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A Short History of the Church of England in Victoria 1847-1947

By H. W. Nunn

Issued by the Editorial Committee of the Centenary Celebrations, Melboune Diocese, 1947.



(A) Framework and Architects.

THE system of grouping dioceses into Provinces has extended during the last two or three generations, and as the Church of England in Victoria turned into the 20th century, it rapidly expanded into a Province. In Australia, diocesan life has been allowed to develop in almost complete independence, and although unified organisation has been established, the cherished independence of Dioceses still marks the Church life in this country. We have seen how, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the question of synodical government became urgent in Australia. The Crown had founded the Church of England in the colonies as an established Church, endowed and privileged. The Bishops, not only in Australia, but in Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, in their own names and supported by the insistent demand of the laity, asked for self-government. They were prepared to sacrifice both the prestige and the help of the Crown, and to trust altogether in their own members and the laws of their countries, which, from 1850 onwards, were beginning to obtain parliamentary governments of their own. That involved a struggle and a growth, both in Church and in State. Today, there are four Provinces in Australia, and the government of the Church is vested in the synods of the separate Dioceses, Provincial Synods and the General Synod. Diocesan Synods have power to make laws and to manage their own affairs. The Synod of the Province of Victoria and the General Synod have no effective powers of legislation, for ordinances passed by them must be accepted by the Diocesan Synod before they can come into force. Today, however, there is promise for a new Constitution for the whole Anglican Church in Australia, which will give the General Synod certain carefully limited legislative powers, and will make the Church of England in Australia, a self-governing body [53/54] in communion with other regional branches of the Anglican Church throughout the world.

In Victoria, it fell to Bishop Field Flowers Goe, third Bishop of Melbourne (1887-1901), a whole-hearted Evangelical, and an able and impartial administrator, to consolidate the brilliant Moorhouse's work, by completing the building of St. Paul's Cathedral, and then turning his mind outward and concluding the movement begun by Moorhouse for further sub-division of the now unwieldy diocese of Melbourne (Ballarat Diocese had been formed by Perry in 1875), not into three dioceses as Moorhouse had contemplated, but into five dioceses, with the erection of three new Bishoprics, Gippsland, Wangaratta and Bendigo. October 3rd, 1901, when Synod finally passed the Act for the creation of the new dioceses, was a red-letter day in the history of the Church in Victoria. "There is no known and similar instance of a mother diocese promoting sub-division on such an extensive scale, and surrendering so large a share of endowment and promising so much monetary support." (77).

Goe, a graduate of Oxford, a man of simple, singular modesty, courage and purity, contributed largely to the organization and unification of the Church in Victoria, by bringing the Province and Provincial Synod well within sight. Faced with the immense task of guiding his growing diocese, he shrank from no known duty. "The Church of England is far greater than any party which exists within her pale," he declared at his installation at St. James' Cathedral on April 14th, 1887, and it was a broad, statesmanlike policy that created the three new dioceses instead of the intended one. Goe was pressed by his advisers with the importance of sub-division from the moment he assumed the reins laid down by Moorhouse, but his severe immediate caution was a blessing to the Church as a whole, for whereas his arrival coincided with the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition and the State was then on a tidal wave of prosperity, the land boom and the subsequent depression placed the Church in dire distress. Parishes which had previously been free from monetary difficulties for many years, had to struggle for their very existence. In the face of the diminution of the Church's resources, Goe stood his ground and shared with his clergy the lessening of income. There was much hardship and [54/56] Goe spent most of his own income in trying to alleviate some of it. When the movement for sub-division of the diocese did come to fruition in the closing years of this wise episcopate, there was a higher aim than to reduce the area of an unwieldy diocese, or to carry episcopacy to an unvisited field. It was to bring a strong, Victorian Province into existence and to consolidate and unite the local church. Bishop Goe indeed, was a man of no ordinary spirit, and a man who held the historical balance, and was always an exponent of the more sober elements in the Church of England.

Swanston St., Melbourne, showing St. Paul' Church, prior to the building of the Cathedral.

His episcopate was well balanced by the natural and normal expansion of ecclesiastical organization throughout the diocese. Despite the difficulties of the land boom, the diocese increased by 60 clergy, 97 new churches, 100 new Sunday Schools and 34 vicarages, but more important was an increase in the number of communicants from 15,637 to 24,614. His fifteen year episcopate was one of eminent fairness to all parties, and one of personal godliness and devotion. Whereas Charles Perry is remembered as a great ecclesiastical statesman and James Moorhouse for his great gifts of intellect, Bishop Goe is remembered for his great qualities of heart and devotion to his work. He was in every respect a true Father-in-God, a man slow to believe evil, and a man whose wisdom was justified by the course of later events.

In 1888, the Home Mission Fund was established as a separate department of the Church's administration, and when the diocese celebrated its Jubilee in 1897, it had been proved that disestablishment did not mean disintegration, or discomfiture, or surrender of leadership; for the Church of England in Victoria, though disestablished and disendowed, was yet when called upon, able to put party and party spirit behind, and to do its part, if not as a national church, at least as a church of the nation.

During the past fifty years, that work of the first fifty years has been both deepened and expanded throughout Victoria, and a great deal has been done during the Episcopates of the four Archbishops of Melbourne (78), in educational work, in both Home and Foreign Mission work and in social work. In 1926, the diocese of Ballarat was sub-divided, and that of St. Arnaud formed, and there are now [56/57] six dioceses within the Province of Victoria, with Melbourne as the Metropolitan See.

On Bishop Goe's resignation, the appointment of the fourth Bishop of Melbourne, in 1902, soon to be the first Archbishop of Melbourne, was for the first time not delegated to an English committee, a symptom of a growing desire for an Australian Episcopate. Dr. Lowther Clarke, a first class mathematician and a graduate of Cambridge, came to a limited diocese whose unwieldiness had disappeared, and the city of Melbourne had at last a Bishop who would not have to spend half his time in touring country districts. He also came to a Victoria requiring to be organized as an ecclesiastical Province of five dioceses. As Metropolitan, his title became that of Archbishop in 1905, when Provincial Synod first met. Lowther Clarke, a fine-looking, broad-shouldered, straight-backed man, was at 52 years of age an excellent statesman, possessing a wealth of geniality. Moreover he was a student and teacher of history, and his very important compilation "Constitutional Church Government" was published in 1924.

The Province itself was a monument to Lowther Clarke's leadership. He carried great weight, both in the Provincial Synod and in the General Synod, and his episcopate was a time of an immense strengthening of the organization of the Church. "Constitutional unity and an outlook as wide as the State itself is the sole object which the Diocese of Melbourne has in view," Lowther Clarke declared at the first conference with a view to the formation of the Province, held in Melbourne in 1904. (79). The Provincial Synod consists of two Houses, the House of Bishops and the House of Representatives. These Houses sit together, but vote separately. The members of the House of Representatives are elected on the basis of proportionate representation. No ordinance of the Provincial Synod can contravene any determination of General Synod. The determinations, moreover, are not binding on the Diocese until accepted by them, except in the case, where "any matter be referred to the Provincial Synod by any Diocesan Synod, the decision of the Provincial Synod shall be binding on the diocese so referring the same." (80).

The Synod is the supreme ruling power in each diocese of the Province. It consists of the Bishop, the Clergy and the Laymen as three separate Houses whose joint approval [57/58] is required for every Bill, Regulation or Resolution. Questions of faith, doctrine and worship are not decided in Synod, but in general by the Bishop. The Australian vicar is protected by legislation and his office safeguarded by all reasonable restrictions, while the freest power is accorded to him in all spiritual and pastoral work. In his parish, he is essentially a constitutional ruler, not an arbitrary one. The laity, in their recognized position in Synod, as well as in diocesan and parochial life generally, have contributed to form a united voice of clergy and laity in all temporal affairs, and to express the corporate mind of the Church throughout the Diocese. In this country Acts of Synod generally portray a desire to assist the clergy, for the Australian Church is practically dependent upon voluntary contributions, in contrast to the endowment system in England, and the laity there, accustomed to live on the dead hand of the past, do not fully recognize the full meaning, like their brother Australian laity, of the duty of shouldering the temporal responsibilities attached to their office.

It was not, however, only as a statesman that Dr. Lowther Clarke contributed to Anglican Church life in this State, but also as an educationalist. In England, he had had great experience in educational matters, being a member of the Examining Board of Church Training Schools, the governor of many grammar schools, and in his younger days, a Master at St. Peter's, York, England. The secondary schools established by him are perhaps his most notable achievement, and when the Archbishop was farewelled as he left for England in 1920, the galleries at the Town Hall were filled with the boys and girls who were the pride and joy of his episcopate, and to whom he spoke directly: "we are training you in our Church schools to be good citizens and good Christian men and women." (81). He was able to strengthen the life of the grammar schools already existing through the help of many old boys, and established more schools as the opportunity was presented, together with free kindergartens in industrial areas. His episcopate saw a five-fold increase in the number of scholars in Church of England Grammar Schools. Again, he took the keenest interest in Trinity College, particularly in its Theological Hall, and also in 1911, Ridley College, a further Theological Hall, was opened. During his episcopate, Merton Hall, a, private school in South Yarra, and Firbank, were [58/59] taken over by the Church. Melbourne Grammar School was expanded, and Geelong C.E.G.S., moved to new buildings on the shores of Corio Bay. Trinity C.E.G.S., and Ivanhoe C.E.G.S., were founded, and Tintern; Korowa; Ivanhoe Girls'; St. Michael's, East St. Kilda; St. Thomas', Essendon; Lowther Hall; St. Peter's, Murrumbeena; and Shelford, Caulfield, are all schools of Archbishop Clarke's time. Brighton Grammar, Caulfield C.E.G.S., Camberwell Grammar School, and Camberwell C.E.G.G.S., are later recruits. The School Chaplain, once a rarity, is now regarded together, with Assistant Chaplains as an essential. (82). Finally, in his labours for education, Lowther Clarke also played his part in the struggle for the right to give religious instruction in the State Schools.

As a diocesan, Lowther Clarke laboured arduously and faithfully, and his days in Melbourne were the happiest of his life. He appointed a Commission to enquire into and tabulate the needs of his now limited diocese, and appealed for increased support of the Bishop of Melbourne's Fund to supply these needs, creating a Reserve Fund to assist, by proportionate grants, parishes in debt. He was able to build new churches and Sunday Schools, and during the eighteen year episcopate 61 new churches and 69 new vicarages were built. It was a period of the growth of Greater Melbourne, but the Church met that phenomenal growth with foresight, for the number of clergy grew from 146 to 225.

Lowther Clarke was also greatly concerned with social and moral issues implicated in the growth of Greater Melbourne, and encouraged the establishment of a very valuable body, the Social Questions Committee, which was one of the first bodies to call attention to the Housing position of Melbourne. He also set forward the Metropolitan Mission which in 1913, was merged into the City Mission Scheme, and is now the Mission district of St. James and St. John.

A sound churchman, nearer to Bishop Moorhouse than Bishop Goe, Dr. Lowther Clarke was, in 1921, succeeded by a fellow Cambridge graduate from his old College, St. John's, namely Harrington Clarke Lees. Lees was a fine Biblical student, being a Greek Testament Prizeman, and the author of many devotional books. An Evangelical of broad sympathies, Lees was a man of strong character, [59/60] possessing great charm of manner, and a very versatile wit. During his short period in Melbourne, for he died suddenly after only eight years in office, he was in constant demand as a preacher and speaker, and other denominations as well sought his influence and welcomed his leadership. He became President of the Melbourne College of Divinity in 1922. He was also able to kindle interest in the completion of St. Paul's Cathedral, but chiefly he encouraged Mission and social work at home and abroad, for he had deep sympathy for all classes, who found him an enthusiastic friend.

His mantle fell upon Frederick Waldegrave Head, a distinguished graduate in History, and a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He had been Dean and Tutor of that College, and ultimately became Senior Tutor and Chaplain. He gained other University distinctions, such as the Prince Consort Prize in History and the Seeley Medal, and during the first World War had been awarded the Military Cross and Bar. He was Chaplain to the King, when he accepted the Melbourne Metropolitan See. Dr. Head, although differing in personality was in direct lineage with Bishop Moorhouse, typifying the patient historical spirit of the Anglican Church. He had that same breadth of mind, and his pride was the historicity and catholicity of his Church. With the now heavily increasing and deepening diocesan and provincial life of the Church of England in Victoria, Dr. Head appointed the Reverend Joseph John Booth as his Co-adjutor Bishop in 1934, with the title of Bishop of Geelong, taking upon his own shoulders the Deanery of St. Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, in order to make that possible. A wise, modest, saintly and self-sacrificing man, Dr. Head was succeeded upon his death in 1941, by Bishop Booth, who is the present Archbishop of Melbourne and Metropolitan of Victoria. His present Co-adjutor-Bishop is the Rt. Rev. John David McKie, Bishop of Geelong, and there is a team of 300 clergy staffing 299 churches within his diocese with an estimated number of 50,000 communicants.

[61] CHAPTER VI (continued).


(b). The Dioceses.

THE earliest diocese of the Province of Victoria, other than the parent diocese, Melbourne, is that of Ballarat, created by an Act of the Church Assembly of the Diocese of Melbourne on October 30th, 1873. The Diocese came into actual being on the 1st of May, 1875, when the first Bishop, Dr. Samuel Thornton was consecrated in Westminster Abbey, by Dr. Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Perry had long dreamed of dividing his diocese, and had gone to England especially to select the new Bishop, whose diocese then included the western half of Victoria, and one-third of the total population.

Ballarat, of course, had risen to sudden importance on the discovery of gold in 1851 and the acquisition of a large population. The Reverend C. F. Perks, sent from St. Peter's Church, Melbourne, on the back of a white pony, was the first Anglican cleric on mission duty in the Diggings, holding his first services in the open air. Although the population had risen meteorically to 25,000, there was no settled ministry there until 1853. The Reverend J. H. Gregory, the "Bush Missionary," also provided services until the Reverend T. C. B. Stretch was appointed Archdeacon of Ballarat, and a new era commenced when, at the same time, in 1854 the Reverend J. R. Thackeray became the first resident minister. He was succeeded in the following year by the Reverend John Potter, and Christ Church, Ballarat began its history. In 1856, a Church of England Association was formed for the district of Ballarat with Bishop Perry as its patron, the Archdeacon as its vice-patron and the incumbent of Christ Church as its president.

Bishop Thornton commenced his episcopate in 1875, with 35 clergy, 10 readers and 30 lay-helpers. A hard battle faced him, for other than his own stipend, there was no [61/62] other income for diocesan purposes, and he had to minister to a population of 215,000, of whom one-fourth belonged to his flock. Coincident with his election to the Bishopric, came the abolition of State Aid to the Church, and a lone hand indeed to be played. He therefore established a Central Fund, and with the generous help of S.P.G. and S.P.C.K., and the Colonial and Continental Church Society, eventually gathered together a capital sum of £55,000. He was also able to establish the Home Mission Fund and the Sustentation Clergy Endowment, and to lay the foundation stone for the Cathedral; a sterling effort. When Bishop Thornton resigned his See in 1895, he had so consolidated the Church in his diocese, that there were 52 clergy, 24 readers and 81 lay-readers, serving 157 churches. Provision had also been made for 68 parsonages.

Bishop Thornton was succeeded by Bishop A. V. Green, M.A., LL.D., translated from the See of Grafton and Armidale. The new Bishop, an Australian and educated at Trinity College, Melbourne University, and Sydney University, was enthroned in Christ Church Cathedral, Ballarat, on December 6th, 1900. During his 15 year episcopate, St. Aidan's Theological College was founded in 1902, and the Ballarat Church of England Grammar School in 1911. The Manifold Chapter House was built in 1906, and later Christ Church Cathedral was enlarged. Whereas Bishop Thornton had concentrated mainly on the Wimmera District, Bishop Green was also able to expand the services of the Church to the newly developing Mallee area, particularly in the Southern Mallee. He was able to build an additional 35 churches and the number of clergy increased by 36. Bishop M. H. Maxwell-Gumbleton succeeded Bishop Green on his retirement in 1917, and filled the see till 1927 when he returned to England. During his episcopate he turned his mind towards the Northern Mallee area, preparing the way for the creation of the new diocese of St. Arnaud in 1926. In 1927, the Bishop of Rockhampton, Dr. P. C. T. Crick, was translated to the Diocese, and such was the effect of the world wide economic depression of that period, that after 30 years valuable existence, St. Aidan's College was forced to close. Dr. Crick returned to England in 1936, when the present Bishop, the Right Reverend W. H. Johnston was consecrated. Today, the latter Bishop has [62/63] a team of 56 clergy, ministering to an Anglican population of 59,400.

When the Diocese of St. Arnaud was created in 1926, Archdeacon M. C. James, of Ballarat, was chosen to be the pioneer Bishop. He had spent all his ministerial career in Ballarat, having been ordained deacon and priest by Bishop Green. He was consecrated in St. Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, by the Archbishop of Melbourne, H. C. Lees. Towards two immediate objects that Bishop James had in view, a ministry to the Returned Soldier's Settlement, and the establishment of a Bishop's residence at the see town of St. Arnaud, the other dioceses gave help, and today, despite the hardships that the Mallee country presents, there are 63 churches ministered to by 21 clergy, with 20 lay readers assisting.

As early as 1885, there had been a movement to subdivide the Diocese of Melbourne, to form a diocese of Sandhurst, and again in 1898, Canon Godby moved a resolution to form a Northern diocese. In 1900, he was successful in having a Bill passed to create a new diocese to be called "Sandhurst-Beechworth," but the intense debate on it led to Canon Hindley's introducing in the following year the statesmanlike and epoch-making Bill "to create three new dioceses in Victoria." It was duly passed, and the new dioceses of Bendigo, Wangaratta and Gippsland were subsequently called into existence, an unparalleled achievement in that year of faith and expansion, 1901. An electoral body consisting of a nucleus of four electors from the Melbourne Bishopric Election Board and the Bishop of Melbourne, met together with four clerical and four lay representatives from each of the respective excised areas, to choose the new Bishops, thus giving to each new diocese a predominant voice in the choice of its own Bishop. The Venerable Archdeacons T. H. Armstrong and H. A. Langley were consecrated in St. Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne on February 24th, St. Matthias' Day, 1902, for the diocese of Wangaratta and Bendigo respectively; and on May 20th, Whitsunday of that year, the Reverend Canon A. W. Pain of Sydney, was consecrated Bishop of Gippsland, in St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney. Two of the new Bishops were Australians, and the other, Canon Pain, although a Cambridge graduate, had spent most of his ministerial career in Australia. Their elections gave expression to the [63/64] growing feeling for a native Australian episcopate that Bishop Moorhouse had advocated for the Church in Victoria.

Bishop Armstrong, an alumnus of Trinity College, Melbourne, had served in Melbourne diocese, being Archdeacon of Gippsland in 1894. His diocese covered an area of over 15,000 square miles, but he and his clergy set to work with "big hearts and high hopes." With the enthusiastic help of the people of Wangaratta, Bishop's Lodge was built within two years, and in 1905, St. Columb's Hall, a valuable Theological Hall for the education of candidates for Holy Orders, was founded. In 1908, the foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid, and the building was opened and dedicated in 1909. Further additions were made to the Cathedral in 1924.

The pioneer Bishop Armstrong resigned from his see in 1927, to be succeeded by Bishop J. S. Hart, then Dean of Melbourne. He was succeeded in turn, when he resigned in 1942, by the present Bishop, The Rt. Rev. T. M. Armour. The latter bishop has a staff of 27 clergy and 27 honorary readers, serving 104 churches, and 50 Sunday Schools.

One of the results of Bishop Perry's Gold Field Mission was the indefatigable work of the Rev. J. H. Gregory in his covered wagon, a mobile vicarage--and his portable church, a tent, with which he itinerated on the Bendigo diggings. In 1855, a church building of local sandstone was built, only to be laid low by a violent cyclone the following year. Upon these ruins, however, arose All Saints' Church, and in 1868, a second church, St. Paul's was opened. In the meantime, a mineral district was yielding to the more settled pursuit of dairying, and towards the turn of the century, Archdeacon J. C. MacCullagh was supervising twenty large centres with a nucleus of a 30,000 population at Bendigo.

When Bishop Langley took up his new duties at Bendigo, there were 27 clergy and eight readers at work. The new Bishop had previously been Archdeacon of Gippsland, in 1890, and Archdeacon of Melbourne, in 1894, and had had a long and arduous ministry in Australia. He was the first member of Moore College, Sydney, to be appointed to the bench of Bishops, and during his short episcopate he established the Home Mission Fund, upon which expansion depended. Although he died four years after his consecration as Bishop, in 1906, even in that short period, his [64/65] diocese expanded. He was succeeded by his brother, the Venerable Archdeacon J. D. Langley, from the Diocese of Sydney, who carried on his brother's work for twelve years. Upon his retirement in 1920, the Reverend Donald Baker from the Diocese of Tasmania, became Bendigo's third Bishop, and when the latter became Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne, in 1938, he was succeeded by the present Bishop, the Rt. Rev. C. L. Riley, son of a former Archbishop of Perth. Today, there are 34 clergy and 28 Honorary Readers working in the Diocese. There are 97 churches with 36 vicarages and 77 Sunday Schools. The foundation stone of the new Cathedral was laid in 1935, in the chancel, and this was dedicated in 1936.

The Reverend Canon A. W. Pain of St. John's, Darlinghurst, Sydney, was the pioneer Bishop for the Diocese of Gippsland. He was enthroned in St. Paul's Pro-Cathedral, Sale, on July 10th, 1902, and convened his first Assembly in the same year. It became a Synod in 1905. Bishop Pain, a master of detailed organization, was succeeded in 1917 by the Rev. G. H. Cranswick, of Bendigo, formerly a missionary from the Church Missionary Society. The present Bishop is the Right Reverend D. B. Blackwood, formerly Archdeacon of Hobart, Tasmania, who succeeded Bishop Cranswick when he resigned his see in 1942 to become chairman of the Australian Board of Missions. There has been a steady growth of Church life during the 45 years of the Diocese's existence, and at present it has a staff of 37 clergy and 39 honorary readers who minister to 105 Churches and 96 Sunday Schools over an area of 20,000 square miles. The see town of Sale, besides the Pro-Cathedral, and the Bishop's residence, has a Girls Grammar School, hostels for boys and girls, and a deaconesses' house.

Besides the building up of Home Mission Funds in each of these dioceses; most of the dioceses have been able to turn their minds outwards to the needs of others, and to contribute annually over £1,000 each to the furtherance of Foreign Missions.

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