Archbishop denounces religious tests for sports club leaders


The Archbishop of Melbourne has denounced the forced resignation of an Australian Football League club manager on religious grounds, criticising the premier of Victoria for instituting a religious test for leading a sports club.

Andrew Thorburn resigned one day after his appointment on 3 Oct 2022 as the Essendon Bombers’s chief executive after activists claimed the ministers at the Anglican church he attended were pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.

Sermons preached at City on a Hill Church, where Mr. Thornburn served on the parish council, called abortion a holocaust against the young, and upheld church Anglican teaching that “practising homosexuality is a sin”.

The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, joined the chorus of disapproval opining these Christian teachings were “absolutely appalling” the Australian media reported. .

On Wednesday the Most Rev. Philip Freier, Archbishop of Melbourne released a statement in support of Mr. Thorburn issued a statement in support of Mr. Thorburn and City on the Hill’s minister, the Ven. Guy Mason.

“I regret that the short-lived appointment of Andrew Thorburn as CEO of the Essendon Football Club should have been the source of so much angst for so many people. 

“It was his role within the City on a Hill church that many thought led to a conflict of interest with his football role. The clergy leader of the City on a Hill movement, Archdeacon Guy Mason, is a senior leader in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. I have always found him to be a person who puts God’s unconditional love for all as first in his life and in his interaction with others. He is the founding leader of City on a Hill and has served in that role since 2008. He will certainly be aware of the diversity of views amongst the members of City on Hill congregations. 

“In 2016 I joined the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international Anglican leaders in agreeing a statement that rejected homophobia and affirmed that ‘God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.’ I have seen nothing in Andrew Thorburn’s reported comments that contradict this position.

“It would be unfortunate if people of faith are sidelined from participation in professional and public life on account of personal religious belief. Everyone should expect to be judged on their behaviour not on their religious beliefs.”