In just a few weeks time, Australia will go to the polls to decide whether a First Nations Voice should be enshrined in our constitution. I don’t know about you, but my social media feeds have gone into overdrive since the date announcement a few weeks ago. Jen and I have recently had questions about our stance on this referendum — so we wanted to take a moment to fill you in on our thinking.
What is Toowoomba Vineyard Church’s position on the Voice?
If you’ve been coming for a while, or listening to the podcast, our position probably won’t surprise you.
Our position is that we are not taking a position.
I appreciate this might be difficult for some, especially those with strong feelings (on both sides of the debate). However, an important part of our vision is to be a church where anyone is welcome, regardless of political affiliation or position.
At the time of writing, we’re working through a series on the book of Colossians, through the lens of reconciliation. There’s an incredible passage in Chapter 2:
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.— Colossians 3:11
Paul’s vision for reconciled humanity is one where the old divisions no longer divide us. Instead, we are united by Christ. That’s not to say we can’t have our individual political or theological persuasions. These things are important. But unity is more important.
Rich Villodas gives us a great insight into what that looks like in a political sense:
The Church is not to be found at the center of a left/right political world. The Church is to be a species of its own kind, confounding left, right, and so-called middle, and finding its identity from the “center” of God’s life.— Rich Villodas, author of ‘The Deeply Formed Life’
What Rich articulates so beautifully here is that the church isn’t supposed to simply take a ‘center’ political view, in the hopes of remaining neutral. Rather, we are to refuse to be defined by the world’s categories (like left and right), and forge a different way which is centred on Christ.
For this reason, we will very rarely (if ever) tell you how to vote. It’s plausible there might be some political issue in the future that, as a whole church, we feel strongly called to support, but in most cases our desire is to embody the kind of community where people across the political spectrum can come together united by our love for Jesus.
We won’t tell you how to vote, but we will say…
Notwithstanding the above, there are a few things we do feel it’s important to communicate around this referendum. In no particular order…
Regardless of position, our desire is for reconciliation
‘If you don’t know, vote _____’ is terrible advice
I realise this is a common argument made by the ‘no’ side, but the point would stand if you replaced ‘no’ with ‘yes’ in the catch cry. Our political system is designed to give everyone a say through their vote. The more educated we are on the whole, the more likely we are to get the result that is best for our country. Jen and I would encourage everyone in our church community to seek information to be able to make an informed vote.
The question ‘should we have a Voice in the constitution’ is a big one, and there’s a lot of conflicting information coming from both sides of the campaign. I would suggest breaking it into some simpler questions:
- What is the Australian constitution and what does it do?
- What is the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ and where did it come from?
- What is the proposed amendment to the constitution?
- How does a referendum work and what will I be required to do?
- How would the proposed Voice work, and how would it affect our political processes?
Don’t fall for misinformation
Unfortunately, with any major political decision like the Voice comes a tide of misinformation. As you read and research, be wary of bad actors trying to swing your opinion (on both sides!).
Try and understand both sides
Lastly, it’s just good practice to seriously consider both sides of any debate. One question to ask is “could I articulate the argument from both sides of this debate, in a way that someone holding each position would appreciate?”
This is also an important process because it helps us have empathy for those who hold a different position. It’s unfortunate that Western culture seems to be OK with vitriolic mud-slinging at people who disagree with us politically. As above, our vision for Christian community is to model something very different to that.
A final word
While we are refraining from taking an official position as a church, we do hope we can have a positive impact on this debate.
The worst case scenario is not a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ result, but a country (and a church) that remains deeply divided and angry long after the referendum is done.
A better scenario would be that as a church, we are able to model a different kind of discourse around the Voice — one that’s respectful, educated, and recognises we all want to see Australia move towards reconciliation with our First Nations.
It might be overwhelming trying to navigate the media (social or otherwise) landscape at the moment, but we see this as an opportunity to model to the world a different way of being in community, inspired by the love of Jesus.
Let us know your thoughts via email, or if you’re feeling brave feel free to drop a comment!