“Bad theology”: Religious leader returns Order of Australia after Court honour

Former Uniting Church president, the Reverend Alistair Macrae, has joined a growing number of Australians who have chosen to give up their Order of Australia honours in light of religious leader Margaret Court’s promotion to Companion of the Order of Australia.

Victoria’s Reverend Macrae will join prolific journalist Kerry O’Brien, Canberra doctor and trans woman Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, music educator Mark Walton and others in shedding their titles after it was revealed the governing body would be elevating Margaret Court to its highest tier.

“I have decided to join the ranks of Australia Day award recipients who are handing back their awards in response to the “upgrading” of Margaret Court’s Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) to the highest award of Companion (AC),” Reverend Macrae said in a statement.

Macrae says that as an avid sports fan, he celebrated Court’s original AO for her outstanding sporting achievements, but questions her promotion in light of her history of homophobic and transphobic comments.

“Her public comments in relation to LGBTI people – I won’t repeat them here – are damaging to significant parts of our community, and by no means represent the views of many Christians.”

“I was awarded an AO in 2017 for contributions to church and community. Hence, I feel compelled to take this action as a Christian leader.”

Macrae explains that as part of his role as a leader in the Uniting Church, he has been dedicated to working towards LGBTQIA+ inclusion among their followers.

“As a result, in the Uniting Church a person’s sexuality is no bar to membership or leadership, although all members and leaders are expected to exercise their relationships according to the highest standards of respect, mutuality and faithfulness.

“More recently, I convened the group that resourced the Uniting Church in its deliberations about same-sex marriage. In 2018, the Uniting Church agreed to allow its ministers to exercise freedom of conscience in relation to celebrating same-sex marriage. Marriage rites were developed accordingly.

“The decision recognised that members, in good faith, hold different views. Churches worldwide are wrestling with these issues.”

Reverend Macrae says that it is “utterly disingenuous” to promote Court’s sporting achievements as separate from her anti-LGBTQIA+ statements.

“I wonder what prompted the move to upgrade her and I wonder at the naivete (at best) of the committee who seem to be able to make this separation, apparently unaware of the hurt it will cause. Religious faith has private as well as public ethical dimensions.

“As a minister and theologian, I am aware that bad theology kills people. Bad theology underpinned the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Bad theology supported Hitler’s racist ideology and the evil it produced.

“Bad theology underpinned or failed to recognise the racist assumptions behind the destructive program of colonisation not least in this land. Bad theology continues to alienate and oppress sexual minorities.”

OIP Staff

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