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What we know about Israel Folau's religion, Assemblies of God.

Rugby player Israel Folau has attracted significant attention recently, in light of his anti-gay comments and his determination to stand by them despite widespread backlash, including push back from religious leaders.

Last week the Wallabies player posted on his Instagram; “hell waits” for drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators.

He declared that those living in sin would need to repent, and that “Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”

He also tweeted a photo of a news story in Tasmania passing historic new gender laws whereby gender markers on birth certificates will be optional.

“The devil has blinded so many people in this world. REPENT and turn away from your evil ways,” he wrote under the photo.

 

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Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30 KJV _______________

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on

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Rugby Australia has issued Folau a breach notice and he is at risk of losing his multi-million dollar contract.

But despite the threat of being dumped by the sport, Folau won’t be backing down on his comments.

“I believe in a God that’s in control of all things,” Folau told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Whatever His will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do.”

Ultimately, he’s prepared to pick God over rugby.

So what is this religion that Falou stands so resolutely by?

What is Assemblies of God?

Assemblies of God was founded in Hot Springs, Arkansas in April, 1914, with 300 people at the founding convention.

There are currently more than 69 million Assemblies of God members worldwide, making it the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination.

They embrace the bible as divinely caused and the true sovereign rule of faith and behaviour.

They have four core beliefs; Salvation, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing and the Second Coming of Christ.

The thing that sets them apart from from other Protestant churches is their practice of speaking in tongues as a sign of anointing.

They believe the bible is the ultimate way someone should live their life, and the church is the Body of Christ here on earth. In the near future, Jesus Christ will return to claim his bride, the church.

They also believe that the church has a mission to seek and save all who are lost in sin, and a final judgement will be had for those who have rejected Christ.

Originally raised a Mormon, Folau found Assemblies of God in 2011.

What does it look like in Australia?

In Australia, Assemblies of God is known as Australian Christian Churches (ACC).

Here, there are more than 225,000 who attend more than 1000 churches spread out across the country.

The Australian amalgamation of churches that followed Assemblies of God beliefs was formed in 1937, and the denomination only adopted the name “Australian Christian Churches” in 2007.

However, ex-leader and high profile preacher from the church Anthony Venn-Brown told Mamamia, it’s important in this debate about Folau to remember that each church within this denomination is very independent.

“If we’re talking about the Assemblies of God worldwide, that’s a different thing again. The Australian version has never been out of the US headquarters, it’s always been an independent thing,” Venn-Brown explained.

“It’s not a big hierarchy like in the Catholic Church, the structure is very different. They are all independent of each other.

“Most Australian versions have actually gone into a very contemporary mode. Divorced people can been re-married. Ministers can drink alcohol. Ministers can be women. They are very liberal now in lots of areas. It’s unrecognisable to when I walked into the church in 1969,” he added.

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Folau is a part of a Tongan branch of the church, Venn-Brown explained.

“It makes a difference,” he said. “Within Pentecostalism you have such a range of approaches, beliefs and attitudes. The Pacific Islanders were highly missionised. In places like Tonga, everybody goes to church, and it’s very conservative. It’s the same in Asia –  extremely conservative. Other Australian ACC’s are a lot more progressive,” he said.

Homosexuality and conservative ideals of the ACC.

Folau is stating what the Australian Christian Churches believe, that homosexuality is a sin.

But Venn-Brown wants us to understand why he is being so ‘ignorant.’

“Their faith is very solid. It’s like a brick wall, everything is in its place. We’re asking them to take out the homosexual brick. If they were to look at the cultural context, they’d see ‘oh it doesn’t talk about same sex orientation it talks about rape. The word homosexual doesn’t appear in the translation of the bible.’ But then that brick will not be able to go back in the wall. It rocks the foundation,” he explains.

Venn-Brown is a homosexual man. It was his sexual orientation what forced him to leave the church.

“I resigned from the ministry and I walked away from anything. But a belief system doesn’t change overnight.

“When I walked away from the church, it wasn’t an empowering experience, it was a reluctant acceptance. I thought, I could probably go to hell for making that choice. Because to me it was a choice,” he said of his younger self.

“Generally speaking, Pentecostal people are good people. They’re nice, they do things for the community, they want to raise their families properly. They are devoted to their faith. That’s all really good stuff, but there’s a wilful ignorance to learn about sexual orientation or gender identity,” he continued.

He believes, given how far the church has come in the past four decades with recognising culture and its part in altering opinions within the religion, it’s only a matter of time before they also accept the LGBTI community.

Venn-Brown is helping to do just that with his work with Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI). Their mission is to create understanding and acceptance for LGBTI people within religious organisations.

Folau’s projections are ‘disturbed.’

When it comes to Folau’s approach to getting his message across, Venn-Brown has strong feelings.

“There’s something wrong with him.”

“When I look at his behaviour and the posts on his Twitter feed, you realise this is a disturbed man. I know from my experience people who are that obsessed and that judgemental – there’s some deep personal problem they’re projecting,” he said.

He says we just have to look at Hillsong founder Brian Houston’s response to Folau’s comments to see that as true.

Houston condemned his behaviour, as “not the way to go about it.”

“The world doesn’t need more judgmental Christians,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

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