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ESSENDON Football Cub has controversially accepted the resignation of new CEO Andrew Thorburn after a public storm fed by mainstream media. Premier Daniel Andrews claimed the views of the church he is chairman of are “absolutely appalling”.

City on a Hill, a group of eight congregations, teaches traditional Christian doctrines regarding homosexuality and abortion which are consistent with the overwhelming majority of Bible-believing denominations and congregations.

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According to 7news, Daniel Andrews claimed, “I don’t support those views, that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry. It is just wrong. To dress that up as anything other than bigotry is just obviously false. I hope we (Essendon) can get ourselves on the back page of the paper a bit more often than we’re on the front page.”

Port Phillip’s Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter, who describes himself as “bisexual”, misrepresented the church’s traditional views, calling the Christian sexual ethic they teach “homophobic” and the commandment against murder “anti-health care”. Based on this misinformation, he urged others to resign their membership with him.

Andrew Thorburn announced his resignation as CEO a little more than 24 hours after commencing in the role after Essendon forced him to choose between his role as chairman of his church and club CEO.

Essendon President David Barham told press gathered at the MCG last night that Thorburn was upset about the position the club had put him in and the ultimatum he’d been given.

“He was upset, really upset. He wanted to be CEO of Essendon football club and he was upset. In the end, Andrew decided that he would stay with his church and he couldn’t be CEO. It was about his position as chairman of the board, those views of his church didn’t match with our views and values.”

Andrew Thorburn has described the religious discrimination he’s experienced at Essendon FC in a LinkedIn post yesterday, which can be read in full here. In it, he says:

“Today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many. I was being required to compromise beyond a level that my conscience allowed. People should be able to hold different views on complex personal and moral matters, and be able to live and work together, even with those differences, and always with respect. Behaviour is the key. This is all an important part of a tolerant and diverse society.”

 

“Despite my own leadership record, within hours of my appointment being announced, the media and leaders of our community had spoken. 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.

 

“This grieves me greatly – though not just for myself, but for our society overall. I believe we are poorer for the loss of our great freedoms of thought, conscience and belief that made for a truly diverse, just and respectful community.”

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Andrew Thorburn’s statement goes on to say:

“My faith is central to who I am. Since coming to faith in Jesus 20 years ago, I have seen profound change in my life, and I believe God has made me a better husband, father, and friend. It has also helped me become a better leader. That is because at the centre of my faith is the belief that you should create a community and care for people, because they are created by and loved by God and have a deep intrinsic value.

“As it happens, I do sometimes disagree with things I hear in church – but I believe strongly in the right of people to say them, especially when taken in context.”

Guy Mason, pastor at City on a Hill (Melbourne), posted a note of thanks to those who had offered support and encouragement yesterday. He described Andrew Thorburn as:

“a remarkable leader… (with) courage, humility, and love. He is a man of great character, and I am inspired by his conviction and integrity. It is these very character traits that would have made him a great success at Essendon.”

In response to Essendon’s posts on social media announcing, “The Board of the Essendon Football Club has accepted the resignation of Andrew Thorburn as CEO,” and linking to the full statement, members, fans and the general public alike had mixed reactions. Some of the comments with the most agreement were condemning the Essendon board for their role in Thorburn’s resignation, and not buying the widely published narrative:

“Absolutely disgusted in the Essendon football club, a person’s religious beliefs or other personal opinions are not a part of their employment. You have bowed to the small minority who are not accepting of people who have differing opinions which has no bearing on a person’s ability to do a job.” – Margaret Phipps

“So let me get this straight. Essendon is a “inclusive, diverse and a safe Club, where everyone is welcome and respected” UNLESS you happen to be a Christian. In which case you can naff off. Is this the sum total of it ???” – Andrew Stagg

“FFS nothing wrong with Andrew Thorburn being CEO of EFC. We are all allowed differing opinions, but it appears these days if we have this differing opinion we are vilified and bullied. Our society is going totally backwards!!!” – Leeanne Hounsell

“So you are inclusive, diverse, and welcoming, to everyone EXCEPT those of us who are Christian. unbelievable! As a 45 year supporter of Essendon, who is also a Christian, this makes me so upset. He wasn’t pushing his values on the club, he was just doing his job! Can’t you see the irony of what you are doing.” – Tracey Henderson

“Another form of Christian religious discrimination that is allowed to occur. I’m sure the Muslim players in the afl have religious views different from the rest of the league but are accommodated. I’m not happy to be an Essendon supporter with this discrimination.” – Emma Walker Kimpton

Culture commentator Bill Muehlenberg described the course of events as “blatant anti-Christian bigotry and hatred.”

Scholar of political theology, Jonathan Cole, wrote:

“The fact that the CEO of a sporting club has to step down because of a sermon posted on the website of a church he is involved in nine years ago is a sign of cultural immaturity. Plain and simple.

“It is no longer the character, words and behaviour of individuals that matters. It is the individual’s associations that now count for everything. Even the most flimsy, historical and tenuous associations are enough to cancel you.”

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