You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it

So reads Matthew 16:18.

What a splendid analogue we have today with self appointed missionary and cross bearer, the Reverend Canon Dr. Evonne Paddison, receiving the blessing and permission of fellow Christian Peter Garrett. Also raised as an Anglican, if his desire was to transform from rock star to rock of foundation it has certainly been realised.

Garrett’s so-called “federal inquiry” into the proselytising of ACCESS Ministries and their stated, observed and reported intention to convert public school children has miraculously “cleared” them of doing any such thing. Backed by the insistence of devout Catholic and career Christian education whip, who recently became Victorian education minister, Martin Dixon, that not a single substantial complaint has been received, Paddison is now free to build. Of course Evonne never doubted the righteousness of her “God given open door”. The justified concerns raised and reported to ministers with the bipartisan staying power of wet tissue paper, were simply a grossly unfair “concerted attack”. As she reinforced, perhaps a little creepily at last Sunday’s Forward Together rally;

We know with absolute certainty that our message and the centre of our faith remains the same. It remains firm because the one we serve is the same yesterday, today… forever. And his purposes will not be thwarted.

In The Age today Jewel Topsfield and Dan Harrison report;

A FEDERAL investigation into the Christian group that provides religious education in Victorian schools has found no evidence that its chaplains tried to convert students in breach of government guidelines.

The federal and Victorian governments ordered inquiries after a recording emerged of Access Ministries’ chief executive Evonne Paddison telling a 2008 conference: ”We need to go and make disciples.” […..]

But federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the investigation found there had been no breach of the guidelines and no further action would be taken. He said he had received an explanation for the comments made by Dr Paddison and was satisfied the group was not trying to convert students.

Access Ministries had recently sent a letter telling chaplains who also taught Christian religious education in schools to stop doing so to avoid any blurring of lines in the roles.

”There are very strict guidelines in place to ensure that chaplaincy service providers do not engage in proselytising or misuse their positions, and we will fully investigate any complaints,” Mr Garrett said.

Victorians and the Education Union who have voiced concerns – and voted for an end to ACCESS funding have every right to be appalled at this whitewash. The concerns raised are specific to CRE and the evangelical passion of volunteers. Volunteers who in the main have less than one days training. Manufacturing a “solution” wherein chaplains have been told to no longer conduct CRE is poppycock. More so, this raises an entirely new dynamic. Is Paddison now admitting chaplains did proselytise to children or is this just a token gesture to “avoid any blurring of the lines”? More so, it is totally dismissive of the needs of our multi-faith and multicultural society.

And intentionally so. Last month, for example, ACCESS Ministries and education department representatives were invited to partake in preparation, and contribute to genuine parental evaluation with Hawthorn West Primary’s school council. They played along only to apply pressure – after considerable grassroots effort – to withhold the survey. The stated reason? That the “survey withheld the fact that under the present legislation schools are obligated to offer special religious instruction when it is made available by providers”, suggesting that the council had overstepped it’s obligation to comply with the Education and Training Reform Act, 2006. In other words the thrust should have been “you have no choice”.

Finally, Garrett’s continued mantra of “the guidelines, the guidelines, the guidelines” being in place to prevent abuse of Paddison’s “God given open door” is laughable. Evonne Paddison is the real thing when it comes to snubbing “earthly laws”. Her aim is “to implant the gospel in every school” so that the ACCESS goal can be realised. Paddison wants to “reach every child in Victoria with the transforming love of God and His son, Jesus [and] through CRE we aim to reach 80% of primary school children by the year 2012”.

This is not a person who even considers the option of compromise, laying ownership to student issues such as “bullying, drugs and self worth… The need is great but God is greater”. The needs of students who are not Christian, not theistic, not heterosexual or not celibate are bound for the scrap heap. What’s worse is that it’s now clear ACCESS have a distinctly anti-science and anti-evolution theme to their teachings. God most certainly did not make the world and everything in it.

By 2050 when these students will be at the peak of their careers Australia’s population will have grown at a rate of 65% to an unsustainable 35 million. The global population will grow at a much smaller 38%. Land temperatures in Australia may be 5 degrees Celsius higher – with mean global rises at least 2.5 degrees. The very last thing our youngest minds need now is to be targetted by blinkered, if not arguably deluded zealots intent on pursuing demonstrably fatalistic falsehoods at the expense of anything, and anyone, else.

We recently found out her goal to “reach every child in Victoria” includes independent schools – some of her harshest critics. In the mind of a zealot like Paddison, a woman who sees herself as Jesus’ scarred disciple there must be no barriers to the divine plan she has been chosen to deliver. Despite children being at these schools for the benefits of a secular education Paddison sees it as her business to change this. Reported in an Age opinion piece two days ago, was Paddison’s pronouncement at the ACCESS rally;

Those poor independent schoolchildren – I don’t want them to miss out

Talk about overstepping obligations to the Victorian Education Act. As the opinion piece pointed out;
One of the basic tenets of the Victorian Education Act is that public education should be secular, a sentiment that first emerged in the 19th century, and was reaffirmed in the past decade when the act was reviewed.

Herein lies the sheer temerity and arrogance of Evonne Paddison and her discriminatory view that “Without Jesus our students are lost”. Whilst a few anti-theistic voices are raised to claim that this means no religion in schools, the clearly specified intention in 1872 was that no religion should dominate to the detriment of any other. No doubt a wise choice in days when Protestant and Catholic rivalries were high, but there now can be only less doubt about the wisdom of this approach. Her defence is that CRE is “entirely voluntary… that’s the beauty of it”. But of course, this is in utter dissonance to her stated goals, aims and ambition. It is in every way offensive to parents who are essentially pressured to not evaluate CRE and to remember there is no choice. Or the hundreds and more parents fed up with having their children’s minds filled with confusing debris that clashes with family, diversity and social values. There is only compulsion.

The problem is very simple. The wording of the legislation includes the word “may” offer religious instruction. It is conveniently interpreted as “must” offer RI. From here flows the ridiculous notion that it is compulsory for schools to allow these misguided and opportunistic purveyors of fantasy and bigotry into our children’s presence and thence begin misrepresenting the very world in which they live. As Paddison declared at the EFAC National Conference – 2008;

We must give our children and young people a model of discipleship that promotes belief in, and responds to the word of God. And trains them to abide in it. It teaches and models for them the love of God and how to be in a community of faith to love one another and love God’s word. We need a model that is marked by fruit bearing and involves our young people in evangelicalism and disciple making.

We need a model that points to the glory of Christ in his incarnation his work on the cross his resurrection is exultation and sees his disciples continuing that work and reflecting in in his world. We are constantly tempted to water this down in order to attract young people through our activities, our music, our fun, or whatever it is. Resist the temptation to replace substance with superficiality.

Our gospel is not in need of massaging for acceptability. It alone will transform lives and bring salvation. My view is that we have every opportunity to create new congregations through our schools ministries, as we do this we have the responsibility to fulfill the great commission of making disciples. We need to see our Scripture teachers, our chaplains, especially as facilitators of this as established Anglican churches.

We need to be missional. As leaders in the church we are called to be leaders and enablers of god’s mission for his world…. Our task is to have a biblical model of discipleship that is presented in a contextually appropriate manner… What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools. Without Jesus, our students are lost.

Our churches in the West are on a slow death march. We have the opportunity to create life. It may be uncomfortable but so what? What a commandment, make disciples. What a responsibility. What a privilege we have been given.

Let’s go for it.

Evonne Paddison is a clear and present danger to the psychological health of Victorian children. ACCESS ministries can be viewed as nothing less than a malignant and corrosive presence in our education system.

Peter Garrett must be proud that he is the rock on which this exploitation is being built.

Peter Garrett accepts ACCESS Ministries “self certification”

Yesterday saw the release of a much needed review into the transparency of our Therapeutic Goods Administration. It was needed for many reasons. One deeply concerning issue is the sheer volume of “alternative” ineffective concoctions making grandiose claims without public awareness that there’s no scientific evidence to back these claims.

Products adorning the shelves of all pharmacies claiming to “boost immunity”, “ward off fatigue”, “improve sleep” and so on, do not, under current legislation have to prove they are effective. They must more or less comply to a list of relatively risk free ingredients and the sponsors must merely “self certify” that there is evidence that they work. With these trivialities out of the way, Dr. Hokus and Professor Pokus are free to scoop as much money from a gullible public as they wish.

On the positive side one must “opt in” to the notion that Essence of Moonbeam will improve cognition and memory. We are not obligated by medical legislation to buy these products simply because we’ve walked into a public pharmacy – usually in pursuit of pharmaceuticals. There’s no charismatic charlatan shoving colourful books at our children indicating in comic format that a dose of Liquid Liveliness or a particular ritual meditation will see a cadaverous little Johnny up and springing about with his friends. It isn’t compulsory that children be followed to the dispensary by someone arguing that medications are really drugs and we all know what happens to Drug Users! Warning that the “pharmacist is a friend of The Underworld Gangsters”.

No volunteers are proselytising that natural preparations are the path to true health salvation. The way to live a long and happy life. Certainly there’s nobody leading our children aside and telling them if they don’t spend up big on snake oil horrific things will happen to them. They aren’t fed exciting stories about the poor child on antibiotics for chronic bronchitis who followed a friends advice and switched to Himalayan bark mold and now enjoys robust health. Our children wouldn’t have to endure stories about a poor wandering Herb Gatherer who, 2,000 years ago discovered the secret to all our health woes and died a terrible death for our stupidity in pursuing rational treatments or for seeking evidence. He stood up against the horror of science and reason and for that died. But came alive again and went to a Magic Garden filled with healthy herbs.

Or that “He” now still watches over everyone paying close attention to exactly what we do or do not take to care for our vital essence, chakra vitality and quanto-kinetic energy vibrations. If we use the unproven remedies, children aren’t told that we go to the Magic Garden forever and ever. Or that if we use the evidence based medications the wicked pusher doctor – trained in the evil of medicine – prescribed for us we go to the Never Ending Nightmare of sickness and suffering. They wouldn’t be told it’s “for our own good” and that the CEO of Big Placebo and the dead wandering Herb Gatherer loves each and every one of us. In fact they have always loved us – even before we were born.

They aren’t told that the CEO, the Herb Gatherer and a Magic Chakra are actually a Trinity of one, but also individual and separate beings at the same time. Or told the Chakra came to earth to make a mummy for the Herb Gatherer on the instructions of the CEO. The Herb Gatherers daddy, Harry the Homeopath isn’t his real daddy then, but that’s okay because the Magic Chakra is also the CEO of Big Placebo and can make any decision.

Imagine the absurdity of our children being told by these volunteers in the pharmacy that to merely exercise a choice over product selection – indeed even think about doing that – was actually committing a special sort of bad stupidity. A stupidity called “sin” that must be undone by going and performing a series of pilates postures under a full moon whilst a strangely dressed reiki practitioner slaps dead fish upon people chanting incomprehensibly. Until that’s done the dead Herb Gatherer and the boss of Big Placebo are deeply saddened by their “wicked” thoughts and the fact they will go to the Never Ending Nightmare. But a few postures later and the odd welt smelling of dead fish and the Magic Chakra within them is all fixed and they’re back in line for The Magic Garden.

If we politely stress that whilst we respect the “natural” approach, but that we have our own views on supplements we aren’t told that “the will of Big Placebo will not be thwarted”. If perchance such a bizarre scenario unfolded time and again as we visited the pharmacy effecting our children’s peace of mind and indoctrinating them in lifestyle ideas we as parents find dangerously unacceptable and demonstrably false, we would be confident a complaint would lead to a proper review of events.

In this modern age of reason it’s unthinkable that the federal health minister would accept this conduct is acceptable and insist present guidelines are enough to dismiss our concerns. Or argue that it is compulsory after all and guidelines stress that volunteers for Big Placebo can’t persuade children about the Magic Garden. It says so in the guidelines! It’s all about “values” for healthy herbs – and who would be against a healthy herb garden?

It’s incomprehensible that another “self certification” from Dr. Hokus and Professor Pokus claiming that no, none of that is true, would be acceptable. The mind would boggle if they argued that in fact they had been “under concerted attack”, without actually offering any reason as to why anyone would attack them in this way – other than this is what happened to the Herb Gatherer who warned his followers would suffer the same fate.

That is of course, unless this entire sorry charade is not about bogus medicinal products but religious education. If Doctor Hokus is Evonne Paddison, Professor Pokus is Bishop Stephen Hale and the federal health minister is actually federal education minister, Peter Garrett.

And so it has come to pass. The well documented proselytising of ACCESS Ministries is of no moment to Peter Garrett. A mere Self Certification of adhering to guidelines is all Paddison was required to offer. There need be no evidence that proselytising is not occurring as a promise of effectiveness and perceived low risk seems to suffice. No wonder Evonne Paddison was so confident a mere three days earlier at the ACCESS Rally.

Paddison’s speech here:

Or direct download.

The Age reports today Christian group cleared of urging students to convert, by Jewel Topsfield and Dan Harrison;

A FEDERAL investigation into the Christian group that provides religious education in Victorian schools has found no evidence that its chaplains tried to convert students in breach of government guidelines.

The federal and Victorian governments ordered inquiries after a recording emerged of Access Ministries’ chief executive Evonne Paddison telling a 2008 conference: ”We need to go and make disciples.”

The remarks appeared to breach guidelines that ban chaplains and volunteers who teach special religious instruction in Victorian government schools from proselytising.

But federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the investigation found there had been no breach of the guidelines and no further action would be taken. He said he had received an explanation for the comments made by Dr Paddison and was satisfied the group was not trying to convert students.

Full story here.

The TGA review states under Recommendation 7: [That] The TGA implement mechanisms to educate and inform the public that listed medicines are not evaluated for effectiveness by the TGA prior to market.

I would venture to suggest that this is exactly what should apply to the evangelistic lessons provided by ACCESS volunteers. False promises and grand claims adorn what is ineffective hokus pokus and is quite likely to interact with reality producing a nasty side effect. This monopoly has never been evaluated for effectiveness prior to being marketed to impressionable children. Any “evidence” is provided on a self certification basis by Evonne Paddison. It has all the credibility of a Facebook profile.

But just what risk does this deception and manipulation of children as “disciples” carry with it?