Church Planting Seminar

May 18th, 2015

John Bond and Milton Oliver will be facilitating church planter training at Stirling College on 16, 17 and 18 of June. Anyone with a heart for church planting will be equipped and given the opportunity to develop a strategy over these three days. For information and registration, see the link below or contact Stirling College on 03 9790 1000.

Vale Lucy Griffiths – 1931 – 2015

May 18th, 2015

Lucy Ellen Griffiths

27 June 1931 – 1 May 2015

The Age (3/11/61) some 40 yrs ago informed its readers that the Melbourne Anglican Archbishop had appointed Rev Nash to be a canon at St Paul’s Cathedral; that the army’s Chaplain General was to speak at a Methodist remembrance service, & that Bishop Fox was to address the Roman Catholic members of the Vic Public Service Assoc.

Also was the news that a “Lucy Griffiths of the Churches of Christ (CoC) Good Companions State Exec & Sec of the Aust Council of Churches’ Youth Dept, has left to take up her new post in Geneva as Sec for youth projects of the World Council of Churches”.

Lucy’s faith journey had commenced well before this time.

And took many of us, said one on learning of her death, “to a level that was beyond our expectations as a small denomination of CoC; she was an inspiration to those of us who believed in our desire to be an ecumenical church”.

Her journey had begun at a time of world turmoil, destruction & death, but at a time when young people were full of confidence & hope.

Immediately prior to WW2 youth from the churches, universities, & the Ys(YM & YW) met in Amsterdam (1939), & barely had the guns been silenced than the youth of the victors met with the youth of the vanquished (Oslo 1947).

A few years later young people decided it was time to move the conversation from Europe to Asia. Australian young people returned from the 1952 Indian (Travancore) meeting with renewed enthusiasm & the Aust Christian Youth Commission was born.

In 1956 Lucy was appointed part-time sec of this new Commission, a position she held for the next 5 years & part-time assisting the Secretary (H.A.G. Clark) of the newly formed Victorian Council of Churches.

Two events at this time had a great influence on her life & work : a national conference in Geelong heard the charismatic Philip Potter (then Youth Department Secretary of the WCC) – & it would be interesting to know more of the role played by Potter in Lucy’s appointment to the WCC Youth Dept a few years later; & 2nd conference in 1959 (Canberra) at which the leadership came from Asian theologians (Harry Daniel). There can be little doubt that Lucy was heavily involved in the organisation of these meetings.

The WCC was formed in 1948, only a decade or so before Lucy joined the staff.

Right thru WW2 people like Visser’t Hooft, who later became World Council of Churches (WCC) Secretary & was the Secretary when Lucy joined, had maintained communication with the German churches, had cooperated with the rescue of many in the European Jewish communities, as well as funding & supporting the underground movement of people escaping into Switzerland from Nazi Occupied France.

In the ‘90s Lucy reviewed a book on the life of Madeline Barot, who was a leader in the French churches & during the war she had been a member of the French résistance. When Lucy joined the WCC, Barot was the Director of the program on the Cooperation of men & women in church & society. Madeline Barot exploits & ministry were still a talking point in my time with the WCC a decade after Lucy.

In the review Lucy wrote “what follows is ….. an account of Madeline’s memories of the challenges confronting Christians …it is a record of solidarity with the victims & the marginalised we meet along our way, & in whom Christ is present; it is a story of men & women who organised themselves to work for social justice”.

It would’ve been fascinating to yarn with Lucy on the degree of influence that Madeline Barot had on her own views of women in church & society.

Lucy, for example, wrote to the editor of the CoC journal (1991),”I have two other letters to the Editor forming in my head – one the involvement of Christians in trade unions & another on the use of the term BROTHERHOOD (in capitals) to describe CoC. I regard myself, she writes, as a fairly peaceable person, but that term provokes me to fury!”

I can only guess what was in her head about Christians & trade unions. Maybe there is a clue in her life after the WCC. Study in Africa & then work with the British Methodists & was a member & officer of the church that the Rev Donald Soper had lead & his continuing presence & influence would’ve been very evident for someone like Lucy.

Soper was a Hyde Park orator, a socialist, a Labor Party member & pacifist, whose biographer, Brian Frost, a close friend of Lucy’s, wondered how come “a minister with such radical views came to receive so much affection & acclaim?”

Lucy on her return to Australia continued to be actively involved with those issues & causes she felt most strongly. Speaking at one meeting she describes herself one concerned about justice for all people & the environment, how Orthodox & Asian Christians living in Australia can enrich our protestant traditions & the need to take seriously people of other faiths”.

Lucy had the remarkable good fortune to trip across some of the great figures of church life & the ecumenical movement; she travelled extensively, worked in Europe & studied in Africa. Take a walk thru her (& Doug’s) library which she gave to the CoC theological college – multiple copies of Brunner, Tillich, Bonheoffer, Robinson, Newbiggin, as well as 104 books from the progressive Student Christian Movement.

Lucy’s faith journey took her on a lifelong ecumenical adventure.

Beginning in CoC, she found, after being significantly involved with a range of CoC committees & congregations, that her journey was taking her in new directions & in the late 90s relinquished any positions which saw her representing CoC.

One of the verses from the hymn, she wrote with Brian Frost, the biographer of Donald Soper, says much about her life,

“”Where there is squalor, let there be beauty,

Where there is sadness, let there be light;

Cry Hosanna, shout Hallelujah

Turn a world of strangers into the family of hope”.

Lucy held a unique position in the life of the Australian church.

She was perhaps the only person to have held staff positions with the Victorian Council of Churches – state, Australian Council of Churches – national & the WCC – global, organisations of churches.

The Executive of the VCC meeting on Wednesday noted, “with her husband, the Rev Doug Dargaville, they formed a significant partnership, mentoring, teaching & encouraging many of us in our ecumenical formation.

We will miss the wisdom, the grace & the insights that Lucy shared with so many”.

Vale Lucy Ellen Griffiths.


Alan Matheson

8 May 2015

Indigenous Ministries Australia – Statement on the forced closure of WA remote Aboriginal communities

April 30th, 2015

Media Release via Nick Wright of IMA

The following statement is a personal reflection by Ngardarb Francine Riches, a Bardi Jawi woman, artist, community worker and church leader from One Arm Point (Ardyaloon or Bardi) in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Francine currently lives and ministers in Melbourne’s Inner West through the Melbourne Indigenous Church Fellowship which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ in Vic/Tas. Francine was recently recognised publicly by her addition this year to the Victorian Women’s Honour Role, and she was also the Maribyrnong Citizen of the Year for 2014. Francine’s statement presents a viewpoint that has not been widely heard at this stage:

“As a family (off country) affected by this issue, we are very concerned that our people are still being talked about and not talked to by the Barnett State Government of Western Australia. There are lives at stake and the plan to further reduce people’s rights is appalling while at the same time, mining, exploration and tourism is carried out throughout the State on Aboriginal lands. The local people have fought long and hard to establish homes and businesses in most of the communities threatened by forced closure and it seems to be forgotten that these are not new places to Aboriginal people — I certainly reject the idea that it is a lifestyle choice to live in these communities — these communities are our homes and have been for thousands of years.

If we are away from our country, it’s impossible to get a ‘traditional’ education. No new resources are being committed to resolving problems and disadvantage, instead the very opposite is happening! Oombulguri and Coonana are already closed. Having personally been through the years of exile as fringe dwellers in the nearby town of Derby I was one of the first Aboriginal people to resettle and get the One Arm Point community going and growing, starting from nothing. It was a real struggle but it is now a successful, thriving community—a thriving community that is threatened with imminent closure.

Both the Western Australian and Federal Governments of Australia are playing games with the lives of our people who are unsure of their future. This is setting back race relations 40 years. Imagine if they tried to stop providing essential services to every non-viable farm in WA—there would be a national uproar!

Among the threatened 274 communities there is uncertainty and fear as the Barnett Government plans to cut off water and power to the most vulnerable in our nation. The claims of the remote communities becoming an unacceptable financial burden to Western Australia since withdrawal of Federal funds is hard to accept in one of the richest States in the world. This is nothing short of a breach of the United Nations convention on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Please stay informed and stand with us against the forced closure of our communities.”

–Ngardarb Francine Riches

IMA logo


Vale Gordon Moyes – 1938 -2015

April 30th, 2015

Gordon Moyes

Rev Dr Gordon Keith Moyes AC, MLC, B.A., LL.D., Litt.D., D.D., F.R.G.S., F.A.I.M., F.A.I.C.D., M.A.C.E..

17 November 1938 – 5 April 2015

It is with deep sadness we inform you that after a brief illness Rev Dr Gordon Moyes AC, died peacefully on Sunday 5 April 2015.

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes AC was one of Australia’s most respected Christian leaders.

Ordained in 1959 as a minister of the Churches of Christ with ministries at Newmarket, Ascot Vale, Ararat and Cheltenham he later was ordained in the Uniting Church in Australia serving for 27 years as the Superintendent of Wesley Mission Sydney. Gordon led this church to become one of Australia’s largest non-government welfare providers and a uniquely shaped multi-cultural, city-based church, passionate about sharing God’s love in both Word and Deed. This extraordinary ministry was extensive in its breadth, significant in its range and innovative in its scope. Financial counselling, refugee support, property redevelopment in the central business district, financial sustainability, employment services, child and family support, disability and mental health services, media presence, retail and conference centres – where there was a need and opportunity, Gordon saw a vision to serve.

Following Gordon’s appointment at Wesley Mission, his television work gained momentum through “Turn ‘Round Australia”, a weekly half hour program, broadcast on many television stations around the country, consistently running for over 20 years.

During Gordon Moyes’ years as Superintendent there were several ground breaking documentary series produced including The Discovering series, and specials, television series and radio programs produced such as: An Australian Christmas at Darling Harbour television across Australia for 10 years, the music video show Swordfish and Sunday Night Live hosted by Gordon which ran for nearly 18 years.

The Discovering series was recognised around the world for its innovation. The series looked at the life of Jesus and then the growth of the early Christian church and was based on three books written by Gordon. This unique video series set a new standard in Australian Christian television.

Gordon has been awarded many honours over the years including Australia’s highest honours, including the Companion of The Order of Australia in 2002, 2014 Christian Media Australia’s Lifetime Achievement, Rotary International’s Paul Harris Fellow (1978), and the New South Wales Father of the Year (1986).

In 2003 he was recognised with the Commonwealth Government’s Centenary Medal for Distinguished Service to Australia following service as a member of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership Board and membership of the Prime Minister’s National Task Force on Youth Homelessness.

He was described by former Australian Prime Minister John Howard as “the epitome of effective Christian leadership” when describing the way he had grown Wesley Mission into one of the most dynamic and socially responsive church-based charities in the world. “And what I particularly salute is the way in which Dr Moyes has led the Wesley Mission to an understanding of the need for the church, in its various outreaches to the community to change and adapt whilst retaining a deep connection with the fundamentals of the Christian religion.”

Gordon was appointed by the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) to the New South Wales Legislative Council in 2002 and went on to have a career in politics serving both the CDP and Family First for the next 9 years. As a cross-bench member of the New South Wales Legislative Gordon Moyes pursued an agenda of social justice, while drawing attention to what he saw as the moral erosion of Australian society. As one of the few members of the New South Wales Parliament with a background in social work, he was a passionate advocate for disadvantaged indigenous populations, the homeless, the disabled, and the unemployed.

In his time as a parliamentarian he also spearheaded reform agendas for the juvenile justice system and fairer personal injury compensation.

As a Christian Member of Parliament, his informed judgements were drawn from a foundation in the inalienable values of justice, compassion, free will, and morality as explained in the Word of God.

Evangelism remained Gordon Moyes’ great passion through his life. “Essentially I am evangelist: I just want to tell people about Jesus Christ.”

Gordon died peacefully surrounded by what he described as the greatest joy of his life, his loving family: his wife of 55 years, Beverley and his children Jenny and Ron Schepis, Peter and Trina, David and Leisl, and Andrew and Kylie; grandchildren and great-grand-children Michael, Georgina, Adelaide, Rachel, Ethan, Cassie, Jack, Brianna, Emma, Chelsea, Tom, Indiana, Scarlett and Piper.

Vale Geoff Risson

April 2nd, 2015

Geoff Risson passed away on Thursday the 26th of March after a battle with cancer.

Geoff had a long and impactful ministry as a local church minister at Arana Hills, Maroochydore and Westside Church of Christ, as well as Devonport Church of Christ. He then went on to ministry at the State level in Queensland, where he was the Executive Director of the Resource Missional Team  (2003), and in 2008 was appointed the interim Executive President of the Queensland Churches of Christ Conference, stepping in at an extraordinarily difficult stage in the life of the Conference. His skilful, relational but firm manner steered the Queensland churches through to a foundation that is still being built on today. His knowledge of the churches and their background, combined with a depth of spirituality and a highly relational manner, made him the man for ‘such a time as this’. Geoff also lectured in Preaching and Evangelism at the Kenmore Christian College (of which he was a graduate) and had been the Queensland Conference President in 1991. In 2013, he co-authored the history of the Queensland Churches, The Church From the Paddock. 

But he was more than a summary of titles and achievements –  he was a loving husband to his wife, Margaret, and a loving father and grandfather. To his colleagues and friends, he was warm, funny, compassionate and full of integrity.  He was a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. His impact on the churches in Queensland is significant. His impact on those who knew him was profound. He resonated the character of Christ without being perfect, and he shone the light of the Christ whom he loved deeply wherever he went.

He will be missed.

Book Release: “DNA of Churches of Christ” by Graham Carslake

December 8th, 2014

Author Graham Carslake has a “love affair” with the church. His deep love for their movement has driven him to write his book, “DNA of Churches of Christ” (published by Xlibris AU). This tells the pioneer stories for the ordinary people seeking out a church home to appreciate their vital past as the Churches of Christ movement. It is also for those who have never heard their story of faith.


In a very mixed up world, there are people who are trying to restore the style of church that Jesus began and to honour its heritage and message. How does “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things LOVE”, sound for a good beginning? Carslake reveals the story of how “uncluttered Christianity” became the heartbeat of a movement calling for the unity of Christians on the basis of restoring the life and witness of New Testament Christianity. He also tells how the pioneers, Thomas Campbell and son Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone and Walter Scott, all caught the same vision of the church and came together as one as they endeavour to promote this mission.


“Here is a fresh approach for people to grow into the Christian church as a movement rather than as a denomination,” Carslake says. “Here is the seedbed of a relevant church able to adjust to a changing community in the 21st century and to meet all human needs.”


An enlightening and inspiring read, “DNA of Churches of Christ” captures the essence of the origins and its people with their brief stories that gives readers a taste of its heart beat.


Copies are available for sale at Stirling College, you can order via a website or you can contact Graham directly for more information via


“DNA of Churches of Christ”

By Graham Carslake

To download more information about “DNA of Churches of Christ” click here

Vale Clive Ward

September 17th, 2014

Clive Ward died on Sunday morning (September 14) as he was getting ready for church. There will be a private cremation in Springvale on Friday with a Thanksgiving Service this coming Sunday 2.30pm at Mulgrave Church of Christ, 44-60 Jacksons Road, September 21. Ian Allsop and Alan Avery will be taking the service.


Clive served as Conference President in 1988, was Conference Secretary and on the Home Missions Board for many years; he also made a significant contribution to Stirling as College Treasurer. From being Treasurer of Essendon Football Club to Chair of the Box Hill Hospital Clive was committed to making a difference with his faith. Clive’s dedication and faithful service to God has been an inspiration.


He is survived by his wife Joan. Please join us in praying for Joan and their extended family.

Historical Article by Kerrie Handasyde

July 21st, 2014

Kerrie Handasyde recently had a paper published for the Stone-Campbell Journal: an extract is provided here for your interest – Discussion Paper: Transforming History –

This Discussion Paper by Kerrie Handasyde (Adjunct Lecturer in Churches of Christ History at Stirling Theological College, University of Divinity) is adapted from her article, ‘Transforming History: The Origins of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Victoria, Australia’, published in Stone-Campbell Journal Vol. 17/1 (Spring 2014). To view the article please subscribe to the journal or join the Stone-Campbell Scholars Community.

Discussion Paper: Transforming History

Kerrie Handasyde

What could a nineteenth-century evangelist in a top hat and bow-tie have to say to us? Can tent-dwellers speak across 160 years? This discussion paper looks at two different stories about the origins of Churches of Christ in Victoria. More than a century’s distance between us and the people from our past allows us to examine their approach without sharing all their assumptions. By contrast, when we read about contemporary evangelists we have difficulty critiquing because we think like they do. We are immersed in the same world. We come to the discussion with the same cultural assumptions and blind-spots. Frequently we find ourselves motivated by what they say – and affirmed in what we already believe. The past does not let us get away with such easy thinking. The past shows us mission and ministry in a strange light. The thoughts and actions of our past evangelists are confronting. We cannot read about them and just think, ‘yes, let’s do that’. More than this, their stories cast light on our present actions. History can transform how we see and act.

Every congregation has its story of how it came into being: the obstacles faced, the chapel built, the membership beginning to grow. These popular histories describe the character and purpose of a people. Churches of Christ in Victoria, Australia, trace their origins to the congregation at Prahran in 1853 – a congregation with an especially memorable beginning. Its genesis story persists. But as a story of the origins of the Conference of Churches of Christ in Victoria, it is limited, local, and no longer effective.

The story has little connection to the present or insight into the central ecclesiological tensions that developed in Churches of Christ in Victoria 150 years ago. So how might our church—local and denominational—articulate its history anew among its own people so that the past may speak meaningfully into the present? How have we told our history in the past? How might we tell it in the future?

In the beginning there was a tent

The first story of origins focused image of the tent resonates with the much larger Australian narrative of human vulnerability in an unforgiving landscape. It is understandable that such an image has stuck in the minds of Churches of Christ, enduring beyond the primitivist horizon of the church it depicts. However, ultimately it is a myth of origin for a small church in need of protection from a hostile world. That is not who we are. Today the calling of Churches of Christ in Australia is more often expressed as mission, leadership, and ministry to a broken world, communities of hope and compassion. For a narrative of origin to bring people together and inform the church’s reason for being, it must reframe the story in the light of these contemporary concerns.on Henry Picton’s tent in Prahran where six hardy British souls met and shared the Lord’s Supper under canvas in January 1853. Sometimes the story is told differently. Sometimes it is James Ingram’s tent where the first Lord’s Supper was held (despite the evidence of shipping records and contemporary newspaper reports). These two contesting versions demonstrate that the question of who comes first echoes on beyond the sons of Zebedee. Either way, the group met in the tent only briefly before moving on through an inauspicious series of rental properties. But the tent endures as a symbol of hardship and adversity to be overcome. It signifies humility before God, and the pragmatism of Australians making do. It also ties in with the significant gold rush moment in Victoria’s history. Taking a wider cultural perspective, the the image of the tent resonates with the much larger Australian narrative of human vulnerability in an unforgiving landscape. It is understandable that such an image has stuck in the minds of Churches of Christ, enduring beyond the primitivist horizon of the church it depicts. However, ultimately it is a myth of origin for a small church in need of protection from a hostile world. That is not who we are. Today the calling of Churches of Christ in Australia is more often expressed as mission, leadership, and ministry to a broken world, communities of hope and compassion. For a narrative of origin to bring people together and inform the church’s reason for being, it must reframe the story in the light of these contemporary concerns.

In the beginning the evangelists made the difference

Here is another story of our church’s beginning – a story of preachers and teachers. At the Church of Christ in Prahran, numbers fluctuated considerably as people passed through on the way to the goldfields. However, for the first several years, Henry Picton was a constant, and the eldership initially rested on him and Samuel Kidner, who “were recognised as the most suitable men to fill this important position”.1 These men, a legal clerk and a homeopathic pharmacist respectively, also had the task of preaching the gospel to the congregation in the evenings (with some help from neighboring elders). In an effort to gain converts, they took their often poorly developed preaching skills to the streets, though it was “slow, trying work”.2 Picton later hired a “small room in Chapel-street” for the purpose, but found progress frustrating. Indeed it is reported that on one occasion his only audience was a trio of “stately goats” 3 whose entrance might have added an element of theatre, albeit absurdist, missing from the oratory. Like other British lay preachers in the fledgling movement, Picton’s style was almost certainly dry and reasoning – though he reported the goat story himself so we can also guess that was acquainted with humility.

Picton and the men of this first generation believed in solely lay ministry. They also knew they needed help with preaching. In fact, in 1853 they requested that preachers be sent from Britain to help them. But none were sent. From the beginning, lay resistance to trained leadership was fuelled not only by a rich seam of anti-clericalism, but by unfulfilled need. We demonise what we desire but cannot have.

Over ten years later, British-born, American-trained preacher Henry Samuel Earl strode into Melbourne with his top hat and bow tie. He was, in his own words, “the first and only evangelist whose time has been wholly devoted to the work in this country; so that we need not wonder that the cause has not made much progress.”4 This was not true (and I suspect he knew it), but it does capture the self-assurance of the man and his canny use of publicity. Earl found the Church of Christ in Melbourne meeting in a “small, unsightly and unpopular room in Russell Street.”5 It did not fit the scope of his vision:

I at once told them that it would be a waste of time and labor for me to preach in that place. . . .I decided that St George’s Hall, Bourke Street, was the most suitable as it was well located, of good repute and the largest in the city. This hall was secured and I preached my first sermon in it to an audience of not less than 800 on Lord’s day, July 31st, 1864. The next Lord’s day it was well filled and the following Lord’s day it was crowded to overflowing with an audience of about 1800 persons. All available standing room, as well as every seat, was occupied. This interest and attendance continued unabated to my last sermon on October 8, 1865.6

No goats or tents were in Earl’s narrative. Humility was out. Modest, self-deprecating stories of faithful perseverance would not bring about the kingdom of God as he saw it. Reports in The Argus strongly suggest his skill and effectiveness in preaching were not exaggerated:

St George’s Hall was crowded last evening on the occasion of a sermon being preached there by Mr H.S. Earl, B.A., a gentleman announced by advertisement as from America. His subject was “The Messiah” and the discourse was remarkable, inasmuch as the preacher addressed himself to his audience in a style totally different from the received modes of pulpit oratory, his manner and actions being those of a speaker on secular subjects, rather than those usually adopted when religion is the theme.7

After a year at the Church of Christ in Melbourne, Earl had added 200 more to their number, a significant increase on the colony-wide membership of 400. All the churches, including Prahran which he visited in September 1865, benefited from the energy, clarity, and vigour of his preaching. Other Americans followed. Their sermons had tension and drama. Churches held Sunday night gospel services where preachers roused with hortatory oration and singing crescendoed as altar calls were made. The people responded and went forth to be baptized by immersion—a spectacle often undertaken at public beaches, in rivers, and in purpose-built tanks, the preachers wearing white gowns and special “baptismal trousers” purchased by mail-order.8

But Earl did not only preach. He taught others to do so, encouraging and publicly praising their efforts. Some young Australian men like JW Webb first realized their vocation at Adelphian classes like those led by Earl in 1864 at the fledgling Church of Christ in Doncaster.9 The Americans actively mentored Australian men for lay leadership and evangelism. Not only their preaching but their teaching changed Australian Churches of Christ. 

A significant number of Australian men were so immensely influenced by American-style preaching and Earl’s Adelphian classes that they travelled to Lexington, Kentucky, to enrol at the College of the Bible. Crossing the globe the study was an enormous undertaking, and many chose to stay in the U.S.10 This loss of talent prompted calls for a ministry training college in Australia. Until this point in time, the church in Australia had been modeled on the exclusively lay British pattern, albeit with American voices. Now a divergence was made. We started to dream of an Australian college, modeled on the American, to satisfy the Australian demand for preachers in the American style. The project to establish a college had a few false starts and a number of ventures were tried. Finally, in 1906, the Federal Conference of Churches of Christ resolved to establish a national ministry training college in Victoria.11 Named after the college in Lexington, the (Australian) College of the Bible was led by Australian preachers Harry G. Harward (Principal) and James Johnston. They had both trained in the U.S. While elders still governed churches, they shared their influence with Australia’s young educated evangelists, who modeled themselves on those from America and traced their educational lineage to Kentucky. Significantly the college has since been re-named after an Australian preacher – Stirling.

So why is this story of our origins not widely known? There are a few reasons, but the biggest is that our history-telling is influenced by our church structure. Congregations are governed by local church councils, and local people have written local histories. We have told the story of our movement in bits and pieces: a tent here, a church hall there. Aside from a few early-20th century histories focused on denomination building (replete with membership statistics and photos of institutions – a very twentieth century fascination) we have largely written small stories. These stories are valuable to congregations: they honour and remember and bind the members together. But knowing our own small piece of history is not enough to give us a sense of who we are as a people, and why we are as we are. It is a cliché, but the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.

The end: beginning again

Just as the gospel must be interpreted for the living, the past must be told anew if it is to speak meaningfully into the present. The audacious and visionary work of the evangelists, from America, Britain, and most importantly, among the Victorian people transformed what were essentially sectarian beginnings into a dynamic movement. As long as calling every member to mission and ministry through inspirational leadership matters, the story of the evangelists who changed the landscape through their preaching and their teaching must be incorporated into the narrative of origin of Churches of Christ in Victoria. Our collective history matters. It is time to tell the story again from the beginning.

1 Chapman, No Other Foundation, 160.
2 Maston, Jubilee Pictorial History, 247.
3 Maston, Jubilee Pictorial History, 247.
4 Letter to the American Christian Review, quoted in the British Millennial Harbinger (1865) 141.
5 Letter cited in Digest of the Australian Churches of Christ Historical Society, No 93 (April 1987).
6 Letter cited in Digest of the Australian Churches of Christ Historical Society, No 93 (April 1987).
7 The Argus, August 8, 1864.
8 The Austral Printing and Publishing Company, led by A. B. Maston, ran a small trade in baptismal trousers made by the
Goodyear rubber company, advertising in their national journal, Australian Christian (March 27, 1902) 156.
9 J. Ernest Allan, “Souvenir History of the Church of Christ, Doncaster, Victoria: 1863–1913,” 8.
10 Chapman, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, 86.
11 Chapman, One Lord, 86.

Ron O’Grady honoured at the National Council of Churches Executive Meeting

June 10th, 2014

Rev Ronald Michael O’Grady


Churches of Christ


1930 – 25 February 2014


The National Council of Churches in Australia along with the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) notes with regret the death of Rev. Ron O’Grady on 25 February 2014, at the age of 83 after a battle with cancer.


Rev. Ron O’Grady served the CCA as Associate General Secretary from 1973-77 and again for a brief spell in 1978. Ron was the director of the Australian Council of Churches, World Christian Action for 4 years during 1983-86.

A tireless champion for children’s rights and founder of child protection agency ECPAT (End Child Protection, Child Pornography and the Trafficking for Sexual Purposes), Rev. Ron O’Grady will be remembered as “the person who brought the issue of child trafficking to the world’s attention.” After returning to his homeland he established Child Alert in New Zealand.


Another arena where he made an indelible mark is with regard to the burgeoning growth of mass tourism. During his time as Associate General Secretary of the CCA, he was visionary enough to see the oncoming tsunami that was tourism. He was among a band of a few pioneers who seriously questioned the impact of injustice and inequity on vulnerable communities through this leisure activity promoted as benign and a boon. Then, as now, tourism was already being advanced as a ‘smokeless’, costless tool for developing societies in the framework of global, free market economics. Along with close colleagues, including the late Rev Peter Holden and Fr Bonnie Mendes, Ron played a significant part in organising the landmark International Third World Tourism Workshop of churches and civil society in 1980 in Manila. The consciousness that was engendered and was spreading led to the establishment of the Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism (ECTWT), to be known later as Ecumenical Coalition On Tourism – ECOT), and entities such as EQUATIONS in India and the European network TEN, and other formal and informal advocacy efforts around the world.


The NCCA gives thanks to God for the life and ministry of Ron O’Grady, his contributions to ecumenism in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.




1. The NCCA Executive recognise with appreciation the life of Ronald Michael O’Grady and the ecumenical contribution he made to the churches in Australia as Director of Christian World Action of the Australian Council of Churches for four years (1983 – 86). Ron’s contribution to the CCA as Associate General Secretary for the period 1973 -1977, 1978. He later represented the Churches of Christ at the Christian Conference of Asia General Assemblies. As a committed ecumenist he contributed to the fabric of ecumenism in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He will long be remembered for his work in establishing the Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism (ECTWT), ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism) and Child Alert in New Zealand.

Obituary to Ken Patterson

May 30th, 2014

Kenneth John Patterson,OAM

21st November 1922 – 12th April 2014


Strategic church planter, astute administrator, practical theologian, precise historian, passionate pacifist, empathic pastor, encouraging mentor, humble servant of the Christian way – these and many other phrases call Kenneth John Patterson (known to many as Ken) to mind.


Born to Harold and Jessie Patterson in Ascot Vale, Victoria, and the eldest of four boys, Ken was a son of the manse where he and his brothers were nurtured in an atmosphere that encouraged a healthy sense of self-worth, careful thought and dedication to the Christian way. While each son was encouraged to express open and strong opinions on a range of life matters, they were also nurtured to be careful listeners, appreciative of others’ thoughts that may differ from their own, carefully weighing alternative ideas for value.


Early formal education took place at Ascot Vale State School followed by Gardiner Central School, then Melbourne High School. Upon matriculation, Ken joined the State Savings Bank and gained his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor Commerce degrees at Melbourne University.


In 1941, Ken was called up for military duties but registered as a conscientious objector and was granted an exemption. Enrolling at the Federal Churches of Christ College of the Bible in 1943, he joined with others becoming members of the Victorian branch of the Christian Pacifist Movement which stated: “Sincerely believing that under no circumstances can participation in war be reconciled with the spirit and teachings of Christ, and desiring to work for the removal of the causes of war, I wish to be enrolled as a member of the Christian Pacifist Movement (Victoria).”


At the conclusion of his ministry studies in 1947, he and Vera Coventry married and took up ministries at Ivanhoe and Oakleigh (Victoria), then Prospect and Balaklava (South Australia).


As a banker and commerce graduate, Ken was interested in the proper use of money to better the cause of churches from many denominations across Australia. His time with the Wells Organization, a pioneer church fund-raising program, helped to raise many thousands of pounds.

In 1963, having been appointed State Organiser of Churches of Christ in Western Australia, Ken and Vera moved the family to Perth. As well as the development of the Christian Centre in Beaufort Street, he was able to organize for the provision of church properties in new suburbs, even before the suburbs themselves were developed.  His foresight, fundraising skills and careful management were his forte, leaving a significant legacy for Churches of Christ in WA.


Apart from the estimated 450,000 kms he travelled over 25 years forging relational links with churches and ministry entities associated with Churches of Christ in Western Australia, Ken Patterson networked cross-denominationally, working with the Churches Commission on Education, precursor to today’s YouthCARE, in establishing a chaplaincy program for WA schools. A keen biblical and theological student, he attended and participated in many theological forums across various denominations and ecumenically, well into his retirement years.


His interest in promoting peace continued with a steady persistence. On arriving in Western Australia, he joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) which met at ‘Quakers House’ in Mount Lawley. He was appointed President up to its discontinuance after the successes of the protests against the Vietnam War. Throughout the 1960s and 70s FOR continued to mount peace vigils (generally alongside Wesley Church), be associated with the anti-Vietnam marches and also with the United Nations Association in seminars on peace and international questions. Ken was also involved in attempts to have a Chair of Peace Studies set up in the new Murdoch University, as was Betty King of the Church of Christ, Inglewood, a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.


Ken’s philosophy and social outlook was clearly articulated. He said:


“To be a Christian is to invest our lives with the character of the Master.  Our baptism and our weekly communion should dramatise this to us.  Let us make Christ real not only to ourselves but to as many other people as we possibly can by Christ-likeness.  And let us beware of mythologising Jesus and the prophets of Scripture, as if they did not live in a real world with social and political as well as personal, educational and religious issues, all of which they met face on.  It is not enough for Christian witness to be pietistic and otherworldly if we do not allow the Spirit of Jesus working through us to play upon all of life.  I would urge myself and my brethren to out-think and out-live the rest of men in every area of human experience.  To do this we require both a lively piety and an operative social conscience.”


No stranger to conflict within and beyond the Church, he exhorted:


“Let differences, where they exist, be honestly faced, not uncritically and prejudicially damned.  The one real heresy of the Christian church is sectionalism, that Christians fail to love one another, that they begin to work against each other instead of for each other’s good.  This of course was the heart of the message of the Campbell’s and the early pioneers of the restoration movement and their pleas was that we eschew division and dissension among Christians and seek unity in love.  Division they said was a horrid evil.” 


A dedicated and enthusiastic supporter of continuing theological education for all, Ken’s leaning was towards, practical, biblical, locally centred leadership.


Current principal of Stirling Theological College (previously College of the Bible), Dr Andrew Menzies noted Ken’s commitment to ongoing growth and discovery, learning from the past in order to get on with the future, and generosity of heart and resources, emphasising his vision, determination and stamina.


In 1991, Ken Patterson was awarded the Order of the Medal of Australia “for service to religion, particularly through the Churches of Christ.”


Ken Patterson is survived by his widow Vera, 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.


Ken’s family testifies to his prowess as a principled and loving family man, taking a deep interest in each one’s capacity, interests and talents and encouraging them towards fulfilling their potential. They recall how he set a high standard, reflecting on how his Christian stance, sharp intellect, wit and family values shaped their thinking.  They and many within Ken Patterson’s orbit of influence will remember ‘a man of God, who dedicated his life serving others’… ‘a man of empathy, compassion and vision’ and ‘a much loved wise man of words and book’