Andrew Thorburn Essendon FC

Essendon Boss Ousted for his Christian Beliefs: “Not Tolerated or Permitted in the Public Square”

5 October 2022

3.1 MINS

After just a day on the job, new Essendon Bombers CEO Andrew Thorburn was pressured out of his role because of his unacceptable beliefs. His beliefs have been called not “compatible with leadership”.

It was the ultimate dream job. Andrew Thorburn had followed the Essendon Bombers since he was a kid. He called his appointment — just days ago — “one of the proudest days of my life”.

Dave Barham, the AFL club’s president, had called the appointment a “significant step forward”.

“In Andrew, we have secured a highly credentialed leader with a proven track record in development, and building the leadership capabilities of his people. Andrew’s focus will be on running Essendon like a club, with a renewed focus on our members and the core reason for which we exist — football. Our recent appointments of Brad Scott and today with Andrew, demonstrate our commitment to leadership and providing the right environment to ensure we achieve sustained success as a club.” (Source: ABC News)

But it was not to be. The next day, Thorburn said, it soon became clear that his “personal Christian faith [was] not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many.” He was being required to compromise his faith beyond what his conscience permitted. Thorburn resigned yesterday.

The media and political leaders had made it clear that he was unacceptable because of his orthodox Christian views.

Beyond the Pale

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews called Thorburn’s views “absolutely appalling” and characterised them as “intolerance”, “hatred” and “bigotry”. Port Philip Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter said that the decision to appoint Thorburn in the first place had been “spitting in the face of every queer Essendon member’”.

You can read Thorburn’s excellent statement in full below:

Yesterday was one of the proudest days of my life. To be offered the role of CEO of the Essendon Football Club — who I have followed since I was a boy — was a profound honour. At last night’s Crichton medal, I could hardly contain my passion and wonder at the opportunity. I love the club, love the people, and was incredibly excited about the work ahead. I had seen a picture of a club that was not as broken as feared, and that with leadership and focus, could rebound strongly.

However, today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many. I was being required to compromise beyond a level that my conscience allowed. People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect. Behaviour is the key. This is all an important part of a tolerant and diverse society.

Let me be clear – I love all people, and have always promoted and lived an inclusive, diverse, respectful and supportive workplace – where people are welcomed regardless of their culture, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation. I believe my record over a long period of time testifies to this.

Despite my own leadership record, within hours of my appointment being announced, the media and leaders of our community had spoken. They made it clear that my Christian faith and my association with a Church are unacceptable in our culture if you wish to hold a leadership position in society.

This grieves me greatly – though not just for myself, but for our society overall. I believe we are poorer for the loss of our great freedoms of thought, conscience and belief that made for a truly diverse, just and respectful community.

My faith is central to who I am. Since coming to faith in Jesus 20 years ago, I have seen profound change in my life, and I believe God has made me a better husband, father, and friend. It has also helped me become a better leader. That is because at the centre of my faith is the belief that you should create a community and care for people, because they are created by and loved by God and have a deep intrinsic value.

As it happens, I do sometimes disagree with things I hear in church – but I believe strongly in the right of people to say them, especially when taken in context. Reducing complex matters to a sentence is dangerous. Australia has a long tradition of diversity and religious freedom, and that must include preserving space for religious people to be able to express their religious beliefs.

I am saddened by these events. I wish the Club success, and thank Dave Barham in particular for the opportunity he gave me. I hope the external review leads to great change. I am truly sorry that I will not be able to work with the whole Essendon team, and Brad Scott and Josh Mahoney in particular.

4 October, 2022


Picture: Twitter / @essendonfc

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  1. Ian Moncrieff. 5 October 2022 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews called Thorburn’s views “absolutely appalling” and characterised them as “intolerance”, “hatred” and “bigotry”. I ask, comparing Andrew Thorburn’s statement with Daniel Andrews, who is it showing “intolerance”, “hatred” and “bigotry”.

    I am praying for Andrew Thorburn, and against the demonic influence involved here, as we did in Canberra Declaration’s Zoom prayer time last night.

  2. Kaylene Emery 5 October 2022 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    In our mad sad bad world I sometimes wonder how things could be so utterly depraved and deprived- then move into feeling so angry my jaw aches from all the teeth clenching. Eventually I exhaust my self and then of course comes that deep sadness which once spiralled into something quite dark and very different to normal human sadness . These day’s I pray – and He is right here right now.
    May our Lord Jesus continue to bless Andrew as we move through these dark days.
    Thank you Cody.

    • Cody Mitchell 12 October 2022 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Indeed, thanks for your support, Kaylene. The Lord will prevail in the end!

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