00 Introduction to the First Edition of ADEB (May, 1994) • Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography

00 Introduction to the First Edition of ADEB (May, 1994)

Brian Dickey, ,

Introduction

to the First Edition, May 1994.

by Dr. Brian Dickey, General Editor.

 

The most powerful Christian tradition brought by the first white settlers to Australia in 1788, and a tradition which remained creative, energetic, dedicated to self-propagation and to the transformation of Australian society through the next two centuries, was evangelical Protestantism. The Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography contains biographical entries about almost 700 men and women who have contributed to the making and transmission of that Christian tradition in and from Australia.

The project began in 1987 in discussions among members of the newly established Evangelical History Association (EHA). The conversations included Dr Stuart Piggin, Dr Mark Hutchinson, the Revd Len Abbott and Dr Brian Dickey. We were struck by the historical condescension towards evangelicalism in Australia as it could be observed in the historical scholarship of the late 1980s. We could all recite names of some important evangelical contributors to the making of Australian history, but we knew that they were unlikely to be mentioned during the Bicentennial Celebrations of 1988, for they had not gained much attention in the established canon of Australian historical scholarship, except to be pilloried and vilified in the manner of CMH Clark in his A History of Australia or Robert Hughes in The Fatal Shore.

At the same time we were aware of a body of scholarship emanating from Great Britain and the United States which was taking evangelical Christianity seriously and writing about it with great effect. David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain. A history from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989) in particular, provided both stimulus and clarification to our task. In the USA this new scholarship was powerfully represented in the work of George Marsden, Mark Noll, Joel Carpenter, Nathan Hatch and Harry Stout. In all of this exciting work, the complexity and wide-ranging significance of evangelical Christianity to the host society was made clearly apparent. Previous, more secular accounts were thereby being brought into question.

We therefore determined that similar work should be attempted for Australia, and that a biographical dictionary of Australian evangelical Christians would be an important element in that larger endeavour. As we contemplated the biographical project, there were some existing advantages. The establishment of the EHA in 1987 had brought together scholars intent on giving some focus to the history of evangelical Christianity, notably in Australia. Major work was already being projected, including Piggin's large study of evangelical Christianity in Australia since 1788. Essays began appearing in the Association's journal Lucas signalling these long-term interests. We knew too of other scholars, sometimes tucked away in retirement or in useful places such as denominational archives or colleges, who possessed card indexes and knowledge on which we might draw as we canvassed subjects and authors for our Dictionary, by now abbreviated to ADEB.

Then there was the massive achievement of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, reaching its twelfth great volume in 1990. Many of us had learnt the art of biographical entries at the ruthless hands of the leaders of that project. We knew that much of what is called 'biodata' by the workers in this field, that is the basic dates and places of birth, marriage and death, and information on employment, was already established, and that we could draw on it with confidence in its reliability. We judged, however that, especially in the earlier volumes, the ADB had not given due weight to evangelical Christianity in its selection and writing processes. Thus ADEB would to some extent redress that weakness and extend the range of subjects so far reported in such Australian biographical reference works as the ADB.

The original discussions were continued during the conference of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Theological Studies held in Canberra in September 1988. While some consideration was given during 1988-9 to a corporate management structure, with an advisory board and an editorial team, by 1990 it was apparent that Dr Dickey, based at The Flinders University of South Australia in Adelaide, would be able to edit the project, while drawing on the advice and support of Dr Piggin, Dr Hutchinson and others such as Mrs Janet West, Mr Abbott, Dr Ken Cable (with the wonderful card index of Anglican clergy he and his wife have developed over many years), and Sir Marcus Loane, who has preached at a prodigious number of funerals for notable evangelicals.

With the aid of funds and study leave in 1990 granted by Flinders University, Dr Dickey commenced the process of identifying possible subjects and authors, as well as establishing the framework of writing and editing, including an exhaustive and probably threatening Style Guide for authors. That arrangement has been sustained ever since, with authors sending their work to him in Adelaide for comment, editing, typing and collation. In it the work of Mrs Janet Dickey as administrative assistant and Mrs Hanna Law as word processor-typist has been essential to the well-being of the whole enterprise. The text has been prepared under their care to camera ready stage for printing at Flinders Press.

While no one volume can attempt to transform the perceptions of a community about its past at a stroke, this volume has set out to contribute to that task. Monographs and overviews will also be needed, as well as an ongoing flow of careful research into detailed aspects of the case. This collection of biographical entries meanwhile will capture the contributions of a large range of people within the evangelical tradition in Australia. Almost every entry calls for more enquiry. Almost every entry signals a life and a pattern of lives which have enriched our community's history, and which have not yet been caught by the national reference works. To some this volume will rightly be a celebration of the heroes and heroines of faith, some of that 'great cloud of witnesses' of Hebrews 12:1,2: 'Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.'

Who then have been included as 'evangelical Christians'? At the core ot our considerations has been David Bebbington's immensely helpful statement.

These are the qualities which have been the special marks of Evangelical religion: conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and ... crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism. (Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 3)

This fourfold statement of the characteristics of those Christians who have drawn their enthusiasm and their understanding of Christianity from the Evangelical Revival of the mid-eighteenth century has ready application to the Australian case. From the moment Richard Johnson was appointed Chaplain to the colony of New South Wales at the suggestion of William Wilberforce with the backing of the Eclectic Society of London, the evangelical Christian tradition has been taking root among the Australian people.

That transport of ideas has been promoted within several denominations established in different parts of the United Kingdom, and to a lesser extent imported also from other parts of the world. In general, there have been evangelicals among the membership of the Church of England, the Methodist groups whose identity is most directly the product of the Evangelical Revival, among Congregationalists, Baptists and a number of lesser groups from England, and the various Presbyterian churches whose supporters have largely come from Scotland or northern Ireland. From America have come representatives of the Churches of Christ, and perhaps others. As the entries show, there have also been a variety of home-grown organisational affiliations, often associated with missionary endeavour - for example the United Aboriginal Mission or the South Seas Evangelical Mission. There have been some too who can be called evangelical from related Christian traditions such as Pentecostals and Lutherans, although sometimes in these cases the evangelical quadrilateral has been significantly breached. This volume contains no entries about members of the Catholic or Orthodox Churches, although in more recent times, and still living, there are some from these traditions who are happy to be characterised as 'evangelicals'.

Along with the editors of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, we decided that the living should not be included in our collection. The most recently deceased subject died early in 1994. There would be difficulties enough we knew in getting reasonable appreciations of those now dead without investigating the achievements of persons still among us, however worthy. This however has had one important implication. The decades of birth of our subjects have yielded around forty entries for each decade up to 1900-1910, with about twenty for 1910-1920, but only a handful since. Therefore the subjects contained in this work are the products of social formation which occurred in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and in the twentieth century only up to say 1939. Thus this volume contributes only residually to the study of contemporary Australian Christianity of the 1990s. It is very much a historical project.

Given a commitment to those who have contributed to the development of evangelical Christianity in Australia who are now dead, who should be included? We invited proposals for inclusion from those known to the leadership of the Evangelical History Association to have developed an interest in this field, especially where they have been producing biographical studies already. The readership of Lucas was canvassed. Other experts were consulted. The word was put around. It was readily agreed that in one volume, subjects would need a degree of distinction from the ordinary. Regrettably, the diligent and faithful pastor could not automatically claim a place: his ministry needed to be diverse, sustained, and with some marked characteristic, for example denominational leadership for a while. Again, while most subjects would attract attention in the context of full-time, paid employment by and for Christians, ie the ordained clergy, there would be others. Some women have exercised influential ministries in their own right. Men and women living their lives in the ordinary circumstances of life, in business and politics for example, also represent an element which has been significant in evangelicalism in Australia. Some too have been Aboriginal people, although the records have proved to be limited, and the burden of white authoritarianism significant. Others have been missionaries who have gone from Australia to serve and evangelise. From these we have again looked for the long-time workers, or the pioneers, and also those who have died in dramatic circumstances as a result of their Christian profession.

Most entries are 600 words or less. This has had the effect of producing a number of brief entries in which the basic biodata dominates. In a larger work perhaps those entries could have been longer. Only a few entries are extended pieces, assessing with some care and judgement the work of such people as Howard Mowll, RBS Hammond, Florence Young, John Paton, and Samuel Marsden among others. At that level it was easy for the editors to select the subjects. There remains something of an oral memory about the faithful witnesses in the evangelical tradition passed down actively at student conferences and other celebrations. It is time some of these people were treated seriously and in the round in the public arena.

On the other hand, it has been difficult to find and report on the failures, the villains, the ones who fell away, the ones who, perhaps, embezzled the church funds or misbehaved with the choir boys. Candidly, as a matter of policy this Dictionary is designed to capture the lives of those who did stand firm in their faith. So there are few if any titillating stories in the lives in ADEB.

There are other omissions too: unfortunately some promised contributions did not arrive, for all the usual reasons familiar to editors. Let me offer my sympathy to the would-be authors: their promises were made in good faith and I am grateful for their expressions of support, even if they have not brought all to fruition. There are also, I have no doubt, omissions of a more serious nature, the product of my ignorance or lack of energy. For those omissions I crave the indulgence of the users of this Dictionary. I would welcome submissions that might be gathered together for consideration in some sort of supplement, perhaps in the pages of Lucas.

One way by which we have tried to make ADEB more useful has been by the inclusion of entries containing basic biodata, together with a reference to another reference work, most often The Australian Dictionary of Biography. Inclusion of these entries is meant to suggest that the subjects involved should be considered in any view of evangelical Christianity in Australia, but that a new essay has proved either impossible or ui necessary. There are about fifty of these brief entries.

Taking the entries which do appear in this volume as a whole, both long and short, and even if there is a slight air of overwhelming success about the subjects, the editors believe that the Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, which we have already abbreviated to ADEB, will be a major advance in the study of Australian history. As I suggested above, for too long the evangelical component to Australian history has been ignored removed, or worse, slandered. The secular left liberal accounts of our history which became so dominant from 1950 to 1980 did not want to treat with Christianity, except to scorn it, or to make obeisance to the Catholic tradition, seemingly on the grounds that it had the virtue of being anti-establishment. The limited amount of work done so far has not been coordinated, nor is it well known. Much more needs to be done to demonstrate the relevance of evangelical Christian faith to the labours of many significant contributors to the making of Australian history. This volume will enrich the writing of Australian history by permitting future writers to take a fuller view of our history than has so far been attempted.

A few preliminary findings from a count (including the cross-referenced short entries) of various characteristics in the entries might prove helpful. The age of birth of 648 subjects for which we have data reveals that 55 were born in the eighteenth century, and that 40-50 are drawn from each of the next eleven decades, except the 1870s, which has provided nearly double the decadal average at 76 entries. The next largest decade was the 1850s with 62. As already explained, the numbers tail off as the twentieth century advances. As editor I found these statistics profoundly comforting, for it suggested that the fairly open selection policy adopted had produced a reasonably distributed outcome. But why the dominance of the 1870s? Some might be the children (or grandchildren) of goldrush migrants. But does the dominance of those born in the 1870s also reflect a climactic effectiveness of evangelicalism in Australia, say 1890-1914? As ADEB itself reveals, these were the years of the great new missionary efforts which drew on Australia - most notably the China Inland Mission, and of the missionary training institutions which nurtured them. Much more research needs to be done on evangelical Christianity in Australia to explore the impact of this generation effectively.

Of gender, less can be said. Only about eleven per cent of the total are women, a disappointing number to the editor and his colleagues, but surely one which by and large reflects the historical reality of the period covered by the volume. It was single women at the end of the nineteenth century who help to explain the rise in the decadal birth count of the 1870s and 1880s. Missionary societies in particular, and denominational organisations less so, were discovering the other half of the Australian population and beginning to draw on their talents. The record shows few women gained space for independent action, though there are striking exceptions here, led above all by Florence Young of SSEM. Recent research reminds us that the women of this period eventually contained a larger proportion of those who never married than their immediate predecessors. These missionary women undertaking an alternative career to that of domesticity are evidence of that demographic reality.

When we turn to denominational affiliation, about 29% are Anglican, 13% Presbyterian, 22% Methodist, 13% Baptist, and then Congregationalist 6%, Brethren 3%, Churches of Christ 4%, and all others another 10%, including 5% either not known or non-denominational by choice. See the table which follows for detail. Given the criteria set for inclusion, most of these percentages seem appropriate in comparison to the declared affiliations recorded in the censuses, once an adjustment for the absent categories (Catholic, nil return, etc) is made. Only the evangelical Anglicans are well below the nineteenth century census proportions of their denominations, which reminds us that evangelicals, while active within Anglicanism, never dominated it.

In passing it should be pointed out that 'Anglicanism', that useful mid-nineteenth century word, has been used as the adjective to refer to members of the Church of England, which in 1981 has had another name change in Australia to become the Anglican Church of Australia. Similarly, 'Presbyterian' is a descriptive term which does not always actually represent the shortened form of the title of relevant denominations, but it has been used because of its wide acceptance. Likewise Methodist only became the common terminological denominator in Australia in 1901-2, as the Wesleyans, Bible Christians, Primitives and the New Connexion were gathered together to face the twentieth century. The term 'Brethren' also has to do service for the groups emerging from the influence of JN Darby and others in England and Ireland, although the largest of these groups in Australia now prefers 'Christian Brethren'.

To return to the statistics: while the representation of the Presbyterians might be closer to their census share, the Methodists plainly exceed theirs in this volume. They were the evangelicals par excellence through the nineteenth century: they carried revival and their Bibles all over Australia and beyond to proclaim the cross as the way of salvation, to call men and women to repentance and conversion, and on to an active life of service. They were the Protestant light cavalry of Australia. Few were dominant, many were active and productive, and their biographies can be read here with profit.

Of the others, the Baptists are here probably over-represented too, illustrating for the nineteenth century that same eagerness as their Methodist colleagues. Among the lesser groups are a number for whom the agency they served became their denomination, whether it was the United Aborigines Mission, or the Australian Inland Mission for workers among Aboriginal people, or SSEM, the China Inland Mission or others of the inter-denominational overseas missionary societies. Among the Lutherans included most are those who were recruited in the first half of the nineteenth century by Anglican and Presbyterian authorities as missionaries among the Aboriginal people. This was in part because there were training colleges in Germany dedicated to preparing men for missionary service well before such agencies emerged in England or later Australia. There was too a belief that the Germans were more practical and therefore more suited to ministering among the Aboriginal people. Beyond that the Lutherans tend to fade out in this volume. While they treasure the term 'evangelical', they give it a wider and more diffuse meaning roughly equivalent in Anglo-Australian usage to 'Protestant'. Their altar and fellowship exclusiveness and their retention of a high view of the sacraments has largely worked to deny them participation in the evangelical movement in Australia.

Finally, the denominational spread in this volume may to some extent reflect the range of contributors to it. If this is so, and if this has led to the exclusion of possible subjects, at this stage I can only apologise and invite proposals to some sort of addendum, which, once again, might be published in the pages of Lucas at a later date.

Country of birth follows the data already presented fairly predictably. England 251 (36%); Australia 219 (32%); Scotland 88 (13%); Wales 10 (1%); Ireland 49 (7%); New Zealand 13 (2%); other 56 (8%). That great fear of late nineteenth century observers that the Australian race was decaying, becoming an inadequate representation of its British forbears, is plainly here not sustained. Rather the Australian-born willingly joined with their British-born colleagues in serving the gospel cause, both in Australia and overseas. CIM (later the Overseas Missionary Fellowship) for example was a notable recipient of Australian workers right up until the 1980s.

The hardest and least satisfactory classification has proved to be the area of significance of the subjects. Here I had to deal with changing careers, dispersed influence, and rubbery categories. For what it is worth I report congregation builders (ie mainly at the local level) 200; senior church leaders 77; missionaries overseas 86; missionaries to the Aboriginal people 49; missionaries and other full time workers in Australian society 54; lay people 139; teachers, largely theological, 35. Here are the bishops, the senior Presbyterian politicians, and that legion of mobile Methodist ministers. Here too are the rising tide of full-time female workers, especially among Aboriginal people. The lay people lived their lives even more in the world than their paid colleagues, finding a myriad of ways to be useful, whether in church counsel, church finances or simply in the way they conducted themselves in the public sphere.

The table of membership of missionary societies which follows needs some comment. This list catches those subjects specifically noted as joining a named missionary society on a full time basis, whether for service overseas, or among Australian Aboriginal people. It omits activities called 'missions' in the cities of Australia. It has not fully caught those persons sent as missionaries, especially to Aboriginal people, by say, an Anglican bishop (q.v. Gribble), or self-funded.

Some significant clusters of influence have also emerged. Apart from the energetic pioneering efforts of all the denominations, the importance of the late nineteenth century missionary movement is plain to read. The call of the faith missions, and especially CIM, was notable in Australia. In the labors of W Lockhart Morton among others, and above all CH Nash, founder of the Melbourne Bible Institute, the faith mission movement was powerfully seconded. The role of the Church Missionary Society in deploying evangelical Anglicans for work in the twentieth century among Aboriginal people and then in other parts of the world also begins to show up in the first half of the twentieth century.

No doubt more could be said by way of analysis of the data. The tables which follow may be of some further assistance. I have already indicated my regret at the paucity of entries upon Aboriginal people: less than ten. With the best will in the world it has so far proved very difficult to write about more than a few individual Aboriginal Christians with any degree of reliability. It is also the case that Christianity has taken a long while to gain acceptance among Aboriginal people, and that therefore this volume does not go far to capture that more recent development.

Nor is the Australian case here reported unique. The Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Don Lewis of Regent College, British Columbia, and to be published soon by Blackwells, will contain c.1000 entries on the first 120 years of the evangelical movement world wide (ie 1740-1860). The opportunities for the study of connections inherent in such a range of view as that are obvious, for the evangelical movement from the very moment of its birth has been an international endeavour.

This volume is only a modest contribution to the ongoing acquisition of knowledge and the continuing deployment of judgement on the broad subject of evangelical Christianity in Australia. The usual expressions of scholarly humility are even more obviously necessary in a project of this nature, especially on the part of the General Editor. The willing, voluntary cooperation of some 170 contributors has been essential to the project's success, and I am sincerely grateful for their help. While it is a summary which draws on the work already done by many people, it is also a challenge for much more work to be done. The local congregation needs more attention, the church politician needs to be joined by more examples of the supporting lay people. The independent agencies continue to require attention. The origins of evangelicalism in the eighteenth century, the role of women, the analysis of the missionary endeavour, the Bible college movement - these and much more require further attention.

Brian Dickey

The Flinders University of South Australia

May 1994

 


First Edition publishing details.

Published 1994 by

Evangelical History Association PO Box 1505, Macquarie Centre, NSW 2113

© 1994 Copyright rests with the authors of individual entries, and for the collection and introduction, with the Evangelical History Association.

ISBN 0-646-16625-5

This book is copyright.

Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of study, research, criticism, review, or as otherwise permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission.

Enquiries should be made to the publisher.

Editing and preparation of this book was assisted by grants from the Flinders University Research Budget.

Copy editing: Janet Dickey

Camera-ready copy prepared by Hanna Law,

History Discipline, The Flinders University of South Australia.

Printed and bound by Flinders Press.

 

 

Electronic Version © Southern Cross College, 2004

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

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.