The mob now attacking Andrew Thorburn for his faith was first discipled by Thorburn while he was NAB’s pro-LGBT chief executive.
I don’t think there’s a Christian in Australia who wants to be Andrew Thorburn.
His story is now a familiar one. A day after his appointment as Essendon’s CEO, decade-old teachings on homosexuality surfaced from the church Thorburn chairs. The Bombers swooped, demanding Thorburn choose between his footy and his church. He chose the latter.
It is open season on Aussie Christians who let the Bible — not the culture — dictate their beliefs. As such, I have no desire to add to Andrew Thorburn’s grief.
But there are lessons in his story that most in the Australian church have yet to hear.
Andrew Thorburn’s Tenure at NAB
When Andrew Thorburn was CEO of NAB from 2014 to 2019, he oversaw and promoted a vast range of LGBT initiatives.
During the same-sex marriage debate, NAB proudly supported the undefinition of marriage.
Throughout Thorburn’s tenure, NAB was the principal sponsor of Midsumma Festival, “Victoria’s premier gay and lesbian arts and culture festival”.
NAB was also the major sponsor of the AFL’s first “pride match” back in 2015. The AFL website still boasts of the event and quotes Thorburn as saying,
“At NAB we believe in diversity — we want everyone to be themselves at work, home and at the footy… regardless of their gender diversity or sexual orientation.”
City on a Hill’s Stance on Sexuality
On learning of Thorburn’s glowing LGBT credentials, many an Australian might wonder why he got the boot from Essendon’s top job.
Me? I wonder how he got the role as chairman of the board at his church.
City on a Hill is a member of Acts 29, a church planting network that affirms “the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice”.
Their stance on sexuality is the same as that of the mainline Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.
Nevertheless, Thorburn’s appointment on the board at City on a Hill, despite his LGBT advocacy, might have a sensible explanation.
Though City on a Hill has affirmed the biblical position on marriage and sexuality on many occasions, founding and Senior Pastor Guy Mason has sadly promoted woke orthodoxy on transgenderism.
In a recent sermon, Mason, who also sits on the church’s board, affirmed the use of ‘preferred pronouns’, said Christians “must lean into the rights of those who identify as transgender,” and promoted “gender-inclusive bathrooms.”
The Rainbow Mob Will Not Be Appeased
Again, my purpose is not to put Thorburn, Mason, or City on a Hill through more trouble than they have already endured. They are responsible to God and Scripture for what they teach, not to me.
However, the Thorburn affair does provide every Christian with a sobering lesson. Pandering to the rainbow mob is pointless, since that same mob will only turn and attack you. We now have years of evidence testifying to this.
To switch analogies, in his years at NAB, Thorburn helped build the gallows from which he now swings.
Those viciously attacking Andrew Thorburn for his church’s (albeit shaky) views on sexuality were first discipled by him and others promoting the LGBT agenda in the public square.
Christians must know that “leaning in” to the woke cult, as mainstream as it might be, is a futile endeavour. Accepting its vocabulary, its assumptions and its games is an exercise in self-defeat for followers of Jesus.
Loving transgender people is possible without capitulating. More accurately, loving transgender people is impossible by capitulating.
A Braver Response Was Required
To his credit, Andrew Thorburn made a praiseworthy statement when forced out of his new post at Essendon. “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,” he said.
Bravo. He was right to hold a mirror up to the culture to reveal how intolerant it has become. Even with Thorburn’s mixed record in view, his detractors were still wrong to assassinate his character the way they have.
What would have been braver — and what would have set a legal precedent to help other people of faith down the road — is if Thorburn had refused to quit and made Essendon sack him.
The courts would have ruled this an open-and-shut case of wrongful termination. Essendon would have been firing Thorburn, not even for statements he made, but for his mere association with a church. To win that case would have given legal protection to a whole new generation of religious Australians in like circumstances. God knows we need it.
As a former bank executive and a leader at a big church, Thorburn had the money and the connections to secure legal victory. It would have been a Christ-like act: helping a lot of little people who can’t afford to lose their jobs like he can.
Instead, churches are now in retreat mode, with pastors deleting their online catalogues of sermons, and younger believers more fearful of speaking the truth in the workplace than they were last week.
A City Set On a Hill
Being a Christian in today’s Australia doesn’t require triumphalism, but neither does it call for surrender to the world’s underhanded schemes. To quote the words of Jesus from which Thorburn’s church derives its name:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Jesus’ command doesn’t get any easier with time. But isn’t it more relevant and urgent than ever?
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