Church leader returns award and slams Margaret Court’s ‘bad theology’

margaret court uniting church alistair macrae
Photos: ABC/Wesley Church Melbourne

Victorian faith leader Reverend Alistair Mcrae says he wants to return his Order of Australia to protest Margaret Court’s “bad theology”.

In Tuesday’s Australia Day awards, the tennis champ-turned-pastor was elevated from an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for her tennis achievements.

Now Reverend Macrae, a former president of the Uniting Church in Australia, has criticised the decision and Court’s views.

Rev Macrae, now a minister of Melbourne’s Wesley Uniting Church, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2017 for his community work.

However he’s now joined other Australians who believe Margaret’s top honour has tarnished their own awards.

“As an avid sports fan, I celebrated the awarding of an AO to Mrs Court [in 2007],” Macrae wrote in The Age.

“[It was] a suitable recognition of her outstanding sporting achievements.”

However, he added, “Her public comments in relation to LGBTI people… are damaging to significant parts of our community, and by no means represent the views of many Christians.”

‘Bad theology kills people’

Rev Macrae also rejected Margaret Court’s “utterly disingenuous” claim her sporting achievements are separate to her views on LGBTIQ people.

“Religious faith has private as well as public ethical dimensions,” he said.

“As a minister and theologian, I am aware that bad theology kills people.

“Bad theology underpinned the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Bad theology supported Hitler’s racist ideology and the evil it produced.

He went on, “Bad theology underpinned or failed to recognise the racist assumptions behind the destructive program of colonisation not least in this land.

“Bad theology continues to alienate and oppress sexual minorities.”

He said the “upgrading” of Court’s award to the nation’s top honour “rubs salt into these wounds.”

“Statistics relating to suicide and mental health issues among the LGBTI community are well known,” Rev Macrae said.

“[They] should be of concern to the whole community, not least the community that claims to follow the teaching and life example of Jesus Christ.

“To its shame, the Christian church has often perpetuated teachings and practices that marginalise and exclude people.

“I long for the day when people will associate the Christian church with the spirit of welcome, inclusion and grace reflecting the God we worship.”

Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo and veteran journalist Kerry O’Brien are among the Australians to speak out against Margaret Court in the past week.

Margaret Court ‘loves’ gay people but claims homosexuality ‘a choice’

In her tennis career, Margaret Court won 24 grand slam women’s singles titles.

But as a Pentecostal pastor in Western Australia, Court’s frequent preaching against LGBTIQ rights, same-sex marriage and transgender people has overshadowed her sporting record.

Earlier this week, Court said receiving the Australia Day award was a surprise but she was “very honoured”.

“I wasn’t one who looked for it, I didn’t know I was getting it,” she told radio station 3AW.

On her homophobic statements, Court said, “I don’t hate anybody. I love people, and I love gay people and transgender people.

“We get them into our community services. We never turn anybody away.”

Court also claimed she believes homosexuality “is a choice” akin to choosing a political party to vote for.

She told radio station 6PR, “Like everything we do in life we have free will. It’s a choice.

“That’s a person’s choice, they have a right to live their life how they want to live. But I teach what God says about marriage, about family.”

She went on, “We were born male or female. It says that in the bible.”

Court claims she’s not a bigot

Margaret Court also tried to walk back comments she’s made in the past, claiming the media had misrepresented her.

She has previously called homosexuality “an abominable sexual practice”, compared LGBTIQ activism to Nazi policy and likened gender diversity to “the devil”.

“A lot of things were said which I never really said, which I think was the sad part,” she told 3AW.

Court said she had face “a lot of bullying” in the last few years.

“I don’t mind. That’s alright. But if I say anything, then [they say] I’m a bigot and I’m everything else. I don’t like that and I think the press has caused a lot of that.”

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