Seeing God at Ground Zero: an Aussie’s testimony from 9/11

“A meteorologist would tell you there were sprawling areas of high pressure, but to me it was simply a picture-perfect day for my last full day in New York, and an opportunity to explore the tourist hot spots.

First on the list was the viewing observatory inside the World Trade Center’s South Tower. It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001. …”

– At The Australian Church Record, Anthony Phillips reflects on his experience, and the lessons he learned from that day in New York.

Donald Robinson on the Origins of the Anglican Church League

by Lionel Windsor

History matters. It makes us question things we take for granted, it helps us to understand who we are, and it gives us a broader perspective on the issues we face today. One example – relevant for evangelical Anglicans, especially in Sydney – is an essay in Donald Robinson Selected Works, volume 4 (recently published by the Australian Church Record and Moore College).

The essay is called “The Origins of the Anglican Church League” (pp. 125–52). It’s a republication of a paper given in 1976 by Donald Robinson (1922–2018), former Moore College Vice-Principal and later Archbishop of Sydney. In the paper, Robinson traces some of the currents and issues that led to the formation of the Anglican Church League in the early twentieth century. The essay is classic Donald Robinson: full of surprises, yet definitely still worth reading today to help us gain perspective on issues for evangelical Anglicans past and present.

One surprise in the essay is that Robinson doesn’t say very much about the Anglican Church League itself! That’s because he’s not too sure about how it started. About two thirds of the way through the paper, after describing in some detail several predecessors to the ACL, he notes:

You will be wondering what has happened to my subject, the Origins of the Anglican Church League. To tell the truth, I am at a loss to give a clear explanation of its origins, or to trace the steps by which it was organised. (144)

So if you’re looking for a detailed history of the ACL over the twentieth century, this essay is probably not for you.[1] But if you’re looking for some key insights into issues that evangelical Anglicans faced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and some helpful perspectives on where we’re at today, this essay is certainly worth delving into!

1. Issues leading to the ACL’s Formation

At the turn of the twentieth century, evangelical Anglicans were deeply concerned by two issues: an alarming increase in “ritualism”, and a (related) alarming increase in the authority of bishops. This might seem surprising to us today. When we look around at worldwide Anglicanism, we can take for granted that there is a lot of ritual, and that bishops have quite a lot of power. But it wasn’t always so – and in the nineteenth century, these things weren’t a “given”. Nevertheless, they were on the rise, and evangelicals were trying to stop them. Robinson mentions, for example, the Churchman’s Alliance, which was formed in 1893 as a response to increasing “ritualism” and as a counterpoint to societies that had formed to promote Anglo-Catholicism (133–35). The purpose of the Church Alliance was “To maintain and diffuse abroad the principles Catholic and Protestant of our holy religion” (134).

Robinson devotes much of his paper to a group called the Protestant Church of England Union (PCEU), which owed much to the efforts of Canon Mervyn Archdall (135–39). Significant for the PCEU was promotion of Reformation preaching, and regular prayer meetings were a core of their work (139, 142). The key issues the PCEU faced and sought to address were (140):

As I mentioned above, we might feel these things are a “given” for today’s Anglican Communion. But at the time, Lambeth and the power of Canterbury weren’t so central for Anglicanism. And evangelicals saw the increasing power of Lambeth and Canterbury as a real problem. The object of the new PCEU (1898) was:

to maintain and extend the efficiency of the Church of England as the original representative of evangelical truth and apostolic order in our country, and as a witness to the principles of the Reformation. (141–42)

So the PCEU promoted constitutional government over against the authority of bishops (144).

2. The ACL’s Formation

What of the ACL itself? According to Robinson, it was founded at some point between 1909–1912, around the election of Archbishop Wright, though the exact circumstances weren’t easy for Robinson to discern (145).  Constitutionally, the ACL was affiliated with the English National Church League (NCL), who saw prayer book revision and ritualism as key issues that needed to be addressed (146). It appears that the ACL started as a group that was a little more “centrist” than the PCEU. Robinson writes:

In 1914 we find Canon Gerard D’Arcy Irvine saying that the ACL “stood for central churchmanship, which implied spiritual, strong, and scholarly churchmanship, and fought for the principles of the Reformation upon which the character of future generations depended”… His use of the term “central churchmanship”… reflected the view of the evangelicals that their position was not a partisan position, but was true to the central and authentic character of the Church of England as “catholic, apostolic, protestant, and reformed”. (148)

However, as time went on, conservative evangelicals realised the need for the ACL to be even stronger on Reformation principles against a growing trend of liberalism. Thus, by 1933 the ACL had come to a place where it was opposing not only ritualism, but also liberalism (149).

Even though the ACL was (and still is) constituted as a national body, Robinson notes that the ACL’s main influence has always been within Sydney:

It does not seem to have succeeded to any extent as a national body, though it promoted consultation and offered advice in connection with some elections of country bishops in NSW. Without doubt it consolidated the strength of evangelicals in Sydney, and almost all diocesan leaders have been associated with it at some time or other. (151)

3. What can we learn?

Robinson’s paper is not a comprehensive historical treatise, but it is a fascinating historical reflection. What can we learn from this history?

Firstly, we can gain some worthwhile historical perspective. Ritualism, the authority of bishops, and liberalism are not simply “givens” for Anglicanism! They do not define historic Anglicanism; in fact, not too long ago, they were innovations that needed to be protected against. This perspective can give us renewed courage to continue to defend, promote, and maintain historic, evangelical, reformed Anglicanism.

Secondly, this history reminds us that constitutional, rather than episcopal, government, is definitely worth maintaining and promoting. In our own situation in Sydney, where historically the bishops have by and large been friendly to the evangelical faith, we could feel we can relax and hand more power over to the bishops for the sake of efficiency. But bishops, like all of us, are fallible human beings. Increasing episcopal power is something to continue to watch, and we should be alert to the need to maintain constitutional government.

How do we do that? By all of us (clergy and laity) getting in there, doing the work of governance, finding people for committees to help make decisions for the good of the gospel in the Diocese, and not leaving it all up to the bishops. Robinson’s paper reminds us that the work of the ACL continues to be a significant one for the cause of the gospel and the salvation of men and women, in our own city and diocese, and beyond.

The Rev Dr Lionel Windsor
ACL Council Member and Moore College Lecturer.

Endnotes:

[1] Some further research on these matters has been done by others. For a general history of the ACL, see Ed Loane’s talk at the ACL Centenary dinner in 2009. See also Judd & Cable, Sydney Anglicans, Sydney: AIO, 2000 (Stephen Judd’s PhD was on the ACL).

The last death throes of cultural Christianity and what’s next — with Phillip Jensen

“Former Anglican Dean of Sydney Phillip Jensen says to understand the issues fronting Christians today we will best start with understanding the history.

Phillip, who now heads up Two Ways Ministries, takes us on a helicopter journey through fifty years of cultural and Christian history…and considers where to from here?”

– Whether you were there, and remember it, or weren’t and don’t, this is a fascinating overview of the last 50+ years, with gospel encouragement for the future.

Watch Phillip at The Pastor’s Heart with Dominic Steele.

His Sermons roused a sleeping Church — J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)

“At the age of 64, after thirty-six years in rural parishes, when most people are ready to retire, he was called to be the first bishop of Liverpool. So he moved from parishes of 300 and 1,300 to a city of over 700,000 with all the urban problems he had never met face-to-face. He served in this post for twenty years, until two months before his death on June 10, 1900, at the age of 84.”

John Piper pens a portrait of Bishop J. C. Ryle.

Wonderful encouragement for the start of the working week.

Dr. Stuart Piggin to speak on Australia’s Christian heritage

In an event in Parramatta on Monday 1st April, Professor Stuart Piggin will speak on the key influence of an evangelical Christian worldview in the shaping of Australia.

See Family Voice Australia for details and registration.

(See also, The Fountain of Public Prosperity – Evangelical Christians in Australian History 1740–1914, by Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder, from Monash University Publishing.)

A Tender Lion: The Life, Ministry, and Message of J.C. Ryle

ACL website readers might be interested in this book about J. C. Ryle. Commended by Phillip Jensen, it’s currently on special at Reformers bookshop in Stanmore.

J. C. Ryle is to Anglican evangelicals as C. H. Spurgeon is to Baptist evangelicals. The lives of great servants of God deserve our careful study to understand the trajectory from which we have come, to remove the cultural blinders of living in the present, and to find exemplars of gospel ministry, that we may imitate their faith. Bennett Rogers has done us all a great favour by writing this book on J. C. Ryle with detailed scholarship and eminently readable prose.” – Phillip Jensen.

Also other items on special of possible interest –

Letters of John Calvin (reduced to $24.99) and Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologian, Confessional Presbyterian (now $35).

(The ACL does not have any business relationship with Reformers Bookshop. We just thought you might be interested.)

‘The Most Reverend The Primate and Patriarch of The Southern Hemisphere’

‘The Most Reverend The Primate and Patriarch of The Southern Hemisphere’ – that’s how John Newton addressed Richard Johnson, Chaplain to the First Fleet and the fledgling colony of New South Wales.

Marylynn Rouse, at The John Newton Project, just in time for Australia Day, has posted a number of letters and new material relating to Richard Johnson – including letters to him from John Newton.

Richard Johnson:

“In the evening of the 23rd September 1786, I was asked by a friend, if I had got the spirit of a missionary, or, if I wished to go abroad. I smiled, and replied – No – I had no inclination or thoughts of ever leaving my native country.

On the 30th of the same month, I received a letter from another friend, informing me that a colony was going to be established in New Holland, or New Zealand – that a chaplain was wanted – that application had been made to him, to know whether he knew of any proper person for and willing to undertake such an arduous work – and that if I chose to accept of, he could secure me the appointment. …”

See what’s new at The John Newton Project.

See also: Richard Johnson – First Chaplain to Australia.

For Australia Day: Analysing popular stereotypes on the foundation of Christianity in Australia

In 2015, Associate Professor Stuart Piggin gave this fascinating address at a gathering to commemorate the First Christian Service in Australia.

The event, in Richard Johnson Square on 3rd February, was close to where the Rev. Richard Johnson conducted the first Christian service in the Colony, on 3rd February 1788.

With Dr. Piggin’s permission, we published this at the time. We think it is well worth reading again.

“The preacher at that service, held under a ‘great tree’, beginning at 10 o’clock on 3 February 1788, a hot midsummer’s day, was the Rev Richard Johnson, Australia’s –

  • first minister,
  • first educator,
  • first carer for orphans,
  • first carer for aboriginal children.

With all those firsts, he was quite a pioneer – and John Newton, author of the much loved hymn ‘Amazing grace’, who recommended Johnson to MP William Wilberforce who recommended him to PM William Pitt, bestowed on Richard Johnson the title, ‘Patriarch of the Southern Hemisphere’, that is, if you will, founding father of the Christian movement in Australia.

Now, since this was the site of the first school house, it is surely fair to put a question to you. Here is the question:

If Newton gave Johnson the title ‘Patriarch of the Southern Hemisphere’, what title did the Eora people, the Aboriginal people who lived in the Sydney Basin, give Richard Johnson?

Well, class, I don’t see a forest of hands of those keen to answer the question. But I ask it to make a point. The basic question asked by the organisers of this event is:

‘Does our heritage matter?’ What they really mean is ‘does our Christian heritage matter?’

Well surely we must know what our Christian heritage is before we can decide if it matters. But I doubt if we have ever found what our Christian heritage is – we are in great danger of losing it before we ever find it. Nobody has ever told us.

Has anyone ever told us what title the Eora people gave Richard Johnson? I will tell you at the end of this address, but my point is that there are parts of our Christian heritage we just don’t know because no-one has ever told us.

Then there are other matters which we think we do know. We have been told them so often they have become stereotypes.

But maybe they are false stereotypes.…”

Do read the whole address. (PDF file.) Photos courtesy Ramon Williams, Worldwide Photos.

Related:

Richard Johnson’s Address To The Inhabitants Of The Colonies (PDF file).

See also:

John Anderson’s Conversations: Featuring Associate Professor Stuart Piggin (June 2018). Take the time to watch.

and

The Fountain of Public Prosperity – Evangelical Christians in Australian History 1740–1914, published by Monash University Publishing.

Reformation sights in Oxford

Moore College’s Lionel Windsor shares some sights from Oxford relating to the English Reformation.

“Right in front of the pillar and the picture of Cranmer was a little stand where people could pay a pound to light a candle.”

‘Men Have Forgotten God’: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address

To mark the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The National Review has republished an article adapted from his 1983 Templeton Address.

Among his remarks are these words –

“Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions.

Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot. To achieve its diabolical ends, Communism needs to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails the destruction of faith and nationhood. …”

Read it all.

Photo: US Library of Congress, via The National Review.

150 Years of Cathedral ministry

“November 30 marks 150 years since Sydney’s Cathedral was consecrated by Bishop Barker.

St Andrew’s Day in 1868 was an occasion of celebration and dedication – not just because a building had been constructed, but that a centre for gospel ministry could prosper in the heart of the city.

The prayer was that God would call people to himself as Christ was proclaimed by those ministering at the Cathedral. …”

Story from SydneyAnglicans.net, and a good reminder to give thanks and to pray the current ministry of the leadership and congregation of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.

Review: They Shall See His Face

“You may never have heard of Amy Oxley Wilkinson (1868–1949), although it’s possible you know of her great grandfather, Rowland Hassall – one of the first missionaries to come to Australia after fleeing trouble in Tahiti – or his son Thomas, who started the first Sunday School in Australia at Parramatta in 1813, and went on to be an Anglican minister in the rural south of Sydney, who earned himself the moniker ‘the galloping parson’ for visiting his far-flung flock on horseback.

If not them, you will surely know of the Rev. Samuel Marsden, chaplain, missionary and farmer, whose eldest daughter Anne married Thomas. Amy was their granddaughter, the eighth child of John Norton Oxley and Harriet Jane Hassall…”

– At The Gospel Coalition Australia, Dr. Claire Smith reviews They Shall See His Face, by Linda and Robert Banks. It’s about the most widely known female Australian missionary in China and the West in the early 20th century.

The book is available from a number of retailers, including from The Wandering Bookseller.

Next Page →