A little more than 24 hours after naming Andrew Thorburn the new CEO of the Essendon Football Club, one of Australia’s most prominent sports teams, the club’s board forced Thorburn to resign, citing his involvement in an evangelical church that promotes a Biblical perspective on gender, sexuality and the sanctity of life.
“Yesterday was one of the proudest days of my life,” Thorburn posted to LinkedIn Oct. 4. “To be offered the role of CEO of the Essendon Football Club—which I have followed since I was a boy—was a profound honor. … However, today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square.”
Thorburn attends City on a Hill in Melbourne and is chairman of the church’s board.
Dave Barham, president of the Essendon Football Club, said a 2013 sermon given by one of City on a Hill’s pastors in which homosexuality was called a “sin” was the focus of the controversy.
“The board made clear that despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as chairman, he could not continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football Club and as chairman of City on the Hill,” Barham said.
Given the ultimatum, Thorburn resigned as CEO.
National Director of Politics at Australian Christian Lobby Wendy Francis called the situation “the latest example of an increasingly toxic football culture.
“The club promotes itself as safe, inclusive, tolerant, diverse and welcoming,” she said. “But their so-called tolerance and diversity are only extended to those who know better than to question the latest woke manifesto regarding sexuality and abortion.”
Bishop Richard Condie of the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania pointed out that “[this uproar] ignores the fact that City on a Hill simply teaches what Christians have believed for thousands of years. There is nothing noteworthy about a church speaking out on behalf of the rights of the unborn or in favor of marriage as it has been understood for millennia.”
While saddened by the outcome, Thorburn refused to abandon his Christian faith.
“My faith is central to who I am,” he said. “Since coming to faith in Jesus 20 years ago, I have seen profound change in my life, and I believe God has made me a better husband, father, and friend. It has also helped me become a better leader. That is because at the center of my faith is the belief that you should create a community and care for people, because they are created by and loved by God and have a deep intrinsic value.”
Photo: Edgar Su/Reuters/Alamy