Bill Hayden, the former Governor General of Australia, didn’t keep his atheism a secret. In fact, in 1996, the Council of Australian Humanist Societies named him “the Australian Humanist of the Year.”
After decades of unbelief, Hayden recently converted to Christianity. He was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at St. Mary’s Church in Ipswitch, Australia on September 9, 2018. Concerning his newfound faith, the Australian politician told the Catholic Leader, “This took too long, and now I am going to be devoted. From this day forward I’m going to vouch for God.”
The 85-year-old served as the leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1977 to 1983. In subsequent Labor Party governments, Hayden acted as a cabinet minister. He was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1983 to 1988. He vacated parliament to become the Governor General, a post he held for seven years.
Regarding his recent conversion, Hayden said, “There’s been a gnawing pain in my heart and soul about what is the meaning of life. What’s my role in it?” The former Governor General of Australia revealed to the Catholic Leader, “I can no longer accept that human existence is self-sufficient and isolated.”
Hayden’s mother was a devout Catholic. Although the Australian politician said she and the Ursuline order of sisters who instructed him as a kid were inspirations, he revealed the catalyst to his departure from atheism was a Sister of Mercy. This special influence was 93-year-old Sister Angela Mary Doyle, who was in attendance at Hayden’s baptism. Commenting about Doyle, Hayden remarked, “I have always felt embraced and loved by her Christian example.”
In a letter sent to some of his friends, the Australian politician mentioned an incident involving he and his family visiting the retired hospital administrator.
“Dallas [Hayden’s wife], our daughter Ingrid and I recently visited Sister Angela Mary in the Mater Hospital where she was a patient,” Hayden wrote. “The next morning, I woke with the strong sense that I had been in the presence of a holy woman. So after dwelling on these things I found my way back to the core of those beliefs – the Church.”
Talking about the recent sex abuse scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church, Hayden said they resulted from “human agents.”
“The problems are caused by human agents of the Church, but we shouldn’t let our faith be undermined by the action of agents who aren’t quite as good as they should be,” he said.
Hayden communicated to the Catholic Leader that his newly discovered faith has nothing to do with rules. Rather, it’s grounded in love.
“It is about love for your fellow humans, forgiveness, compassion and helpful support,” Hayden added. “These characteristics are founded on the teachings of Christ and driven by faith in an external power – the Christian God whose limitations are beyond what humans could attain.”
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge congratulated Hayden on his conversion.
“I’m delighted for Bill and think it is a gift for not only him and his family but for the entire Church in some sense,” he said. “This is just another extraordinary moment late in life for a man who has already had an extraordinary journey. He wasn’t a flawless politician, but he made a remarkable contribution.”
Hayden’s announced conversion came less than a month after the first Pentecostal Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, took office in Australia. Perhaps, Hayden along with Morrison can halt the increasingly reported bullying against Christians in Australia.
According to The Christian Institute, the number of kids being homeschooled in the country has increased by 50 percent in the past four years. Parents have cited the massive rise of anti-Christian bullying as the driving reason for this change. Morrison promised he will strive to achieve religious freedom in his country. He said, “In recent times, it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their faith in public life as ‘extreme.’”
~ 1776 Christian