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Love one another children walking

Now more than Ever

[Now more than ever we need to] love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.

– Based on Romans 12:10

Right Reverend Chris Mc Leod 2

The Right Reverend Chris McLeod

National Aboriginal Bishop – The Anglican Church of Australia

After the failure of the referendum on The Voice many of us were left with uncertainty. Uncertainty about why the referendum failed. Uncertainty about why division on which way to vote existed between brothers and sisters in the church. What seemed relatively simple to many of us – a direct non-partisan Voice to Federal Parliament about the things that matter most to First Nations – ended up taking the movement towards Reconciliation back decades. It was a surreal moment for me having lived through the 1980’s and 1990’s and witnessing the debates around ‘Land Rights’. Who could forget the full-page advertisements in popular newspapers warning Australians that First Nations were coming to take our backyards? (We still have backyards, by the way). The question hovers in our minds – who do we trust? The ready answer is no one. But then I am asked to reflect on ‘[Now more than ever we need to] love one another with mutual affection’ (based on Romans 12: 10).

I think it is time to catch our breath and consider how we move forward from this... the conversation needs to be based on mutual affection, not anger, fear, or retribution, but open and honest; what we call ‘Truth Telling’.

As a Christian leader, do I add to the polarisation that is taking over our world? I observe that for many Christians, getting the politics right is more important than getting the Christian living right. I think it is time to catch our breath and consider how we move forward from this. ‘Love one another with mutual affection and outdo one another in showing honour’ (Romans 12: 10) is not obvious in our world today and tragically many Christians are not modelling this. The questions that I began with in this article are still in our minds as First Nations’ peoples, but I suggest that our approach to finding the answers to those questions do not lie in polarisation but in communication. Some certainly voted ‘no’ out of fear, but others thought there was a better option for First Nations’ justice. To the first, I would say that ‘love casts out fear’ (1 John 4: 18). First Nations peoples were not trying to take our backyards, punish Australia, or make people feel guilty. The Voice was a gracious act seeking to find a solution to the many issues that face First Nations’ peoples. To the second, I would say now is the time to come up with that alternative plan.

It seems that we need to find another way and that is why we still need our non-First Nations brothers and sisters to listen to us, to hear what we are saying, and to walk with us. It could well be that God had another plan in mind. Listening to the Holy Spirit is part of the discernment process. However, the conversation needs to be based on mutual affection, not anger, fear, or retribution, but open and honest; what we call ‘Truth Telling’. Starting the process again will lead us to another point. This last conversation ended with the referendum. Lessons are being learnt from it. I hope we can open the door to another series of conversations about how we can right the wrongs of the past and give First Nations a hope and a future.

I had said during the conversations on The Voice that Christians can lead the way in showing a Christian ethic to the process. In this I feel we failed. However, this is part of the learning process. Paul’s words are a challenge to us all, ‘love one another with mutual affection, outdo one another in showing honour’- now more than ever!

For reflection

  • What does mutual affection mean in an increasingly polarised world?
  • What is an example you have seen that reflects Paul’s injunction to “outdo one another in showing honour”?
  • Why do we need to hear these types of messages “now more than ever?”

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Bishop McLeod currently serves as an Assistant Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide, and has served as the National Aboriginal Bishop since 2015. Bishop McLeod is a descendant of the Gurindji people. His mother and grandmother were part of the "Stolen Generations," a dark chapter in Australian history. Bishop McLeod has dedicated over 31 years to ordained ministry, serving in parishes within the Dioceses of Adelaide and Willochra. Beyond his pastoral work, Bishop McLeod is a prominent figure within the Anglican community. He is a founding member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council (NATSIAC) and an active participant in the Anglican Indigenous Network. His dedication extends to various local and national committees and boards, where he works collaboratively to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.