Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the statement called the "Canberra Declaration"?
How did the Canberra Declaration come about? What was the process?
What do you hope to achieve with this declaration?
What is the next step?
What can I do?
How is this project being funded?
There are plenty of people of other religious faiths that would agree with your stands. Why is the Canberra Declaration a statement by Christians?
Is this declaration an attack on those who disagree with marriage, family, Christian conscience, the sanctity of life and Christian values?
Isn’t this just a partisan attack on the Greens or secular forces within the Labor Party?
By signing am I somehow endorsing the theology of other faith traditions or compromising my understanding of the Gospel?
Abortion in some form has been legal for a long time? Why is this stand being taken now?
Jesus is not mentioned in the document. He should be in there.
Isn’t this just a cover for bigotry and intolerance?
Why organize a campaign on these issues now, when people of faith have been expressing concern about them for decades?
Is there any concern that you will offend some people by making the stands you have made?
What about other issues? There are so many other important issues.
How do you respond to those who criticise the Declaration?
1. Why is the statement called the "Canberra Declaration"?
The Canberra declaration has been made in the hope of affecting public policy in a positive way for the common good of all Australians. Canberra is the location the seat of government and is also where the declaration was released, so “The Canberra Declaration” seemed a suitable name.
2. How did the Canberra Declaration come about? What was the process?
In February 2010, Dr. Graham McLennan, founder of the National Alliance of Christian Leaders, raised the idea of having a Canberra Declaration with several Christian leaders and then later through his national email network www.nacl.org.au . Amongst others, Bill Muehlenberg from Culture Watch www.culturewatch.org and Warwick Marsh from The Australian Christian Values Institute www.christianvalues.org.au responded positively. In consultation with several Christian leaders, Bill crafted the first draft and Warwick used Institute resources to host the initiative and convene the consultative process. In the early stages of the drafting process, the Westminster Declaration was released in the UK; it was a source of great encouragement. Graham also met with leaders in the Australian family movement in May 2010 in and received an enthusiastic response. After the first draft was compiled, the consultative process was put into play with input being sought from more than 20 different leaders. These leaders were from evangelical, Catholic and Anglican backgrounds to ensure the finished document would receive wide support in the broader Christian community. The Canberra Declaration was released at Parliament House in Canberra, with support from Indigenous Christian elders on Friday 23rd of July 2010.
3. What do you hope to achieve with this declaration?
We hope the Canberra Declaration will:
- Awaken and encourage Christians to take a stand to protect our Christian heritage and values,
- Awaken and encourage politicians and the broader community to action,
- Help to unify the church,
- Help educate people, and
- Enable further equipping and networking of those who are passionate about the restoration of Christian vales in our nation.
To expand on the 5 points above:
1) THE DECLARATION IS SERVING TO AWAKEN AND ENCOURAGE CHRISTIANS TO TAKE A STAND
In providing an opportunity for people to make a personal declaration it forces thought and encourages conviction. If belief in the sanctity of life, marriage, family and religious freedom is affirmed, then belief may translate into action. This is obviously desirable.
2) THE DECLARATION IS SERVING TO AWAKEN POLITICIANS AND THE COMMUNITY
This is why we need names and addresses. We need to prove that the people who are signing are indeed real people. Politicians often ask for those sorts of details on normal petitions. We want them to know it matters to us. Credibility is the currency of change.
Just what we are able to do with this document to help change pubic policy really depends on how well the document is circulated and responded to, and in our current climate, how quickly it is taken up. That’s why your help in getting your friends to sign the document is so important.
3) THE DECLARATION IS SERVING AS A UNIFIER
That unity will be blessed. In a secular environment that so focuses on and encourages division within the Christian community, here is something a great many of us can agree on and can work on together.
4) THE DECLARATION IS SERVING AS AN EDUCATIONAL TOOL
There is an enormous number of Christians who actually haven’t joined the dots together, and are comfortably unaware about what is happening in our world. There are many other non-Christians who are similarly unaware. Even signing the document will help them in that education process. Knowledge is power.
5) THE DECLARATION IS SERVING TO ENABLE NETWORKING AND EQUIPING CHRISTIANS
Those who have identified as wishing to join the community will be receiving updates and resources. This will enable them to take action and become agents of positive change.
4. What is the next step?
We wish the document to be seen by, affirmed by and signed by as many as possible. In this process we hope the Declaration is an encouragement and resource to many. We hope it encourages the broader Christian and non-Christian community to acknowledge and respond wisely to the challenges we face.
If the number of signees reaches significant numbers during the Federal Election period we will use this Canberra Declaration to encourage bi-partisan awareness of these values before polling day. Regardless of the outcome of this Federal Election, the values and principles espoused in this document will remain timeless. There will remain a need for unified awareness and specific response to the challenges of the future. The number of signees will add weight to the voice we bring to those issues, and those who are community members will also be informed and invited to lend their voice to those future actions.
5. What can I do?
- Please read and sign the declaration.
- By choosing to also become a member and receive email updates from time to time, you make it possible for us to keep you informed and also to ask for your assistance in the values articulated in the declaration.
- You can also encourage those you know to sign the Declaration.
6. How is this project being funded?
This effort has been funded by numbers of leaders giving of their time and energies, both in the drafting process and in continued consultative and promotional efforts. The web site and administration are provided by the Australian Christian Values Institute and the donors who support it. It is largely administrated by volunteers; however your generous support will help us do much more.
7. There are plenty of people of other religious faiths that would agree with your stands. Why is the Canberra Declaration a statement by Christians?
We have simply chosen to speak as a united Christian voice, on these matters of universal importance for the good of all our society. We stand with, honour and appreciate the efforts of those of other faiths and philosophies where they agree with this stand, including even pro-life atheists. These are principles of right, reason and natural law.
We invite all people of goodwill to join with us to sign the Canberra Declaration for the common good of all.
8. Is this declaration an attack on those who disagree with marriage, family, Christian conscience, the sanctity of life and Christian values?
No! Jesus did not attack those who rejected God’s standards; he did however unapologetically declare and raise standards; he then wrapped them with a gospel and relationship of love. He declares some things wrong and some things right; and he did this with love and wisdom. Jesus knew (and knows) that any society dominated by rebellion from His ways will face immense difficulties, and we have already seen the impact of such rebellion upon our society’s fabric, our governance, our people and especially our children. The damage already wrought will take many generations to recover from. The profound impact that these small percentages of the population exercise on the rest is already immense. They have been able to do this due to the silence, apathy and/or lack of awareness of most.
The Canberra Declaration is therefore not an attack, but is a response issued in defence of the truth. The Canberra Declaration is not a call to intolerance or bigotry. It is a call to conscience.
One of the simplest tools of tyranny is to shut down all who differ with your opinion. One of the simplest ways to do this in a world trained for “politically correctness”, is to paint all criticism or difference as being intolerance or bigotry (see Q 17 for more on this). Australia is currently a free country where people are allowed to speak their mind and follow their conscience. The drafters of the Canberra Declaration believe that this declaration can assist the protection of this freedom as it seems very clearly that there are movements for these freedoms to be taken away.
9. Isn’t this just a partisan attack on the Greens or secular forces within the Labor Party?
There is nothing partisan about this Declaration. Signatories include Labour and Liberal voters, as well as minor party supporters. This of course is an assumption, as we did not and do not ask for signers to identify their political persuasion. We can say with absolute certainty that there have been committed Christians involved in Labour, Liberal and other parties for many years, and many of these people have served as faithfully as they could within the constraints of party policy. We encourage Christians to join a political party to infuse their party with the living reality of God’s love. Our faith is not political, yet it is undeniable that our faith is impacted by politics.
It is inevitable that some will view this declaration as a party discriminatory political statement; this is perhaps inevitable as different parties oppose or stay silent on the issues we raise. It is inevitable that some will say a discipleship or faith inspired morality has no place in politics. Sadly, it is also undeniable that politically inspired secular morality has been forcing and expanding its place in our faith and broader society.
The outcome of this current Federal Election will very likely influence Christians and the cause of Christianity for decades to come. The release of the Declaration at this time is deliberate as it is fortuitous. However, the answer for this nation is not in any party or a politician. This nation needs a renewal of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and a return to the faith of our fathers. This will only come when individual believers are renewed in their faith and take a stand for the truth. Yet we believe we have a responsibility to draw a line in the sand and say “Enough”, we will stay silent no more.
We hold that religious freedom, marriage and family and the sanctity of life are foundational to our society. Whether you call it a call to conscience, prudence, wisdom or love, The Canberra Declaration is a call to living to a higher principles than we now see dominating our society. There are people in both major parties who affirm these great principles, and, alas, people in both parties who deny them.
10. By signing am I somehow endorsing the theology of other faith traditions or compromising my understanding of the Gospel?
There are many significant differences within the Christian community, including issues of theological position as well as practice. The Canberra Declaration concentrates on our common areas of broad agreement, is built firmly upon Scripture and is as simple as it claims to be. It is a declaration of faith, position and commitment that we will not stand idle while religious freedom is removed, marriage and family is undermined and weakened, and human life is devalued. We encourage people to read the Canberra Declaration for what it is and no more; we encourage people to embrace these very reasonable universal standards, while consciously avoiding reading into the Declaration more than is there.
11. Abortion in some form has been legal for a long time? Why is this stand being taken now?
There has been opposition to abortion ever since abortion began. The battle has never ceased. We are now seeing pushes to legalise abortion even to 23 weeks. This shows that this injustice no longer even needs to disguise itself in a debate about when life commences; it is now mercilessly and abundantly clear that there is no value on human life in some quarters.
These little ones cannot defend themselves. This is the greatest social justice issue of our time.
12. Jesus is not mentioned in the document. He should be in there?
The drafters all inherently understood that a reference to God and the Judeo-Christian ethic was a reference that included Jesus, and in this Jesus name was not a deliberate omission. The good news is that God the father is an embodiment of Jesus as it is the other way around. This is the mystery of the Trinity. So Jesus is still in this document in the fullest sense of the word. Fortunately God is very gracious.
13. Isn’t this just a cover for bigotry and intolerance?
Intolerance is defined as an unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds. A bigot is someone who acts or thinks in an intolerant way.
There are intolerant people on every side of a debate or issue. No group or philosophy has exclusivity on appropriate behaviour; every organisation, people group, philosophy or religion has people who represent it poorly. That is a reality of being human. There will always be differences. What matters is how those differences are resolved.
Having the freedom to resolve differences is EXACTLY what this Declaration is about.
Can you tolerate the Declaration? Tolerance does not require your endorsement. Just because you might not endorse or approve of it will not make you a bigot (intolerant). It just means you think differently. Similarly, the authors of the Declaration may not endorse or approve of something you believe in. They may still tolerate your opinions and you individually. Difference of opinion does not make bigots.
To be sure there are many pains that we wrestle with, many disappointments and many challenges. The issues of life and relationship are very real, very significant and very sensitive. They deserve respectful, significant and sensitive dialogue and solutions. They deserve to be handled with love in a world that has religious freedom, a solid social structure built on marriage and family, as well as a foundational commitment to the value of life.
Disagreements do not make a bigot. It is what is done with disagreements that makes one intolerant. Having the freedom to resolve differences is EXACTLY what this Declaration is about.
14. Why organize on these issues now, when people of faith have been expressing concern about them for decades?
We have reached a critical point. Australia must change the course it is on or we will see increased, radical and fundamental social disintegration that will potentially impact us negatively for generations. This is a critical time for us, for our children and their children.
Today we have the nation we deserve. Our inactivity and apathy has been our voice.
Five years from now, ten years from now, fifty years from now, we will also have the nation we deserve. Our decisions at this time prepare the way.
15. Is there any concern that you will offend some people by making the stands you have made?
There is no question that some will be offended. The freedom to be offended is one of the freedoms we are defending (this sentence is as complex as the aims it espouses). Freedom is not easy, and it usually isn’t politically correct. Being offended is not necessarily a bad thing. Some of life’s greatest lessons and greatest advances come through confrontation and challenge. Some people say this is being offensive. We would beg to differ. We believe confrontation and challenge is part of growth.
The declaration is made on a premise that there is truth, there is right, there is wrong and there is an ultimate authority. The very same people who will declare there is no absolute right or wrong (usually motivated by a desire to excuse their own actions) are the very same people who will be offended when a drunk runs over their child, a thief breaks into their home or the government fails to deliver on some benefit or right to which they feel deserving. Every time we declare something “wrong” we affirm the existence of a standard. We all inherently know there is a right and wrong, and it is on those standards as revealed by scripture and good conscience that we stand.
Having stated this as our starting point, we then take grace, as Jesus did, and offer it to those who differ in opinion, those who have had abortions, or those who battle with sexual addictions and desires they do not wish. Those who have had abortions need and should receive compassionate support. Those who battle to overcome sexual immorality (of any kind) need support, love, grace and long-term friendship.
Yet amidst all the complexity of these ‘issues’ there exists real people, with real emotions, real loneliness, real rejections, real hurts, real aspirations, real situations and real contributions to make. Therefore, we want to be equally “real” and declare God’s grace is there for them, as is our grace. Jesus has clarified his standard and also provides the ability to live it out with His continued help. This is the standard we aim to promote and conform to.
There are of course those who are ardent and antagonistic in their opposition, resolute in the rightness of their actions or immersed in contrary lifestyles. Many of these people stand firm in their values and are as committed to their cause as we are. That same grace, awareness and wisdom that has already rescued so many of us, is also available should they so choose it. Therefore, while we proclaim these standards and values as the best way to build a just society, we do not declare judgement upon others. Without apology we affirm our disagreement with their stand, and respect their right to differ. It is not our place to judge or condemn. We do not! To these people we also offer compassion and grace, alongside truth spoken in love.
Again we affirm as we have earlier in this document, we can be tolerant of something without endorsing the things we do wrong. Such is the nature of grace.
This Declaration will offend some. We remain open to criticism and genuine attempts at dialogue. We invite your comments and look forward to your response.
16. What about the rest? There are so many other important issues?
The question of what is missing is just as valid as what is included.
The Canberra Declaration had to be a manageable size; therefore it is not an exhaustive treatise on a multitude of issues, as genuinely worthy as so many issues are. It needed to be kept short and simple. The strategy in crafting the Canberra Declaration was to focus on the foundations upon which broader social issues can stand.
For a long time in this nation we have been experiencing a dedicated and deliberate attack on religious freedom, marriage and family, as well as human life. Yet these value issues are fundamental to a healthy society. The attack upon them has intensified in the last decade; increasingly so in recent years. If Australians do not act to protect religious freedom, marriage and family as well as human life, if we as a people continue to stand by and idly approve of their desecration and destruction, we will have very little power to make a stand for other very worthwhile causes. These foundations are worth fighting for. As scripture says, “when the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do”.
17. How do you respond to those who criticise the Canberra Declaration?
It is a sad reality that ANY effort will draw its critics. Similarly, as anyone who has ever grown and changed in their life can attest, we are all able to look back and see we how our thoughts and opinions have changed over time. Gaining knowledge and understanding is on ongoing process for all, and the effective use of words is an art form that continues to allude and challenge to this day. The drafters of the Canberra Declaration do not declare this statement perfect or complete. It is nevertheless, a sincere, attempt to express a truly biblical Australian declaration of Christian conscience.
We will respond to our critics with the same grace and thoughtful deliberation we hope will be exercised toward us. We will also encourage our critics to see the good that is in the Declaration even if they have issues to further consider. We will also encourage them to sign and lend their weight to the Canberra declaration in spite of any of its perceived weaknesses.