Australian Football Executive Ousted for His Church Membership

Essenden Bombers Banner — MasterMind5991 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Thorburn was on the job as CEO of the Essendon Football Club in Melbourne, Australia, when the team ousted him. The club didn’t kick him out of his new role because of a scandal or for poor treatment of a player or staffer. Instead, the team showed Thorburn the door because of, as Fox Sports Australia put it, “widespread backlash to the anti-homosexual and anti-abortion views of his church, City on a Hill, where he is chairman.”

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Rather than being part of some wild and crazy congregation, Thorburn lost his job for being part of the leadership of a church that espouses standard beliefs that Christians have held for two thousand years.

“What sort of weird cult was the religious hard-line extremist appointed to run the Essendon footy club connected to? Anglican,” points out James Mcpherson at Sky News.

“Andrew Thorburn is part of an Anglican church that believes — as Christians have always believed — sex is for marriage, and that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Mcpherson continues. “Moreover, Anglicans believe the baby in the womb is a human being. And, if you don’t believe the Bible, they’ll encourage you to check out an ultrasound.”

But the way the media and politicians in the Australian state of Victoria put it, Thorburn is part of some bigoted cult of Christians who want to cover women head-to-toe and string up gays. Oh wait, those are Muslims.

“Essendon CEO linked to controversial church,” Mcpherson recalls a headline reading.

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews let everyone know exactly how the government views traditional, mainstream Christian teaching.

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“Those views are absolutely appalling,” Andrews said. “I don’t support those views, that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred… bigotry. It is just wrong.”

Another government official, Federal Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor, said that Essendon should have found out about Thorburn’s church’s views and not hired him in the first place.

“It shouldn’t have come to this because you would have thought that proper consideration would have prevented the appointment in the first place,” O’Connor declared.

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The club targeted Thorburn based on a 2013 sermon from the church — talk about cherry-picking — but the church’s pastor expressed regret for some of the verbiage he used in the sermon from nine years ago.

“The words were wrong, I’d use different words today, the essence of the message, though, is that Jesus is all about life,” Pastor Guy Mason told an Australian morning show. “We’re inclusive, we’re not homophobic, we’re for life and we’re for love.”

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Anglican Archbishop Phillip Freier said that the entire situation came about as a result of “panic” and “knee-jerk” reactions.

Thorburn said in a statement that his Christian faith is central to who he is, but he doesn’t always agree with his church’s stance on issues.

“I believe that there are many Australians who fear the implications for their livelihoods, aspirations and participation in community life,” Thorburn said in another statement. “It is troubling that faith or association with a church, mosque, synagogue or temple could render a person immediately unsuited to holding a particular role. That is a dangerous idea, one that will only reduce tolerance for others and diversity of thought and participation in our community and workplaces.”

Essendon made an example of Thorburn, with the egging on of media and state government, but columnist Rita Panahi believes that it’s time for Thorburn to make an example of his former employer.

“Thorburn must make Essendon pay, if not for his own sake, for the benefit of other Christians who are not as financially blessed as he is,” Panahi writes. “Thorburn cannot turn the other cheek, that will only see more of this corporate bastardry. Organisations will only stop behaving in this intolerant, injudicious manner when there is a financial cost associated with their woke wankery.”

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It’s beyond the pale that Essendon would fire Thorburn for being a part of a church that espouses mainstream Christian beliefs, but it’s worse when the government says such appalling things. We can only hope that such behavior can’t happen here, but we shouldn’t bet on it.

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