Our friends across the Pacific

Australia has an important relationship to the USA, and Australian Christianity has an important relationship with US Christianity. Sometimes we have been on the whole very positive about things American that wash across to our shores, sometimes we are rather more negative. Almost always reaction is mixed: as a body we might simultaneously wonder at the mysteries of the American Way, or resist what we feel is an alien and unhelpful influence, or rejoice at a great help from a good-hearted ally with much to offer, or deplore the baggage we feel they sometimes encumber us with. Our two feature articles touch on ways that US Christianity impinges upon Australian Christianity. The first is Tony Nichols’ personal account of the visit of Billy Graham in 1959 (the 60th anniversary of which approaches). As Tony testifies, plenty in the churches, including influential local leaders, doubted and resisted the Graham Crusade then, but what a moment that visit proved to be, with so many hearing him speak, either live at the venue, or by some kind of relay, and with so many later testifying what an impact it had on their spiritual lives. Tony takes us back to the ferment and excitement of the Crusade and its lasting aftermath.

Our second feature article by Rhys Bezzant begins in the present with the dismay in some quarters over Evangelical support of Donald Trump at the US presidential election. He asks whether this should make us consider shedding the label ‘evangelical’, and answers with a resounding ‘no’, seeking instead to outline briefly the long and distinguished history and associations of the term, which transcend the political turmoil and polarisation of the moment.


Our leaders are focussed on things Australian. We return to Tasmania for a further instalment of news about the energy there around the pursuit of the Diocesan Mission to be a church for Tasmania, making disciples of Jesus. We peek into the councils of the St Hilary’s Network as they wrestle with a pastoral policy responding to the amendment of the Marriage Act to provide for same-sex marriage. Third, Peter Adam honours the late Harrie Scott Simmons, an evangelical clergyman who was instrumental in his conversion, short term discipleship and long term mentoring into ordained ministry.
Adrian Lane opens up Jesus’ call to build your life on his words in Luke 6:46-49, and we round out the issue with book reviews of books by Brian Rosner, Alistair McGrath, Charles Taylor and Kevin Vanhoozer. I hope you get leisure to read some good books over the summer.

In case you worried that our interview with Bishop Kay Goldsworthy last issue was meant to signal endorsement for the kind of liberal theological agenda she has shown sympathy for, let me say that that is emphatically not the case. Rather, the interview was included in an issue with an interest in what bishops have to offer by way of vision, of analysis of what the present moment requires of Christians, of programmes for what we should be doing and why we should be doing it. Bishop Richard Condie provided one offering, and Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy provided another. As I did last issue, I leave it to readers to make up their minds for themselves about the depth, wisdom and promise of these two offerings.

As always, I value hearing from readers about how Essentials is making them smile, frown, think, give thanks or pray. And if you have something to contribute to the pages of Essentials, whether a book review, piece of news from your neck of the woods, personal story, reflection on ministry or topical essay, do be in touch.

Ben Underwood