Bishop Irinej participates in ‘2010 Make it Count’

A gathering of many of Australia's most senior church and denominational leaders – rarely paralleled in the nation's history – on Monday, 21 June 2010 heard both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott speak of the valuable contribution the Christian faith has made to the nation and also respond to Christian concerns on issues ranging from indigenous welfare, refugees and climate change to marriage, chaplaincy and the deplored sexualisation of children.

The '2010 Make it Count' event, hosted by the ACL, was web-cast live to tens of thousands of Christians meeting in hundreds of churches across Australia.

It saw both the Opposition Leader and the then Prime Minister speak of their commitment to improving the lot of indigenous people and acknowledging Australia's responsibility to provide protection for genuine refugees while defending their differing border protection policies.

Both leaders also reinforced their support for continuing the convention of Parliament being opened each day with the Lord's Prayer, and to maintaining the status of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

ACL also welcomed as a breakthrough Mr Abbott's acknowledgement that the current media classification system is "broken" in terms of its role in the premature sexualisation of children, and the need for another review of the system, "tasked with a way to ensure proper community standards apply to all media". It was also pleasing to see both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott's support for the role of school chaplains and Mr Abbott's commitment to funding until 2014 at least.

The 200 church and denominational leaders and various church-affiliated representatives who came to Old Parliament House for the event included senior representatives from a very wide range of denominations, who also had the opportunity to meet in closed session with the Opposition Leader and the then Prime Minister.

Among those who attended were such people as: President of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Most Rev Philip Wilson; Moderator General of the Presbyterian Church, Rt Rev Robert Benn; National President of the Australian Christian Churches, Pastor Wayne Alcorn; National Co-ordinator of Micah Challenge, Mr John Beckett; Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell; Executive Director of Anglicare Australia, Ms Kasey Chambers; Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church, Pastor Brian Houston; General Secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ken Vogel; National Director of the Baptist Union of Australia, Rev Dr Brian Winslade; President of the Apostolic Church Australia, Pastor Timothy Jack; Chief Secretary of the Salvation Army's Australian Southern Territory, Colonel Raymond Finger; Wesley Mission Superintendent, Rev Keith Garner; Representing the Sydney & Affiliated Region of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Very Rev Fr Tadros El-Bakhoumi; Representing the Coptic Diocese of Melbourne, Fr Abanoub Attalla; ACC Uniting Church representative, Rev Max Champion; Bishop of Australia and New Zealand for the Serbian Orthodox Church, His Grace the Right Reverend Irinej; Representing the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Right Rev Trevor Edwards; President of the C3 Church Global, Pastor Philip Pringle; Assistant Director National Policy for Lutheran Education Australia, Mr Adrian Wiles; National Chairman of the Christian Outreach Centre, Pastor David McDonald; and many more.

A new addition to the '2010 Make it Count' format was a panel discussion and a series of vox pops to gain the views and impressions of the leaders present at Old Parliament House.

Cardinal George Pell was one of those interviewed, telling the webcast audience he was concerned about the Greens gaining the balance of power in the next Senate. "Their program is explicitly anti-Christian," he said.

The landmark event for Christian churches and denominations in Australia has received extensive media coverage which has highlighted the importance of the Christian constituency and the involvement of Christians in seeking to influence government and community.

Although there has been a sudden change of Prime Minister since the event, it is important to remember that the political target audience for the event is actually the parties and their political and policy machinery. None of this has changed, so the impact of the event on the parties remains.

The event's success is a testament to the commitment of Christians across Australia to work towards a more moral, compassionate and caring society.