Andrew Thorburn resigns as Essendon CEO after one day over links to controversial church

3 months ago 21

Andrew Thorburn has resigned as Essendon chief executive 24 hours after being appointed because his links to a church condemning homosexuality and abortion were in “direct contradiction” to the values of the club.

The Bombers released a statement on Tuesday afternoon announcing that Thorburn, despite not holding the same personal views as the City on the Hill movement for which he is chairman, felt he could not serve in both roles and offered his resignation.

“As soon as the comments relating to a 2013 sermon from a pastor at the City of the Hill church came to light this morning, we acted immediately to clarify the publicly espoused views on the organisation’s official website, which are in direct contradiction to our values as a club,” the Essendon statement read.

“Essendon is committed to providing an inclusive, diverse and a safe club, where everyone is welcome and respected.

“The Board made clear that, despite these not being views that Andrew Thorburn has expressed personally and that were also made prior to him taking up his role as chairman, he couldn’t continue to serve in his dual roles at the Essendon Football club and as chairman of City on the Hill. The board respects Andrew’s decision.”

Acting CEO Nick Ryan will continue in his role while the club commences the process to appoint a new one.

The Bombers’ announcement on Monday that Thorburn would succeed Xavier Campbell was met with an almost-immediate a backlash over his position with City on a Hill, which has equated abortion with concentration camps and claims “practising homosexuality is a sin”.

They are views described by Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, on Tuesday as “absolutely appalling”.

Thorburn, the former National Australia Bank chief executive, who resigned in 2019 after his leadership was criticised by the banking royal commission, was praised by Essendon’s president, Dave Barham, as “a man of great integrity and exceptional vision”.

But some fans have already indicated they will give up their club memberships, while Andrews – a Bombers supporter – delivered a strong response to the church’s views.

“Those views are absolutely appalling,” Andrews said on Tuesday. “I don’t support those views. That kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry is just wrong.

“All of you know my views on these things. Those sort of attitudes are simply wrong, and to dress that up as anything other than bigotry is just obviously false.”

Andrews said he would remain a club member next season and added that the appointment of a chief executive was a matter for the board.

But the deputy mayor of City of Port Philip, Tim Baxter, cancelled his membership.

“I’ve made the difficult decision to resign my Essendon FC membership, and those of my children, due to the Essendon board’s decision …,” Baxter tweeted.

“I urge anyone who cares about queer rights to resign also. While the decision to appoint Brad Scott as coach was, in my view, a good one, the decision to appoint Andrew Thorburn as CEO is spitting in the face of every queer Essendon member, as well as any member or supporter who supports women’s rights to reproductive healthcare.

“As a bisexual man I cannot feel welcome in this club. @essendonfc your decision, when the club has desperately needed a solid, uncontroversial path forward, has instead ripped the club back to the dark ages, and alienated your members.”

A City on a Hill article from 2013, titled Surviving Same Sex Attraction as a Christian, advises those who “struggle with same-sex attraction” to “speak to a mature Christian whom you trust, so you can receive the support and accountability you will need in the long term to survive these temptations”.

Thorburn joined City on a Hill in 2014 and and said some of the material on its website predated his involvement.

“I’ve never heard these things expressed in my time, I’ve been on the board two years,” Thorburn told SEN on Tuesday. “I’m not a pastor, my job in a governance role is to make sure it’s run well, I don’t always agree with what’s said.

“If we want a diverse society, it also means there’s going to be people with different views.”

Thorburn said his faith has made him a better leader. “My role as a CEO is to ensure the organisations I lead, [and] I think my record stands for this, are inclusive, and welcoming, and caring. That makes us a more human organisation and makes us a higher-performing organisation.

“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 organisations I’ve created to enable safe, diverse workplaces.”

Asked how he would respond to a gay player challenging him on the church’s views, Thornburn said: “I would say thank you and I respect and care about you and you’re welcome in this organisation and I want to hear what you think and to ensure that you feel safe and can speak out. So I want people to know who I am and how I lead and how I engage, that’s what they should rely on.”

Read Entire Article