Book Review: Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity

Known by God:
A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity
Brian Rosner
Zondervan, 2017.

This remarkable book combines Biblical truth, personal honesty, theological reflection, Biblical theology, contemporary relevance, and pastoral usefulness! Brian Rosner points out that though ‘self-knowledge’ is frequently recommended, being known by others is vital for human life, and being known by God is of central importance. And again, while we might rightly focus on ‘knowing God’, the deeper truth is that God knows us.

He shows us the ways in which we naturally define and understand ourselves, and then shows us what the Bible teaches about human identity. Next, he unpacks the rich Biblical theme of being known by God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. This includes belonging to God, being chosen by God, being a child of God and being remembered by God. It also includes being known by Christ, being known by God in Christ, and recognising our family likeness to God and to Christ. He then explores the themes of shared memory and defining destiny, as we are shaped by the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, and await our resurrection bodies. Rosner then reflects on how being known by God shapes our lives in humility, comfort, direction and purpose. The book concludes with 8 things we should do if we want to know ourselves as we are known by God.

Known by God is based on a simple Biblical truth, and shows us its richness, diversity, and power. It provides deep insights into many Bible passages, and is profoundly personal and pastoral. Its intellectual and academic integrity is communicated in a very accessible way, and it is a joy to read. It is so helpful to see that being known by other people is such a precious experience, and also so good to be reminded that as we are known by God we are not just individuals, but part of his family. Very good!

I have read the book three times, and found it very stimulating and encouraging. It prompted some more ideas. These are not criticisms of the book, but my own reflections on continuing the trajectory of the book.

The 8 things we should do if we want to know ourselves as we are known by God are: Get baptized; Attend family gatherings; Read and hear the Bible; Pray to our heavenly Father; Sing the faith; Say the creed; Take communion; and Live the gospel [pp. 246-60]. I agree with all of these, and do them! I also find it helpful to do things that are in the world as well as those in the church. So I know myself to be known by God in the beauty and power and diversity of creation and nature; in the joys and frustrations of daily work; in the joys and sorrows of my body; in the gifts of God seen in the lives of unbelievers; in music and the arts and architecture; in machines; and in small acts of kindness in daily life. I know myself to be known by God in his world, as well as in his church family.

The book helpfully focuses on the comfort and joy of being known by God, and it rightly also shows us some of the consequent challenges to our natural ways of thinking and behaving. However there is one aspect of being known by God which does not receive much attention, but which is of vital importance to me. It is that God also knows the secrets of our hearts and lives, he knows our sins and our secret sins. ‘Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid’. And on the last day, on the day of judgement, these secrets will be revealed. For example,

‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs’
Luke 12:1-3.

‘But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned’
Matthew 12:36-37.

‘For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work’
1 Corinthians 3:11-13. See also 2 Corinthians 5:10.

‘For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad’
2 Corinthians 5:10.

‘Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it … And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books’
Revelation 20:11,12.

There are some sins which attract me so powerfully, that it is only the fear of God would that stops me. The only cure for hypocrisy is the fear of the final judgement. For me, loving God and wanting to please him is not enough. I need to fear him as judge, as well as trusting him as saviour. This, for me, complements the insights of Rosner’s wonderful and generous book.
Peter Adam, Vic.
(This review first appeared on The Gospel Coalition Australia website)

Bible Study: Luke 6:46-49

Who’s Building Your House?

The Parable of The Two Builders: Luke 6:46-49

Adrian Lane serves as the Victorian Regional Officer for Bush Church Aid

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?

Here we have two men, each building a house. Both are listening to Jesus’ words. Both hear exactly the same words. Furthermore, both houses look exactly the same. Ultimately both houses face the same flood. One man’s house isn’t even shaken, while the other man’s house is swept up in the torrent, collapses into wreckage and is carried off downstream, totally destroyed in one quick gulping swoop. Could this be us? I don’t know if you noticed or not, but both men call on Jesus as Lord. One isn’t some godless atheist or follower of another religion.

Why does one man’s house stand, while the other’s is smashed to smithereens? ‘The answer is obvious,’ you say. ‘One man built his house on a foundation, while the other didn’t.’ Of course, but why? Is he just cheap? Not wanting to pay the price for a solid house? Is he lazy, cocky or cavalier? ‘This’ll do. A flood? The last one was 70 years ago!’ Or perhaps that’s where most people are building their houses? ‘Everybody else is doing it this way’ No doubt the river flats look attractive and comfortable, with plenty of grass and trees. 

‘Get real,’ you say. ‘You need a house with a proper foundation.’ Why would anybody build a house without a proper foundation? But we do! We’re doing it all the time. I’m reminded of those who want sermons to be short. I’m reminded of bishops who ordain clergy without proper training; of students who want to cut corners in their studies, to get through College in a few less years. I’m reminded of ministers who want to build churches on the back of a cool website, or new branding, without the challenge of sacrificial repentance as people turn from their old ways of living for their passions to living holy lives for the glory of God. 

So let’s build with a foundation. What’s my builder going to say? ‘Good. But there’s a few issues we need to talk about.’ My heart sinks—I was all excited! All ready to go! ‘The first issue is cost. We’ll first have to dig down to the rock and anchor the structure. That means earthmovers and diamond drillers, and they don’t come cheap these days, what with all the health and safety. And even then there’s always the chance of an injury. And of course I can’t guarantee the cost—never know what we might find. May end up being a bit more expensive than you’d first imagined. Then there’s the time. It’ll take a while. Actually, you won’t see much for a while. Getting all those foundations in, all the pipes and lines. The wife and kids will probably get a bit stroppy waiting. “Do we need all this, Dad? Joey’s house didn’t take this long!”’

In the end, it’s going to look the same as if I’d built on the flats. And I’ve got a lot less dough and time left over. In fact, I haven’t got any dough or time left over—it’s taken all my dough and time. But this is the man who hears Jesus’ words and puts them into practice. He’s in it for the long haul. Like those stone homesteads out in Western Victoria built high above the river. They’ve lasted so long they’re now classified, listed, for good. The tall trees all around them all tell the same story: we’ve been here for generations, we’ve survived. No, more than that, we’ve prospered. 

One thing worth noting here is the power of Jesus’ words. They will equip the listener to withstand a mighty flood. We’re not talking about military, political or economic power here. We’re talking about the power of words. This is an extraordinary claim by Jesus: that his words, when acted upon, will save from the coming flood. 

So this parable is a great call to action—to put into practice Jesus’ words. But you can’t put into practice words you haven’t heard. So this parable is also a great call to listening: careful, eager, undistracted listening. Hungry listening. Is your listening hungry? Are you hungry for Jesus’ words? Or have you heard them all before? And you’re only thinking of the shopping list of things you need to do for the rest of the day. And of course you can’t have listening without someone speaking, teaching, declaring the words of Jesus. So obviously this parable is a great call to preaching. How much speaking, teaching, preaching goes on in your church, in your Bible Study, in your family or household, to help people hear the words of Jesus and put them into practice?

Just before we conclude, we should check what those words are. Perhaps you noticed that this parable comes at the climax of an amazing sermon. ‘Love your enemies…Do good to those who hate you…Bless those who curse you…Pray for those who mistreat you…Do not judge…Forgive…’ And there are plenty of words to come: ‘Hate your father and mother…Stay with the wife of your youth…Take up your cross…’. It’s impossible!

Indeed, we can’t hear the words of Jesus and put them into practice. On our own. When we do try, in our own strength, it only leads to a focus on ourselves. It only leads to pride and self-righteousness. Or despair. Cry unto God! Plead with him, that by his Spirit he may have mercy on you and transform you. Plead with him, that by his Spirit, he will enable you to listen and put his words into practice. And know this: If you have asked the Lord to build your house, it will stand. Do not fear. When the flood comes, as it surely will—there will be a judgement day—the house built by the Lord will stand. Indeed, only those houses built by the Lord will stand. So, who’s building your house?


Harrie Scott Simmons: a tribute.

Peter Adam pays tribute to a great mentor of his. A shorter version of this tribute was first published in The Melbourne Anglican, September 2018.

Peter Adam is Vicar Emeritus of St Jude’s Carleton, Vic.

Harrie Scott Simmons, 5th September 1918 – 4th May 1999.HarryScottSimmons

Harrie was born in Melbourne, attended Scotch College, and was converted through the Crusaders movement by Baden Gilbert, who ministered at Montague (South Melbourne). It was a slum parish, and some of the Crusaders helped with ministry in the parish, and paid for a women’s worker to assist in ministry there. Harrie also joined CMS League of Youth. He trained for the ministry at Ridley College, when Bishop Baker was the Principal, and benefitted from his Biblical preaching and emphasis on the devotional life.

Harrie was ordained in Melbourne, and served his curacies at St Andrew’s Brighton and Holy Trinity Kew, and then worked as Assistant Minister to Dean Langley at St Paul’s Cathedral. He then left for India in 1947, where he served at Amy Carmichael’s centre for children at Dohnavur, then as chaplain at Vellore Medical College and Hospital, and then as Chaplain at Lushington School at Ootacamund.

On one occasion at Vellore, Harrie was preaching on the text ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’, and Dr Mary Verghese was converted to Christ. She later had a significant ministry as a surgeon repairing the hands of leprosy patients, and a vigorous Christian witness throughout her life.

He was forced to return to Melbourne because of ill-health. Here at home he served as Chaplain at Malvern Grammar, then Chaplain at Ridley College, and then worked for the Australian Institute of Archeology. He was also active in speaking at Scripture Union and CMS activities for young people.
Harrie had a constant and extensive ministry praying for, counselling and mentoring young men. He was a person of great compassion and patience, deep spirituality, attractive holiness, and practical wisdom. He was a great intercessor, and you knew that once you were on his prayer list you were on it for life! He ministered to a wide range of men from all backgrounds. He was a faithful student and teacher of the Bible, and a wise evangelist and personal counsellor. He had a keen interest in people, and the gift of friendship.

I am one of many young men whom Harrie met ‘by chance', and who was befriended for life. He converted me to Christ, and then met with me every Tuesday for 3 years to disciple and mentor me, both as a Christian, and also then into ordained ministry. When I went to see the Archbishop’s Chaplain to offer for ordination, he asked me who had influenced me most in my call to the ministry. When I told him it was Harrie Scott Simmons, he replied, ‘We don’t think much of him at Headquarters’ [!] I am thankful that I automatically replied, ‘Well he converted me so I am very thankful for him!’

It was my privilege to preach at Harrie’s funeral in 1999, and St James’ Glen Iris was full of men who praised God for his ministry. He had a wonderful combination of high standards for us, and deep compassion and understanding when we fell short. Harrie had a deep love of classical music, and an outrageous sense of humour. He was a poet, had a keen interest in and expertise in Egyptology, and an attractive simplicity of life.

I recently spoke at a meeting at which 48 ministers were present. I mentioned Harrie by name, and after my talks four other ministers came up to reminisce about him, and we thanked God together for him. He truly was a ‘Father in Israel’ to many. His life, ministry and prayers are still bearing fruit. We praise and thank God for all his saints, and especially at this time, for Harrie Scott Simmons.

‘Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.’ Daniel 12:3.

Trump Makes Us Ask Again

If evangelical votes have been credited as part of Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the last US presidential election, does this damage the evangelical brand? If so, is it time to drop the moniker? Rhys Bezzant asks us to treasure the name ‘evangelical’ and its story.

Rhys Bezzant is Dean of Missional Leadership and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College, Melbourne

No doubt you are hearing this question too: why is it that so many evangelicals voted for Trump? Many used this term to describe their voting choices in the US, even if amongst the unsophisticated media pundits it meant simply ‘white, non-Hispanic Protestants’. Of course, if your politics don’t align with Trump, you might be asking the question to distance yourself from those Christians who take on this label. There are however many who vote Republican, but have serious questions anyway about whether the evangelical brand is damaged. The populism of American presidential elections is often a bellwether for other countries too. Many nations around the world are experiencing either discomfort with, or disdain for, the international order, and are making their opinions known through the ballot box. Here is not the place to canvass the economic drivers which lead to different kinds of extreme politics, or to analyse the strategy of fear-mongering adopted by world leaders. But here is the place to ask the question whether the word ‘evangelical’ is past its use-by date. I say it is not.

Like any technical word, we need to get behind popular usage to find out what generated its adoption in the first place. Only then can we decide whether it is worth junking. And as an historian, I want to help us understand that technical words are valuable because they summarise a story, and alert us to debates and decisions, of which we are beneficiaries, even when the narrative has got confused in the meantime. The word ‘evangelical’ contains the beautiful resonance of Gospel-centredness, and in the Reformation it meant something like Bible-focussed. However with other descriptors arising to summarise Protestant convictions, like Lutheran or Reformed or Anglican, the word ‘evangelical’ in the eighteenth century was used again in a fresh way.

In the 1700s, when Enlightenment philosophers pushed God out of the world, and instead taught that human beings have the capacity to make sense of their experience without him, conservative Protestants began to call themselves ‘evangelicals’ because they wanted to remind their listeners that God was not distant but close, and that we can experience him being near through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The language of regeneration became a hot-button issue. Not that the likes of John Wesley or George Whitefield or Jonathan Edwards had given up on the doctrine of justification by faith. Far from it. But they did turn up the volume on the language of being born again. Remember: many nominal Christians upheld justification in their statement of belief, but they didn’t act like it was true in their heart. If you want a succinct definition of being evangelical, this is it: the protection and promotion of vital piety in the modern world. After the 1730s, being a conservative Protestant needed a modern theological defence. As Doug Sweeney so eloquently says, being an evangelical is being a conservative Protestant ‘with an eighteenth-century twist.’ If you prize vital piety, or a real experience of the Lord, or a personal faith, you can call yourself an evangelical.

The world was changing dramatically around the time of the Great Awakening. Early capitalism was creating a new kind of economy, which was no longer defined by face-to-face encounters of producers and buyers. Now, more impersonally through money exchange and not bartering, a worldwide commercial economy was born. Mobility of goods and of people was essential for this early globalisation to thrive. The postal service was created for carrying letters and parcels, and personal identity was no longer defined by your village or locality. No wonder itinerancy flourished, with preachers travelling throughout countries or across the sea to make converts. As offensive as it might have been for Whitefield to come to town and win souls to Christ without asking for permission from the settled pastor, it worked. And he used the postal system to encourage advance publicity, and reports of his work travelled around the world quickly. There was a new sense of space and time amongst citizens of the eighteenth century, and in the experience of the newly regenerate too. One of the most frequent words used to describe a conversion was ‘enlargement.’ When you are converted in the fields and not in a church building, God somehow seems bigger.

This openness to God’s active presence in the world has made evangelicals more open to cultural movements of their own day, for good or for ill. Our evangelistic commitment means that we get close to the people we are serving—as the Apostle Paul suggests we should in 1 Corinthians 9—and our evangelistic flexibility enables us to apply new cultural means for traditional Christian ends. This sometimes gets us into hot water. We have felt the fear of the French Revolution and have grown more conservative. We have reacted to the teachings of Darwin and have instead pursued a vision for history that is not based on gradual evolution but rather apocalyptic intervention. We have brought flowers into church as a result of the Romantic movement, and we have savoured the imaginative beauty of C. S. Lewis’s children’s books which were composed in contrast to a world where technology seemed out of control. After World War II, we had to rethink what Christian civilisation might look like after old norms had come tumbling down.

One of the ways to respond to a post-Christian world is to engage through politics. This has been one of the chief strategies for evangelicals in the US, given Americans’ commitment to participatory democracy and power pushed down to the most local level. They elect their police chief, whereas Australians do not. They have a nervousness about big government, going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, whereas we recognise our need for governments to help a small population cultivate a big and sometimes brutal land. Christian witness in the realm of politics is certainly one possible path which evangelicals have taken, but our very own tradition alerts us to the fact that there are options too.

Evangelicals over the last three hundred years have reshaped nations through local revival tents, prayer meetings, petitions to abolish slavery, involvement in trade unions, establishing hospitals or orphanages, grassroots protests against racism, conventions in the mountains or missions at the beach. We have built publishing houses and published magazines. We have welcomed the nations who have come to us, as well as sending our own to serve our neighbours overseas. As we adapt yet again, this time to a post-Christian and yet strangely pre-Christian society, evangelicals will pursue vital piety in a number of different ways, through our speaking gifts and our service gifts, as Peter summarises so well (1 Peter 4:10-11). Our individual contexts will vary, and our responses will no doubt also be carefully calibrated to needs and opportunities.

But in all this, please don’t ignore our story, the history of one of the most powerful Christian movements in the modern world. And to remind us of the story, let us keep using the word ‘evangelical.’ It may not be perfect, but if we did jettison it, we would still have to find another term to capture the wonderful ways that God has worked amongst conservative Protestants since the eighteenth century. We can hold this story of vital piety, or the power of godliness, in trust for the sake of the universal church. In fact, we must.

Pastoral Guidelines on Same-Sex Relationships, Marriage and Gender

With the advent of same-sex marriage, churches are seeking to articulate with grace and truth a response to the various issues this presents. Stephen Hale has generously made available the pastoral guidelines that the St Hilary’s Network in Melbourne has developed. Reading and reflecting on their efforts might prove helpful to others engaged in similar tasks.

Stephen Hale is the Lead Minister in the St Hilary’s Network

We acknowledge that developing a theological and pastoral response related to human sexuality and sexual practice in our cultural setting is complex and challenging. We offer our full assurance for all who are same sex attracted that they are loved, valued and welcome in our church. Our identity as believers is founded in the new life we live as God’s children. We are all one in Christ Jesus regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. 

As a church, we uphold the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia, which are grounded in the Bible’s teaching. The Christian rite of marriage is between a man and a woman. Both Jesus in Matthew 19:4-5, and St Paul affirm what God has instituted across all ages in the words of Genesis 2:24: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ The introduction to the Anglican Marriage Service (APBA Order 2) classically states it this way,

‘Scripture teaches that marriage is a lifelong partnership uniting a woman and a man in heart, mind and body. In the joy of their union, husband and wife enrich and respond to each other, growing in tenderness and understanding. Through marriage a new family is formed, where children may be born and grow in secure and loving care.’

Faithfulness in Service (The Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation, 2004) is the guiding policy document of the Anglican Church of Australia, especially for those who are licensed or authorised to minister, and states the formal position of the Anglican Church as ‘faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness’. In upholding biblical teaching on marriage, we acknowledge that it involves the costly call of celibacy for all who are unmarried.
In the person of Jesus, we find the perfect model of someone who lived and spoke with both grace and truth (John 1:14). We acknowledge that in our attempts to develop a pastoral and theological response, the church may have at times spoken the truth, but not in love, and we repent of it. We acknowledge that, in our attempts to uphold the Bible’s teaching (and Anglican formularies) on marriage, we may have given the impression that same-sex attracted people themselves were the problem. This is not true, and we apologise if you have experienced this. We also acknowledge that homophobia has been a sin in our church and the wider community, and we repent of it.

We acknowledge that this is an issue of significant pastoral tension within our faith community as we seek to reflect on the Bible’s teaching and, also, as we seek to love and support same sex attracted family members, work colleagues and friends. We commit ourselves to holistic pastoral responses that are compassionate and positive in supporting people who are same sex attracted.

We seek to increasingly be a faith community that rejoices in the gift of friendship for all people. We encourage mutual hospitality within the body of Christ as families and single people share their gifts and homes. We encourage all married couples and families to both welcome and include single people as part of their ongoing life. We welcome those who share their lives as companions and seek to live faithfully.

We recognise that not all in our church community hold the same views on this matter and urge each of us to interact in a respectful and open manner. We commit ourselves to ongoing study and reflection on the teaching of Scripture in these areas.

  • We encourage church members to engage with friends, colleagues and family respectfully and with grace, modelling Christian engagement. As Christians living in a pluralist culture we seek to support each other in upholding our right to speak respectfully and graciously. We urge legislators to uphold religious freedom and to enshrine appropriate protections for religious practitioners and institutions in any proposed legislation.

Leadership Protocols

1. Under the provisions of the Marriage Act (Australian Government, 2017) Anglican clergy are exempted from performing same sex marriages if it is contrary to the formularies of their denomination. The 2017 Marriage Act states:

2A: b) to allow ministers of religion to solemnise marriage, respecting the doctrines, tenets and beliefs of their religion, the views of their religious community or their own religious beliefs;

The Canons of the Anglican Church only allow for marriage between a man and a woman.

2. As per current practice, St Hilary’s clergy and lay ministers attending any marriage where they have been invited to play a role shall, prior to accepting the invitation, inform the Lead Minister, if they have not already done so by their standard scheduling and planning discussions. Clergy must abide by current Diocesan protocols in the conduct of weddings.

3. Staff and those in elected leadership must uphold Faithfulness in Service

4. An individual’s views on these matters are not a criterion for being on the Parish Electoral Roll.

Works Cited

  • Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017. Australian Government, 2017.
  • A Prayer Book for Australia, Broughton Publishing, 1995
  • Faithfulness in Service, The Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation, 2004.

The Billy Graham Crusade (1959) A Personal Memoir

As we approach the 60th anniversary year of the momentous 1959 Billy Graham Crusade in Australia, Bishop Tony Nichols recalls how Graham touched the people around him, and what flowed out of this and later Crusades.

Bishop Tony Nichols ministers at St Lawrence’s Dalkeith, WA and beyond.

Next year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Billy Graham’s first visit to Australia in 1959 when he led ‘crusades’ across all capital cities over a four-month period. To commemorate the remarkable outpouring of God’s Spirit in which thousands decided to follow Christ, Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, will speak in each capital city in February 2019.

Billy Graham was invited to Australia by the Primate of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Howard Mowll who did not live to witness the extraordinary results. His initiative, however, launched an unprecedented ecumenical movement which saw thousands of Christians from different denominations meeting weekly for prayer for God’s blessing on Australia. Over 8,000 enrolled for counsellor training in Sydney alone. Those training sessions were a great blessing to me personally, not least because we had to learn off by heart over twenty passages of Scripture. Volunteers were also organised for support roles and each of the choirs had a thousand members. The organisation was superb.

Crusade statistics have frequently been rehearsed. Attendances totalled three million. Australia’s total population at the time was twelve million. Melbourne attendances totalled 719,000. The Sydney Crusade drew 980,000. In the other capitals, meetings were taken by associate evangelists with Graham speaking at the final meetings. In Perth, the attendance was 106,800. A broader radio audience heard his trademark, ‘The Bible says’. Landlines relayed hundreds of services to rural communities. Of those who heard Billy Graham, over 150,000 made ‘decisions for Christ’. Not a few subsequently became significant leaders, both in Australia and in overseas missions.

Some colourful stories made newspaper headlines: ‘Thug Gives Up Revolver’, ‘Burglar Hands over Tool Kit’. Businesses reported an epidemic of repayment of bad debts. Enrolments in Bible Colleges doubled over the next four years. Churches which supported the Crusade were undoubtedly revitalised.

Not all church leaders supported the Crusade. The Bishops of Newcastle, Canberra-Goulburn, and Rockhampton derided Billy Graham’s simplistic use of the Bible. But many of their flock heard the gospel for the first time in language they could understand and confessed faith in the Lord Jesus.
My home parish of St. Augustine’s Bulli did not support the Crusade. The rector was a good man, but he, and all members of the Parish Council, were members of the Masonic Lodge. So an older layman, Bill Lackenby, and I organised a bus for the four weeks of the Showground meetings in Sydney, 70 km away. I still do not know how we paid for it. Astonishingly, the parish received about 200 referrals, almost all non-church goers. The rector fell ill and a young curate from Moore College, Reg Barker, was recruited. He faithfully visited all who were referred. The parish experienced new life and to this day is a vibrant fellowship. Our elder son and his family moved to the district ten years ago and are keen members of ‘Bulli Anglican’, as it is now known.
God’s blessing was also evident among the students of the University of Sydney where about 700 made commitments to Christ during the Crusade. The Evangelical Union organised Bible study groups. I was charged with the task of forming two such groups in the Faculties of Vet. Science and Pharmacy. One afternoon, Billy Graham actually came and preached on the lawns of the University. Inevitably, pranksters did their best to disrupt his address. They rang triple zero to report that the Uni was on fire. We could hear the sirens of fire engines coming from all over the city. But Billy persevered with good humour.

Emotionalism was a predictable explanation for the impact of Billy Graham’s preaching. Certainly, to hear thousands of voices singing ‘Just as I am, without one plea’ and to see hundreds of enquirers coming down quietly from all over the stands was unforgettably moving. But the power was in the clear proclamation of the gospel. The most remarkable evidence of this for me occurred in the following year, 1960, when I was appointed to Temora High School in country NSW.

In Temora, I threw myself into the life of St. Paul’s, the local parish—youth club, Sunday School and parish council. I was unaware of a looming crisis. No church in Temora had supported the Billy Graham crusade. However, two laymen had organised a landline relay. The rector was vexed because a number of his congregation claimed to have come to Christ through Billy Graham’s ministry—and that via a crackling landline in a cold Shire hall. A year later he was still ridiculing their experience and sought to counter Graham’s ‘The Bible says’ with homilies that regularly questioned the reliability of Scripture.
As he could not be persuaded to respond more pastorally, I commenced a Bible Study with 27 people aged 17 to 79 years. We met every Friday night for almost two years in the home of the oldest member, Mrs Donaldson, until I left for CMS service in North Borneo. It was a wonderful fellowship, but it was grievous that we did not have the blessing of our parish priest. In fact, I was denounced from the pulpit before an astonished congregation and told to leave. I declined to do so and begged for an interview. He reluctantly agreed. I turned up with Bible and prayer book, but no meaningful discussion occurred. I was henceforth tolerated.

That was a traumatic experience for a 22 year old, and it was perhaps strange that it did not alienate me from the Anglican Church. Rather I saw so many of God’s people as sheep without a shepherd and had a growing sense of his call to the ministry of that Word that Billy Graham had faithfully proclaimed.

Making Disciples Every Day

Sonya de Lacey gives us a taste of the Bishop’s Training Event in the Diocese of Tasmania.

Sonya de Lacey is the Media and Communications Officer for the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania

The atmosphere had an expectant buzz as 400 plus Anglicans from across Tasmania gathered for the third annual Bishop’s Training Event. This year’s theme was Making Disciples Every Day. It was Saturday 22 September. Music filled the auditorium. Lanyards were handed out. Resource tables were plentiful, covering topics such as: Alpha, Bush Church Aid, Church Missionary Society, Diocesan Training and Youth/Kids ministry info, Safe Church Communities, University Fellowship of Christians and Worldview College—to name just a few. The aroma of freshly ground coffee filtered through the air. This was our biggest event ever with around 350 adults, and 70+ children in the children’s event and creche.

At morning prayer we gave thanks to God that we, his people, could gather together in his name. We asked the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us to be Christ’s disciples, sending us to go and proclaim the gospel, making disciples in our own neighbourhoods and to the ends of the earth. In the morning session Bishop Richard challenged us to ask the Lord of the harvest prayerfully and regularly for workers to send out into the harvest field.1 He concluded his session by sharing a video of Patricia McCormack who goes into Risdon Prison to share the good news. This lovely story showed how God can take our brokenness and create something truly beautiful.2

The Rev’d Andy Goodacre shared how Jesus chose unlikely people, in unlikely places, and invested in the few for the sake of the many.3 He shared an encouraging video from his church called: Barney’s Missionary People, Seeing Lives Transformed.4

We heard testimonies of God growing the church in Circular Head from about 15 to 20 people 18 months ago to over 90 people the Sunday before the Bishop’s Training Event. Others talked about how the Holy Spirit had been preparing them for a move and how they had sold up and were now moving house to join a new church plant in Brighton. There was much to give thanks for and celebrate.

The singing was both powerful and beautiful. One attendee wrote, ‘the very best thing about the day for me was the singing … Standing there, surrounded by the swell of sound from four hundred people all singing together, was the most uplifting, encouraging feeling. I was carried on the sound. I was buoyed by it … Saturday’s singing was about being community. Being family. Singing with one voice. Joining together and making something truly beautiful.’5
In the afternoon, everyone met in smaller groups attending 2 of 22 possible workshops. Workshops covered a wide range of ministry topics: for example, disciple-making in rural areas; connecting the church with young people; helping build disability-inclusive Christian communities; answering tricky questions in the workplace; everyday pastoral care; making disciples every day and missional communities; making disciples in the everyday.

‘There is always more we can learn to help us to serve God and with the wide range of session topics to choose from there was something for everyone’, said Philip Ruston. ‘It was good to learn more about personal witness and that even if we’ve had a Christian upbringing we still have a story to tell about our walk and relationship with God.’

Steve Abbott, author of Everyday Evangelism, led the two main auditorium workshops on sharing our faith with others. He talked about the ‘key practical biblical elements of personal witness’6 and ‘Understanding the five thresholds unbelievers cross from distrust to trust in Jesus’.7 We learnt valuable new skills and ideas to make disciples across Tasmania.

Our vision is to be: a church for Tasmania, making disciples of Jesus. Hopefully we have all taken away something new which will enable us to be a blessing within our communities and to share the good news. ‘I would certainly recommend the day, it allows you to see the depth and breadth of our Anglican Church community, making new friendships, renewing old ones and getting a broader view of what is happening across Tasmania,’ said Heather Krause. ‘It gives a better perspective regarding our faith community, rather than your head being down and just working on where you are. It is so important to raise your head and see what is happening outside of your circle, it gives you encouragement and new ideas and resources’, she said.
We left, thankful for what God is doing amongst us, with new skills and ideas to make disciples across Tasmania, and keen to invite others to join us next year.