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AFL: Essendon Bombers new CEO Andrew Thorburn defends ties to City on a Hill church

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Essendon’s newly appointed chief executive has pledged to lead an ‘inclusive’ AFL club in his first interview in which he was forced to explain his ties to a church with tough views on abortion and homosexuality.

Andrew Thorburn is stepping into the high-profile CEO role at the Bombers after he resigned as NAB chief in 2019 following scathing criticism at the royal banking commission.

But within hours of his appointment to the AFL team on Monday, the 57-year-old’s role as president of the controversial City on a Hill church came into the limelight.

The church condemns homosexuality and has a 2013 article on its website titled “Surviving Same Sex Attraction as a Christian.”

Thorburn spoke to SEN Breakfast on Tuesday (pictured) saying he would bring ‘inclusiveness’ to the Essendon club and its 100,000 members

If you struggle with same-sex attraction, it’s vital to talk to a mature Christian you trust so you can get the long-term support and responsibility you need to survive these temptations. the City on a Hill article. is reading.

“Practicing homosexuality is a sin, but same-sex attraction is not a sin.”

Another sermon, published in 2013, but this week on the church’s website, compared the “freedom” of abortion to the Jewish holocaust.

“Today we look back on (with) sadness and horror at concentration camps, future generations will look back with sadness on the legal murder of hundreds of thousands of people every day through drugs.”

Port Phillip Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter was one of many Essendon fans who relinquished the club on Tuesday.

“I urge anyone who cares about gay rights to step down as well,” Baxter wrote on Twitter.

Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews also called the church’s views “absolutely appalling” but said he would continue to support Essendon and renew its membership.

“That kind of bigotry, that kind of hatred, that kind of bigotry. It’s just wrong,” Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

“I hope we (Essendon) can get to the back page of the paper a little more often than the front page.”

His appointment as CEO has sparked backlash, including from Port Phillip Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter (pictured)

His appointment as CEO has sparked backlash, including from Port Phillip Deputy Mayor Tim Baxter (pictured)

Thorburn continued speaking SEN Breakfast on Tuesday after his first CEO appearance at the Bomber’s Best and Fairest Awards the night before.

In addition to being questioned about not stepping into the role from a footy background, he was asked by host Gary Lyon to address the faithful in Essendon about the views of the church.

He explained that he joined City on a Hill in 2014 and said some of the articles and talks on the church’s website predate his involvement.

“I’ve never heard these things said in my day, I’ve been on the board for two years,” he said.

“I’m not a preacher, it’s my job in a board role to make sure things run smoothly, I don’t always agree with what’s being said.

‘If we want a diverse society, that also means that there will be people with different views.’

The City on a Hill Church (pictured) has several locations in Victoria and has published tough stances on abortion and homosexuality

The City on a Hill Church (pictured) has several locations in Victoria and has published tough stances on abortion and homosexuality

Thorburn said the church is doing some “great things” for underprivileged people and playing an important role in Australian society.

“I understand that some of these views… people are offensive and upset and I really respect that,” Thorburn said.

“My faith is a very personal thing and my faith has helped me become a better leader.”

“The core of my belief is the belief that you have to create a community, take care of people, help people’s faith and respect them as people.”

Essendon Bombers' new CEO Andrew Thorburn (pictured) was forced to explain his ties to a controversial Melbourne church

Essendon Bombers’ new CEO Andrew Thorburn (pictured) was forced to explain his ties to a controversial Melbourne church

Before heading NAB between 2014 and 2019, Thorburn was in charge of Bank of NZ for six years.

He pointed to those jobs where he led thousands of “diverse” people as proof that he was the right person to take Essendon forward.

‘There is a diversity of people. Different races, sexual orientations, religions and cultures, that is society.’

“My role as CEO is to ensure that the organizations I lead, which I believe hold my record for this, are inclusive, welcoming and caring,” said Thorburn.

‘That makes us a more human organization and makes us a better performing organization.

“I haven’t been a perfect CEO, but my respect for people, my care, my love, my welcoming style – I welcome all those people.

“Look at my actions and look at my words as a leader and the organizations I’ve created to enable safe, diverse workplaces.”

Essendon also named a new head coach this week after a less than impressive 2021 season in which they dropped to 15th on the table

Essendon also named a new head coach this week after a less than impressive 2021 season in which they dropped to 15th on the table

Thorburn fills the role of Bombers released by Xavier Campbell, who resigned in August during a period of turmoil off the field.

The Bombers former coach Ben Rutten was dumped this year after a disappointing season in which the Bombers dropped to 15th place on the ladder.

Thorburn currently leads the review of Essendon’s football business and will take over as CEO on November 1.

He was also part of the jury that selected Brad Scott to replace Rutten as coach, which was formalized last week.

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