Tag Archives: world youth day 2008

How Different My Life Would Have Been If… — Anthony Venn-Brown

Remember my account of the gathering at Pitt Street Uniting Church on the eve of World Youth Week? Now you can read  Anthony Venn-Brown’s talk, which he has just posted on his blog. You may recall I was very impressed at the time.

…It would take too long to explain, but without any real volition on my part, I had a spiritual experience. The God who I thought had rejected me and I’d said I would never have anything to do with for the rest of my life, became a part of my consciousness again. Something shifted dramatically inside me. I knew everything was okay and God was no more concerned about my sexual orientation any more than he was concerned that people have red hair or are left handed. All that really mattered was the way I lived my life. The most overwhelming sense of peace and resolution overwhelmed me. I didn’t hear any voices but somewhere in the deep inner recesses of my being something told me as clearly as this. “Tell your story, it will help many people. Just be completely honest, and don’t worry about a publisher, I’ll organise everything”.

And so here I stand before you today, a gay man of faith. A faith so strong it believes the Pentecostal world in Australia will change their position on homosexuality and welcome gays and lesbians into their churches. There is evidence this is already happening. I believe this change will happen because in my heart I know two things, 1. God will have his way with his church and 2. For the most part Pentecostal people are good people.

I stand before you as a man who is free because he stepped out of the dark closet of shame and guilt and brought his gay self into the light. A man who counts it a privilege to be something he never dreamed of, that is, being a gay ambassador, proudly representing his community in places where homosexuals fear to go. Who would have thought? Certainly not me!…


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YouTube – world youth day – and Sirdan and I at Sunday lunch

More from Surry Hills yesterday.

Sirdan and I have just been watching the reverse process, the events at Randwick now being over.

Neither M nor B came to lunch, as it happens, so the “confrontation” did not eventuate. Sirdan and I had a wonderful lunch at Chinese Whisper, yet more dishes we hadn’t tried before, and then paused at Devonshire Street to watch the passing parade.

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Pope acknowledges the ‘shame’

I for one welcome yesterday’s “sorry” from the Pope, not because it affects me personally, but because it is a good thing to have happened.

IT WAS much longed for and, when it came, Pope Benedict XVI’s apology to victims of clerical abuse took everyone by surprise.

The lines of apology were not included in the text given to journalists before the Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral but were added by the pontiff during his homily, to the joy of victims watching around the world.

Before 3400 guests, including cardinals, bishops, Australian seminarians, victims and pilgrims from around the world, he said: “Here, I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country.

“Indeed I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that as their pastor, I too share in their suffering.

“These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain and have damaged the Church’s witness.”

Of course more needs to be done, but this also needed to be done, and now it has been.

I suspect tonight’s Compass will be worth watching, to gain some insight into the views of intelligent Catholics.

On the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s World Youth Day visit, Geraldine Doogue in a two-part Compass special examines thorny issues facing the Roman Catholic Church in Australia: the crisis in the priesthood, and the role of women in the church.

Tonight deals with the matter of celibacy, among other things.

Why I did not join the No To Pope demo

My friend norrie did; the amazing and challenging norrie is clearly visible here:


I will probably see norrie in an hour’s time, so I will no doubt hear more about it. And I have participated in such protests in the past, one very memorable example being described very much as it happened here.

When the Reverend Fred Nile and his fundamentalists march into Oxford Street set on a bit of cleansing I am out there with the crowd. I wear my Mardi Gras T-shirt with additions:


Sept. 1961-Sept. 1989

‘Gone where fierce indignation
can lacerate his heart no more.’


Fred has his thousand, harmless-looking folk pushing strollers, mingled love and fear on their faces as they march up Oxford Street.

But we have five, ten thousand voices chanting NO MORE GUILT! NO MORE GUILT!

And my voice is the voice of three, a trinity of love grief and anger, and in me sing J and Luke and I:

We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day
And it’s deep in my heart
I do believe
That we shall all be free someday.

And I see his face, a touch side-on, the slightly crooked nose and shy smile, eyes so often fearful, the bursts of anger, the incredible gentleness and my tears choke my singing and a gay man hugs me and says So you’re human after all…

At that time, as you may see, I needed to do that.

Yesterday I had my doubts about the efficacy or wisdom of such forms of protest, and I would not have really wanted to throw condoms at visiting teenagers, even if some of the (presumably) older visitors had need of the advice, as I mentioned in relation to gay saunas, and as this story also notes:  Pilgrims boom Sydney sex trade: “Adult Business Association spokesman Chris Seage said the boom in business had taken brothel owners by surprise.” Geoffrey Chaucer would not have been surprised… 😉 Read the rest of this entry »



Pilgrim watching in Surry Hills

So I just went out to buy one of the lovely fresh breads from The Baker’s Bun in Baptist Street, and on the way back paused in the park up by the Northcott and watched the passing parade.

And what a sight it is, I have to say.

Devonshire Street — maybe 500 metres from where I live — is one of the main pilgrimage routes to Randwick. It’s just a shame I don’t have a camera…

Best music came from a large group of Argentinians. There was another big group from India whose music was interesting too. More flags than I have on my new flag widget.

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Catholic Church sex abuse investigations ‘a joke’ and other WYD reflections

riley Catholic Church sex abuse investigations ‘a joke’ | is a most interesting story, coming as it does not from outside but from inside the Catholic Church, from Father Chris Riley, a kind of living Mary McKillop in my book and as troublesome perhaps as she was in life.

THE Catholic Church should scrap its program to investigate sex abuse within the church because victims have been denied justice, a maverick Sydney priest says.

Father Chris Riley [right], who heads Youth Off The Streets, a Sydney welfare service that assists homeless, drug addicted and abused young people, said the Towards Healing program hurt the church’s credibility and meant victims often did not have their day in court.
He told the Nine Network tonight that any family confronted with sexual abuse should go straight to the police and have the matter dealt with in court.
“Towards Healing, to me, I have to say, is a joke,” he said.
“The perpetrator is the only winner there because often they are not charged, because it (the case) is settled.
“This is obscene, settling those sort of cases behind closed doors,” Father Riley said.
“It should be out in the court, and then if they (victims) want to deal with the church, we then do that after the person is … found guilty, and my position is, jailed for a long time.
“Then, if they want to go to the church, let’s heal them then, but get justice first.”


Visit Youth Off The Streets via the logo on the left.


Last night’s Q&A on ABC1 featured “former Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, author, journalist and critic of the Howard government, David Marr, columnist, Angela Shanahan and rising star of Young Labor, Rose Jackson.” Inevitably it became something of a forum on faith, politics, and reason. I won’t bother to go into it much here, but do commend you visit the program and even watch it if you can. I must say I have never actually read Angela Shanahan, and don’t think I will after her performance last night. I also found Alexander Downer’s attitude to the church quite puzzling, though it is not an uncommon position. He is clearly uncomfortable with theological honesty.

David Marr’s passionate response to Angela Shanahan’s parroting of traditional dogma on GLBT people certainly scored with me, even if I do worry that his somewhat patrician delivery would alienate quite a few punters; still, he can’t help being in his own way just as “posh” as Downer. Lindsay Tanner was good; Rose Jackson embarrassingly got her Pavlovs and pavlovas mixed up and will, I hope, outgrow her school debating style.

I should add that so far as my own church is concerned David Marr would have expressed most nearly what we believe.

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Posted by on July 18, 2008 in Australia, Christianity, faith, faith and philosophy, Gay and Lesbian, gay issues, generational change, humanity, inspiration, interfaith, M, politics, religion, right wing politics, South Sydney Uniting Church, TV



Brightens up the city a bit, doesn’t it?

That’s what the Lebanese pharmacist said just now down in Elizabeth Street as another crocodile of Neocatechumenal pilgrims, from Florida this time, went singing their way down to the city.

And indeed it does.

Mind you, down in Chinatown Gloria Jean’s Coffee Shop was quite empty. “What’s this?” I asked. “A pilgrim-free zone?” Perhaps, I wondered (but not aloud), they had heard of GJ’s connection with Hillsong?
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Posted by on July 17, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, Christianity, events, Surry Hills



Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

chaucer Chaucer certainly understood pilgrims.

Here bygynneth

the Book

of the tales

of Caunterbury.



Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open eye-

So priketh hem Nature in hir corages-

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially, from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunturbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke

That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

Bifil that in that seson, on a day,

In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,

Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage

To Caunterbury, with ful devout corage,

At nyght were come into that hostelrye

Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye

Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle

In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,

That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.

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Posted by on July 17, 2008 in Christianity, events, faith, poets and poetry, religion



Ninglun scores a first

Yes, that’s right — an honest-to-God pioneer!

I am just back from Redfern Centrelink, you see, where I had gone with my proofs of identity and other stuff to confirm my recent online application for an old age pension. Yes, that birthday happened last week.

“You are the first online application we have ever had!” the nice man told me. He didn’t know what to do with it, and had to ring Port Macquarie, where due to the wonders of decentralisation online applications actually live. Anyway, it was all sorted and I, as I tend to do, went on to interview him… What he said I won’t say; nothing untoward, I assure you.
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Court backs WYD activists’ right to annoy – News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Court backs WYD activists’ right to annoy is good news for any Australian concerned about the creeping erosion of civil liberties in this country.

Two student activists have won a court challenge to special World Youth Day laws that allowed police to detain people or fine them $5,500 for annoying or inconveniencing Catholic pilgrims.

No To Pope Coalition members Amber Pike and Rachel Evans took the New South Wales Government to the Federal Court, arguing the laws were unconstitutional because they would make their peaceful protest illegal.

The Government passed the rules two weeks ago without discussion or debate.

The Full Bench of the Federal Court ruled the definition of ‘annoyance’ was too broad and the scope of the laws was uncertain.

It found that in giving the World Youth Day Coordination Authority the power to set the regulations, the Government would not have intended to infringe on freedom of speech.

The court said the law was intended to encourage policing and public safety but could be misused to infringe on people’s rights.

Not of course freedom to be downright offensive, or, as some have chosen to do, scrawl anti-Pope graffiti over the Hyde Park War Memorial. But you can wear that shirt! Oh, and condom distributors may go about their business, even if it is just a reminder to visiting pilgrims of the reality of the world out there and the inadequacy of the Catholic Church in this area. On the other hand, it isn’t really all that smart proffering said condoms to under-age pilgrims, is it? Zeal can be unfortunate at times, whatever side of the fence one might be on.

And whatever the Catholic Church officially teaches, on the ground here in Sydney Catholic institutions such as St Vincents Hospital and the Hospice are second to none in their practical help in the area of AIDS, and much the same might be said for initiatives like the Kings Cross injection room for drug users, even if on the surface it is the Wayside Chapel and the Uniting Church that have most been associated with that important venture.  The fact is that St Vincents at some levels has supported the idea, though church politics — i.e. Pell and company — made direct association difficult.

Similarly, it is ironic given what parts of the Catholic Church do for Sydney’s homeless and down-and-out that WYD has not exactly played the Good Samaritan role: Homeless ‘removed’ for WYD.

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Just back from tuition…

H*d*s actually reappeared!

Meanwhile, the place is wall-to-wall pilgrims…


Much like that, from which…

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Posted by on July 14, 2008 in Christianity, events, religion



Marcel and the pilgrims, and other reflections…

In Beaudelaire « Stumbling on melons Marcel reports from the Opera House:

There were some signs of World Youth Day pilgrims about the place: one almost knocked my coffee from my hands with his little red backpack (a group had wandered into the foyer at interval wanting to look around – where’s security when you need it?). The forecourt was full of catering and other furniture being readied for the pope’s arrival, and we were for no very good reason rather officiously and without any apology or or explanation prevented from leaving by the exits on the level of the front foyer (I say for no good reason because the exit opposite the box office remained open).

Meanwhile conspiracy buffs, fans of The Da Vinci Code, and indeed anyone quite rightly critical of the trend of the present Pontiff in certain areas, not to mention some of the circus-like aspects of WYD, those “annoyance” laws, or the cost to the state, will be struck by the fact that he has holed up for the moment at an Opus Dei mansion on the outskirts of Sydney where, apparently, he can play Mozart to his heart’s content.

I spotted a few pilgrims myself yesterday, none of them actually inside Pitt Street Uniting Church between 2.30 and 4.30pm… But there were nuns catching buses as I came home, and others with those little red back packs here and there. I guess we shall see more of them.

Sirdan and I continued the Lebanese theme by dining at the more downmarket Abdul’s yesterday for our Sunday lunch. We had been upmarket last Sunday, as you may recall — but Sirdan can afford most things these days. The banquet was just as generous, but half the price — actually closer to one third the price. Yes, the upmarket has the edge in some dishes, but Sirdan declared himself satisfied with Abdul’s.

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Posted by on July 14, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, Christianity, current affairs, Marcel, multicultural Australia, Sunday lunch, Surry Hills



"A Life of Unlearning – a journey to find the truth"

“A Life of Unlearning – a journey to find the truth” is the blog of Anthony Venn-Brown, one of the speakers at this afternoon’s Claiming Our Place/Celebrating our Diversity gathering at Pitt Street Uniting Church, and a very engaging speaker he is. He avers that Hillsong has already made significant changes. Read his blog to see more.

Anthony was a leader in the Assemblies of God and a regular preacher in the mega Pentecostal churches of Australia. For 22 years, he tried desperately to change his same sex orienation through psychiatric treatment, exorcisms, ex-gay programs, 40-day fasts. After 16 years of marriage, he eventually had to admit that nothing had changed. In 1991, he faced the toughest decision of his life; be true to himself and lose everything he held dear or continue to live a lie.

See also the Freedom 2 B[e] site.

Other speakers included Catholic gay activist Michael Kelly, Sydney Anglican David Reeder, and South Sydney Uniting Church’s Dorothy McRae-McMahon; Andrew Collis officiated, and the Sydney Morning Herald journalist David Marr moderated the discussions, with the wall plaques of ancestral Fairfaxes watching on.

The Herald-Sun has been very quick off the mark, as I am only just home!

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Musical interlude: maybe WYD related…

Mahalia Jackson 1958

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Posted by on July 12, 2008 in music



School of the prophet welcomes Lord’s flock – World Youth Day

I have posted here and on Ninglun’s Specials a few items already about some of the travails of the Catholic Church, and about World Youth Day, but I also said a while back that I didn’t intend to rain too much on their parade. I still am prepared to see the positives in the event, and this story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald really is worth noting.

POPE Benedict XVI may have raised the ire of the Muslim world almost two years ago when he invoked a harsh medieval description of Islam during a speech in Germany, but for almost 300 Catholic pilgrims, an Islamic school will be home during World Youth Day.


“Pope Benedict clarified his comments on Islam,” said Pinad Elahmed, a teacher in charge of inter-religious activities at Malek Fahd school in Greenacre. “Anyway, no one here even thought of it when we decided to offer hospitality to the pilgrims.

“We are Muslims but we are also very committed Australians and that means living in a multicultural, multi-faith country. We want to be a role model of generosity for all Muslims. “This is not unusual. After all, the prophet himself opened his house to Christians.”

The 281 pilgrims will bunk down in the gymnasium and several classrooms. “They will basically have the run of the place,” Ms Elahmed said.

Yes, one could be cynical: but why should we be in this case? Why not just welcome such a development?

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