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Gary Adshead: Praise the Lord and pass the plate at True North church

Financial balance sheets make True North — the latest evangelical enterprise with members showing an interest in Liberal Party politics — look more like a booming business than a not-for-profit charitable church.

More than $800,000 cash was sitting in the bank account of the Mullaloo-based church at the beginning of 2016.

There was $15 million worth of assets and about a $1 million in tithes and offerings from the True North faithful.

If that was not enough for the year, along came then Liberal MP and Barnett government minister Albert Jacob to present a cheque from Lotterywest for a staggering $1 million to the church formerly known as Whitford Church of Christ.

Now the mayor in the City of Joondalup, Mr Jacob is a devout Christian and supported by the neighbouring Pentecostal-based Globalheart Church, along with Federal Liberal MP Ian Goodenough.

Finding strong ties between Liberal Party members and Perth’s evangelical churches is not difficult.

The president of the party’s Brand division, Mihael McCoy, is also executive minister of Freeway Church, which believes that “all people have sinned and come short of God’s standard of holiness and righteousness”.

Gary Adshead.Gary Adshead.
Camera IconGary Adshead.

Liberal Senate candidate Trish Botha, a pastor for One Church Perth in Merriwa, works for Mr Goodenough and caused a stir when her husband told the congregation that should she win “she’ll be representing God’s move, the voice of God, the desires of the church, the Christian church, in the highest levels of government”.

One Church member, Melissa Ahlquist, is president of the Liberal Party’s Quinns Rocks branch.

But One Church cannot hold a candle to Globalheart members, who now lay claim to being the presidents of five Moore division branches.

Finding members of the Liberal Party prepared to talk publicly about the growing impact on the party’s grassroots structure is problematic.

When asked why party powerbrokers were happy to court the membership of narrow-minded and socially conservative “happy clapper” churches at a time when more mainstream Liberals were desperately needed in the party, the Liberal MP did not hold back.

“It suits them because those powerbrokers are finding it harder to sign up mainstream Liberals,” the MP said. “These people don’t appreciate the cancer that is this evangelical takeover of the Liberal Party.”

Former Liberal Party president Norman Moore, whose term ended last year, conceded that there were deeply-religious figures in positions of power in most divisions south of the Narrows Bridge and in the Moore division north of Hepburn Avenue.

But he rejects claims by some of his colleagues that the evangelical push in the party was growing like a “cancer”.

“There is no evidence to my knowledge of them having an influence on the party’s policies or positions on issues that would reflect a particular religious view,” Mr Moore said.

“If that was the case the party would reject any attempt to change its fundamental views. The party would respond appropriately.”

He and other senior Liberals are weary of what the endgame might be for the religious right crusaders.

“They may be involved in lay party politics for reasons which are not reflective at the moment,” Mr Moore said.

Deidre Willmott, a passionate senior Liberal Party figure who has worked at the highest levels of former Liberal governments and is a practising Anglican, warned of a growing threat to mainstream Liberal values.

“If groups with a purely Christian agenda start to drive the agenda of the Liberal Party there is a risk the party will lose touch with a large section of the electorate that has traditionally supported them,” Ms Willmott said.

In 2016, an email to Moore division members from Globalheart and Liberal Party figure David Harding summed up the religious tensions that concern Ms Willmott and others.

“We know that those who have come in to remove any Christian or local influence here in the northern suburbs will turn up in force to make sure they have the voting power to take over our division,” he wrote in support of Mr Goodenough and Mr Jacob.

To his credit, Mr Goodenough does not shy away from discussing the backing he has from evangelical churches.

“People getting involved in the party is good,” he said.

“There are always different groups of people supporting different people in politics.”

Contrast that view to the Federal Liberal who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

“The mainstream party has got lazy and the connection to the community is broken,” they said. “You have to sign up people to get them in branches and the only people showing the enthusiasm . . . are the evangelicals.”

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