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Christians give Canberra a lesson in female leadership

Pentecostals, Anglicans, Salvos and Baptists unite to lobby MPs

PM Scott Morrison may be facing a crisis of female leadership in the Liberal Party, but there was no lack of female leadership in Canberra today. A coalition of key female Christian leaders visited the nation’s capital for meetings with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and MPs from both political parties.

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The historic visit brought together leaders from different denominations and organisations. More importantly, the delegation put the concerns of Australian Christian women squarely on the record, as they met with Dutton, Senator Lucy Gichuhi, Member for Rankin Jim Chalmers and other federal politicians, expressing gratitude to the political leaders for their public service, and urging them to use their role for good.

CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries, Kate Harrison Brennan was part of the delegation. She explained that the leadership delegation was there about more than women’s rights.

“We see this as an opportunity to encourage our female representatives for their leadership but also to keep crucial justice issues – like poverty elimination and refugees – on their agenda.” – Kate Harrison Brennan, CEO, Anglican Deaconess Ministries

“We see this as an opportunity to encourage our female representatives for their leadership but also to keep crucial justice issues – like poverty elimination and refugees – on their agenda.”

The delegation began the day with the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, before meeting with representatives from both of the major parties, urging them to support the overseas aid budget which provides for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable families. Harrison Brennan said they encouraged representatives to use the foreign aid budget to empower girls, because it lifts whole communities.

“We shared our heart for the poor and to see Australia be a generous country,” Harrison Brennan explained.

With only 60 days to go until Universal Children’s Day, the group also advocated for the release of children and their families from Nauru. They joined their voices to those of more over 100,000 Australians who have called for kids to be brought to Australia from Nauru as part of the #KidsOffNauru campaign.

Harrison Brennan said the group’s focus was to communicate the perspectives of their church communities about various issues, as well as their centrality within the Christian faith (as evident in Jesus’ gospel and God’s character). She described it as “a privilege’ to meet with parliamentary leaders and to encourage them because “they need support too”.

“This feels like a significant moment.” – Eloise Wellings

The coalition included Donna Crouch (Hillsong Community Engagement), Eloise Wellings (Olympic Games runner and Founder of Love Mercy NGO), Colonel Julie Campbell (Salvation Army National Advocate for Gender Equity), Leigh Ramsey (Senior Pastor, Citipointe Church, Brisbane), Catherine Thambiratnam (Hillsong Church Aid and Development), Sue Irwin (Senior Pastor, The Grainery Church, Newcastle), Vikki Howorth (Social Justice Pastor, Seaforth Baptist Church, Sydney), and Kate Harrison Brennan (CEO, Anglican Deaconess Ministries).

“This feels like a significant moment,” said 2016 Olympic finalist Eloise Wellings, who was part of the delegation.

“Too often, the church is known for its internal disagreements that become public, but to have women leaders joining together from across the denominational spectrum shows a significant act of unity and one that we hope will be an encouragement to the government and opposition.”

The trip was facilitated by Micah Australia Executive Director Tim Costello, who saw it as an “unique moment both to address cultural divisions and to unite women leaders who are influencing the country as Christians of influence.”

Costello has been something of an unofficial spokesperson for all Australian Christians for the last decade, showing himself willing to share his knowledge with others who are engaging with political decision-makers several times.

“This visit brings representatives across the church together to advocate for some of the most vulnerable citizens in the world by sharing our vision for a more generous and fair Australia,” Costello said.

Costello will return to Canberra later this year to lead Micah’s annual conference, Voices for Justice, from 1-4 December. Voices for Justice delegates will not only receive the benefit of Costello’s experience, but also have the opportunity to speak directly to politicians about the issues that concern them most, just as the female leaders did today.

And the reason for all these visits to the nation’s capital? “Social justice is at the heart of our mission, and we believe, at the core of who we are as Australians,” explains Costello.

Declaration of interest: Kate Harrison Brennan is a board member of Bible Society Australia, publisher of Eternity. 

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