The following statement was adopted by resolution of delegates to the Queensland Baptist Convention Annual Assembly on Thursday 11 September 1997. The statement was moved by the General Superintendent of the Baptist Union of Queensland Rev. Dr Stan Solomon and seconded by Senior Pastor Rod Benson of Flinders Baptist Community Church in Ipswich, Queensland. It was based on a statement adopted by unanimous resolution of the members of Flinders Baptist Community Church at a church meeting on Sunday 22 June 1997. At the time, the church lay in the federal electorate of Oxley, the seat of federal member Pauline Hanson. Electoral boundaries have since changed.
Today we celebrate the unity and harmony that is the fruit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we express our desire to encourage the process of reconciliation between Aboriginal Australians and other Australians, especially in our City of Ipswich.
At the recent Australian Reconciliation Conference, Prime Minister John Howard, the Leader of the Opposition Kim Beazley, and the Governor General Sir William Deane expressed their sorrow for the way in which Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families, and for the trauma and injustices they suffered as a result.
Today, in response to revelations of injustice in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Stolen Children Report, and in response to calls by leaders of the Murri Evangelical Baptist Church in Ipswich, we state:
Often with the best intentions, although in a spirit of paternalism and with disastrous consequences, Christian people sadly contributed to what the Report describes as “a crime against humanity” – a policy of forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and the elimination of Aboriginal culture and language.
We wish to acknowledge the pain and suffering that the stolen children and their families experienced, and we want to express our sincere sorrow for past actions and policies during this regrettable period of our nation’s history.
We acknowledge that we have only too infrequently spoken out in defence of our indigenous brothers and sisters. We have not protested loudly enough. We have by silence unconsciously complied with the policies of the day. We assert that we abhor racism of every kind.
We seek forgiveness for our failures.
It is our prayer that as a nation we will learn from the past, commit ourselves wholeheartedly to reconciliation, and work to ensure that such atrocities never happen again.
We ask all who share a common faith in Jesus Christ to commit your selves, as we do, with courage, determination and hope, to building a better Australia for our children and their children, and to proclaiming the Gospel of reconciliation through Christ in word and deed.
11 September 1997
Response by Rod Benson:
I am not a historian, nor do I have the advantage of hindsight, but I believe our Baptist family of churches passed a profound watershed when we passed the motion on Aboriginal reconciliation at the September Convention.
This is an emotional issue. Wrongs were committed by indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. While the depth of pain and suffering by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims is incalculable, many white Australians were also victims of circumstances, birth, and the dominant culture.
It is a measure of the grace of the Gospel, and our love for one another, that the reconciliation debate at the Convention was conducted so well, with such a conclusive outcome.
It takes a lot to move me to tears, but I was moved to tears as Aboriginal Christians and denominational leaders embraced, and as our President led the assembled delegates in prayer.
We have laid a strong foundation for genuine reconciliation. We must continue to support our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters. We must affirm their gifts, skills and leadership potential, seeking to incorporate these into our churches. We must analyse public opinion and government policies, and vigilantly oppose moves to promote or institutionalise racism.
I believe the presence of racial conflict within our denomination has acted as a spiritual barrier to revival. As the barrier is torn down, we may expect both satanic opposition and divine blessing.
I pray that our lives will demonstrate the reconciling victory of the Cross, and that many Queenslanders will enter the kingdom as evil is overcome with good.
Rod Benson Senior Pastor Flinders Baptist Community Church
Theologian, researcher, teacher, writer, foodie, husband, dad. Works at Moore Theological College.