The Challenge that Church Schools Face

Several months ago, a number of headmasters of prominent Sydney Anglican schools—such as my alma mater—signed, and then apologised for signing, a letter issued by Anglican archbishop, Glenn Davies in response to the LGBTQI agenda.

In the letter, Davies argued that Christian schools have the prerogative to only employ staff who ‘support the ethos’ of the school, naturally excluding those who stand for and promote anti-biblical teachings on sexuality and gender.

While this may seem to be common sense for many — that a Christian school would only employ people who are in line with the ‘ethos’ of the school, many saw this as ‘homophobic,’ ‘intolerant,’ and ‘discriminatory.’

Could you imagine a situation in which an Islamic school would be pressured to employ Jewish and Christian teachers?

However, I suspect that there is a much larger issue at stake, and it has nothing to do with sexuality. It doesn’t even have anything to do with politics or culture. It is the question of whether Church Schools will hold the Bible as their authority in doctrine and practice.

On this note, it is true that there are many Christian schools across the nation that are committed to the Word of God and have shaped their school around the person and work of Jesus Christ; we should celebrate them and commend them for their faithfulness. However, we also must be aware that the depth of Christianity in many denominational church schools is at a low ebb.

For many denominational church schools, as long as they are — 1) employing a few Christian youth workers, 2) running a chapel service, and 3) having a mandatory biblical studies class — they believe that they are fulfilling the requirements of being a Christian school. While these things are not wrong — indeed, they are certainly beneficial and needed! — they all miss the fundamental essence of Christian education.

As someone who attended one of these prominent church schools, I can attest that many of them have become so consumed with academic, sporting, and musical success that they have lost their first love: a commitment to employing Christian teachers, and thus teaching students from a Biblical worldview.

When a prospective employee is applying for a job at such schools, they are required to uphold ‘the ethos of the school.’ The ‘ethos’ is often tantamount to, acting with integrity, acting with love, and being an honest person. While these are great virtues to pursue, they are not the essence of what it means to be a Christian — indeed, many non-Christians can exhibit these virtues.

While it may seem obvious that a church school would not employ someone who is participating in the LGBTQI community, why would the same school employ non-Christian teachers? Neither the LGBTQI teacher or the non-Christian teacher are able to uphold the core Christian conviction of knowing Jesus and submitting to Him as Lord. All other elements of the ‘Christian ethos’ are merely consequential of this central reality.

I will never forget a dedicated ‘pastoral-care’ session in Grade 11 when my grade was required to attend a positive psychology seminar. The positive psychologist and motivational speaker declared that the meaning of life is to work out what your ‘purpose’ is — something that is different for everyone.

His message was that you can ‘find hope in yourself,’ and the reason we have problems in life is because of unused potential.

I was both shocked and troubled, when I attended this seminar for two primary reasons:
a) The Bible teaches that man’s greatest problem is not that he lacks hope in himself. Man’s greatest problem is that he is a sinner before a Holy God and faces God’s judgment.
b) Since man’s problem is that he is under God’s judgment, man’s remedy is not within himself. Rather, the solution to man’s condition is only found in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the cross of Christ.

You see, when being a genuine Christian is no longer a requirement for employment at a Christian school, the role of the teacher is instantly devalued, and the floodgates are open to all sorts of other gospels. Christian teachers are disciple-makers and evangelists — men and women who teach subjects from a Biblical worldview.

These are men and women who invest in their students as image-bearers of God, and who themselves seek to glorify God in their lives. Their primary goal is not to help students get band 6’s in their HSC exams; their primary goal is to teach their students from a Biblical worldview and grow their knowledge of God, man and creation.

Ironically, when Jesus is kept at the centre, everything else falls into place, and students are driven to achieve in all the other spheres of life — from sport to academics — and they understand why they ought to work hard.

My prayer is that Denominational Church Schools and Christian Schools in general will not lose the most important asset they have — a commitment to the authority of the Word of God. I pray that these schools will understand that a ‘Christian ethos’ is not enough of a qualification for teachers; teachers must know and love the Lord Jesus.

I agree with the judgment that we should not have LGBTQI teachers at church schools; I would just go one step further to argue that we ought not have any non-believing teachers, because it is impossible to uphold the ‘Christian ethos of the school’ if you don’t even worship the same God.

By |2019-04-10T22:24:51+10:00April 12th, 2019|Australia, Authors, Faith|1 Comment

About the Author:

James Jeffery is a trainee Presbyterian minister from Sydney with a passion to see Christian Values restored in our society. James grew up in South West Rocks, rural NSW, and went on to complete a Bachelor of Political, Economic and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. He is now pursuing tertiary studies in theology.

One Comment

  1. Alison Keen July 11, 2019 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, really well.

    We don’t just need nice moral values. It’s hard to teach that we are all wrong-doers who need saving and at the same time teach that being a Christian is about being just another ‘good person’ who doesn’t need saving. Those two messages are fundamentally different.

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