Australia has elected its first Pentecostal Prime Minister with Scott Morrison elected Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister of Australia, in a party room vote today. Morrison beat both Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton for the job, with the final vote coming down to a 45-40 vote between Morrison and Dutton.
Morrison was raised in the Uniting Church in Australia, but has since switched to Pentecostalism. He has been a long-term member of the recently re-named ‘Horizon’ Church, which was previously known as Shire Live. Horizon is a member of Australian Christian Churches and one pastor who was key to its recent growth, Michael Murphy was associate pastor of Hillsong in the early days of that church. Horizon Church has contemporary music and a practical preaching style similar to the better known Hillsong. The church was originally founded by Norm Armstrong a famous Assemblies of God pastor.
While many of Australia’s PMs have been Christian, or deeply influenced by Christian teaching, Scott Morrison marks the first time a member of a “new” church has reached that office. The others – Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic – have been members of longer established branches of Christianity.
In his maiden speech Scott Morrison declared his allegiance to Jesus and thanked Christians who influenced his life. “Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman.”
He set out a Christian basis for his politics. “From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil.”
Some Christians will challenge Morrison: “As a brother in Christ, I urge Prime Minister Scott Morrison to demonstrate the Christian virtue of loving one’s neighbour by repatriating all 119 children and their families from Nauru immediately,” says Michael Frost, head of the Missiology department at Morling college.”The treatment of refugees in offshore detention has been a blight on our reputation as a civilised nation and I’m praying that Mr Morrison addresses this as a matter of urgency.”
While congratulating Morrison on his new position conservative Christians will want to see the Coalition act on religious freedom: “We look forward to continuing our constructive conversation with the government on religious freedom,” said Martyn Iles, the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) managing director
“It’s now been over three months since the Ruddock Review was released. Religious freedom must be a priory for the Morrison ministry in light of increasing numbers of Australians who are getting in trouble with the law for living out their faith.”
However ACL also highlighted the refugees on Nauru – and Manus island.
“ACL also urges the government to follow it’s commendable legacy of securing Australia’s borders with a solution to the humanitarian crisis on Nauru and Manus Island, where hundreds of asylum seekers have languished for five years.”
A harsher assessment of Morrison comes from the refugee lobby group “Love Makes a Way”: “Given the certainty that Morrison will be portrayed as a devout Christian and a ‘moderate’, it needs to be said that Scott Morrison has betrayed almost every principle that is central to Christian political ethics. As Immigration Minister he actively and systematically committed violence against men, women and children who came seeking our protection from persecution. As Treasurer his economic policies have been entirely for the benefit of the already super-rich, and against the poor. He is more fit for The Hague than the Lodge”.
This contrasts in tone with a message from Tim Costello, Executive Director of Micah Australia, who cites the Bible (Micah 6:8): “Refreshing to have a committed Christian as the new PM. We Will be praying that he can lead in a godly way and heal the divisions we have all witnessed in the Liberal Party. My prayer for his Prime Ministership is that he will do justice – love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord.”