EFAC Australia

Spring 2020


Murray Seiffert brings a personal perspective to bear on life and ministry among Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, and highlights some (at times) unflattering contrasts with life and ministry in the south.

This is a rather personal tale which reflects on living and working with Christian Aboriginal leaders in the Northern Territory, then returning to Melbourne. It is seven years since I returned to Victoria from that life-changing experience.  Of course most of the first five years were dominated by researching and writing two books linked to that work:  Refuge on the Roper: the Origins of the Roper River Mission, Ngukurr (2008) and Gumbuli of Ngukurr: Aboriginal Elder in Arnhem Land (2011).

What was I doing there?

Having spent much of my life in teacher education, I was appointed to be Academic Dean at Nungalinya College in Darwin.  All students at the College are Indigenous adults, the majority coming from the Top End of the Northern Territory, although most States were represented.  The College was established in 1973 by the Anglican and Uniting Churches, being joined in the 1990s by the Catholic Church.

My wife Marjorie and I had felt God’s call to work as missionaries with the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and did so from 2001 until 2007. 

My work involved many challenges, not the least being asked to lead the transformation of an Indigenous college into a Registered Training Organization meeting the increasing demands of national ‘quality control’ standards for the twenty-first century.

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali asserts that churches are called to engage in mission from everywhere to everywhere. By that I take him to mean that mission is to be at the heart of church life, that all Christians are called to be witnesses to Jesus in the words we speak and the lives we live wherever we live. But more than that, churches are called to have an involvement in both local mission and global mission.

In my experience if churches engage in mission at all they are locally focused and tend to leave the global to the enthusiastic few. However, as congregations recognise the primacy of their global nature and calling they will be far more effective in their local mission and outreach. As Bishop Lesslie Newbigin wrote in his 1994 book The Open Secret, “Mission is the proclaiming of God's kingship over all human history and over the whole cosmos. Mission is concerned with nothing less than all that God has begun to do in the creation of the world and of humankind. Its concern is not sectional but total and universal.'

Mark Short outlines what a Mission Society should look like, and what it has to do with church.

Long before missionalbecame the favourite adjective for churches wanting to serve on the cutting edge, voluntary societies like The Bush Church Aid Society have defined themselves in terms of mission (early editions of the Society"s Real Australian magazine refer to "Home Missions" in contrast to the "Foreign Missions" supported by other Societies). But what does a commitment to mission look like for us? 

First, it is important to recognise that we are not a church.  We aren"t a local gathering of God"s people around the Risen Lord Jesus.

But we do have a vital and necessary connection with the church.  The thousands of people who express our mission through their prayers, giving and going do so largely because their faith has been awakened and encouraged through one or more churches.  In turn BCA needs to ensure that the formation and strengthening of churches is central to what we do.  If, as Leslie Newbiggin argued,  a healthy local church is one of most powerful demonstrations of the gospel to a sceptical age, then we have no place supporting programs that exist in isolation or independent from a local gathering of believers. 

So what disciplines will sustain a healthy partnership between BCA and churches? Let me suggest four:

This is an edited version of the 2008 EFAC Victoria AGM Dinner address by David Williams, the new CMS Australia Director of Training and Strategy

Bible and Mission

Missiology is perhaps one of the newest disciplines in the theological world, and perhaps also one of the most problematic. If you work in a theological college teaching Greek, everyone is pretty clear what your job description is. If you teach New Testament, Old Testament, Church History, even Doctrine or Ethics, there is fair degree of clarity about what your academic discipline involves. But Missiology, as a theological discipline, is a bit of a minefield. What is mission? How do we determine its boundaries? The boundaries of mission have spread wider and wider. But as Stephen Neill said, "if everything is mission, nothing is mission."

The debate about the nature of mission took a decisive turn at the Lausanne Conference of 1974. At Lausanne, the voice of 2/3rds world theologians was heard loudly and clearly, particularly speaking into the debate on the relationship between evangelism and social responsibility within mission. The 1974 Lausanne conference and the contributions made by Rene Padilla and Samuel Escobar marked a sea change in the evangelical world's understanding about mission. Padilla and Escobar argued along the following lines: an aeroplane needs two wings to be an aeroplane. Mission needs evangelism and social responsibility to be mission. Mission is an inseparable, integral, holistic blend of proclamation, evangelism, social action, advocacy, justice.

Kimberly Smith introduces the Anglican Relief and Development Fund.

The growing influence of global south leadership within the Anglican Communion (www.globalsouthanglican.org) has led to the emergence of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund. This is a new faith-based overseas aid agency now operating within a coalition of independent integral mission agencies in the USA, Canada and Australia. ARDF Australia was launched last year during the EFAC-sponsored visit of Archbishop Ben Kwashi (Jos, Nigeria) to several Australian capital cities. The Primate of South East Asia (Most Revd Bolly Lapok) and six other G S Primates have written: ‘We look forward to working with you and like-minded colleagues and agencies in the worldwide Anglican Communion.’


From the beginning, accountability and governance of ARDF Global has been enriched by an international board of trustees which includes many of the global south primates who were involved in initiating ARDF Australia. The international board currently includes Archbishops Anis (Egypt), Lapok (SE Asia), Akrofi (West Africa), Deng (Sudan), Isingoma (Congo), and Zavala (Southern Cone), and EFAC members Glenn Davies (former National Chair) and Kimberly Smith (Victoria).
Locally, an autonomous Australian board comprises well-known EFAC identities, Glenn Davies, Richard Condie, Richard Trist and Kimberly Smith. Recently the board invited former CMS missionary Fiona Oates to work part-time as a project consultant and to help ARDFA achieve tax deductibility status under AusAID’s Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme.