The National Director of the Baptist Union of Australia, the Rev. Brian Winslade, has denounced the latest hate speech from Westboro Baptist Church, which yesterday claimed that God hated Australians and was directly responsible for the tragic Victorian bushfires.

“Neither Rev. Fred Phelps nor the Westboro Church are affiliated with the Baptist Union of Australia or the Baptist World Alliance representing over 100 million Christians,” Winslade said. “Mr. Phelps has a sad history of making bizarre and extreme statements that do not reflect a Christian position. His comments on the Victorian bushfires are biblically and theologically invalid, scandalous, and most regrettable.”

The President of the Baptist Union of Australia, the Rev. John Beasy, also expressed dismay at the recent offensive remarks, and expressed pastoral concern for those who were suffering.

“To those who have lost loved ones, property and livelihoods in this terrible natural disaster, we extend our sincere and heartfelt condolences. We assure you of our commitment to your support and recovery as an expression of the love of God,” Beasy said. “To my fellow Baptists, I encourage you to give of your time and money to help our fellow Australians in the midst of this overwhelming and tragic disaster,” he said.

Australian Baptists were among the first to swing into action to support emergency services and communities most impacted by the bushfires. Within 36 hours of the start of the fires, the Baptist Churches of Australia launched a nationwide relief fund, called on all Australians to pray for the victims and emergency services personnel, and began mobilizing chaplaincy and counseling services to the areas most devastated.

The General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, the Rev. Neville Callam, expressed regret at the loss of life and property and commended the response of Australian Baptists to the disaster. He added that the BWA would launch an appeal in aid of the victims of the Victorian bushfires and contributions received would be forwarded to the Baptist Union of Victoria.

“Please be assured of the love and compassion of all Baptists who wish to comfort those who have experienced tragedy and loss. Please let our sisters and brothers in Australia know of our concern and prayers for them in these difficult days,” Callam said.

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