Andrew Thorburn says Christian faith is not tolerated in the public square

Andrew Thorburn, who just resigned as the CEO of the Essendon Football Club after just a single day in the role, says he is disappointed that his private religious beliefs are not tolerated in the public square.

In a lengthy statement Thorburn shared his thoughts on the last 24 hours, which saw him announced as the club’s new boss, only to tender his resignation the following day.

His departure came as fans of the club questioned how he could promote the values of the club while also maintaining a leadership position at the City on a Hill evangelical church.

Statements made by the church on topics like homosexuality and abortion were highlighted as being diametrically opposed to the vales the football club embraces.

Thorburn’s Full Statement

“Yesterday was one of the proudest days of my life. To be offered the role of CEO of the Essendon Football Club – who I have followed since I was a boy – was a profound honour. At last night’s Crichton medal, I could hardly contain my passion and wonder at the opportunity. I love the club, love the people, and was incredibly excited about the work ahead. I had seen a picture of a club that was not as broken as feared, and that with leadership and focus, could rebound strongly.

“However, today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many. I was being required to compromise beyond a level that my conscience allowed. People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect. Behaviour is the key. This is all an important part of a tolerant and diverse society.

“Let me be clear – I love all people, and have always promoted and lived an inclusive, diverse, respectful and supportive workplace – where people are welcomed regardless of their culture, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation. I believe my record over a long period of time testifies to this.

“Despite my own leadership record, within hours of my appointment being announced, the media and leaders of our community had spoken. They made it clear that my Christian faith and my association with a Church are unacceptable in our culture if you wish to hold a leadership position in society.

“This grieves me greatly – though not just for myself, but for our society overall. I believe we are poorer for the loss of our great freedoms of thought, conscience and belief that made for a truly diverse, just and respectful community.

“My faith is central to who I am. Since coming to faith in Jesus 20 years ago, I have seen profound change in my life, and I believe God has made me a better husband, father, and friend. It has also helped me become a better leader. That is because at the centre of my faith is the belief that you should create a community and care for people, because they are created by and loved by God and have a deep intrinsic value.

“As it happens, I do sometimes disagree with things I hear in church – but I believe strongly in the right of people to say them, especially when taken in context. Reducing complex matters to a sentence is dangerous. Australia has a long tradition of diversity and religious freedom, and that must include preserving space for religious people to be able to express their religious beliefs.

“I am saddened by these events. I wish the Club success, and thank Dave Barham in particular for the opportunity he gave me. I hope the external review leads to great change. I am truly sorry that I will not be able to work with the whole Essendon team, and Brad Scott and Josh Mahoney in particular.”

Speaking to the media club President Dave Barham said it was an unavoidable situation because employers are not allowed to ask about people’s religious beliefs in interviews.

“It’s difficult because in interview processes you’re not allowed to ask about people’s religious – it’s against the law.” Barham said. “But what we did, is as soon we saw them, we acted. We acted immediately this morning,  I saw him first thing and we spent most of the day talking and he decided that is what he would do.”

Victoria Premier Dan Andrews weighed in on the appointment on Tuesday saying the views held by the church were “absolutely appalling”, but he would still be renewing his club membership.

Tim Baxter, the Deputy Mayor of the City of Port Phillip, took to social media and announced he’d be resigning his club membership, and those of his children. Baxter said by appointing Thorburn the club had sent a clear message to LGBTIQA+ supporters that they were not welcome.

“Your decision, when the club has desperately needed a solid, uncontroversial path forward, has instead ripped the club back to the dark ages, and alienated your members.” Baxter posted to Twitter.

The church’s website hosts an article explaining how gay people can ‘survive same-sex attraction’, while another video sermon rallies against the rise of transgenderism” in the media.

A 2018 video sermon focuses on an episode of the TV show Queer Eye and suggests gay Christians could choose to remain celibate, before suggesting that gay people exist because “there is sin in the world”. The church has also spoken out against abortion, including in cases involving rape and incest.

OIP Staff

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