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Who speaks for the church on social issues?

Here’s an account of my twitter exchange on Sunday night (20 March 2011) with Dean Tregenza, whose Twitter bio identifies him as a librarian and “a tenderer of sacred spaces”:

@rod_benson For NSW tweeps, I’ll be talking with Kel Richards on 2CH at 10.40pm on what the churches see as key policy issues ahead of #nswvotes 26 Mar

@deantregenza As “the churches” don’t generally see a common view a lot of the time… how do you intend to do this?

@rod_benson Um, let me think…. Oh, I know, public issues of significance where there is general consensus.

@deantregenza For the NSW election that would be mental health services, policies of social inclusion, justice, poverty alleviation / and not anything to do with sexuality, abortion, ethics in classes, or education?

@rod_benson OK, let’s just talk about the issues that matter to you, and suppress debate on public issues you find problematic, shall we?

Following the radio interview, there was a further brief exchange (or rather, I made a comment and Dean responded with several posts):

@rod_benson Radio done. This time Kel Richards chose the issues & I responded. Alcohol abuse, poker machine reform, ethics classes, integrity in govt.

@deantregenza I am concerned how the ACL [Australian Christian Lobby] presents as “speaking for the church” and cuts debate down to sexuality, abortion, and marriage

@deantregenza the media doesn’t get religion and I am concerned about how debate and image of the church is reduced to doggy [dodgy?] sound bites

@deantregenza the list of subjects Kel Richards came up with was interesting… is there really concensus in the churches about on them?

I think the interchange raises some important points on what cluster of issues the churches should be addressing, how a consensus is reached, who (if anyone) is entitled to speak for “the church,” and how “faith perspectives” are best articulated to broad and diverse media audiences. How would you respond?

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Rod Benson

Theologian, researcher, teacher, writer, foodie, husband, dad. Works at Moore Theological College.

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