'It is our task to keep on keeping on' - Presbyterians to defy Victoria's conversion bill

In a measured but steely message, the Moderator-General of  the Presbyterian Church of Australia, Peter Barnes Peter, has urged his church’s congregations to defy Victoria’s recently-passed Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020:

To the congregations of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, February 2021

Victoria's Conversion Therapy Bill

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill has now passed through both houses of the Victorian parliament. It forbids any attempt to change or suppress, or induce any person to change or suppress, his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Prayer or counselling designed to change a person, even at that person’s request, is prohibited. In short, this means that sexual preference is protected by law, as is any person’s gender preference. Homosexual sex is not permitted to be called ‘sin’, and a male today can claim to be a female tomorrow.

What is the Church to do? Two things come immediately to mind:

The apostle considered himself innocent of the blood of all because he proclaimed the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27). We are obliged before God to preach all that He has revealed to us, whether law or gospel, and to do so in a spirit of love and truth.

There is nothing unique in such legislation. When King Darius exceeded his God-given authority, Daniel did ‘as he had done previously’ (Daniel 6:10).

It is our task to keep on keeping on, to proclaim and to live out so far as we can the gospel of Christ which has been entrusted to us.

May God give us all wisdom and strength in Christ,

Rev. Dr Peter Barnes, Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia

In a similar message, Bill Muehlenberg, a Christian blogger with a wide conservative following, has also announced his defiance of the new law.

He writes: “…all the media headlines got it wrong. It is not ‘conversion therapy’ that is now illegal in Victoria. It is Christianity, prayer, counsel, biology, common sense, and help for those struggling that is now banned in Victoria. Dare to live out your faith in this Australian state and you can be imprisoned for a decade!”

Muehlenberg adds, addressing Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews: “Here’s the scoop Dan: If troubled folks come to me to discuss their sexuality, and if they ask me for prayer, I will discuss these matters and I will pray. So crucify me already. Here I stand, I can do no other.”

Editorial Note: Peter Barnes’ and Bill Muehelenberg’s messages accurately target the religious practices actually banned by the Bill – prayer and counselling (and anything that attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a LGBTQ person. Advertising that they would do so also would be an offence if the Bill was in effect. However, calling homosexual sex “sin” is not banned by the Bill as Eternity understands it. General discussion of doctrine or sermons are not change or suppression practices as defined by the Bill. John Sandeman