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INTERVIEW WITH GREG THOMPSON – AN EXTRAORDINARY ABM VOLUNTEER

Thu 03, Jun 2021

Greg currently volunteers for ABM, assisting the organisation to develop its work in advocacy. But he has had many other voluntary roles at ABM – from longstanding Board and Development Committee member, to helping ABM improve how it works in partnership with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Council (NATSIAC). He has also represented ABM in the ecumenical Church Agencies Network.

Greg was recently interviewed on FM Radio by Lynn Arnold, a priest in the Diocese of Adelaide, former South Australian Premier, later head of World Vision Australia and now a member of the ministry team at St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide.

In the interview, Greg explains how volunteering is an expression of his Christian faith. From an early age he was inspired by his father’s cousin, Brian Roberts, who was an ABM missionary and first principal of Martyrs School in Popondetta, Papua New Guinea. Greg was further inspired by the New Guinea Martyrs as his Christian formation developed at St Paul’s, Ipswich, which was also the church attended by New Guinea Martyr Mavis Parkinson.

Greg studied theology and economics, and then went on to become a teacher of economics at secondary school. From there he joined the Australian Council of Churches and later World Vision Australia where he became its Head of Advocacy.

Greg then led AngliCORD in Melbourne until his retirement. Since then he has not only worked in a voluntary capacity for ABM but was also for many years Honorary Executive Director of Transparency International Australia, which he helped to found.

 Greg (R) receives a Coaldrake medal from the Rev’d Dr John Deane in recognition of his outstanding service to ABM. © Brett Collins
Greg (R) receives a Coaldrake medal from the Rev’d Dr John Deane in recognition of his outstanding service to ABM.
© Brett Collins

It was telling that Greg chose as the scripture reading to introduce his interview Jesus’ announcement of his ministry from Luke 4:16-21:

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:


‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  
because he has anointed me
    
to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   
and recovery of sight to the blind,
     
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’


And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

When asked about his (and ABM’s) approach to advocacy, Greg mentioned the special importance of ABM’s third and fourth Marks of Mission:

  • Stand in solidarity with the poor and needy
  • Challenge violence, injustice and oppression, and work for peace and reconciliation

Greg said his faith motivated him to strive to witness to the transforming love of Christ in the world. In this context he spoke of the challenge of demonstrating the effectiveness of aid, and of bringing people along with you.  Work in community development and aid is an expression of Christ and who he is.
Greg felt that ABM’s holistic response to the challenges faced by the world were also part of the transformation that Christ brings to the whole person, the whole community.

Seeing Jesus’ mission as an advocate for the poor and for injustice has helped frame Greg’s approach to developing advocacy within ABM. We are to be the light of the world, as Christ is. This is currently expressed in our solidarity with Myanmar, in our addressing root causes of poverty, in catalysing awareness, and above all, in enabling the voices of ABM’s partners, both NATSIAC in Australia and church development partners overseas, to be heard.

And in working towards this, we also come to see how our own lives and our own society contribute to the inequalities we would like to see removed.

Greg encourages us all to find in our own faith this same hope of transformation, so that we too may act to remove the discordance between the hope Jesus offers and the, often, sad realities of our world.

You can listen to Lynn’s fascinating interview with Greg on 1079 Life Sunday Night with Lynn Arnold here:

https://m.soundcloud.com/lifefmadelaide-1/sunday-night-with-420412531?in=%2Flifefmadelaide-1%2Fsets%2Fsunday-nights-with-lynn-arnold-30-may

or by downloading the Sound Cloud app onto your smartphone.

 


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