Tag Archives: church

Pentecost past; Pentecost present

Sermon for Pentecost 2018

at St George’s Church, Dunsborough

Acts 2:1-21

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

In the Name of the living God, + Creator, Redeemer and Holy Spirit. Amen.


The older I get, the simpler I feel Christianity is. It could all be condensed into Jesus saying in the sermon on the Mount: ‘Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’  (Matthew 5:16)

Do good works. Allow them to speak about God. That’s Christianity in a nut-shell.

lhbnm2qqThere’s a mystery about some people who are credited with being wonderful Christians, but they aren’t. I’m thinking of great souls like Mohandas Gandhi and Florence Nightingale. Gandhi’s reputation was made by his non-violent resistance to the British in India. But Gandhi was not a Christian. He lived in a Jain community, and his personal spirituality combined bits of Christianity with Jainism and Buddhism,

Florence Nightingale pioneered a scientific approach to nursing, first in practical ways in her Field Hospital in the Crimea, and later in policy-making in health. She said she was inspired by St John’s Gospel, but it’s clear she didn’t read the part about Jesus dying and rising or Jesus being the Son of God. She didn’t even like the church, so if she was a Christian, she was a strange one.

Yet the behaviour of Gandhi and Nightingale speaks loudly. I guess the light shining through them, if it’s not the light of Christ, is divine light. The goodness of God shines through their good works. God speaks through them.

It’s clear to me that if I am to do good works, I need help. And Jesus promised to send me help, in the person of Holy Spirit. The Spirit shows me the way, motivates me, and helps me put into action the good work; and the Spirit may testify to the world about my good works, as she testifies to those of Gandhi and the Lady with the Lamp.

Holy Spirit is given to all Christians, and the story is told in our readings this morning. But there seem to be two time-lines for the giving of the Spirit. You can roughly say there’s a Luke time-line and a John time-line.

Most scholars believe that Luke wrote both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.  Luke’s time-line takes us from the Jewish Passover to the Jewish Feast of Shavuot. Passover is celebrated after the first full moon after the spring equinox, or late March to mid-April. Shavuot is 50 days later: so, Shavuot was often called ‘the Fiftieth Day’ or ‘he hemera pentecoste’ in Greek, making Luke’s timeline the Resurrection, then 50 days, then the giving of the Spirit.

John’s Holy Spirit is in much more of a hurry. In St John’s Gospel, Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to the Eleven on the very day of the Resurrection.

8395850-3x2-940x627Luke portrays a day of high drama: there are devout Jews visiting Jerusalem from all over the known world. Holy Spirit sweeps in, a cyclone and bush-fire, and all 120 disciples burst into life: they all become powerful preachers, they speak a multitude of languages, and Peter alone converts three thousand people.

Luke makes us think of the cyclonic wind that stirred over chaos at creation. The giving of Holy Spirit is a new creation, and the new creation is people, the community of Christians, the church.

Luke also takes us back to the legend of the Tower of Babel, when God confused the tower-builders by dividing one language into mutually incomprehensible tongues. At Pentecost, God reverses this confusion so that ‘we hear them speaking in our own language about God’s deeds of power’ (Acts 2:11) and unity is restored.  Luke portrays the church’s potential, acting in unity, to reach every language group in the world.

Luke has Peter renew Old Testament predictions about the drama of the last days, the portents, the signs, the blood and fire and smoky mist.

Luke also tells a joke. People are complaining that the disciples’ behaviour is so bizarre that they must be drunk. ‘We can’t be drunk,’ says Peter, ‘It’s only 9 o’clock in the morning and the pubs aren’t open.’

Luke paints a memorable picture of that Day of Pentecost, the historical day in the life of the Christian community when Holy Spirit was first given to God’s people, and we became a people in mission, telling the story of Jesus and his Resurrection to the whole world.

Luke invites us to celebrate that first Pentecost.

I exaggerate; but Luke is Pentecost PAST, and John is Pentecost PRESENT. Luke is INSPIRATION, John gives PRACTICAL ADVICE.

John has everything happening on the one Day –  all on the first Easter Day, the appearance to Mary Magdalene in the morning, and in the evening, the appearance to the Eleven then the giving of Holy Spirit.

John’s description is simple: ‘He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive Holy Spirit.’.’ (John 20:22)

I’m wearing my red priestly stole today, and I am reminded that Archbishop Sambell The Preacher Pentecost 18spoke these words over me at the solemn moment he ordained me priest, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost for the office of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.’

It’s an awesome responsibility. In addition to the formal words I say in Absolution, the words I say, the way I behave, the attitudes I communicate can facilitate a person’s connection with God. On the other hand, the solemn warning is that my words and attitudes can also obstruct a person from getting close to God.

Melusi, you will also remember that moment in your ordination, and the responsibility God has given us as priests.

I was ordained just after coming out of hospital. I was worried about the moment in the service after the Bishop would lay hands upon my head followed by the hands of all the priests. Archbishop Sambell said he had a solution. He would lay his hands on my head, and he had to do that firmly for the ritual, but then when the weight of all the priests’ hands came on top of his he would lift, and my neck and spine wouldn’t have to bear the weight.

+ Geoffrey and priests

Archbishop Geoffrey Sambell, shortly before his death, with all the priests he had ordained in the Diocese of Perth.

On the day, the Archbishop laid his hands on my head, firmly, as he had said, and then I felt the weight of the priests’ hands start to bear down. The archbishop lifted. He held their weight for a second, then they came bearing down again, twice as heavy.

I needed help to stand. But I sure knew I was ordained!

But the giving of Holy Spirit broader than my ordination. We, as the Christian community, are a priestly people. As a community we have priests like Melusi and me and Lucy, and as a community we are a priest. Our mission as a people who have received Holy Spirit is to talk, act and believe in such a way that others are drawn closer to God. And we can stuff it up. ‘Whose sins ye do retain, they are retained.’

Luke emphasises the gracious and amazing action of God: John emphasises the effect this action has on people now. For John, Jesus is risen now, so our lives are changed now.

Holy Spirit, John says in the Gospel reading we’ve just heard, is a Paraclete (as opposed to parakeet!) In the Ancient Greek law-courts, you didn’t have an Advocate. You pleaded your own case. But you could bring to court a Paraclete, a person of moral authority who had two main roles. One was to be a kind of character witness. Having a Paraclete indicated to the judge that you are a worthy person. The more weight the Paraclete had in the community, the more effective his presence. His second task was to be an encourager.

Now that Jesus is risen, we have a task. This is Pentecost present. Our task now is to take the Gospel to people. God provides the Paraclete we need, the Paraclete of Jesus. When we speak, the Paraclete assures the listeners that we are worth listening to.

We speak the Gospel when we believe that Jesus is the Risen One and trust in Jesus to help us live victoriously. The Spirit may bear witness to the world of our good works.

‘You’ll know they are Christians by their love.’ ‘See how those Christians love one another.’ These familiar quotes were originally spoken by non-Christians in North Africa, but they are divinely inspired, the Paraclete at work.

I think of Agnes in a parish I served as a deacon who had painful arthritis in her wrist. She allowed surgeons to perform multiple experimental procedures, all of which were agonising. Yet every Sunday at Church, she was full of joyful smiles. Every time I visited her at home, despite the pain, she was overflowing with thanksgiving. Her task was to trust; the Paraclete’s task was to allow people to see the result of her trust in the way she lived.

I had the privilege of being Executive Director of YouthCARE WA for four years. YouthCARE employs the chaplains and oversees the Scripture teaching in Government schools. The chaplains are a good example of the Paraclete speaking to the world when Christians act faithfully. Chaplains’ mission is to be a ‘sensitive Christian presence in Government schools’. They are forbidden to ‘proselytise’, though the Education Department doesn’t know how to define ‘proselytise’. Their day-to-day task is to build up the students and the school community. Their continuing employment is precisely because the world sees their impact and likes it. The Paraclete speaks for them.

st-augustineOf course, we see the work of the Paraclete in great preachers like St Augustine who filled the Roman stadium in Pula in North Africa. It held 26,000 people. They obviously liked what they heard, especially his sermon about Psalm 42. ‘Think of the deer,’ said Bishop Augustine, ‘when they cross a stream, they cross single-file. Each deer lays its head on the back of the deer in front. The leading deer changes places frequently. In these ways, they bear each other’s burdens. They fulfil the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ If we behave like deer, bearing each other’s burdens, the Paraclete both cheers us on and commends us to the world. People loved hearing Augustine preach. The Paraclete invited them back again and again.

Or John Bunyan, the tinker from Bedfordshire who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, and yesterday would have protested the royal wedding just as he protested the return of King Charles II. When Bunyan preached in London even on just one day’s notice, thousands came. Holy Spirit invited them also.

But our task, the mission of most of us, is not to be stadium preachers. Our mission is inviting the world to share the joy we know in Christ. Our tasks are to let our lives speak by our trust in Christ, letting our light shine both in the church and in the community. Not so dramatic as Augustine, or as Luke, perhaps, but this is Pentecost present, the Paraclete of Jesus encouraging us and speaking up for us, authenticity being our watchword.



A thought for a secular Australia

Hugh Jackson, Australians and the Christian God, Melbourne, VIC: Mosaic Resources 2013


Reviewed by Ted Witham

Review first published in November 2013 issue of Anglican Messenger.


Is Australia a Christian nation? Or have we been taken over by secularists? It matters. Not only does it affect the place of the churches in Australian society, it also has an impact, for example, on whether God should be mentioned in the nation’s Constitution.


In Australians and the Christian God Hugh Jackson weaves a narrative from detailed historical evidence. He shows that convicts resented the desultory attempts to muster them for compulsory church parades. Only a tiny minority of “respectable” citizens were ever converted to evangelical Christianity in the 19th Century.


Dr Jackson sketches the philosophical and social environment of the enlightenment.


The influence of the churches on society should have been evident in the legislation in the colonies establishing education but the secular view won out in every state. Instead of education that was thoroughly Christian, most colonial education allowed only for visiting special religious teaching and general religious teaching in the curriculum.


There was a minor burst of activity in both Protestant and Catholic Churches in the 1950s. The Billy Graham crusades created excitement, but the figures show that there was no increase in attendance in the years following.


Across the 20th Century Jackson notes a distancing from God. The evidence marshalled by Hugh Jackson reflects a nuanced reality. Australians may gather in awe and respect for the sacrifice made by fellow-citizens in war, but their attitude to the God of Nicene Creed is a thudding indifference.


Hugh Jackson is a reliable narrator of Australia’s connection to the Christian God. He graduated in theology from Cambridge before spending some years in Anglican ministry. His doctoral work and academic career were in history. He remains a deeply committed Christian and a careful observer of the ecclesiastical scene.


Australians and the Christians’ God will be the standard in this area for years to come. I recommend it highly for clergy and all with an interest in the church’s place in Australian society.



Midwifing the Faith

First published on the Patheos website.

“Passing on the Faith” as a phrase evokes different images: for some passing the treasure of faith is like runners in a relay passing the baton to their successor; for others, it evokes a teacher standing before a group of learners and explaining Christian faith to them.
I started my working life as a school-teacher, and the image of a teacher and a class has been dominant for my ministry. I was never happier than in front of a class of a children, or teaching ministry students.
But all the teaching activity in the world doesn’t add up to “passing on the faith”. In the contemporary church teaching is not up to the exciting task of the church making our Lord known and loved by succeeding generations.
The National Church Life Survey of 27 denominations found in Australia in 2001 that average congregations had between 60 and 70 people , and in the US one-fifth of adults who attend worship services told the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that they attend a “small congregation with a membership of less than 100.”
This means that the vast majority of congregations are “small congregations”. Fewer members mean fewer resources for teaching. In Australia, more so than in the United States, “younger generations are missing” from attendance at these small churches.
The limitations of overall numbers and the absence of children indicate the stark reality that passing the faith by teaching is failing. And yet, God is not about to desert God’s church. The task of passing on the faith will continue. What this vital activity needs is a better image with the power to change the way congregations do things.
Internationally-respected scholar of social learning theory Etienne Wenger  originated the term ‘community of practice’. Wenger asserts that a community can be defined by the things that it does and by passing on its practice by a combination of talking about it and allowing new members of the community to gradually take up the practices under some form of mentorship.
Apprentice butchers learn their trade this way. They watch the journeymen butchers, get caught up in their talk about butchering, and, moving upward from passing the boss a knife to cutting up a carcass, they gradually gain in competence. In traditional villages midwives select young girls to succeed them. The girls run messages for the midwife, watch her bring the village babies in the world, hear them talk with other midwives about their tasks, and slowly begin to take on more complex tasks until they are ready to deliver babies themselves.
Communities of butchers and midwives have a shared way of doing their defining tasks, and they pass on their common practices by inviting new members to learn by doing and talking about what they are doing.
Christians accustomed to see faith primarily in terms of right belief may need to re-shape their theology of church. The church as a community of practice has a theological focus on vocation, that is, the call of Holy Spirit on our lives to love God and neighbor spotlighting what we do in the name of Christ. God calls us to pass on this active faith, so we talk about what we are called to do and invite new members – new adults or children of current members – to gradually take up small tasks of ministry.
Two things become vital:

° the quality of the congregation’s conversation, and

° the understanding that discipleship is expressed in service to the poor, in loving the unloved.

Congregational leaders invite people into formal and informal conversations about living the faith, from sermons to coffee hour. They are intentional in mentoring new members. They put into words their enthusiasm for the tasks of ministry and invite these ‘new Christians’ to undertake small acts of service, and gradually allow them to develop their own practice.
For example, the manager of the church’s charity shop or food ministry first invites a new member to undertake a few hours’ serving the needy, all the time talking about how it is an expression of faith. As the months pass, this new member may be called to give more time or shoulder more responsibility in the ministry. She will become an enmeshed part of the ‘community of practice’, and be filled with the desire to pass on the faith in the way she received it.
***   ***   ***
Ted Witham is a retired priest of the Anglican Church of Australia who has taught Religious Education to children and to adults preparing for ministry or teaching. He studied at Duke University in North Carolina under John H. Westerhoff III. He is Immediate Past President and a Life Member of the Australian Association for Religious Education, and a member of the North American Religious Education Association.

Jésus, sauveur du monde

Our translation of Henry Allon’s beautiful canticle Jesus, Saviour of the World, made for the French-speaking network of the Anglican communion.


Jésus, Sauveur du monde, viens à nous dans ta miséricorde :
sois notre salut et notre secours.

Par ta croix et ta vie offerte pour nous, tu as libéré ton peuple :
sois notre salut et notre secours.

Quand ils étaient sur le point de mourir, tu as sauvé tes disciples :
nous nous tournons vers toi pour nous secourir.

Dans la grandeur de ta miséricorde, brise nos chaînes:
pardonne les péchés de tout ton peuple

Présente-toi comme notre sauveur et notre libérateur puissant:
sauve-nous et aide-nous pour que nous puissions te louer.

Viens et demeure avec nous, Seigneur Christ Jésus !
Écoute notre prière et sois avec nous à jamais.

Et quand tu reviendras dans ta gloire,
Unis-nous à toi et partage avec nous la vie de ton royaume.

—Henry Allon
Traduction :  Rév. Père Ted Witham, Cécile Schantz-Rauld et  Rév. Père Ron Silarshah

Sexuality and Marriage

Sexuality and Marriage –

Discussion Starter for the Lenten series at St Mary’s, Busselton

9 December 1978

I am not sure whether I have drawn the short straw in getting this topic. Whatever I say will be wrong!

There are two questions to ask about sexuality:

·         What are the boundaries?

·         What is the most life-giving expression of sexuality?

Some of the boundaries are prescribed in our Book of Common Prayer. A man may not marry his mother. A man may not marry his sister. These taboos also help with the question about being life-giving: It is not life-giving to have sexual relations with mother or sister or daughter.

We all struggle with questions of what life-giving expressions of sexuality might be.  What is life-giving sexuality for someone who is widowed? I include chosen celibacy among those life-giving options, but I know older Christians who find themselves single give other answers to that question.

What is life-giving sexuality for a young person? It’s too easy to answer that question in general terms, but when the question comes to us as giving support or advice to a grand-child or nephew, it’s very different. Not only do most of us wrestle with the question of our young loved ones who choose to live together before marriage, but many of us have young relatives who want to set up house (or at least a relationship) with someone of the same sex. What is life-giving for that young one? The one you know and love and want the best for. Where are the boundaries for that person?

When I was ordained priest in 1975 and started marrying people (as you do), I discovered a secret. Over half of the couples I was marrying lived at the same address. Other couples asked in front of me, “What address do we put?”  I had been brought up to believe that living together before marriage constituted living in sin. Yet all these co-habiting couples were being married and no-one was complaining or raising moral objections.

Over the last fifty years we have lived through an enormous change in marriage due to the invention of the pill and the sexual revolution of the sixties.  At the end of World War II, most couples subscribed to the idea that living together before marriage was wrong. Now in 2012, a completely different ethic is argued. Young people today believe marriage is an important, even sacred, commitment; a commitment to one person for life. This commitment is so important that it can be made only after a period of living together.

Many Christians, myself included, now accept this ethical view as a way of Christian marriage. The boundaries have changed – or at least, the goal-posts have moved, which may not be exactly the same thing. But it does mean that if I am asked if it is life-giving for a young relative who wants to move in with some else before marriage to do so, I am now almost certain to agree.

The other change that started probably in the sixties was the acceptance of different sexualities. At first, homosexuality was seen as a mental illness and was included in the Diagnostic Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. Treating homosexuality as an illness proved not to work. It was removed from the Manual in 1974. Nowadays psychiatrists see homosexuality as a normal minority variant of being a human, like left-handedness or blue eyes.

Removing this particular stigma from homosexuality has helped to reduce some of the violence against people of different sexualities, but there is still a long way to go. What is life-giving, and the Church should be providing vigorously, is a loud voice against the persecution of homosexuals, bi-sexuals, transsexuals and other people different only because of their genetic make-up. I think it’s important for the Church to add its voice to campaigns like ‘It Gets Better’ and “This Is Oz”. Search for them on the internet. Violence, especially violence against the vulnerable, is out.

But should the church also change its view on homosexual practice?  At their Lambeth Conference in 1998, the bishops of the Anglican Communion said that sex takes place only in marriage, and therefore homosexual people, like every other unmarried person, must be celibate outside of marriage. I think the Church has changed its mind about sex taking place only in marriage – at least, when it is thinking about a male and a female. But doesn’t it also follow that same-sex couples should be allowed to live together and express their sexuality?

This is a dividing line in the Anglican Church today. Where do you draw the boundaries? What is most life-giving for real couples? I suspect there are different opinions here at St Mary’s: some of us believe that sex can take place only in a marriage and then between and man and a woman; some of us believe that marriage need be between two people and they could be of the same sex. I would imagine that some of us hold to the line that True Love Waits, as Buddy Holly sang, while some would say that it is ethically better for young people to co-habit first.

What keeps us in the same Church is that we recognise firstly that people have different views about these things – Wayne and I disagree on gay marriage, for example — and secondly that we are mature enough to respect the different views of others. More than respect: we challenge each other to show that what we believe is based on what is life-giving, and where the boundaries are.

I would send us all back to Genesis Chapter 2, where Adam seeks for a partner with whom he can be intimate; and to Galatians 3:28 where St Paul proclaims that in Christ there is neither male nor female. These passages can’t easily be used as proof-texts of any particular position, but they are each springboards which can help us think through these vitally important issues.

Ted Witham
26 February 2012

Genesis 2: The First Marriage?

The Australian Constitution Encourages State Aid for Church Schools!

 Published in Journal of Christian Education, 2001, 44.2, 41-44

 by Ted Witham

 When we lived in America our two toddlers were confronted one day by a senior North Carolina citizen who demanded “Don’t you mind your parents?”  She was obviously perplexed by these wild foreign children who had no idea of obedience and their parents who had no clue about parenting.

But our children were dumbstruck. They had no choice about minding their parents.  We were just there.  At that moment, they needed a translator to say that the lady is asking whether you obey your parents. The lady needed a translator to explain that the children think you asked whether they tolerate their parents.

All travellers know that a word in a different context can mean something quite different.  ‘Mind’ is different in North Carolina than in Australia.  I want to show that the balance between public and private education in Australia arises from a unique context. Lessons learnt in America in particular cannot be translated directly into Australia.

I believe most Christians commend the place of public schools.  A community building a “Knowledge Nation” can achieve quality in education only through its public schools.  Public schools must be supported first to establish a benchmark of quality. Private schools, including church schools, can provide an education of high quality only if first the general education system is of high quality. Christians devise good reasons to educate the rich, in order to help produce compassionate leaders for our society. They have an even greater obligation to ensure the access of the poorest children in our community to good quality education.

The argument around State aid to church schools still persists. Should the Government fund church schools?  At a pragmatic level the answer is quite clearly ‘yes’.  The private school system would collapse if all funding were withdrawn. The Government would then have no way of maintaining education for the 30% of Australian children who now attend private schools (Bond 2001, pp. 8-10)

But the more important question is, “Is it right for community funds to be funnelled into church schools?”

In the late 1970s the Council for the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) attempted to challenge the constitutionality of funding church schools in the High Court.  Their argument was based on Section 116[1] of the Australian Constitution that prohibits the “establishment” of religion (Ely 1981, p. 1 et passim).  They argued that giving funds to churches was illegal because it “established religion”.

To prove this case DOGS pointed out that Section 116 is identical to the Religious Liberty clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The writers of the Australian Constitution deliberately adopted that set of words (Bale 2001, pp. 12-15). In court, DOGS argued that in America it had been ruled unconstitutional to grant funds to church schools; therefore the same must hold here.

Surely, however, the context is so different that this argument does not pertain.  Section 116 establishes a freedom both from the Government interfering in the organisational running of religious institutions, and also a freedom to practise religion in whatever way a citizen chooses.

These freedoms mean different things in America and in Australia.  America was colonised by religious groups fleeing from oppressive governments, in which religion was “established”. The King of England was the head of the Church of England. The French monarch was a Catholic king.

These persecuted groups brought a variety of convictions about church-state relationships to North America with them. The liberty they found in their colonies encouraged each group to organise their religion and their community according to their differing beliefs.  Some saw an opportunity to set up the Kingdom of God on earth: church and state were synonymous. Others, smarting from persecution, desired no connection between church and state: the state was inherently godless.

Much early internal migration within colonial America was caused by conflicts on this issue. Only later, the First Amendment articulated a compromise to satisfy the different theologies of the Christian groups who founded America.  The First Amendment guaranteeing freedom from State interference was then a novelty.  No European government had ever envisioned separation of the two. Freedom to practise whatever religion a citizen chose was equally protected.  The Amendment was a compromise between fiercely, passionately religious groups (Haynes & Thomas 1998, Chapter 3).

Australia’s situation contrasted totally. Australia’s colonisers were largely convicts. The “established” government of England had punished them by deportation to the new colony, with all the oppressive might of the established government intact. Harsh administration of law and order by Anglican priests doubling as magistrates in Sydney Cove fomented the convicts’ resentment against the established church.

As the nation developed it feared that “establishment” by this oppressive established church was a real possibility in the new order, and so resisted it successfully.

This Australian climate is clearly very different from America’s. Australia’s disposition was (and to some extent still is) anti-religion.  Australian is not characterised by tension between passionate Christian groups. The way Australians favour the non-religious would be unthinkable in America. In thinking about schooling, the Australian climate requires the Christian citizen to consider the education of all citizens and not simply that of Christians.

In the nineteenth century, the church involved itself in education in Australia.  However, education offered by the churches was always open to all and based on literacy and numeracy, reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, with religious values kept in the background.

This contrasts with the “little red schoolhouse” in nineteenth century America.  Whole communities working together across denominational lines, with intentionally secular structures, developed community schools in the nineteenth century that were predominantly Christian in temper and content.

The little red schoolhouse was very different to the school run by Ministers’ wives in nineteenth century Australia.  Similar ingredients in both countries combined differently to create dissimilar outcomes.

In the late 1800s, the larger Protestant denominations in Australia began founding their own schools.  The founders of these larger schools saw themselves as Christians providing education, rather than Christian educators providing Christian education.  They were meeting a lack in the community, rather than forming Christian children in their faith.

There are still arguments, debates to be had about the funding, and level of funding of church schools, but I rebut the assertion that Section 116 of the Constitution prohibits funding private schools.

Even authors agreeing with politicians who in the 1890s advocated the abolition of state aid demonstrate that the motivation was not “by any desire to persecute the Roman Catholic church or any other church, but rather the determination to make the State … the symbol of common citizenship.” (Gregory, quoted in Birrell 2001, p. 64).

The American Amendment is a different word in a different context.  In the US, these words may well ban the State from spending money on religious education, but in Australia, they challenge the community to spend its money on all students.


Bale, C. (2001), Federation and the Churches. St Mark’s Review, Canberra, 2001(2), No.185, 12-15.

Birrell, B (2001), Federation: The Secret Story, Sydney: Duffy and Snellgrove.

Bond, S. (2001), Australian Schools: Growth in the Non-Government Sector, Pointers: Bulletin of the Christian Research Association, Melbourne, March 2001. Vol. 11(1) 8-10.

Ely, M.J. (1981) Erosion of the Judicial Process: An Aspect of Church-State Entanglement in Australia, Melbourne: Council for the Defence of Government Schools.

Haynes, C.C. & Thomas, O. (Eds.) (1998), Finding Common Ground: A First Amendment Guide to Religion and Public Education, Nashville: The First Amendment Center.


[1] Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act

116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing religion, or for imposing any religious observance, of for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.