‘A Voice Crying in the Wilderness’: The fate of truth in public discourse

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We are sorry to advise that the forum has been cancelled due to the illness of the speaker, Prof Pickard.

A copy of his paper encompassing his intended talk is at


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The Rt Reverend Professor Stephen Pickard

When a society is driven by the desire for power the consequences are disastrous. Lying becomes our stock in trade and loving truth above all else is consigned to the field of dreams. Such is the fate of truth in contemporary public discourse today. 

The Referendum of the Voice to Parliament is an important case in point. The voice that cries for recognition struggles to be heard In a modern wilderness marked by a cacophony of competing voices, sounds, noise and static.

How might we hear a true voice in such times? What must we do to act truthfully? What may we hope for?

The Rt Revd Professor Stephen Pickard

Stephen Pickard was Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture Charles Sturt University, and Assistant Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn 2013–2022. 

Since retiring in 2022, he continues as an adjunct Professor of Theology at CSU. He has exercised ministry in Australia and the UK in theological education, ministerial formation and pastoral ministry. In 2011 he was installed as a Six Preacher at Canterbury Cathedral.

In March 2022 he received, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Cross of St Augustine in recognition of his service to the Anglican Communion as a theologian, teacher and bishop. He is the author of 4 books.

Annual CES Dinner 2023 with speaker Dr Sarah Bachelard “Forging a counter-story: the work of hope”

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Tuesday 22 August 2023

6.00 pm for 6:30 pm | Bella Vista Restaurant, 84 Emu Bank, Belconnen ACT 2617

  • Register by emailing admin@ces.org.au and include any dietary requirements.
  • Cost: $60 per head
  • Payment (Electronic Funds Transfer) Account Name: Christians for an Ethical Society | BSB: 325–185
    Account no: 03310199 | Reference: Your_Surname/Dinner
  • RSVP 15 August 2023

Forging a Counter-Story: The Work of Hope

Dr Sarah Bachelard

In movements for justice and social change, inspiring and maintaining hope is seen to be vital.

Hope is a source of energy, keeping us connected to possibility, holding open the space for action that might otherwise be closed by cynicism and despair. But where is hope itself sourced?

In Christian understanding, hope is not a natural phenomenon. It’s not optimism, the tendency to anticipate that things will just get better, or naturally improve. Rather it has to do with the nature of the future that calls us and commitment to participate in its realisation. Hope is both gift and practice, a fruit of prayer.

In this talk, Sarah Bachelard will reflect on the ground and work of hope from a Christian perspective, and explore what might be the distinctive contribution of this quality of hope to the needs and possibilities of our time.

Dr Sarah Bachelard is a theologian, author and leader of Benedictus Contemplative Church, based in Canberra.

Dr Sarah Bachelard

Sarah Bachelard is a theologian, author and leader of Benedictus Contemplative Church, based in Canberra.

She is a teacher with the World Community for Christian Meditation and a Circle of Trust facilitator.

Her books include Experiencing God in a Time of Crisis, A Contemplative Christianity for Our Time and Poetica Divina: Poems to Redeem a Prose World.

Sarah loves to discern connections between the wisdom of tradition, spiritual practice and our lived experience.

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Governing with integrity: A failed project struggling to be revived

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Tuesday 20 June 2023 — 7:00 pm

The Chapel, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture,
15 Blackall Street, Barton (cnr with Kings Avenue).

Governing with integrity: A failed project struggling to be revived

The Robodebt Royal Commission has given Australians dramatic evidence that the very underpinnings of our system of government have been trashed at great cost to the country. The erosion of the Westminster system of government with its requirements that the public interest be served at all times with transparent accountability has too often been distorted and ignored. The Australian Public Service has been degraded and compromised. A culture of secrecy and whatever it takes to gain power and retain it has set Australia on the path of Banana Republic style corruption.

The last election may well prove a watershed moment the nation craves. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is promising his government is committed to integrity, honesty and accountability, then again the preceding Morrison Coalition government consistently denied it had failed in this regard.


Paul BongiornoAbout the speaker

Paul Bongiorno has been a member of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery for thirty-five years. He is a columnist for the Saturday Paper and The New Daily and a regular 7AM Podcast contributor. In 2014 Paul was made a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia for significant services to the print and broadcast media as a journalist, political commentator and editor. For seventeen years he was Network Ten’s political editor and bureau chief as well as the host of the network’s weekly political program “Meet The Press.” Paul began his career in television journalism in 1974. He started out with the Seven network in Melbourne. He is married with two daughters and has a Master’s Degree in Theology from the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.

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(total size 285MB)

Practising Christian discourse: Addressing ethics in divisive times

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Tuesday 18 April 2023 — 7:00 pm

Chambers Pavilion, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture,
15 Blackall Street, Barton.

“How can Christians authentically address ethical issues today?”

Mobile phones. Email. Social Media. Zoom.

Communication has never been more accessible or abundant. But never has public discourse seemed more divisive or polarised.

How can Christians remain true to the rich heritage of their tradition while offering a constructive voice into some of the most pressing and antagonistic ethical issues of our time?

The answer may have less to do with the ethical positions Christians take than in the habits of discourse that they practise. Such an approach isn’t to render Christian ethics relative but to discover that the source of Christian speech shapes not only its content but also its contours.

Dr Amy EricksonAbout the speaker

Amy Erickson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at St Mark’s National Theological Centre and the author of Ephraim Radner, Hosean Wilderness, and the Church in the Post-Christendom West (Brill, 2020). Amy is an exciting, interesting speaker. She has taught students in Texas USA and Fuller Theological Seminary. She lectures at St Mark’s in Theological Ethics, Old Testament History and Narrative, Hermeneutics, and Spirituality and Contemporary Engagement.


Download pdf of flyer


Report of the forum

by Robbie Tulip, member of the CES committee, is available here


By | Past Forums


If people are compassionate, where does that leave economics?

Economics is built on the assumption of a “rational economic man,” a being that is said to make decisions solely on the basis of maximising “utility”.

But there’s an awful lot of evidence that people aren’t like that, being generous to others in ways that couldn’t possibly advance their own interests, and being prepared to harm their own interests rather than be party to arrangements they don’t think are fair.

It has sparked debates in economics about how much the profession will have to change to incorporate reality, or whether it should.


Peter Martin AM

Peter Martin is a member of the Holy Cross Anglican Church at Hackett and is and Business and Economy Editor of The Conversation.

A former Commonwealth Treasury official and former economics editor of The Age, he has reported economics since 1985.

Peter was the ABC economics correspondent from 1985 to 2002 reporting for the flagship programs, AM and PM.

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2019 for significant service to multi-platform and print media as an economics journalist.

Forum Chair: Mr Clive Rodger, Chair, Christians for an Ethical Society

CHAMBERS PAVILION (NB – this time, not the chapel)
15 Blackall Street (near Kings Ave) Barton


Here is the pdf flyer about the forum

The forum will seek to encourage discussion from the floor.
A donation would be appreciated.

Christians for an Ethical Society (ces.org.au) is a Canberra-based ecumenical forum which seeks to engage with the ethical challenges of the contemporary world, locally, nationally and internationally.

Contact: Ann Skamp – secretary@ces.org.au www.ces.org.au


(total size 198MB)


by Robbie Tulip, member of the CES committee

Is Economics Built On The Right Foundation?

Economic journalist Peter Martin AM addressed this topic in discussion with Christians for an Ethical Society in Canberra on 21 February. Peter is well known for his insightful economic commentary for The Conversation, The Age and the ABC. Christians for an Ethical Society (ces.org.au) is a Canberra-based ecumenical forum which seeks to engage with the ethical challenges of the contemporary world, locally, nationally and internationally.

Economics as an academic discipline encourages the self-centred outlook known as homo economicus, founded on allegedly rational self-interest. Yet a better foundation is possible. We see this from the observation that people are generous to others in ways that couldn’t possibly advance their own interests, and are prepared to harm their own interests rather than accept arrangements they see as unfair.

The problem Peter raised is that so-called “Rational Economic Man” behaves contrary to our basic recognition that we live together with other people in social networks of care and concern. We do not exist as disconnected and isolated individuals. As the renowned Australian researcher Hugh Mackay has observed, the whole field of sociology is based on human interconnectedness. Yet the training of ‘homo economicus’ encourages a heartless attitude, based on wrong assumptions about perfect competition, and increasingly ignoring the problems of concentration of power and wealth. Traditional economics allows the market failure of growing inequality. Allowing self-centred views to dominate society, as seen especially in the USA, has fostered growing inequality that threatens social cohesion and wellbeing.

In the Ultimatum Game, designed to test views on fairness, a person is given $100 on the basis that they must share it with someone else. Only if the second person accepts the offered amount does either get anything. Peter explained that people readily see equal sharing of such a windfall as fair and acceptable. But tests of this game have found on average that the second person would prefer nothing rather than an offer below $30. When our innate sense of dignity and equality is affronted, we reject the supposedly rational idea that a derisory gift is better than nothing. Generosity and fairness are basic human values.

Audience discussion with Peter further explored ethical problems of inequality. The core Christian ethical principle that what we do to the least of the world we do to Jesus Christ (Matt 25:40) is a call to promote equality, connection and respect. An economy that allows the wealthy to impose monopoly and cartel corporate structures creates a political climate where decisions are based on corruption, avoiding regulation. It is difficult to fix this problem because incentives for politicians often put vested interests before the public good. Australian superannuation funds make investment decisions and CEOs enjoy bonus systems that skew corporate incentives to focus on short term profit rather than longer term results. We see increasing domination by the top 1%, risking a breakdown in our social contract.

Peter suggested one option to help reduce inequality would be to tax capital gain profits from investment property at the full rate. He commented that the concept of wellbeing can guide economic policy in government decisions. We can enhance overall wellbeing through actions on sustainability – looking to the long term; complexity – simplifying public interaction with government; and risk – ensuring vulnerable people are protected.

Economics tends to assume a high discount rate, leaving future generations to look after themselves. Peter noted that this attitude fails in relation to climate change, given the high risks from global warming, but economic policy can help solve this problem by pricing carbon emissions as an externality.

Christians for an Ethical Society seeks to increase public understanding of how we can improve wellbeing. Peter Martin commented that our political system often ignores policy options that could best achieve such ethical goals, due to a lack of public engagement seeking to influence government decisions. While the economics profession has highly contested views and values, it is essential to encourage more debate and discussion of economics, in order to give more prominence to the findings of research and encourage more ethical policies.


By | Past Forums

Wednesday 23 November 2022

How we respond to issues concerning the environment and climate change is significantly shaped by our beliefs, world view and philosophy of life. Lynn White in 1967 stated that the Genesis story which gave “dominion” over all creation had been interpreted to mean the natural world exists “ explicitly for man’s (sic) benefit and rule and that nothing in the physical world exists for a purpose other than for human purposes.”

Fifty five years later we read these words with shame. Dominion never meant exploitation and desecration. We were in fact to act as responsible stewards of creation and respect its beauty, fragility and purpose.

Our last Forum for the year looked at how we live responsibly in the world. The Greens have reshaped our thinking on the environment. Jo Clay spoke on her own philosophy and values with a response from Alison Weeks, who drew on Pope Francis’ writings on the environment and what that means to live responsibly.


Jo Clay MLA
Jo Clay MLA is an ACT Greens member for Ginninderra (Belconnen). Prior to entering politics in 2020, Jo worked on the environmental ethics of everyday living. She set up a recycling company, ran a project to cut the average Australian carbon footprint by 75%, supported school strikers and worked in active transport. Each day, Jo asks herself two questions. What is the right thing to do, now that we are in a climate emergency? And how should we look after future generations?”


Alison Weeks
Alison Weeks, chair of the Catholic Archdiocese Caring for Creation movement and deputy chair of the Catholic Women’s Taskforce, in response will highlight the messages of Laudato Si, the 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis, which calls for a new approach to caring for our common home. In response to the cry of the earth, which is also the cry of the poor, we need to live and act in love, respect and connectedness with all of God’s creation. For Christians, this calls for a fundamental shift from exploitative dominion to the nurture and repair of stewardship.

Forum Chair: Mr Clive Rodger, Chair, Christians for an Ethical Society



Here is the pdf flyer about the forum

Now that this forum has taken place, here is a report on it by Katy Nicholls.

“Time to abandon guilt and embrace loving action – living responsibly in today’s world”
Christians for an Ethical Society Forum November 23 November 2022

“What can I do today to help the climate emergency? And how can I look after future generations?” Jo Clay, Greens MLA for Ginninderra, asks herself these questions every day. In a very personal address, Jo told the attendees at a Christians for an Ethical Society forum that she became a Christian long before she joined the Greens, and shared part of her story, guided by those questions, and an enthusiasm for how many options there are now to make a change. The two key other personal features she shared were the variety of experience she has, from entrepreneurship to law, climate activism to counter-terrorism, and the powerful focussing effect of having a baby, who gives a face to future generations.

In attempting to find her own response to those questions, Jo has developed and documented her carbon diet (https://www.carbondiet.com.au/jo-clay), reducing her family’s carbon footprint by 75 per cent while still enabling them to enjoy what matters in life (including steak on Saturday night), noting that the average Australian emits about 22 tons of carbon equivalent a year; developed a patented recycling company; found new ways to express her hedonism and thrill seeking with a lower footprint that flying across the world on a whim (ziplining off buildings for charity anyone?); and entered politics where she daily confronts the toxic false dichotomy of ‘people or the planet’, noting that people will not survive without a planet.

Recent successes for Canberrans she listed were: 7-star ratings for buildings, ensuring they will be well insulated and designed to increase comfort and reduce heating and cooling costs; introducing a ‘get off gas’ policy; and working on reducing transport emissions, starting with electrifying the government fleet and public transport, and supporting electric vehicles. The Climate Council has rated the ACT as being the most advanced of all States and Territories in clean transport (https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/are-we-there-yet-clean-transport-scorecard-for-australian-states-and-territories/).

In response, Alison Weeks, Chair of the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn Caring for Creation (CFC) movement, reflected on the similarities between the Greens’ approach of social justice and ecological sustainability with calls of the Pope to recognise that everything is connected and to embrace the paradigm of integral ecology. She discussed the Catholic Church’s response to God’s creation, reflecting particularly on the 2015 encyclical from Pope Francis: Laudato Si – On Care for our Common Home. Alison noted that Christians brought the unique perspective of placing God at the centre, and that Genesis charges humans with an obligation to care for creation. Humans are not at the centre of the universe, but each one of us is one of God’s creation. Alison’s talk emphasised that there is no difference between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor – the earth has become one of the poor.

The local CFC movement has learnt that a crucial step to enable change is educating ourselves to see anew, and then to find a common language including respect for difference. Actions they are initiating include solar panels, divesting fossil fuel investments, encouraging electrical vehicles.

What key questions will you use to guide your actions of living in the world with inclusive love?

The Chair of CES, Clive Rodger, thanked both speakers and the many interested questioners, and noted that the next forum will be in 2023, with Peter Martin as the speaker.

Photo: Alison Weeks (L) and Jo Clay MLA (R)at CES forum 23 November 2022

Christians for an Ethical Society (ces.org.au) is a Canberra-based ecumenical forum which seeks to engage with the ethical challenges of the contemporary world, locally, nationally and internationally.

Author: Katy Nicholls contact 0431 342 857

HOMELESSNESS: The Known and Unknown

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There are various ways and means of being homeless or understanding homelessness. Homelessness can be forced upon us by circumstance, understood as a violence inflicted by nature or human intervention. We can also play a significant part in our own homelessness or emotional sense of homelessness. Various forms of homelessness, physical, philosophical and spiritual, can be equally destabilising. A home brings security, sanctuary, belonging and identity – essentials for our peace. A home is essential in the discovery of who we are.

In this theological reflection, Kasy explored practical (immanent or historical) and spiritual (transcendent) notions of homelessness in discerning that a home is a human right as well as a heavenly promise. Ultimately, from a theological perspective, homelessness is an eschatological question of salvation, or human flourishing, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, understood as two dimensional: in human time and on God’s time.


Kasy Chambers
Kasy Chambers is Executive Director of Anglicare’s national body overseeing 35 agencies with almost 30,000 staff with over half a million clients.

A highly capable CEO, Kasy has years of experience in social welfare and housing policy.

Forum Chair: Mr Clive Rodger, Chair, Christians for an Ethical Society

Report on the forum

available here


(total size 341MB)

The Meaning of Justice

By | Past Forums

Justice is a very important concept of a principal value that underpins a society that is fair and where the humanity of its members is respected. It is unsurprising, therefore, that it is a concept that has high visibility in the Bible.
There are many categorisations of “Justice”, but a helpful analysis identifies five types: distributive (or economic) justice, procedural justice, retributive justice, restorative justice and environmental justice.
Justice is most commonly connected with the courts, which are often described as the institution which is central to the administration of justice and, accordingly, it is worth looking at them and how they do this, in dispute resolution and especially in sentencing. Richard will explore some of
the issues in this context in which he has worked in various capacities for over the past 45 years.


Acting Justice Richard Refshauge
His Honour, Justice Refshauge works in the sentencing of drug and alcohol offenders. He worked in legal practices before becoming the ACT’s 3rd DPP. He took silk in 2000 and was appointed a Supreme Court Judge in 2008 and served in that position for a decade. Richard has held many community positions and holds professorial positions at both ANU and University of Canberra Justice Refshauge has had a long involvement with the church and particularly the Anglican Church where he holds the position of Chancellor. He is very actively involved in both Diocesan and national affairs for the Anglican Church including being Deputy Chair of its Appellate Tribunal.


Forum Chair: Mr Clive Rodger, Chair, Christians for an Ethical Society



Chapel, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Blackall Street (corner of Kings Ave), Barton ACT
The forum will seek to encourage discussion from the floor. $5 donation would be appreciated. Christians for and Ethical Society is an autonomous mainstream Christian organisation.
Contact: Ann Skamp – secretary@ces.org.au


(total size 374MB)

May Forum – Christ, Compassion and Context: following the Christ who calls us to live compassionately in our changing context

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Venerable Tom Henderson-Brooks Anglican Archdeacon – Mission and Chaplaincy spoke at the forum on Wednesday 18 May 2022, 7.00pm at the Chapel, Australian Centre for Christianity & Culture, 15 Blackall St Barton.

Read the report by Katy Nicholls here.

Compassion has long been something that has motivated Tom. It is something that one feels deep within one’s guts. Recognising the divine reality of our deep seated convictions provides not only motivation for responding to human need, but it also creates resilience and courage to enter situations and contexts that were never imaginable in my youth. Tom will take us on a journey of a life of faith.

About the Speaker

Tom has been an Anglican Priest for over 30 years. He cut his teeth ministering for a decade in Kings Cross and embraced addicts, lawyers, sex-workers, traders, inmates, doctors, the homeless and HIV+ people as his congregants and his friends. There he set-up Rough Edges, a volunteer legal centre and advocated against Vanunu’s 18yr solitary sentence. He’s led small to large parishes in Darlinghurst, Bondi, Nowra, Turramurra and Rockhampton; has been an Anglicare Regional Manager and also an Anglicare Board Director in QLD and the ACT. He’s been happily married for over 35 years to Caroline, a linguist who grew up on the west coast in an iron ore town. Before moving to the ACT, Tom was the Administrator (Vicar General) of the Diocese of Central Queensland and he is currently part of the Episcopal Office leadership team overseeing Chaplaincy and Mission across the Anglican Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn.


(total size 468MB)

Makarrata, Truth Telling and Justice for First Peoples: Is there a way ahead?

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This forum was held on Wednesday 16 February 2022 at the Chapel at the Australian Centre for Christianity & Culture.

Makarrata is an ancient word from the language of Yolngu people of Arnhem Land. When the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) recommended a Treaty of Commitment between Aboriginal Nations and the Australian government in 1979, they selected Makarrata as the indigenous term to represent the process. Far more complex than the term treaty, Makarrata encompasses the processes of conflict resolution, negotiation, peacemaking and justice. In the words of indigenous lawyer, academic and activist Noel Pearson;

“Makarrata captures the idea of two parties coming together after a struggle, healing the divisions of the past. It is about acknowledging that something has been done wrong, and it seeks to make things right.”

Makarrata has become more widely known throughout Australia since the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017, which called for a Makarrata commission; “to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling.”

Speaker: Professor Asmi Wood, Professor of Law,ANU, College of Law BE LLB (Hons.) PhD ANU; Barrister & Solicitor ACT.

Chair: Mr Clive Rodger, Co-Chair, Christians for an Ethical society.

About the speaker

Asmi Wood’s current research and publication have centred around two main topics; firstly, Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people in Australia and secondly, IndigenousParticipation in Higher Education. The Australian Parliament, both Committees and individuals, Government agencies, community organisations, schools and Indigenous groups have all used Asmi’s research to clarify key issues among staff, invited Asmi to speak at their public events and make contributions to their literature. His research has included policy papers, law reform submissions and articles or chapters in journals and books.

Asmi has presented several keynote addresses to large conferences interested in Indigenous issues including on issues such as ‘recognition’.