Where To Now For the ACL?

Onwards and upwards for Martyn Iles:

Most folks have heard the news that the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, Martyn Iles is moving on. Or, perhaps more accurately, has been given his marching orders by the Board. That has caught most of us by surprise, and it raises a lot of questions.

Let me first give a very brief historical overview of the ACL, and then share a few thoughts on what I think about this new development. The ACL was formed in 1995 by John Gagliardi and a few others, and was then called the Australian Christian Coalition. In 2000 Jim Wallace took over as the head, and in 2001 they changed their name to the ACL. Jim was followed by Lyle Shelton in 2013 and Martyn in 2018.

I have known all four of these men, and have worked in various ways with them over the years. Indeed, at one point I was invited to move to Canberra and work with them in research and related things, sort of as Jim’s right hand man. It was a tempting offer but I did not follow up on it, and in 2006 I started CultureWatch instead. But I have been friends with all of the leaders and have worked alongside them in one capacity or another over the past few decades.

So this was a bit of a surprise announcement. Martyn was very polite and gracious in what he said, but it sounds like the Board members had different ideas about where the ACL should be headed than did Martyn. He began his letter this way:

After five incredible years as managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, my employment has been terminated by the Board.


I hasten to add that there is no question of misconduct. Rather, the Board has reviewed ACL’s strategic direction and decided I am not the right person to lead the revised strategy, which focuses more primarily on political tactics, less on the gospel. Having heard this articulated, I absolutely agree with them that I am not the right person for that vision. I have always been a preacher first, a politician second (or third……).


Please pray for the Board as ACL passes through this process, that their decisions would advance God’s will.


Although I think the strategy isn’t the right one, I leave without bitterness. God’s providence works through all things, including our own disappointments.


Meanwhile, I expect God to open another door. Indeed, some things have already started to happen in that regard – please follow me on social media for those updates in due course (links below).

I will feature the rest of his letter below. But it seems Martyn was more keen to keep a strong Christian emphasis on all their work, while the Board wanted a more political focus. At least that is what is being said out loud. Many are wondering if certain things were making the board less happy with Martyn, including perhaps his becoming more outspoken about lockdown mania, mandatory medicine and the like.

I suppose all that and more will come out in the wash, and in the days ahead we will learn more details of what caused the split. One thing we can say is how very Christlike and full of Christian grace Martyn was in what he wrote. There was no trace of bitterness or resentment. And he urged us to keep praying for the ACL.

As to his having to step down, I think everyone agrees he was first-class and did a superlative job of running the growing organisation. He has a background in law, is very bright, articulate and wise in what he says and does, and has been a force for good for the ACL.

And hey, I have to admit to some bias here. Anyone who has parents that name their son after the late great Martyn Lloyd-Jones can’t be all bad! So he comes not just with a great mind, buttressed by his legal training, but he has had a rich Christian and theological background as well.

As to the ACL wanting to ease up on the ‘Christian’ stuff and concentrate more on lobbying and straight out political activism, that is up to them. They have already changed their name once. Maybe they will again and now call themselves the Australian Conservative Lobby, or some such thing.

If that is what they want to do, that is their choice. But I tend to side with Martyn here. I too have long been involved in political lobbying and the like, and I know of its importance. But the more I have done this, the more I have come to believe that unless there is a strong gospel feature, unless there is a strong Christian connection, it will be all rather limited in its effectiveness and long-term success.

While these discussions have been had for 2000 years now, our fundamental problems are not so much political or social, but moral and ultimately spiritual. Seeking to help fix the former without dealing with the latter is never going to get us very far.

As I have written elsewhere, secular conservatism can only be of limited use, and without the Christian component, its power and influence will always be quite restricted. I have spoken about such matters in terms of secular conservative media outlets, such as Sky News. I have compared it with a somewhat more Christianised conservative media giant, Fox News: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/05/02/conservatives-what-conservatives/

At the end of the day folks need to decide what they want to do and how they will do it. Hopefully all the parties involved in this split will be pressing on to seek God and discern what he would have them to do. For my part I think Martyn is a champion, and I am sure wherever he next goes and whatever he next does, he will continue to shine for Christ and do a fantastic job.

And he joins many others who have been shoved out or pressured to leave. For example, think of state and federal Liberal politicians such as Bernie Finn, Cory Bernardi and others. May they all go on to bigger and better things. So God bless you Martyn. We all love and appreciate what you are doing for Christ and the Kingdom. And we will keep you in our prayers.

The rest of Martyn’s letter is as follows:

Great Blessings

It is hard to account for all that has happened over the past 5 years. It has been massive and surprising.

But it has been good.

The Lord has blessed our work immensely. I could fill books with all that has happened. From Israel Folau to Babylon and everything in-between, it’s like a great wind just blew, and here we are.

In terms of metrics, ACL’s annual income, supporter numbers, donors, and staff numbers have all roughly tripled.

A technologically sophisticated digital campaign platform has recently been completed, to coordinate and empower some 10,000 volunteers (and growing).

The ministry of The Truth of It has brought together massive audiences, and gone global, reaching millions.

And the gospel has been declared to the nation, in mainstream media, on alternative media, and through the distribution of millions of gospels by volunteers. In my view, this is our greatest achievement.

I believe Australia has been blessed. That has been God’s doing.


Special Thanks

I want to thank you, as a supporter, for being part of this movement. Thank you to those who donated, volunteered, turned up, or simply signed up.

To my staff – I owe you a great debt. Your support has been unflinching. A more faithful and talented group of 40 people can scarcely be found anywhere.

I wish to single out Dan Flynn, for your sacrificial service to me, to ACL and to the Lord.

Also, Israel Folau. A man who still inspires me because of your courageous testimony, against all odds.

Most of all, however, thank you to all of you who prayed. The burdens were impossible. The spiritual attacks were intense. The stakes were so high. But your prayers got us through – more than you will ever know!


The Future

ACL is now a huge people-powered activist movement making truth public. The fundamentals are so strong.

Please pray for the Board as they look to appoint a new CEO who can carry the baton forward in a way that accords with their goals.

As for me, please connect with my Facebook and Instagram pages to keep in touch.

It has been the great privilege of my life. Thank you – and again, I say, thank you!

[1443 words]

30 Replies to “Where To Now For the ACL?”

  1. Well written Bill,
    Martyn is a treasure. sorry ACL you lost a genius, a genuine and faithful guy who taught us all how to serve the Lord with pure heart.
    May the Lord bless you Martyn, your are a great leader. Well done good and faithful servant of the Lord.

  2. Yes I feel it’s most likely because he has spoken out lately about what has been happening, and I guess they’d rather ignore it, so sad such a loss to them..

  3. Thanks Bill, I didn’t know, unbelievable, I agree with comments, they are going to find it hard to find a replacement of such expertise.

  4. Thank you Bill for your encouragement, I was staggered to hear this news, not happy. I have nothing but admiration and gratitude to Martin for the outstanding work God has done through him at ACL over the last 5 years. Such an inspiration and role model, especially to our young people who are having a tough time standing up for truth in this generation. Thanks so much to Martin for his courage and faithfulness to the Gospel. God will continue to use you Martin. A Hero of the Faith.

  5. Thanks Bill. I think this is an important strategic decision that does not for a moment devalue the importance of either Martyn or ACL.
    Thank you Martyn for all you have shown us over the last 5 years.

    Has anyone noticed that Christian schools are about to be smashed by further draconian laws?
    How do good people effectively push back against this, and even greater evils?

    How do we pushback against the mangling of healthy young bodies and their minds?

    How do we stand up against the growing racial divisions in our nation?

    And much much more.

    Perhaps this will be revealed in a new strategy.
    I earnestly look forward to how we can all participate further in boldly living out the Gospel.

  6. Jesus did not ask us to fight with the same weapons of this world. What is happening is spiritual warfare right now and Martyn was able to discern and preach the gospel. This is the most effective way to respond to all the challenges that facing our culture.

    As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle of some sort on a daily basis. In warfare, battles are fought on different fronts, for different reasons, and with varying degrees of intensity. The same is true in spiritual warfare. Our spiritual battles and warfare are real, even though we cannot physically see the attacker. But, we can educate ourselves on how the battles are fought and how they impact our lives on a daily basis. Martyn used the Strategy given to Him by the Holy Spirit.

    Jesus told us in Matthew 28:18 that, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” We now have the privilege of having an eternal relationship with God. Many of us enter into that covenant of salvation by grace. But the Matthew 28:18 verse is not only about our salvation; it is also about our every day victory, which adds up to victorious living in Christ. Every day victory is achieved by knowing, believing and understanding the battles that we are enduring daily, regardless if we are passive or active in the battles.

    Thank you Martyn for your wisdom and thank you for preaching the Gospel, the Gospel is the way to fight the battle and win the war. Well done good and faithful servant.

  7. Bill. With respect what gives you the idea that the ACL is seeking to be less than 100% Christian in its approach? ACL does not build church res run Christian schools or Bible Colleges. It’s mandate is to speak truth into the political realm, to be 100% true this. Martyn will I think now be ready to step into whatever God has for him next. As you rightly point out, first Jim the Lyle then Martyn. Each the right person at the time. God knows who is next.

  8. Martyn gives me the idea Rob: “the revised strategy, which focuses more primarily on political tactics, less on the gospel.”

    And if you had actually read my piece carefully, you would have seen that I did NOT say the ACL was seeking to be less Christian in its approach. What I did clearly say was this: “But it seems Martyn was more keen to keep a strong Christian emphasis on all their work, while the Board wanted a more political focus.”

  9. Highly commendable to Bill for his support and encouragement to Martyn.
    We are to obey God over man.
    We are to obey God over politics.
    Martyn, stay faithful and obedient to God’s teaching. Thankyou for your faithfulness and public stand. The door will open.

  10. I read Martyn Iles letter with great sadness. Not only are we loosing a great Christian leader, we seem to be seeing the downward slide of yet another Christian organisation. Many of these started brightly, with great Christian fervour, then over the years they became ashamed of the gospel and now are anything but Christian.

    I agree with your suggestion that ACL should now change its name to Australian Conservative Lobby. We don’t want another secular organisation retaining the word ‘Christian’ in its name and bringing reproach to Christ and his Church.

  11. I admire Martyn a lot for his work, but I do not like his choices of social media…Facebook, instagram and YouTube… wouldn’t want him to be cancelled.

  12. Christians in this country are in serious trouble when the ACL fires their CEO, because he prefers to stay true to the gospel and advocate for freedom of expression.

  13. Seems a disappointing decision. Personally l liked that they mixed up their political activism with distribution of the gospels. Win, win l thought.

    Depending on their direction, l may need to reconsider my financial support.

  14. Slow down people. Nobody at ACL has jettisoned the Gospel. Give them a chance. A change of MD might be part of God’s plan?

  15. Cardinal Pell said in one of the volumes of his prison journal that we need to bring Christ back into the debate on abortion, leaving him out of it has been a failure. I’m sure this view could be extrapolated across many other issues.

  16. I agree with Robert Ward. Initially when I received Martyn’s letter I was dismayed. Let’s see how the dust settles. Martyn is a young man with a lot to offer our cause. Let’s hold fire and see where ACL appoints to replace Martyn.

  17. Thanks Bill. I agree with your basically cautious comment, but there are certain aspects where I would prefer to be a little stronger.
    I was with “Saltshakers” when Jim Wallace was the CEO and spokesman for ACL, and the emphasis then was on political strategy. Wallace, an ex-SAS operative, would see things in terms of military strategy: “Let go on that redoubt, if we can hold the line on this one” – the tactical type of approach. I was unwilling to support that policy, but when Martyn came on the scene there was now a marked difference. He emphasised Biblical themes and a Gospel thrust, and stressed that mere conservatism was not enough, in fact, ultimately useless if the Gospel and Biblical doctrine was not at the base. One only has to observe how the “Babylon” series was such an outstanding success last year, drawing huge crowds, to see that people responded so positively to his message.
    However, there was clearly something about Martyn’s approach that the Board did not like, which was put to him, but with conditions which he in all conscience could not comply. Hence his resignation. Yes, the Gospel is still held—officially, but it’s in the background, while in the foreground it’s back to what I see as the bad old days of strategy, manoeuvring, tactics and the like. Iow, playing the political game.
    My forecast is that this policy will ultimately fail, and ACL will lose the massive support it has gained under Martyn’s leadership, as it becomes just another political lobby group, albeit daubed with some Christian paint. I read your protests, Rob Ward, and I know you are trying to defend the Board’s decision. I appreciate that. However, my comments stand, though doubtless you won’t like those comments, but ultimately it is the people out there, your support base, who will have the final say. I’m afraid that the ACL Board has pulled the rug from under its own feet.

  18. Spot on, Murray.
    One asks the pertinent question – Why fix it when it ain’t broke?

    Martyn – Praise the Lord has given Our Heavenly Father ALL the Glory & Honour for the ACL’s success of the last 5yrs….
    Again, why do things need to change?

    And Bill, I for one (of many 100’s of 1000’s) have been so Blessed by your Ministry beginning in 2006.
    We’re immensely grateful you stayed in Melbourne.

  19. Thanks Bill for your honest and truthful assessment of ACL and Martyn.
    Martyn’s commitment and the growth of ACL through his ministry is outstanding. With these last days in which we are living. A true believer’s heart should be focused on reaching the lost, not focusing on man, Governments and political issues.
    Martyn carried the torch of Jesus Christ standing up for truth and righteousness throughout his 5 year tenure at ACL, and we need more men and women of his calibre to count the cost no matter what for the sake of the Gospel. the Lord will certainly bless and reward Martyn for his integrity and his faithfulness.

  20. “ALL who live Godly in Christ Jesus WILL suffer persecution” – that’s a powerful double positive.
    Martyn was not afraid to suffer persecution, but not all are ready to follow onto the battlefield. Many Christian organisations are more interested in acting like The Red Cross, than presenting the Gospel. I must admit, that I’m often tempted to take the easier road, but there’s a constant nagging awareness that our ‘good works’ can become a foil to keep us from fulfilling the mission of sharing the Gospel. Thanks for your forthright faithfulness Martyn. You took the road less travelled.

  21. We have been through the most horrific period in our post-modern world. Government’s forcing mRNA cocktail into your bloodstream. With dependents, a father/mother had to weigh up an unenviable choice. A socialist taxation system designed to cripple families in the midst of Spiritual warfare on every level of our personal and community existence.
    Christians everywhere must pray and come together. As a child I remember the older generation reminding the youth that there were no atheists in the trenches.
    Take a bow Martyn.

  22. Martyn preached the gospel to the unconverted and encouraged the body of Christ to follow the Lord more fully. That is the greatest way to rock our nation from it’s sleep. But
    I’m sure God will use Martyn in a greater way still. We need to trust God and not have the world laugh at us through bickering and fighting.

  23. I’ve read both Martyn’s and Jim Wallace’s explanations of the situation and they seem to be saying the same thing about the main focus of the ACL. I can only assume that there must’ve been other issues behind the scene.
    However, I found Martyn to be an excellent communicator and for me, gained far more interest in the work of the ACL during his time.
    It will be interesting to see what doors now open for Martyn and who the ACL will appoint as their next director.

  24. Thanks Bill, and it is interesting to read not only your piece but the comments as well.
    I can say that I have been mildly uncomfortable at times with Martyn’s take on things, for his practical theology is different to mine.
    However I have long decided that he should have free reign with his views and that iron should sharpen iron in my thnking.
    It is profoundly sad that Martyn’s ministry with ACL has been cut off, and that is for a couple of reasons.
    Firstly, but not most importantly, ACL was going gangbusters for support across Australia. Sometimes popularity is a sign of something wrong, something that appeals to ‘the flesh’.
    But I don’t see that here.
    I believe that there was a work of God going on, and people’s enthusiasm was really for the light and truth.
    Secondly but Most importantly, I strongly believe that true success in the big goals that ACL have, that is to have righteousness back in the driving seat of our culture, will only be truly achieved when there is a change of heart in the people.
    There needs to be a ‘new Spirit’ and a ‘new heart’, replacing the ‘stony heart’.
    Only God can do this.
    I believe that Martyn understood this while sadly the ACL board may not.
    I could develop this further but that is enough for now.

  25. Bruce. Interesting comments. I agree that Australia needs a “new heart” and that can only come from a move of God. I am however more confident than you seem to be in the Godly wisdom and insight of those on the ACL Board. Jim Wallace has said the purpose of ACL has not changed, that is to influence politics both by direct engagement and by empowering a grassroots movement of Christians. Both not just one.

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