ALLEN, Arthur (1902-1958)

Rowland S. Ward

ALLEN, ARTHUR (b. Sydney, NSW, 23 Nov 1902; d. Sydney, 23 Sep 1958). Minister, PCEA.

Arthur Allen was the youngest of five sons born to Robert Allen (1835-1945) of Gairloch, Scotland. His father was converted by reading the Bible in a miner's tent on the Victorian goldfields. His upbringing had been Church of Ireland, but by 1880 he was a Home Missionary with the PCEA, and drew his wife from that circle ten years later.

Arthur was small and not physically strong, nor was the family well off. But family life was happy and the father was a big Christian, free of pettiness. Allen finished primary school education, worked as a storeman until the depression of the 1930s and spent a year in the merchant marine on a tramp steamer. He attended St George's PCEA, Castlereagh Street, Sydney, and experienced over a period in 1928 and early 1929 deepening seriousness of thought, conviction of sin and need, consciousness of the reality and claims of God, and a progressive awareness of the love and sacrifice and call of Christ to faith and devotion to him. Thereafter, he did not waver or doubt. The decision and committal had been made and a life handed over to Christ.

Allen was accepted as a student for the ministry in 1933, and set a modified course. He completed one year at the University of Edinburgh, secured the Diploma of the Scottish Institute of Anthropology, and completed the normal three year course at the Free Church of Scotland College. Returning to Australia in 1937 he married Catherine Anderson of the Clarence River, and was ordained and inducted to the Geelong congregation on 18 June 1938. He remained there to the close of 1943, and was inducted to St George's, Sydney, on 1 Mar 1944. Here he continued until his death, seeing slow but steady growth to an average attendance of about 140 persons.

In Geelong, the small pastorate gave Allen opportunity to consolidate his knowledge, read widely, and further contacts with Calvinists in other lands. With a small group in the Presbyterian Church of Victoria including Prof John Gillies and F M Bradshaw (q.v.), he founded the Calvinist Society of Victoria in 1939, and was a founder and first editor of the Reformed Theological Review in 1942. He worked for the founding of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod which occurred in 1949. He saw the influx of Dutch settlers as an opportunity for the revival of Calvinism, and assisted in every way possible, although the fact that his own denomination then had only seven ministers, all but two outside the metropolitan areas, contributed to separate organisation of the Dutch as the Reformed Churches of Australia in 1951.

Allen gave theological and strategic leadership to the PCEA, editing the denominational magazine 1944-58. He pushed for and achieved in 1953 the union of the small Free Presbyterian Church in Victoria with the larger Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, based in New South Wales, and rejoiced to term himself a Presbyterian without any qualification. He worked and prayed for greater sensitivity to the Reformed creeds within the PCEA, defended its doctrine and practice with enthusiasm, and hoped the PCEA would be a means under God for restoring Biblical teaching in the larger Presbyterian denomination. His preaching was theological, forceful and sometimes vehement, but became more chaste and disciplined as he matured. Out of the pulpit he was warm, friendly and sympathetic. He was survived by his able wife (d.1985) and a son.

R S Ward, The Bush Still Burns (Melbourne 1989)


Electronic Version © Southern Cross College, 2004

Content © Evangelical History Association of Australia and the author, 2004