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HAMMOND, Thomas Chatterton (1877-1961

Warren Nelson

HAMMOND, T(HOMAS) C(HATTERTON) (b. Cork, Ireland, 20 Feb 1877, d. Sydney, NSW 16 Nov 1961). Church of Ireland clergyman theologian, principal of Moore Theological College.

Born in mid-Victorian Ireland, and converted 1892, Hammond, 'the boy preacher' involved himself in street evangelism from an early age. Given the predominance of Catholicism in Ireland, this necessitated expertise in controverted points of doctrine. He was a well read student, a formidable but fair opponent, a polymath with great power of accurate recall. He had a long fruitful career which divides into blocks of about 17 years, as a minister of St Kevin's Dublin 1903-19, as superintendent of the Irish Church Missions 1919-36, and as principal of Moore College 1936-53 combined with the parish of St Philip's, Sydney, 1936-61. He came to Sydney at a significant time in the life of the diocese and even though he was 60 has had lasting influence.

Hammond was born into an old Cork family when his father, Colman, a retired Navy captain and one-time CMS missionary in Sierra Leone, was advanced in years. After his father's death he lived for a time with a Catholic aunt and agnostic uncle and was thus plunged early into debate. Years later when confronted with any problem in theology he would say that he first met it 'when I was ten years of age'. As a teenager he was converted to faith in Christ while a junior member of the YMCA in Cork involving himself in the full round of the Association's sports, debates and evangelism. The latter took him unto the streets in very tumultuous times when nationalism was having one of its local convulsions and when police protection was often needed to keep the peace for open air preaching. Years later when describing an incident from those days when he was dragged in opposite directions by rioters and police Hammond was asked by a pious and prim lady as to what thoughts came to his mind. His reply was typical of his earthy humour: 'I was wondering would my trousers' buttons hold'. Having worked briefly as a railway clerk he went to Dublin for training with the Irish Church Missions doing a course in Anglican theology, practical ministry work and points of Roman controversy. This led to itinerant evangelistic work in the rough world of markets and fairs throughout Ireland, during which he came upon the raw material for a fund of human and illustrative stories. In 1900 he entered TCD, which still reflected the evangelicalism of the nineteenth century Church of Ireland. He studied philosophy, training his already sharp mind in classical logic, and then joined the Divinity School to study theology. He was ordained (1903) as curate of St Kevin's, Dublin, since closed but then a well attended lower middle class church. His rector, Phineas Hunt was ailing and Hammond had to take on many responsibilities from his first days in the parish. During his curacy he married Margaret McNay, also from Cork but of Scottish birth. They had three sons: John, Thomas ('Chat'), Carl and a daughter Doris. He was very popular and later, on Hunt's resignation, was made rector and established a name for himself throughout Dublin as a stout protestant and evangelical. He fought cases of discrimination, took suit with state and church authorities and wrote often to newspapers. A special concern was the theology of the Divinity School and the standard of ordinands. This involved him in a challenge in synodical courts to episcopal authority, the extended brief for which occasioned publication of Authority in the Church. His stance made him the leading candidate for the position of superintendent of the ICM when it fell vacant in 1919. The Mission with its large staff maintained a full round of services and meetings, many of a confrontational nature, affectionately known as 'Contros', requiring quick thinking, wit and loving perseverance along with physical courage. During those violent years in the Dublin of the early 1920s Hammond steered the work through upheavals of rebellion, independence struggles and civil war against a background of wretched social conditions, strident Catholicism and the small mindedness of the new Irish state. He was responsible for the teaching and oversight of a number of children’s homes and schools in the city and country. To their number he added (1921) the Children's Fold to care for homeless illegitimate children. He undertook time-consuming and expensive legal work in family problems caused by change of religion, usually pleading in court himself. Much of his case work was in connection with mixed marriages where the prevalent Catholic ethos buttressed by canon law, which virtually possessed the power of state law in Ireland, exerted great pressure on the protestant partner to a marriage to turn to Catholicism. Clergy from all over Ireland sought his help because these marriages were decimating protestant congregations.

The work of evangelism used many means and the Mission's books record over 500 people, including 25 priests, as having professed conversion during his time. But the lasting effect on church life was minimal, many converts had to leave Ireland, others were dispersed in churches where they got little encouragement. Because he had challenged a number of abuses in the Church of Ireland Hammond was well versed in Prayer Book history and usage, and when Prayer Book revision to accommodate Anglo-Catholic practices, subsequently defeated in the Houses of Parliament, was being proposed he was invited by the Vickery Trust to undertake a lecture tour in 1926 of Canada and Australia. This subsequently led to his call (1935) to the post of principal of Moore College joined, for the purpose, with the incumbency of St Philip's, Church Hill, Sydney.

Amidst the preparations for departure he was asked by IVF to prepare a book of basic doctrine to consolidate the work of a special mission at the University of London. Under hectic circumstances he produced his best known and most widely used work, In Understanding Be Men as well as finishing his revision of the Mission's long standing text book The One Hundred Texts. While In Understanding Be Men was intended for 'Arts Science and Medical students' it rapidly became a standard text for Bible College and evangelical divinity students, who ruefully referred to it as 'In understanding be supermen'. It most resembles a Volkswagen, a design all its own, functional, ugly some say, popular and basic though having a great deal of knowledge behind it, produced in the 1930s under the shadow of disruption, exported all over the world and still around. It has been revised (D F Wright, 1968) and has been translated into nine other languages and has sold more than 150 000 copies. It brought good scriptural reasoning to an evangelicalism that was sentimental, subjective, and out of date. Many testify it put backbone into their faith, giving them a theology rather than just a vague notion of being Christian.

He arrived in Sydney in April 1936 to quite a welcome. Abp Mowll (q.v.) only recently arrived, wanted a conservative evangelical to put new vigour into MTC knowing the importance of its theological strength to the diocese and in the light of the College's decline under Archdeacon Davies (q.v.), who made little protest against the onslaught of critical scholarship. Some were glad to welcome Hammond, some withheld judgement, others doubted that someone past middle age, with a ministry in controversy and seen to be out of main stream Anglicanism, was what Sydney needed. Hammond was confident and assured and soon established himself. Moore College was in the doldrums, in debt and dispirited. Hammond raised morale and academic standards, trained nearly 200 ordinands, dispelled uncertainty and laid a durable base on which others have been able to build. He oversaw the addition of three wings and the Cash chapel. His work and influence began to be felt outside the college and the diocese. 'TC' was a popular speaker at conventions (including Katoomba, and to a lesser extent Upwey), reformation rallies and house parties. He was instrumental in bringing Monica Farrell (q.v.) and Emily Norbury (q.v.) to Australia to work among women. He involved himself in the ongoing work of preparing a constitution for the Anglican Church in Australia and followed through on this for years as evangelicals looked for safeguards. He was one of the old guard in a divided evangelical camp that in 1957 accepted the new constitution of the Church of England in Australia.

There was nothing novel about his theology and he started no school of theology but passed on the riches of the past, filtered through his Irish Anglicanism and his extensive reading. He was a master of the Fathers. He did not squeeze theology to produce convenient watertight answers, and his writings about creation or the inspiration of scripture show that he was not a narrow literalist. His approach was warm humorous and penetratingly down to earth making him impatient of obtuse and over subtle argument as well as carelessness of quotation: 'verify your references'. He challenged young people to dedicate their intellects to Christian truth. In days in which evangelical scholarship was still in the shadows following the rise of higher criticism he infused intellectual credibility and raised standards. He was a warm human being, who enjoyed company, had a rich voice capable of mimicry, a supply of stories and a great sense of humour, which could he impish, but was a safety valve for him. He had said to trainees in Dublin, 'Get a sense of humour or get out of Christian work, for otherwise it will kill you'. It suited some to see him as only a controversialist and a bigot, but he was fair and courteous and would refer students to writers of differing viewpoints.

Shortly after he came to Sydney and possibly because his arrival was the last straw to liberal evangelical churchmen such as Canon Garnsey in the diocese, he was involved in the Memorialist controversy. He had already become a confidant of Abp Mowll, and one of his advisers. When Mowll resisted the criticism of the 'Memorialists' that the diocese was becoming narrow and monochrome, Hammond was behind Mowll in this test of strength, and was seen as drawing up Mowll's rather legalistic response. Throughout his time in Sydney Hammond was an insider to AD politics and marshalled evangelical voting power.

Later Hammond also had a leading part in the 'Red Book' case when parishioners of Canowindra in Bathurst Diocese won a case against their bishop over the issuing of a service book introducing Anglo-Catholic practices. The case and an appeal went on for four years and involved minute analysis of the English Reformation settlement prayer-books and the legal relationship —the 'nexus' —between the English and Australian Churches. It was a distasteful exercise but signalled the determination of the diocese of Sydney to take a stand, as did the Vestments ordinance of 1949, also supported by Hammond. He wrote extensively for the Australian Church Record and Glad Tidings (later Evangelical Action) mostly on Roman Catholicism and sacramental theology. The same subject matters made up the greater part of his Sunday evening broadcasts on radio station 2CH which in pretelevision days were very popular: so popular indeed that at one stage program times were arranged so that Sydneysiders could listen to the theological jousts of the Protestant and the Catholic champions, Hammond and Dr Rumble. Australia was reflecting something of the power struggle with a confident Catholicism that Hammond had known in Ireland and he was in his element. The controversial style he adopted in his exchanges with Catholic spokesmen reinforced Hammond's public role as the unyielding leader and spokesman of conservative evangelicalism, from which liberals recoiled in distaste. He was an Orangeman and held high office though he did not march with them. He appreciated the open door it gave him to speak to men.

TC made a visit to England and Ireland in 1947/8, during which he acted as Mowll's adviser at Lambeth. On his return he proffered his resignation, but with massive post-war expansion Mowll did not want to make changes and TC continued as Principal, 'the Princ', until he was 76. He kept up a full work load, though he did dwell more on the past, and he spoke more of old battles than of the issues facing Australian Christians in the 1950s.

Throughout his public ministry of nearly sixty years he produced a stream of booklets, articles and contributions to books, as well as books on ethics, apologetics and theology, yet none found a place like In Understanding be Men. He enjoyed good health to the end and the assurance of a serene faith, taken up in Victorian Cork, defended in revolutionary Dublin and systematically taught in expansive Sydney, thought out yet childlike. In both Dublin and Sydney his firm stand for the evangelical position had not only prevented its eclipse but had also given it intellectual muscle. He was at his best in Dublin, not only was he younger but because he was able to take an independent stand. Being a senior man in Mowll's circle, archdeacon from 1949, dampened some of the fire. Yet his position in Sydney ensured that his legacy has lasted.

S Judd and K Cable, Sydney Anglicans (Sydney, 1987); M Loane, A Centenary History of Moore Theological College (Sydney, 1955); M Loane, Mark These Men (Canberra, 1985); W Nelson, T C Hammond and the Irish Church (forthcoming); R Teale, 'The "Red Book" Case', JRH (12.1, June 1982); S Judd, Defenders of their faith: power and party in the Anglican diocese of Sydney, 1909-1938 (PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 1984)

SELECT WRITINGS: Authority in the Church (Dublin, 1921); Concerning Penal Laws (Dublin, 1930); In Understanding be Men (London, 1936); Perfect Freedom (London, 1938); The One Hundred Texts (London, 1939); Age-Long Questions (London, nd); Fading Light (London, nd); Reasoning Faith (London, 1943); The New Creation (London, 1953)

WARREN NELSON

 

 

Electronic Version © Southern Cross College, 2004

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