MCF Seminar – Centurions
BRIG Dan Fortune
The theme of Centurions is really topical for Defence Christians as it talks to key themes that resonate such as Service, the humanity of centurions, and importantly it talks of faith. From my understanding, Centurions often were conflicted men in biblical times and this challenge remains for those serving in the ADF.
There are a number of challenges about the mission, task and environment we typically find ourselves in. However, our values and decision framework based on the foundational belief in our faith remains a compelling source of inspiration and comfort.
At the outset, I’d like to outline a little about me. I think ‘selected’ was the right word because when the CDF rings you up and invites you to the role of Patron it really is an offer you cannot refuse. I was deployed at the time, in a bit of a flat spot and struggling. A lot was happening operationally, we’d had a number of deaths and I was seeking, through my faith, to manage my responsibilities and just persevere whilst managing my obligations as a leader.
Speaking to GEN Hurley was an uplifting moment but also quite confronting with regard to assuming the role of Patron. I felt I did not possess the depth of the learned theology that others would have and I am very aware that rank and appointments mean nothing in this space; I’m just a redeemed sinner.
My service has really been the catalyst, in many ways, for my journey of faith.
I was brought up in a Christian family that was not really church-going so it was a somewhat patchy experience of Christianity in my youth. There was a connection; however, on reflection, not a deep well-practiced muscle memory connection.
I joined the Army aged 17 years, 2 months and during my early service, if I hadn’t broken all the commandments, I’d thought about doing so.
It was only when I came to Duntroon and through that environment, as well as the outreach of the padres, that the Spirit that was in me began to connect. It has also been through my family – I’ve been blessed with a wife and we have two grown-up daughters, who are a credit to their mother! It was in the journey as a parent; a very young parent, and my relationship with my wife, that I needed to use the strength of the Christian faith to work through those challenges. It was really through my service that I confronted my own mortality, particularly in operational service, that I was convinced that my faith was strong and I was drawn to and continued to seek God and grow in that journey.
The issue that the minister and I talked about last night was around moral injury and what you confront on operations. It was difficult and challenging at times. Last year, when I was deployed and in command, the reality that I had spent two of the last four years away on deployment, really helped strengthen and deepen my faith. In many ways it had been a way of seeking to heal some of the damage, dents, bruises, and psychological injuries I received through my service. That’s the way my journey of faith has been.
As Patron, I really do feel inadequate. I don’t have a great set of experiences. I’m learning and I feel a little vulnerable and insecure in many ways regarding what this appointment should mean. When I look you in the eye, it’s not BRIG Dan Fortune, DSC and Bar, but Dan Fortune, one of the flock who continues to grow and learn in faith. As such, I ask for your prayers and your support as we work together in our calling to fulfil the great commission.
Where would I like to see MCF and the defence Christian community? Where should we organisationally be looking to outreach?
As I have consistently outlined, I think the area around operational mental wellness and mental health is important. There’s no higher priority in the ADF. It is increasingly recognised that there is a need to put more resources into looking into the moral injury and spiritual wellness, as part of the comprehensive approach to mental health.
The legitimate and important ongoing care for service men and women, veterans and their families should be further explored and developed. I think the defence Christian community and MCF should be part of that narrative. We’ve got to be involved as it is a contested space. We have to manage and nuance our message carefully, but that doesn’t mean we compromise our message or be unnecessarily oversensitive about the place of Christian faith. This is certainly an area I intend to work on with ongoing advocacy and debate.
Second is the broader issue of seeking to provide a witness to Jesus. Through our conduct we demonstrate the redeeming power of the message of our faith and display the appropriate values based leadership.
Many of you would know about the First Principles Review. One of the focuses is around behaviours and at this point, in my view, what this practically means remains an immature discussion.
As we all know the challenges of implementing the Defence Pathways to Change vision remains confronting, including cultural issues around behaviours within the services.
There are some complex issues the ADF is dealing with including restorative engagement and ongoing cultural reform. I think again that this is a legitimate and important space for Defence Christians to contribute to in a measured, mature and humble way.
We don’t want to be seen as sanctimonious. We all have human frailties but there is an element of our faith that gives us a certain strength, wisdom and insight from our reading of the scriptures and our values.
Where would I ask for your help? I think we can do more as an organisation in outreach. We have got to try to build a wider network across the demographics. I know there’s great work being done in places like ADFA. There’s a whole range of collaborative Christian defence organisations. There was a cavalcade of people who got up and spoke about their ministries at the Defence Christians’ Dinner last night.
Across the board I think we need to do more, engaging with individuals and then through an invitation bringing them into that instrument and that witness of faith.
I’d appreciate the ideas you can bring to that. With the social issues we are facing and the battle of ideas at the broader security level, we’ve got to do more.
Social media is a space we don’t fully understand and really utilise. It’s about building a network to have the opportunity to have a conversation about our faith and our witness. We’d like your help on that. Email the MCF office. Email me. Have a discussion.
The risk is we will all, to some extent, just be in a sheltered workshop. This isn’t the audience we need to do outreach to; though it’s important for encouraging and reinforcing our faith. The seminar should be full; people should be lining up. We should need a bigger venue if we are going to be a relevant, contemporary and important element of the debate in the ADF going forward. So that’s the challenge. I don’t know the answer but I think there are elements we need to work harder on.
I’m very humbled and privileged to have been appointed as Patron. I’m on a journey with you.
2 Timothy 1:7
“God did not give us the timidity…. But he has given us the spirit of power and of love and a calm and well balanced mind and discipline and self control”
From Crossfire 27 – May 2016