BANNED FROM CHURCH
(Investigator 51, 1996 November)
"As from the receipt of this letter you are requested to have no contact with any person from this congregation in respect to an interview, any articles or any other such activity or practice."
So wrote the senior minister of Portside Christian Revival Crusade, Neil Milne, to me in a letter dated September 27.
Anything anyone says may spark an idea for an article in Investigator or be of use as evidence for an article. Therefore Pastor Milne’s request effectively banned me from attending his Church and from communicating with Church members.
In January this year the Portside Church held open-air meetings at Adelaide beaches on Sundays. Church members gave testimonies about how faith improved their lives.
Soon afterwards "Anonymous" – who regularly writes about the Bible for Investigator – offered to prepare an article demonstrating that "Biblical psychology" promotes emotional and physical health. I decided to try to complement that article with testimonies from Portside members.
At Church meetings I picked four who seemed more educated than most others – a university lecturer (David), a school teacher (Marie), the headmaster (Richard) of the Church's Portside Christian School, and a university student (Sally).
Christian testimony is given to anyone and no Portside member seemed to have concern about his testimony being transcribed and published. Several consented to being photographed for Investigator.
In September Pastor Milne and Pastor Tonkin (apparently second in charge) got hold of Investigator No. 48.
Pastor Milne's letter followed.
I replied by letter and explained that Investigator allows Christians, New Agers, other religions and Skeptics to test their proofs and evidence against each other. I explained how the testimonies would be used.
Pastor Tonkin visited and explained that the main problem was the advertisement for the Skeptics Association on page 55. Also he didn't like the vampire story. The Pastor said Investigator is not worthwhile unless used solely to "proclaim Christ."
However, Portside members read major newspapers which have social pages advertising un-church-like activities. Nor do the editors redeem the situation by offering Christians free space to debate – as does Investigator. The Portside Messenger (October 23) had articles about the Portside Christian School, yet that paper advertises astrologers and psychics!
Agreement was not reached. The senior pastor has not changed his mind either.
Why would invitations to Christians to defend Christianity make an editor "persona non grata" in a Christian church?
[Update: At Easter after the above events I reminded pastors Milne and Tonkin by letter that they had apparently banned me from their church and asked them to reconsider but received no reply.
I therefore went to the Hindmarsh Assembly of God where the pastor was helpful and members readily testified to how faith had benefitted them.
The articles The Bible Helps Your Health and Church and Faith Bring Benefits were published in Investigator 57, November 1997. ]