Weekend Wrap for 22 March 2020

While churches are taking different approaches to deliver their services, some are viewing the coronavirus pandemic as a chance to spread their faith. This is the Weekend Wrap, bringing you the news and views of concern to secular Australia.

Don’t forget that the Weekend Wrap, which aims to help secular-minded Australians keep abreast of the latest news on current issues, is also published on our Facebook page!

The National View

The Prime Minister threatened the withdrawal of funding for independent and Catholic schools to enlist their support in keeping non-government schools open during the Covid-19 crisis after competing perspectives emerged within the Catholic system (The Guardian).

The Morrison government has quietly put on hold an inquiry into laws that allow religious schools to sack gay teachers and expel students, extending the reporting date until after the Religious Discrimination Bill passes the parliament (SMH).

Older LGBTIQ people would keep their sexuality or gender identity hidden when accessing aged-care services out of fear of discrimination from faith-based organisations, the AIDS Council of New South Wales has warned (SMH).

Religious rituals have been suspended at most places of worship across the country in response to the coronavirus pandemic, although some activities continue (The Guardian).

Catholics are being ‘dispensed’ of the Sunday obligation and urged to participate in services online (ABC).

Around the Country

WA: A same-sex parents group is calling on the McGowan government to act quickly to protect LGBTIQ students and teachers in religious schools after the federal government delayed an inquiry into the issue (Out in Perth).

SA: Anglican services will continue with less than 100 worshipers due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Archbishop Geoff Smith saying now was an important time to remain “open for business offering opportunity for connection, prayer, support and the gospel” (The Advertiser).

NSW: Hillsong assured members their faith in the Lord meant "no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling" (Newcastle Herald).

NSW: The Uniting Church urged an immediate suspension of worship activities on church premises, while Sydney's Catholic archbishop said it wanted churches to remain open and would limit mass attendance to 100 people (The Australian).

TAS: Easter services are going to be live-streamed for Catholics in Tasmania (Mercury).

QLD: Some Catholic services in the state have not been suspended, with Townsville’s bishop limiting his dispensation to parishioners over 70 and those with mobility and health issues (ABC):.

Commentary and Analysis

Dr Joel Harrison, senior lecturer in law at the University of Sydney, suggests that the Religious Discrimination Bill runs the risk of empowering courts to determine what are religious beliefs and doctrines (ABC).

Julie Szego writes that Jewish leaders are dancing clumsily to the government’s tune as they find themselves wedged between a socially liberal constituency and the possibility that Jewish institutions might gain from the new ‘religious freedom’ laws (Plus61J Media).

In a review of the new three-part documentary Revelation, which features interviews with criminal Catholic priests about child sex abuse, Brigid Delaney warns that viewers will need a strong stomach to digest it (The Guardian).

Rachael Dexter writes that the emergence of a new Pentecostal church in Melbourne, featuring indie-rock music and in-house baristas, is part of a trend to rebrand religion for a young audience (The Age).

Through the Australia for Jesus network, teams of evangelists, known as ‘soul winners’, are taking to streets with the aim of bringing one million people to Christ in the next five to ten years, writes Rebecca Abbott (Eternity News).

Former head of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton argues that Australia’s sinfulness and immorality on issues such as abortion, marriage and gender are “just some of our pathologies more deadly in the long run than any coronavirus”.

Provided a platform by the ABC, Mirjam Schilling, Joel Gamble and Nathan Gamble write that COVID-19 is a reminder that contentment, security and happiness is “not to be found in the present world but in the world to come” (ABC).

The coronavirus pandemic presents as an opportunity for Christians to spread their faith, writes Presbyterian minister Mark Powel (Canberra Declaration blog).

Sister Melissa Dwyer suggests the most significant thing Catholics can do for the poor and vulnerable during the crisis is to turn to prayer and “bring them to God” (Catholic Leader).

That's it for another week!

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