DAVIES, David John (1879-1935) • Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography

DAVIES, David John (1879-1935)

Stephen Judd, ,

DAVIES, DAVID JOHN (b. Oswestry, Wales, 12 Feb 1879; d. Sydney, NSW, 29 June 1935). Anglican clergyman.

The son of the Rev David H Davies of Oswestry and the youngest daughter of William Rees, David John Davies was educated at Alderman Davies School at Neath, South Wales after which, with the benefit of an exhibition he went to Cambridge University. He graduated from Trinity College Cambridge (BA 1903, with a first class in the History Tripos, MA 1908). He received further theological education at Ridley Hall Cambridge, graduating in 1905 and was ordained by the bishop of Ely in 1906 and served as a curate at Holy Trinity Cambridge from 1905 until 1911 while lecturing in history at Emmanuel College.

In 1911, Davies married Grace Augusta, daughter of the Rev A G Lawe of Wiltshire: they had three sons and three daughters. In the same year, Abp Wright (q.v.) of Sydney, on the advice of Bp Chavasse of Liverpool and others, appointed Davies as principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, a position he held until his death in 1935. Davies, a protestant in churchmanship but a liberal in scholarship worked hard to develop strong standards of scholarship in the college and cultivate close relations with the adjacent University of Sydney. Through his own representations and by his own intellectual standing Davies increased the regard that many academics had for the college. In 1913 he began to lecture in history and economics for the University Extension Board.

Davies worked earnestly with other denominations: in 1915 he was secretary of the Sydney Board of Joint Theological Studies; in 1917 he was invited to deliver the Moorhouse Lectures on 'The Church and the Plain Man'; in 1918 he became a fellow of St Paul's College; between 1931 and 1935 he was president of the NSW Council of Churches. In 1917 Abp Wright appointed Davies as archdeacon without territorial jurisdiction. Like many fellow churchmen, Davies was a freemason.

At Moore College, Davies raised the standard of scholarship and aligned the curriculum with the requirements of the Australian College of Theology. However, the college throughout his tenure suffered from a lack of funds and Davies, a kindly gentleman and scholar rather than an entrepreneur, was not one to overcome this problem. In 1919, the Sydney diocesan synod appointed for the first time a committee of management and control of the college. This committee did not restrict itself to financial management: it eroded the authority of Davies as principal in areas such as academic standards and student admission. This resulted in not inconsiderable friction between principal and college committee.

This friction and the increasing instances of committee interference in student admissions was a vote of no confidence by more conservative evangelicals in the liberal scholarship of Davies. The friction between the two styles of evangelicalism was well illustrated after Abp Wright died in 1933 and Davies put forward Archd Hunkin of Rugby while conservative evangelicals successfully nominated Bp Howard Mowll (q.v.) of West China. Such was the bitterness that Davies with Dean Talbot (q.v.), resigned as vice president of the Anglican Church League and formed the Anglican Fellowship.

Davies' political challenge to the conservative evangelicals was accompanied by health problems. He suffered from asthma and increasingly heart trouble, high blood pressure. His health deteriorated and he died at the age of 56. He was buried at South Head Cemetery.

M L Loane, A Centenary History of Moore Theological College (Sydney 1955); Church Standard 5 July 1935; ACR 11 July 1935



Electronic Version © Southern Cross College, 2004

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


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