradition of synodality. 

[Daniel P. Horan is a Franciscan friar and assistant professor of systematic theology and spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. His most recent book is Catholicity and Emerging Personhood: A Contemporary Theological AnthropologyFollow him on Twitter: @DanHoranOFM]

Editor’s note: Don’t miss out. Sign up to receive an email notice every time a new Faith Seeking Understanding column is published.


There is so much good sense in the movement in the Roman Catholic Church towards a culture of ‘synodality’ which has – for Anglicans – long been one of the ways in which the Church, as the Body iof Christ, has sought concensus on matters of Faith & Order attaining to the theological teaching and praxis of living out the Christian Faith.

Where there has undoubtedly been, in the reign of some Pontiffs, a Vaticanal ethos of dogmatic authority – focussed on papal supremacy – this is not in accord, generally, with the Apostolic Tradition which was exemplified in the New Testament Scriptures by the phrase: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to US” – a total, corporeal understanding of leadership that is centred upon the Body of Christ in communion, not by any one person in isolation.

It should not be too surprising, then, that San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, who was present at the recent ‘Synod of the Amazon Basin’ – called by Pope Francis in order to address serious pastoral deficiencies in that sparsely populated territory located in South America’s hinterland; where deforestation is an ongoing reality – should remind the Catholic Church of the importance of local needs being addressed in synodality.

This press article, from the National Catholic Recorder in North America, in assessing the content of Bishop McElroy’s address to St. Mary’s Catholic University in Antonio, Texas, after his return from the Amazon Synod; mentions – in passing – McElroy’s indebtedness to former San Francisco Archbishop John R. Quinn, whose own view of synodality can now be seen to be shared by Pope Francis himself. The author of this article draws attention to Quinn’s deep commitment to this ethos:

it may surprise some people that Quinn had such a deep and seemingly intuitive understanding of the church as fundamentally the people of God and the need for broader consultation of the laity in church leadership” 

In an intrinsically hierarchical Church – which treasures the Petrine tradition of Jesus addressing Peter with the words (J.B.) “You are ‘Peter’, and on this ‘Rock’ I will build my Church” – Pope Francis wants to decentralise the government of the Church so that the whole Body of Christ – both clergy and laity – may be seen to be involved with the exercise of ministry and mission – in accord with the injunction: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to US”. It does us good to be reminded that Jesus chose 12 Apostles, not just Peter, to build up the Church

In Pope Francis’ movement towards a restoration of a ‘Local Church’ mentality, which encourages the local community to gather around its Bishop(s) to administer and carry out the mission appropriate to the situation of the local community; he has encountered fierce opposition from conservative bishops around the world who are intent on maintaining the long extant power of the Vaticanal (hierarchical) style of Church government. Such Bishops, led by people like U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, are desperately trying to turn back the clock on this issue of local synodality, which acknowledges the place of lay-people in the decision-making polity of the Church

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“The Sacrament of Encounter”


How my Catholic identity has been challenged—and enriched—by social justice

John Gehring – November 01, 2019

A woman chants slogans during a march against Operation Gatekeeper Oct. 12, 2019, to mark its 25th anniversary in San Diego. Operation Gatekeeper, implemented during the Clinton administration, was one of the first U.S. government programs that began to tightly secure the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/David Maung)

I’m often weary these days. These are dark, painful times for our church and country. A former cardinal of Washington, D.C., has been defrocked for sexual abuse. The White House is occupied by a president who demeans people with rhetoric and hurts those on the peripheries with cruel policies. As a Catholic writer and commentator who focuses on the intersection of church and politics, I spend a lot of time talking to members of the media about contentious topics. Being a “professional Catholic” in the public square right now is heavy work.

The truth is it can breed cynicism and weigh down your soul.RELATED STORIES

Catholic leaders and advocates protest the Trump administration’s handling of detained immigrant children during a “Day of Action” on July 18 in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

I was arrested protesting Trump’s border policies. The Gospel calls us to do more.William Critchley-Menor, S.J.

The Plowshares activists are on trial for anti-nuclear protest. Theologians say the Gospel’s on their side.Ryan Di Corpo

What keeps me sane, even hopeful, is a halting evolution in my spirituality that requires learning to get out of my head and putting myself in uncomfortable places. I am a bookish introvert by nature, prone to bouts of wry detachment. For years, my journalistic disposition and reserved personality made me skeptical of activism. My faith life also gravitates toward words and intellect, more lectio divina than faith in action. But the more I step outside myself, the more I am rescued from these despair-inducing days by the sacrament of encounter and the holy witness of faithful advocates speaking truth to power. The teachers helping me down this road are young and old, citizens and undocumented, lay and ordained, straight and L.G.B.T.Q.

A year ago, I traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border with a delegation of Catholic priests as part of an immersion trip put together by my organization, Faith in Public Life. In El Paso, I met Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, a respite center that has provided shelter for more than 150,000 migrants over the past year alone. “What I’m asking you is to use your voice, use your pulpit, stand up for migrants and say, ‘What we are doing is wrong,’” he told us in what sounded like a prayerful plea.What keeps me sane, even hopeful, is a halting evolution in my spirituality.Tweet this

I have been graced to work with and learn from young, undocumented immigrants who leave me in awe of their courage. Arlin Tellez, a sophomore at Trinity Washington University, was only 4 when she crossed the border at night with her mother, clutching a prayer card her grandmother gave her. Ms. Tellez is now an organizer, public speaker and leading immigration activist. As a white man who has unearned privileges because of my race, gender and sexuality, I am reminded by young Catholics like Ms. Tellez that the more comfortable I get, the farther I am from the heart of the Gospel.

Pope Francis teaches us that our church is one that is “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets.” Christianity is not a collection of abstract principles that can be reduced to parsing and defending faceless propositions. The shattering mystery of the Incarnation is that God stands with us in our pain, anxiety, joy and longings. This gritty theology requires us to take risks and act.RELATED STORIES

Catholic leaders and advocates protest the Trump administration’s handling of detained immigrant children during a “Day of Action” on July 18 in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

I was arrested protesting Trump’s border policies. The Gospel calls us to do more.William Critchley-Menor, S.J.

The Plowshares activists are on trial for anti-nuclear protest. Theologians say the Gospel’s on their side.Ryan Di Corpo

“We have to put our bodies where our mouths are,” the 90-year-old sister Pat Murphy, R.S.M., told me before we joined 70 other Catholics arrested in Washington, D.C., in July during a civil disobedience action to protest the detention of immigrant children. I keep learning from people like her and the Rev. Bryan Massingale, a theologian at Fordham University who in a recent address on L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics bravely challenged the church to recognize all forms of exclusion, to see the connection between racial justice and L.G.B.T.Q. justice. “I will not bracket my ‘black’ self in order to be ‘gay’ so you can take what makes you comfortable,” he said. “You have to take all of me. I don’t want to spend my energies building a church or world where only part of me is welcomed, valued and loved.”

The church of prophets and faithful agitators will continue to lead us.

This article also appeared in print, under the headline “The Sacrament of Encounter,” in the November 11, 2019 issue.


This is a wonderful testimony by an active U.S. Roman Catholic journalist, John Gehring, whose faith is such that – though he encounters many obstacles in his way, he believes in standing up for issues of Faith and Justice.

This original article, uinder the banner of “The Sacrament of Encounter’, speaks of a life of commitment to matters of how his faith affects his outlook on the affairs of his everyday encounters with people – each of whom bears the Image and Likeness of the God he believes in.

In his survey of current politics and religion , John clearly echoes the concerns of the present pontiff, Pope Francis, whose liberating policies in the Catholic Church are encountering strong opposition from some powerful conservative members of the hierarchy – including Cardinals Burke and Vigano and their followers. These two prelates seem intent on deliberately undermining Francis. papacy, even to the extent of questioning his moral leadership of the Church.

This journalist, John Gehring, on the other hand, can see the importance of Pope Francis opening up the Church to include ALL people – not just the ‘pure and holy’.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pope Francis v His enemies in the Church

Francis pontificate ‘a place of spiritual combat,’ claims papal biographer

Nov 6, 2019by Peter FeuerherdPeopleVatican

Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh spoke at Fordham University on Nov. 4 to promote his latest book about Pope Francis. (Fordham University/Leo Sorel)

NEW YORK — The resistance to Pope Francis is largely made in the USA, a product of an alliance between religious culture warriors and right-wing Republican politicians, Austen Ivereigh*, best-selling papal biographer, said during a talk sponsored by Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture here. 

“Catholics are with the pope. That used to be the traditional understanding,” Ivereigh said. But that understanding has been challenged. He noted there is “a struggle going on. This pontificate is a place of spiritual combat.”

Ivereigh, a former editor at The Tablet, said that Francis remains popular with Catholics in the pew, but that a well-funded opposition comprised largely of ecclesial elites are fighting his agenda. The resistance would prefer a church focused on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage; Francis has upended those priorities, emphasizing instead concerns such as the environment and welcoming migrants.

The British author’s newest work on Francis is titled Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church. He said the title reflects the pope’s agenda, to move the church from a reliance on abstract principles and dogmas to a lived experience of conversion.

The resistance to Francis, said Ivereigh, borrowing an image from Don Quixote, is a sign of the progress the pope is making, because as he moves along, much like the fictional knight on horseback, the dogs are b

Francis invites criticism, said Ivereigh, but the resistance to his papacy goes beyond modulated dissent into questioning his very papacy, offering an alternative magisterium to his teachings.

“They don’t see it that way,” he said of the pope’s critics, who include American Cardinal Raymond Burke and German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, both of whom he specifically named.

Francis’ critics are akin to the Pharisees of the Gospel, said Ivereigh, as they fight his call to conversion of the church. The dynamics played themselves out during the October Synod of the Amazon, which included a virulent opposition from some American and European Catholics, as well as the stealing of Amazonian figurines depicting a pregnant woman that were dumped into the Tiber.

The Synod, marked by its input from Catholics in the Amazon region who called for allowing for married clergy and women serving as deacons, offered “the hermeneutic of the Shepherd versus the hermeneutic of the colonialist,” he said. The inclusion of indigenous symbols and costumes, seen by some critics as pagan, rankled those in the Francis resistance. 

Francis, a Jesuit, likened efforts to inculturate the Gospel among the indigenous in the Amazon to the failed efforts of the 16th century Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who tried to forge a Christianity in China that built upon the culture there, only to be later rejected by the church.

The treatment of Ricci was a mistake, said the pope, something that he didn’t want repeated in the Amazon Synod deliberations.

The resistance to the Amazon Synod focused not on the possibility of married clergy or women deacons, but on its intense consultation with what some Europeans and North Americans considered pagan cultures with little to offer the wider church.

Two years of consultation with Amazon Catholics, said Ivereigh, indicated that Catholics in the region sought “a church to be close to us, 24/7, not just passing through.”

But the resistance to Francis would have none of it, he said. “The people of God spoke and they were told they are heretics.”

Francis has generated resistance since the beginning of his papacy, said Ivereigh, particularly via symbolic actions that rankled his critics. It began with his washing the feet of a young Muslim woman in a Holy Thursday ritual; his outreach to Muslims, and his openness to the LGBT community, including his recent meeting with Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a frequent target of those opposed to including LGBT people in the church.

Francis’ critics, he said, doubt the mercy of the Incarnation, and would prefer to focus on rules and regulations.

Ivereigh was interviewed by Mary Kate Holman, a doctoral student in the theology department at Fordham University. (Fordham University/Leo Sorel)

The roots of Francis’ approach to the papacy lies in the role that he played as a leader in the Latin American church, the region of the world, said Ivereigh, where Vatican II has been taken most seriously.

Then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was a leader in the Aparecida meeting of Latin American bishops in 2007. One message from that meeting, said Ivereigh, was that “the church has to change in order to evangelize modernity.”

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, Francis regularly notes that the Christian experience is with the person of Jesus, not a series of philosophical teachings. “It’s an experience, not an idea,” said Ivereigh, noting that the pope’s critics are prone to what he described as “an isolated conscience” marked by “a spirit of self-sufficiency, an attraction to power.”

Ivereigh described himself as an admirer of Francis, who he got to know while researching a book on the repression in Argentina during the 1980s. Some say he’s gone too far, that his biographies of Francis lean toward hagiography, rather than objective history.

“I’ve gone where the story has taken me,” he said about covering this eventful papacy and the spiritual combat it has generated over the past half dozen years. “My role is to explain how he thinks, and what he’s doing.”

[Peter Feuerherd is NCR news editor


Austen Ivereigh, biographer of Pope Francis, in speaking to a gathering at Fordham University in the U.S., where he was talking about his next book of the Pope, did not mince words when he spoke of the orchestrated opposition to Francis – mainly in America and Germany – which, while not dismissing papal infallibility (which would be to question the whole basis of papal authority in the Roman Catholic Church) yet deigns to severely criticise the Church renewal strategies of the present Pope:

Francis’ critics are akin to the Pharisees of the Gospel, said Ivereigh, as they fight his call to conversion of the church. The dynamics played themselves out during the October Synod of the Amazon, which included a virulent opposition from some American and European Catholics, as well as the stealing of Amazonian figurines depicting a pregnant woman that were dumped into the Tiber”.

These rebellious ‘Defenders of The Faith’ – people like U.S. Cardinal Burke and German Cardinal Gerhardt Muller and their followers – seem hell-bent on destabilising the current papacy in order to shore up their own understanding of the need to protect Holy Church from what they see as heretical misdirection at the instigation and with the blessing of Pope Francis.

The latest spat of criticism has come during and after the recent Roman ‘Synod of the Amazon’, where the Pope witnessed and approved of some inter-cultural activities – (both social and liturgical) that demonstrated his willingness to harness and incorporate the indigenous spirituality of the Amazonian people in their own expressions of worship – that proved culturally unacceptable to Francis’ critics.

The combative attitude of his detractors – who are generally powerful and wealthy conservative prelates in the U.S. and other places in the Church – demonstrates quite clearly their determination to overturn the efforts of Pope Francis to bring the Catholic Church into the modern age. Francis’ renewal is entirely in keeping with the intent of Pope John XXIII in his leadership of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

However since Vatican II, even reigning Popes – including Benedict XVI – seem to have given way to reactionary conservatives in and outside the Vatican, in their desire to turn back the clock to a more restrictive and less adventurous trajectory of opening up the Catholic Church to a new age of Justice and Integrity for ALL people.

As an Anglican, I recognise the dangers inherent in ecclesiastical conservatism. We. too, in our own Anglican Communion of Provincial Churches around the world, are presently suffering from forces of rebellion against the prospect of opening up our Churches to ALL people – regardless of their race, ethnicity, colour, class, gender or sexual orientation, or other social or economic difference, in the belief that every single human being is created in the Divine Image and likeness deserving of our care and respect.

The latest incident here, in Aotearoa/New Zealand, has been the raising up of a local independent quasi-Anglican Church (ACCANZ), as part of a Movement called ‘The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans’ a specifically ‘Confessional Church, birthed by a new Protesting Church Movement in Anglicanism called GAFCON, which has set itself up to oppose the reforming process in our Church to include – for instance – the Blessing of a Same-Sex Couple who have been married in a legal State Ceremony.

Fear of Change would seem to be the prime motivation of protesters against any movement towards the correction of injustice or inefficiency in the administration of Church affairs. Entrenched, outdated understandings of how Churches should teach and exemplify the characteristics of Jesus in the Gospel can be a serious barrier to effective ministry – especially in times of radical change in the experience of how to minister to a radically different world from that of the first centuries of the Church.

One need look only to the Scriptures themselves for a hint of what is going on in these sorts of situations – where a lack of radical love for one another can lead to a stale and arid state of spiritual warfare, in which the struggle for peace, equality and justice is opposed by powerful bastions of entrenched ‘tradition’, fearful of their loss of self-congratulatory religious standing in the community. In their all-too-ready (often unmerited) harsh judgement of the ‘Other’, the ‘Pharisees’ amongst us can seek to destabilise and replace existing structures with our own more ‘holy’ and more comfortable brand of ‘righteousness’ – based on our own understanding of what is Godly. However, God is not mocked. Jesus said that people would know his disciples by their LOVE – certainly not by their (self)-righteousness. Surely, the lesson from Scripture is that we are ALL sinners, redeemed by Christ!

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” – should be our constant humble plea. Jesus once said to someone who called him ‘Good Master’: “Who are you calling good? There is one alone Who is Good”. If Jesus at his incarnation could point to His Father as being the sole repository of goodness, how can we ever deign to imagine ourselves as better than anyone else?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

GAFCON’s Message to the world 31 Oct. 2019

Chairman’s October Letter – Reformation Day!

31st October 2019Archbishop Foley Beach

Beloved in Christ Jesus: Greetings in the name of the crucified, risen, and ascended King, our Lord Jesus Christ!  

I write to you from Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation 502 years ago by posting his 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church.

This month has seen an historic step in the life of the Anglican Communion. It was my privilege to be the chief consecrator, along with Co-consecrators, Archbishop Laurent Mbanda of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and Gafcon Vice-Chairman, and Archbishop Glenn Davies, the Archbishop of Sydney, as the Revd Jay Behan became the first bishop of the new diocese of the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa, New Zealand (CCAANZ) at a joyful ceremony in Christchurch New Zealand on 19th October in the presence of a congregation of 650 supporters, with 19 international leaders present and greetings from Anglican Primates around the world.

Archbishop Peter Jensen delivered a powerful sermon in which he reminded us that the Church must always align itself with the unchanging priorities of Jesus and his Kingdom.  He said, 

“What we are doing is only right if it is in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to make disciples of all nations. This service is about Jesus and the gospel. We are not to become defensive and polemical but set to a grand task of preaching an authentic gospel to be preached throughout this land.”

We did not start a new Church in New Zealand. We simply did what we as confessing Anglicans have been doing since the Gafcon moment of 2008 became a movement; we are ensuring that faithful Anglicans can maintain a clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ in contexts where the existing Anglican leadership has effectively made orthodox biblical faith optional. 

There are of course orthodox Anglicans in Aotearoa New Zealand who do not yet believe it is time to leave their traditional home.  I admire the strenuous efforts of the CCAANZ leadership to try and preserve good relationships, but their overriding conviction is that the action they are taking is about ‘Not just us, not just now’

They are convinced that ‘not just us’ means they must look beyond their own immediate parish context to address the shift that has taken place in the wider church. And that this is ‘not just now’; we only have to look at North America and the UK to see that that once the process becomes established, the secular captivity of the Church proceeds relentlessly, and it is only wise to be prepared. Although currently only 12 parishes, it must surely be only be a matter of time before the Canterbury recognised Anglicans in New Zealand follow the example of other liberal provinces by officially changing their canons to permit same sex marriage. CCAANZ is now the future of faithful Anglican witness in New Zealand.

Indeed, the wisdom of ‘not just now’ has already been illustrated by what can only be described as an intemperate attack on the newly formed CCAANZ by Archbishops Donald Tamihere  and Philip Richardson who have issued a statement in which they protest about ‘boundary crossing bishops and their alleged  ‘disrespect for the normal protocols of the Anglican Communion and the lack of courtesy shown to our church’. Here we see a leadership which is quick to protest when it feels that ecclesiastical geographical boundaries are being set aside, but happily condones the breaching of God’s clear moral boundaries taught in Scripture and by the Church for two millennia. 

The collect for today, the Feast of Ss Simon & Jude, Apostles, gives us the perspective of the Church through the ages as we pray:

Almighty God, who built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone; so join us together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This is a prayer that takes us to the heart of the Gafcon movement and true Anglicanism because we find our unity first and foremost in the apostles’ doctrine. When this is abandoned, there is nothing to fall back on except appeals to protocol and ultimately, as we have seen in North and South America, litigation. This is a question which faces the whole Anglican Communion as bishops have to decide if they will attend Lambeth 2020. With the presence in good standing of four bishops in same-sex unions, it legitimizes and normalizes unbiblical marriage and will reshape the Canterbury Communion as a fellowship of churches bound simply by protocol and no longer by the Apostolic Faith.

Let us remember to pray for the renewal and revival of the Anglican Communion so that Christ may be faithfully proclaimed to our nations in the power of the Holy Spirit with a return to adherence to the teaching of Holy Scripture.

Your brother in Jesus Christ, 

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach 

Chairman, Gafcon Primates Council

The Feast of Saints Simon & Jude, 28th October 2019


This Message – from the website of a schismatic quasi-Anglican Church in Aotearoa /New Zealand – with the picture of former Anglican minister, now CCAANZ ‘Bishop’ Jay Behan as its heading – is actually written by the ACNA (former TEC cleric) ‘Archbishop’ Foley Beach, (who figures in the picture(to the left of the new ‘bishop’, the only cleric wearing a red stole) and who acted as the primary consecrator.

The background to this extraordinary occasion – when a new ‘Anglican Church’ was raised up in New Zealand, in direct competition with the official Anglican Church here (ACANZP) by the episcopal ordination of former Anglican minister Behan – is that of a deliberate invasion by GAFCON-related clerics from around the world – including Australia, England and the USA.

Sadly, for our church in New Zealand (ACANZP), among those present from the GAFCON associates were 2 retired bishops of the local Anglican Church (ACANZP) from the local Diocese of Nelson – which has an historic connection with the Diocese of Sydney in its conservative Evangelical provenance.

In its determination to colonise the worldwide Anglican Communion with its own brand of Evangelical conservatism, the GAFCON/FOCA/AMIE/ACNA conglomerate – dominated by its adherents in North America and Sydney Australia (Foley Beach is the current Chair of the GAFCON sodality – which was founded by former Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen who, together with his successor Archbishop Glen Davies, was also in the visiting delegation shown in the first picture) – now celebrates its entry into the territory of ACANZP in Aotearoa/New Zealand with this article.

The Archdiocese of Sydney’s aggressiveness in spearheading this invasion of N.Z. Anglican space has been a particular worry for the Archbishops and Bishops of our local Church here, and the Archbishops have written a Letter of Protest to the people responsible for this unwelcome and irregular invasion of their jurisdiction. Neither the Pakeha nor the Maori Archbishops of the New Zealand Province were consulted on this issue, not are they ready to concede partnership to the new FOCA-based ‘CCAANZ’ quasi-Anglican community here – made up of dissident former Anglican clergy and their few followers.

This Letter of Protest, however, has only been answered by the above (indecently triumphalist) Chairman’s October Letter to Archbishop Beach’s GAFCON/FOCA associates, and to anyone interested in noting the empire-building activities of his (former-Anglican) schismatic colleagues.

The real scandal, however, for legitimate Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion loyal to Canterbury and Lambeth, is the appearance of some of its own accredited members – from the Australian Dioceses of Sydney and Tasmania and the ACANZP Diocese of Nelson – amongst the presenting and ordaining bishops in this extraordinary gathering in Christchurch, New Zealand!

What really is needed is a follow-up from the Archbishop of Canterbury – the Primus-inter-pares of the Anglican Communion – to make his official protest at the act of ‘Border-Crossing’ that has taken place, in defiance of the protocols existing for the guidance of ACC members.

Such an action, of course, may result in the schism that GAFCON seems determined to provoke; between themselves and those original Anglican Communion Members whose more openly liberal attitude towards the ‘Rainbow Community’ has caused a growing rift between the more conservative Province of the Global South – led by Sydney and the U.S.A – and those of us in the Church who want to make progress in areas of justice towards Women and the LGBT+ community who are in our midst.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bible Translation – ‘Homosexual’ or ‘Pederast’

Has “Homosexual” always been in the Bible?

ed books.jpg




Ed: Yes. It first showed up in the RSV translation. So before figuring out why they decided to use that word in the RSV translation (which is outlined in my upcoming book with Kathy Baldock, Forging a Sacred Weapon: How the Bible Became Anti-Gay) I wanted to see how other cultures and translations treated the same verses when they were translated during the Reformation 500 years ago. So I started collecting old Bibles in French, German, Irish, Gaelic, Czechoslovakian, Polish… you name it. Now I’ve got most European major languages that I’ve collected over time. Anyway, I had a German friend come back to town and I asked if he could help me with some passages in one of my German Bibles from the 1800s. So we went to Leviticus 18:22 and he’s translating it for me word for word. In the English where it says “Man shall not lie with man, for it is an abomination,” the German version says “Man shall not lie with young boys as he does with a woman, for it is an abomination.” I said, “What?! Are you sure?” He said, “Yes!” Then we went to Leviticus 20:13— same thing, “Young boys.” So we went to 1 Corinthians to see how they translated arsenokoitai (original Greek word)  and instead of homosexuals it said, “Boy molesters will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

I then grabbed my facsimile copy of Martin Luther’s original German translation from 1534. My friend is reading through it for me and he says, “Ed, this says the same thing!” They use the word knabenschander. Knaben is boy, schander is molester. This word “boy molesters” for the most part carried through the next several centuries of German Bible translations. Knabenschander is also in 1 Timothy 1:10. So the interesting thing is, I asked if they ever changed the word arsenokoitai to homosexual in modern translations. So my friend found it and told me, “The first time homosexual appears in a German translation is 1983.” To me that was a little suspect because of what was happening in culture in the 1970s. Also because the Germans were the ones who created the word homosexual in 1862, they had all the history, research, and understanding to change it if they saw fit; however, they did not change it until 1983. If anyone was going to put the word homosexual in the Bible, the Germans should have been the first to do it!


As I was talking with my friend I said, “I wonder why not until 1983? Was their influence from America?” So we had our German connection look into it again and it turns out that the company, Biblica, who owns the NIV version, paid for this 1983 German version. Thus it was Americans who paid for it! In 1983 Germany didn’t have enough of a Christian population to warrant the cost of a new Bible translation, because it’s not cheap. So an American company paid for it and influenced the decision, resulting in the word homosexual entering the German Bible for the first time in history. So, I say, I think there is a “gay agenda” after all! 

I also have a 1674 Swedish translation and an 1830 Norwegian translation of the Bible. I asked one of my friends, who was attending Fuller seminary and is fluent in both Swedish and Norwegian, to look at these verses for me. So we met at a coffee shop in Pasadena with my old Bibles. (She didn’t really know why I was asking.) Just like reading an old English Bible, it’s not easy to read. The letters are a little bit funky, the spelling is a little bit different. So she’s going through it carefully, and then her face comes up, “Do you know what this says?!” and I said, “No! That’s why you are here!” She said, “It says boy abusers, boy molesters.” It turns out that the ancient world condoned and encouraged a system whereby young boys (8-12 years old) were coupled by older men. Ancient Greek documents show us how even parents utilized this abusive system to help their sons advance in society. So for most of history, most translations thought these verses were obviously referring the pederasty, not homosexuality! 

So then I started thinking that of 4 of the 6 clobber passages, all these nations and translations were referring to pederasty, and not what we would call homosexuality today.


Well, they didn’t operate out of a vacuum when they translated something. They used data available to them from very old libraries. Last week at the Huntington Library I found a Lexicon from 1483. I looked up arsenokoitai and it gave the Latin equivalent, paedico and praedico. If you look those up they means pederasty, or knabenschander, (boy molester, in German.) 1483 is the year Martin Luther was born, so when he was running for his life translating the Bible and carrying his books, he would have used such a Lexicon. It was the Lexicon of his time. This Lexicon would have used information from the previous 1000+ years, including data passed down from the Church Fathers. 


Absolutely! Sometimes I’m frustrated when speak with pastors who say, “Well I believe the historical tradition surrounding these verses” and then proceed with a condemnation of LGBTQ individuals. I challenge them to see what was actually traditionally taught. For most of history, most European Bibles taught the tradition that these 4 verses were dealing with pederasty, not homosexuality. I am saddened when I see pastors and theologians cast aside the previous 2000 years of history. This is why I collect very old Bibles, lexicons, theological books and commentaries – most modern biblical commentaries adjusted to accommodate this mistranslation. It’s time for the truth to come out!



King James Version triumphed the land and they used the phrase, “Abusers of themselves with mankind” for arsenokoitai. If you asked people during that time no one really wanted to tackle it. So that’s why I’m collecting Bibles, Biblical commentaries and lexicons, in order to show how theologians dealt with these passages.


In my opinion, if the RSV did not use the word homosexual in first Corinthians 6:9, and instead would have spent years in proper research to understand homosexuality and to really dig into the historical contextualization, I think translators would have ended up with a more accurate translation of the abusive nature intended by this word. I think we could have avoided the horrible damage that was done from pulpits all across America, and ultimately other parts of the world. But let’s don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater — the RSV team did a great job on most everything else. It was an honest mistake.


Yes, absolutely! I think my life would have been starkly different if the translation would have been translated with the accurate historical contextualization – especially within my own family, since they rely so heavily on the English translation and put a lot of faith in the translators for the final product in English. Since most people haven’t studied Greek or Hebrew, they have no concept of challenging a translation, and any potential errors that may have occurred during translation. Therefore, many people are unable to consider the implications of the text beyond the English translation in front of them.


My advice to LGBTQ Christians today would be three things:

1.) As difficult as it may be, try to extend grace and patience to the Church. The vast majority of pastors in America have not done their due diligence on this topic, so we can’t expect them to be any further along than they are currently. In the same way that God has extended grace and patience with us when we sin, we need to extend grace and patience toward others regarding their error on this topic. Bitterness will only manage to create further damage.

2.) Seek out other LGBTQ Christians who have already done their due diligence on this topic and reached a point of peace between their sexuality and God. We can learn a lot from others who are a little further up the trail.

3.) Often remind yourself that this mess is not caused by God, but instead is the result of people who have been entrusted with free will.


Ed Oxford is a gay Christian, a graduate of Talbot School of Theology, and a researcher in how the Bible has been weaponized against LGBTQ people. His first book written with Kathy Baldock, Forging a Sacred Weapon: How the Bible Became Anti-Gay will be released in 2020.


Hat-tip to my friend Rob Ferguson for this interesting article from the website ‘Forge’, which rightly questions what has become the generally accepted meaning of the word ‘arsenokoitai’ in some modern translations of the New Testament.

If what the writer of this article alleges in true, then the Church needs to take another, more objective, look at its use of the Bible to support entrenched homophobia.

Ed Oxford and his fellow researcher, Kathy Baldock, have looked intensively into the older tranlations of the Bible which, apparently, translate the definitive Greek word ‘arsenokoitai’ to mean ‘pederast’ (an adult lover of boys) rather than ‘homosexual’ – a word only lately provided as a word to describe same-sex persons/behaviours.

My question here would be: “How responsible were conservative North American Biblical ‘Scholars’ for what could turn out to be a grossly misleading and harmful understanding of ‘what the Bible ‘has to say’ about homosexuality’ – a term not to be confused with pederasty, which involves the intentional abuse of minors by aduilts?”.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment