Congratulations to Noel and others who are celebrating 50 years since their ordination. A great opportunity to look back on the influences upon his life and the development of his current progressive thinking. A good read giving insights into local and international developments that helped produce new thinking.
NOEL PRESTON REFLECTS
A SHORT PROLOGUE: THESE FIFTY YEARS (1967 – 2017)
2017 marks many anniversaries.
Fifty years ago, in 1967, the seeds of the turbulent sixties were coming to fruition. Multi-factors triggered these social changes: the gross mistake of military incursion in Vietnam, the sexual revolution, the civil rights struggle in the USA or the major shifts in academic debates which even made respectable the idea that “God Is Dead”. Late in 1967 on December 3, an amazing medical landmark was reached – the first human heart transplant was performed by the South African surgeon, Dr Christiaan Barnard. It was around the same time that Australia’s Prime Minister, Harold Holt, disappeared in the surf at Portsea, Victoria. As citizens we followed the grisly search on our black and white TVs. Earlier in the year a more grotesque demise was the hanging of Ronald Ryan in the dawn of February 3 at Melbourne’s Pentridge Gaol. Thankfully, Ryan’s execution was the last such capital punishment in Australia. There are other milestones from 1967: for instance, the Seekers were Australians of the Year and Gough Whitlam became Leader of the Federal Labour Party. Most momentous of anniversaries in Australia was the overwhelming vote of Australians on May 27, 1967, which opened the way for a constitutional change, resulting finally in the inclusion of First Australians in the population count and granting the Commonwealth power to legislate on behalf of indigenous Australians.
Another anniversary of major historical significance to the Western World is marked for All Saints’ Day in 2017. Then, it will 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg, initiating a Reformation which, following the Renaissance, transformed Western culture and the shape of Christendom. Luther’s action and subsequent events crossed a threshold toward the movement historians now call modernity. It was a protest congruent with the mood of rising nationalism and the emerging philosophical emphasis on the rights of the individual. Some might argue in this “semi-millenium” that 2017 should be celebrated as the death of Protestantism. Others might prefer to understand the present era as a departure point for the Christian churches of Protestantism to be revived beyond the recognition of founders, Luther, Calvin, Knox and Wesley. From my perspective, I am convinced that I have lived through the death of the Protestant movement which can be traced back to Luther’s actions and the revolt against Rome which spread across northern Europe. In multicultural societies like Australia, those who represent religion, as well as those who wish to find an authentic spirituality, must now make their way in a society dominated by secularism and post-modern cultural manifestations where science and its technological offspring shape the way we live and, to a great extent, what we believe.