It is an honour to be able to share in this tribute to the founder of the Christian Democratic Party. Fred has served in the party, now known as CDP, for 38 years, being its guide and inspiration.
Fred Nile is one of the few people in the history of our country who has been able to form a political party that wins Parliamentary seats and is able to influence society and its direction. Not only that, one of his lasting contributions is that he has modelled what a minority party should look like. He has never sought to disrupt the elected Government but rather amend bills where appropriate, oppose bad and immoral legislation and ensure legislation based on Christian principles is considered and debated.
As I reflect on what I should say in this tribute, I believe God would have me address why he has been able to use Fred Nile. Fred Nile would be the first to acknowledge that any political “success” he has had is because of God’s call on his life.
A little while ago I did an interview on Fred and why I support him. I indicated that in my mind that Fred is a “market place” minister. That means his call is to serve the kingdom of God outside the walls of the church. Not only to serve individually, but to raise up an “army” to serve with him. When one looks at Acts 17:16-32 we read of the Apostle Paul in the market place. This is one of the first occasions where the early leaders of the church have gone beyond the Jewish Synagogue into the pagan world. What Paul does in these verses is a model of market place ministry. A person who approaches ministry this way, God can use.
Firstly we see that when Paul went into the market place he was distressed (verse 16). He was distressed by the ungodly lifestyles and worship. Fred Nile is distressed! When Fred stood in opposition to the gay Mardi Gras, it was not for lack of love for those involved, but he was distressed for where this lifestyle would lead. When he served the Billy Graham crusade, he was distressed for those outside of Christ. As he stands against the recent abortion legislation, again he is distressed for human life and human dignity. God has been able to use Fred because he is distressed for our community and the choices that are being made.
Secondly, God could use Fred because he was prepared to “go”. Paul didn’t stay in the safety of the synagogue/church, he went into the Greek market place and debated in the Areopagus. In today’s world, it would be similar to Paul going to Oxford Street and then going into the NSW Parliament. Fred of course grew a team of people who had the same heart and were prepared to go for the sake of the Gospel.
Thirdly, God could use Fred because like the Apostle Paul, he understood the concerns of his culture. The people of Athens were looking for spiritual direction and meaning and Paul addressed that. Fred has also been an evangelist. But also, he understood the community was concerned about moral and social issues. For example the tobacco industry, whilst Government and major political parties wouldn’t take them on, he did! It is not an exaggeration to say we live in a smoke free environment because Fred Nile understood the concerns of parents and people of good will about tobacco. Fred has also stood up against the coal seam gas industry. He has done all he can to meet the desires of the people of NSW to have a flourishing life in a healthy community.
Fourthly, God could use Fred Nile because he took a stand. The Apostle Paul just didn’t enter the market place to build relationships, important as that may be, he stood for the things of God. He expressed his concerns about where society was going and even spoke of repentance and judgement. Just one illustration of Fred taking a stand is Aboriginal land rights. Over 30 years ago, he supported the initial bill for Aboriginal land rights. The opposition party pointed out this would cost him half his votes. He knew that was right, but he followed his conscious and the Aboriginal people have never forgotten that because of Fred’s stand, the bill was passed.
Fifthly, God could use Fred because he shares Jesus. In Parliament he ensures that at appropriate times, the message of the Gospel is shared. This is particularly seen at Christmas and at Easter. He stands beside members of Parliament, whatever their persuasion, in their time of need, and prays for them, supports them and shares Jesus. Such a person God uses.
Lastly, God could use Fred Nile, because like the Apostle Paul, he knew there would be abuse, rejection and ill will, but he remained firm to the call. If necessary he would give his life to that call.
I have travelled with Fred across the State and have been involved with him for many years and his ministry. He has many political achievements and successes (in CDP), but his ultimate legacy is that he remains true to his calling.
Rev Dr Ross Clifford AM is the Principal of Morling College (NSW Baptist) and author of numerous books many of which focus on Christian Apologetics. He is a Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance, President of the Asian Baptist Association, an acclaimed international preacher and speaker, a columnist in many Christian publications, winner of many national and international awards and for many years the Sunday evening Sydney Radio 2CH host. Ross is married to Bev, father and grand father.