2024 News

Hope for an Emerging Generation

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Raising Our Tribal Voice for Justice conference hosted by the University of Divinity in Melbourne.

This conference brought together Christian Indigenous theologians, leaders and thinkers from across Australia and the Pacific region, representing many church denominations. Rob Nyhuis, Executive Officer of the Churches of Christ VIC/TAS joined me, representing the Council of Churches of Christ in Australia (CCCA).

I attended the conference to listen and hear what God is doing among our Indigenous brothers and sisters. I was mindful that the Voice referendum was only just behind us. What I heard was ongoing pain, current and from the past, caused by colonialism, church abuse and ongoing cultural suspicion, often among Christians. This was painful for me to hear and acknowledge.

One of the speakers explained that many Indigenous people continue to be asked “Why do you bother going to church when it’s hurt so many Aboriginal people?”

Elverina Johnson, a highly respected Gungganji and Yidinji woman from the Yarrabah Community, Queensland, testified to the audience, “It’s not the institution I have faith in.”

This unwavering faith in God amidst heavy grief is inspiring. Like Job in the Bible, Indigenous Australians have lost land and family and are experiencing poor health, yet in the face of this, many have Christian roots and are staying surprisingly faithful to God.

One of those with deep Christian roots is former journalist, now Professor Stan Grant, who was a keynote speaker at the conference. Stan titled his message his Four Provocations (echoing the philosopher Kierkegaard perhaps). Stan outlined a Christ-centred response to the current times Indigenous people find themselves in.

It reminded all of us of Jesus’ sacrificial love, that “first we must become nothing” and the “highest act of sovereignty is forgiveness.” This is a gracious gift. That Indigenous people might take inspiration from Jesus, to then extend forgiveness to non-Indigenous people so that we might be reconciled with God and with one another is mind-blowing and gives me hope for the future.

This year’s Walk for Hope Easter Appeal is intended to support that vision of a better reconciled future.

This year, we want to invite all churches in our movement and all its members to consider supporting our Indigenous Ministries Australia (IMA) programs.

As we approach Easter, we aim to raise support for emerging Christian Indigenous leaders through our Pathways program, so they might continue to spread that spirit we heard at the conference - the message of Jesus’ gracious and sacrificial love.

One of eight young leaders IMA sponsored to attend the conference was Malachi, from the Tweed River region of NSW. He shared something profound and timely with me. Over morning tea, Malachi told me principles wise people he grew up with had taught him that “respect and contribution” are required for a relationship. He said that without one or the other, the relationship is out of balance.

As our churches aim to promote Christian reconciliation and walk in fellowship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, how might we deepen our respect for Indigenous people, people also made in the image of God? And what will we contribute to this relationship to bring balance?

I came away from this gathering, challenged by the deep rift in our nation, hopeful, thanks to the emerging generation of Indigenous Christians. I was reminded of God’s grace as the leading force for reconciliation. As Stan Grant said, “Hope is tested in suffering and sweetened by forgiveness.” 

John Lamerton,
Chief Executive Officer

Indigenous Ministries

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