Steve, I was the Senior Pastor of the Lilydale Baptist Church for 14 years. It had already grown out of its ancient (1881?) but very small building and was meeting in the Senior Citizens Centre. In 1991 we moved into the first stage of the new building and then into the larger auditorium in around 1995.
My theological stance? Conservative Reformed. My personal motto has always been the old Youth for Christ one – “Anchored to the Rock; Geared for the times.”
The Church grew steadily (as you indicated) across all the age groups through those years. In 1996, we presented a submission to the Baptist Union of Victoria (BUV) “Ordination of Homosexuals” debacle that strongly affirmed ministry and welcome to homosexuals, but no unrepentant practising homosexuals in membership or leadership.
I recall that our submission was passed at a well-attended Church Meeting without a dissenting voice or vote. At the time, we had a number of refugees from the Uniting Church with us; the last thing they needed was the fear that their experience would be repeated! How quickly things have changed, with changes in both congregational and pastoral leadership.
I mentioned “debacle” with regard to the 1996 BUV Assembly that ruled out Ordination for a practising homosexual. I was one of the few who pointed out the inadequacy of any motion only based on the “opinion of the Churches” (subject to change) rather than based on a conviction that homosexual practice was a sin according to the Scriptures.
I stressed the foolishness of “locking the front door” of Ordination (a questionable practice anyway) while pointing out that the “back door” was standing unguarded; a Church could call an unordained practising homosexual as a Pastor. The only “discipline” if this was to happen? The BUV would advise that he / she could not be ordained! That’s a forceful blow with a limp lettuce leaf!
With a few others, an attempt was made that night to add the words “or approve of homosexual practice” as a bar to ordination. The amendment was overwhelmingly lost. Worse, we were laughed at openly in the Assembly by some as we attempted to point out the futility of forbidding the practise of homosexuality while allowing its advocacy. What is playing out now at Lilydale is the logical and totally predictable result of that horror of an Assembly.
I am not proud of it – more greatly embarrassed! (and I’ve had my own valley to navigate in the mean time) – but so disorienting was the experience that night that I have never been at a BUV Assembly since.
My heart breaks for the people at Liydale and what they are going through. And I’m not feeling too good about seeing a Church that I served with commitment in this situation. Buy now it should have been established as a strong and vital regional Church with a clear witness to the faith once delivered. May God grant a miracle to see it still get there.
Here's my reply to Gary.
Thank you for your well written and godly response to the situation at Lilydale Baptist.
I googled you and found your response to Pastor Danny Nalliah's shameful comments following the Black Saturday bush fires which claimed the lives of 173 Australians.
Again, a well written and godly response.
Nice to see you defending the gospel of grace against attacks from the religious left, and the religious right!