EFAC Australia


With EFAC Victoria calling together a conference on Gospel, Mission and Church in March 2010, I thought it might be helpful if I put pen to paper on my experiences of a life-time of Christian mission and ministry in an Australia that is very different from what it was like when I began.

From the beginning I have always been part of the evangelical side of the church. The great strength of evangelical ministry is its emphasis on evangelism. Evangelicals have a Gospel to proclaim. They are people who know that God has a message which is solidly based on what God has already done for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They know that God uses this message in the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. They know that there are millions who live their lives 'having no hope and without God in the world' (Ephesians 2:12). God desires that these people repent of their sin, and turn to him in faith, and enjoy his salvation. Evangelicals are not afraid to share this Gospel message and see people changed by God. And because this gospel is proclaimed in all sorts of ways, people are being converted and changed, and churches are growing, sometimes slowly and sometimes dramatically. So the Gospel is at the heart of evangelical ministry and is its great strength.

But what is to happen next? Let me reflect on this through my personal experiences. I grew up in the northern beachside Sydney suburb of Manly. My parents were not church goers at all. Both had lost their mothers when they were young. My mother came out of that strange religious amalgam of theosophy; my father out of a strict Presbyterianism, which he had rejected as harsh but without rejecting a belief in God. He had been a commercial traveller for my grandfather's stationery business in New Zealand but for most of his life he was, incredible as it may sound, an SP bookmaker running a betting business on horse racing out of our home. He got into this when coming to Australia in the depression and not being able to find work. My mother followed him here. They married in Christ Church, St Kilda and then moved to Sydney where my mother found work as a hairdresser. My father then began his SP bookmaking business. This provided a modest but comfortable income for our family although only in 1960 were we able to move out of a rented flat into my parents' own home.

By Peter Corney

When I was ordained in 1963/4 at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral Melbourne there wasn’t a mitre in sight. Archbishop Frank Woods was the presiding Bishop. In fact mitre’s and copes did not appear regularly in St Paul’s until Bob Dann became Archbishop (1977 – 83) although Frank Woods, in spite of opposition from within the Cathedral Chapter, did wear them on occasions. This was a novelty for Melbourne because of its evangelical origins with Bishop Perry.

Melbourne followed the traditions of the reformation settlement in the Church of England as it had come to be expressed in England for over 400 years, the tradition of simplicity of vesture for the clergy and bishops.

The courtly trappings of the medieval church were left behind. The episcopal mitres (crowns), the richly embroidered robes of satin, the regal purple, the bejewelled accoutrements of the mediaeval royal court were seen to be inconsistent with the Gospel. They did not sit well with Jesus of Nazareth, suffering servant and friend of the poor. They seemed incongruous with his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Nor did they fit with the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone and not by works. There was no place here for human pride, pomp and ceremony.

Even the architecture of the Gothic church, modelled as it was on the medieval court with its ascending steps to the elevated throne - from knave to chancel to sanctuary and altar, and the separation of clergy from the laity which it reinforced - was modified, reflecting the reformed theology. Altars were removed and Holy Tables introduced and moved down to the chancel area where the people gathered around them to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. New churches were built with a more rectangular shape as auditory buildings for the hearing of the Word: Christopher Wren was the great designer of these (1632-1723). Central aisles, long chancels and raised sanctuaries’ were eliminated and rood screens that secluded the sanctuary abandoned. Many of the London churches built after the reformation like St Martin-in-the-Fields, St James’ Piccadilly and All Souls’ Langham Place clearly reflect this change. It was only after the Gothic revival and the influence of the Oxford/Tractarian movement in the second half of the nineteenth century that many churches built from then on moved back to the pre-Reformed semi-Gothic pattern. Centre aisles returned to give focus to the sanctuary and priestly activity. (1)

Sadly the mitres and richly embroidered robes have drifted back in to many Australian Anglican dioceses. Because they often appear in Cathedrals at significant events they usually get the photo shot in the press! This is unfortunate, the symbolism is confusing and bemusing for those both outside and inside the church. Confusing for it sits so badly with Jesus and the Gospel and bemusing because it is so arcane and irrelevant and not understood. They are seen as the trappings, the pomp and ceremony of “religion”, things that have frequently been the enemy of real and vital Christian faith.

One of my favorite stories from church history concerns John Huss the Czech reformer (1372 - 1415). Huss was a gifted preacher and drew large crowds including many students to Bethlehem Chapel near the University of Prague. Huss, influenced by the writings of Wycliffe, called for reform in the church and set forth the Scriptures as the primary authority. He was also very critical of the corruption and extravagance of the Papal court at Rome at the time. He drove home his point in dramatic fashion with a wonderful visual aid. He had two contrasting pictures painted on the walls of the chapel; one of Jesus dressed as a simple peasant, the humble servant washing his disciples feet; the other of a haughty Pope with his triple-tiered crown, dressed in all his regal splendor riding on a horse. This became the backdrop to Huss’s challenging preaching. The message was clear to the crowds and the irony was made all the more pointed by being in a chapel named after the humble birth place of the Saviour. This was not popular in Rome! Eventually Huss was arrested and burnt at the stake. But he lit a fire that continued to burn in Bohemia, influencing Luther and other reformers and also the development of the German Moravian Church and missionary movement.

The origins of the mitre

The origins of the mitre are not entirely clear but it seems that in the Western church it may have developed from a cap worn in imperial times by Roman secular officials on certain occasions. The papal tiara or triple crowned hat seems to have developed from this. In the East the mitre derives from a cap used in the imperial Byzantine court. In the later empire it developed into a closed type of crown used by the emperors. It was taken over by Eastern Orthodox bishops after the fall of Constantinople. In Armenian Orthodoxy it is said to symbolize the sovereignty of Christ. In the Western church the first mention of a bishop wearing a mitre is not found till the eleventh century, although reference to the papal tiara is found as early as the eighth century.

Up to the eighth century in the West there was no distinctive clerical dress worn in or outside the church by the clergy. They wore the ordinary street dress of the day. (2) It was very important to distinguish themselves from the pagan priests and rituals of the times. Dom Gregory Dix in his authoritative work The Shape of the Liturgy quotes Celestine 1, bishop of Rome in 425 rebuking the churches in Gaul for introducing for clergy the scarf or pallium at the Lord’s Supper. This was commonly worn in Roman society by consuls, magistrates and others as a sign of office. He chides them for their hubris in these words: “We bishops must be distinguished from the people and others by our learning not by our dress, by our life not by our robes, by purity of heart not by elegance.”(3)

The present shield shaped cap with the two fringed lappets became widely used in the medieval church. It was reintroduced after the Reformation into Anglicanism by the Oxford/Tractarian movement in the nineteenth century along with the recovery of other pre-Reformation practices. The movement fitted artistically with the romantic Gothic revival in England at the time. The Cambden Society was formed to furnish and dress the medieval revival. In their attempt to recover a greater sense of holy worship the Tractarians also attempted to make connections between the OT temple cultus and Christian worship. Great attention was paid to the sacred garments described in Exodus 39. It was noted in verses 30-31 that the High Priest wore a kind of turban with a gold plate attached and engraved with the words, “Holiness to YHWH”. Was this not a forerunner of the mitre?! Later enthusiasts developed the notion that the mitre was a symbol of the flame of the Holy Spirit descending on the heads of the disciples’ at Pentecost, although there seems to be no evidence that this idea was an early one in the history of the mitre. Like many religious accoutrements the alleged meaning of the symbolism is often flexible and frequently a subsequent justification. It’s like all the different meanings given to candles in church other than the need for light before the introduction of electricity!

Interestingly in 1963 the reforming Pope Paul VI, who was elected during the now famous Vatican II after the death of John XXII, abandoned the use of the papal tiara (crown) in a dramatic ceremony during the second session of Vatican II as a sign of Christian humility. Previous popes had been crowned with the tiara in a ceremony of regal coronation.

The arguments for the use of the mitre.
Those who have reintroduced the mitre into Anglican services usually appeal on the following grounds:

First, they appeal to continuity with the church tradition. The problem with this argument is - which tradition? That of the medieval church or the reformed church; the post or pre-Constantinian church; the apostolic church and the church of the first eight centuries or the Gothic revival of the late nineteenth century??

Second, they argue from symbolism: ‘the mitre is a helpful visual symbol in public worship’. Various meanings have been attributed over the years, the current one that is popular is that it symbolizes the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, the bishop being a kind of representative figure for the church. Another argument is that it represents the sovereignty of Christ and the authority of the bishop as Christ’s representative. Of course this one emphasizes its origins as a crown, a connection not always readily or comfortably acknowledged by its wearers. The other is that it is simply a distinguishing symbol of the episcopal office.

A third argument is that these things provide theater, color and movement all things that communicate at an alternative or additional level to words. This is a valid point but it does not alter my main concern that the symbols should be appropriate to the subject and my contention is that in present practice they are generally not. Perhaps a simple wooden shepherds crook would be, although most young people today would never have seen one and in fact they were never used on Australian farms. What about an Akubra, a Driza-Bone and a stock whip?

The problem with symbolism is that it is powerful but complicated and culturally affected. Often a symbol will convey different things to different people. To many on the outside the mitre, the embroidered robes, the bejewelled silver crooks and gold crosses will convey power, prestige, wealth, royalty and assumed authority, even arrogance. While these accoutrements may be viewed as works of art the ironic and incongruous symbolism of a shepherd’s crook and a cross made from these materials seems lost on the insider aesthetes! They are certainly powerful symbols but they give the wrong message. They convey a sense of irrelevant pomp and ceremony. Whose side are we seen to be on when we wear and carry these things? To a younger generation today they are associated with a mythical past with bishops looking like Wizards from Lord of the Rings or a Harry Potter story. To others they are just faintly ridiculous and silly. They clearly create a distance between the ordinary every day person and the Christian faith that should represent Jesus the servant saviour. It should also be said that the Armani suits, silk ties and Rolex watches worn by the pastors of some prosperity gospel churches are just as inappropriate and incongruous.

While greatly influenced by its Jewish background the early church clearly separated itself from the cultus of both the Jewish and the Pagan temple and, as we have seen, for at least 700 years there was little or no distinction in dress with those conducting public worship between lay and clergy, they wore the ordinary street dress of the day. (4)

What we wear in church should reflect the one we claim to follow; it should also reflect our missiology and ecclesiology.

Would Jesus wear a Mitre today? I don’t think so. He might wear a hoody or a Collingwood beanie or even a baseball cap but a piece of medieval headgear that made him look like a lost cast member from a Harry Potter movie is most unlikely. As a carpenter Jesus may have cut a few mitres but he would never have worn one! Let’s get back to simplicity, humility and relevance.

Peter Corney is a regular contributor to Essentials, and has discovered the internet in his retirement! More musings from Peter @
RSS feed: http://petercorney.com/?feed=rss2
Twitter: http://twitter.com/revpeterc

(1) K. White “Shrines for Saints – how parish churches evolved” 1975 Grove Liturgical No 3 (Grove Books) pages 16 – 17, 23 – 28.
(2) Dom Gregory Dix “The Shape of the Liturgy” 1960 (A&C Black) pages 399-404
(3) Dix page 401
(4) Dix page 404
Further information on the development of the mitre can be found in Dix on pages 405 -407 and “The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church” Ed. by L F Cross 1961. (Oxford Press)

The editor asked Tim Anderson, Vicar of Healesville-Yarra Glen, an EFAC parish affected by the Victorian Bushfires earlier this year, how things were going a few months down the track. This is Tim’s email reply:

At Healesville and Yarra Glen we are continuing to see God's blessing through the generosity of others.

- We have donations totaling $53,000 to support youth ministry in the parish from the Sydney Diocese and from St Matthew's West Pennant Hills;
- we have had a number of guest preachers from St Paul's Castle Hill and encouragement and support as we think about embarking on youth ministry;
- we have had teams from Barabool Hills Baptist church, Glen Waverly Anglican Church, and St Matthew's Prahran send up working parties;
- St Matthew's has bought and stocked a freezer for us with casseroles to give away, Glen Waverly has supported our play group, many individuals, churches and the Melbourne Anglican Foundation have given us money so we can directly support bushfire survivors.
- Christians in the Media have given us free copies of the "Introducing God" book to give away.
- God has raised up from within the parish an able administrative assistant who is receiving some funding from the Melbourne Anglican Foundation. This has been an important step in allowing me to have good energy for ministry of the word.

The Back Page – brought to you by Hannah Craven


“The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world.... It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.”

Former United States President Jimmy Carter writing on the reasons for his recent decision to leave the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Losing my Religion for Equality” was published in The Age, on July 15th and can be accessed here: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/losing-my-religion-for-equality-20090714-dk0v.html


“Commentary from the borderlands between faith and culture.”

Mark Sayers is one of Australia’s leading young Christian thinkers on faith and culture, particularly in the area of youth and young adults ministry. Unassuming, and decidedly ‘real,’ Mark challenges us to see behind the gloss of modern celebrity culture. His blog provides links to interesting and relevant articles, and his own thoughts and reflections. Recent posts include: “Innovative Leadership and dancing alone like an idiot,” “Welcome to your quarter life crisis,” “A theology of Michael Jackson,” and “Bacon + Church = Men.”
Mark co-directs über, a culture specialist organisation that interprets social trends and articulates a fresh way of living the gospel in the 21st century.
Check out: www.uberlife.com.au


“The Challenge of Climate Change”

Professor David Griggs, Director, Monash Sustainability Institute, gives three keynote addresses at a conference on Climate Change, held at St. Hilary’s Kew in May.

Visit the Audio Page and type “Climate Change” in the Search box in the audio Player.

FEATURE FILM: Harry Potter - the Chosen One?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

"'People believe you are 'the Chosen one,' you see," said Scrimgeour.
'They think you quite the hero—which, of course, you are, Harry, chosen or not! How many times have you faced He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named now?
Well, anyway,' he pressed on, without waiting for a reply, 'the point is, you are a symbol of hope for many, Harry. The idea that there is somebody out there who might be able, who might even be destined, to destroy He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named—well, naturally, it gives people a lift.'"

J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, pp. 344-345

The power of belonging is a recurring theme in the Harry Potter storyline. It builds some people up and destroys other people… The real magic of the Harry Potter series comes not from spells and potions, but from the sustaining friendships of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel | posted 7/14/2009

“What would Jonathan Edwards say about Harry Potter?”

“Edwards would have seen that the essential question of spirituality – What happens when I die? – is a great vacuum that culture is looking to fill. The series also tells us – and this no less important – that if Rowling’s world is expertly reflecting the light our world can shed on these matters, true understanding is at a pretty low level.”

Josh Moody, Christianity Today, July 2009


A cheeky commentary on Christian culture. May occasionally offend, usually a pretty good reality-check!

Stuff Christians Like
#579. Forgiving people who didn't apologize.

We're supposed to forgive people.

That's in the Bible somewhere. I know it is. I mean Jesus says at one point that you should forgive people 7 times 70. As a writer I'm not the greatest at math but even I know that calculates out to about 4,900 times. And forgiving people is great, but sometimes it's funny too. Particularly when we let people know that we've forgiven them even though they haven't apologized or asked us to.

"Hey, can we talk for a minute? I know things have been kind of awkward between us lately and our friendship is strained a little, but I want to be honest with you today. I want you to know that I forgive you."

"Forgive me? For what?"

"I'd rather not go into the details and reopen the wound, but that thing you did to me a few weeks ago. I forgive you for that. It's important to me that you know I have erased that debt in my heart."

"I have no idea what you're talking about. Did I do something?"

"I'm a Christian and I'm called to forgive people and love my enemies. So even though it still stings a little, I want you to know we're cool now."

"Wait a second, we're enemies? Whoa. When did that happen?"

"Stop, just stop. Just know that I forgive you. Someday maybe you'll understand. Come here, let's hug it out."

"Don't touch me."

"I forgive that too. You can keep pushing me away, but I'm just going to keep loving on you."

"You know that's not really a verb."

"Just let me pour out my forgiveness and put a hedge of protection around our friendship.

"You are so weird."

"And you are so forgiven."

That's probably never happened to you, but I've been on the receiving end of that before. And it's a baffling, confusing, eventually humorous experience. But make no mistake, it's not forgiveness, it's soft revenge. And rarely do you feel "loved on" in that moment.

Has someone ever forgiven you for something you didn't apologize for?

Have you ever done that to someone? (It's OK if you have. I forgive you.)

This is an edited version of an address at the FCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans) UK launch by Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney and President of EFAC Australia, 7 July 2009.

Ominous and foreboding words are being said about the FCA by those who wish it ill – they say it is schismatic, it will divide the church, it is a power play.

These changes are at best misunderstandings or at worst political posturing.

Let me say this as clearly as possible.

The FCA exists to keep Anglicanism united, to enable those whose spiritual existence as Anglicans is threatened to remain Anglicans with integrity.
It exists to keep orthodox, biblical Anglicanism inside the fold at the highest level possible; to gather up the fragments, to unite them. It exists so that evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics and mere Anglicans can continue to be Anglicans without compromising Biblical truth.

With persuasive power, the culture of the West has adopted and promulgated anti-Christian belief and practice. It confronts every Christian with the choice of submission or harassment. It pretends to be the true heir of the Christian faith, that it now possesses all that was worthwhile of Christianity, and that the entire structure of Christian thought can disappear into the receding past.

A. Donald MacLeod, C. Stacey Woods and the Evangelical Rediscovery of the University (IVP, 2007)

C. Stacey Woods may arguably be the Australian with the greatest impact on the twentieth-century international evangelical scene, after the scholarly contributions of Leon Morris. MacLeod’s biography skilfully traces his boyhood in Bendigo and Brethren roots through to his transfer to North America for theological education at the fledgling Dallas seminary, and then on to his monumental and foundational work in leading three increasingly large and complex organisations: the Canadian InterVarsity movement, the United States IVCF and finally his role as the long-serving founding General Secretary of the IFES. An Australian-born evangelical spearheaded the birth and growth of all three – how astounding!
Woods’ story has probably fallen victim to the tall-poppy syndrome, but here is a well-written carefully-researched and readable biography detailing his life and ministry. Four interesting themes stood out for me:

1. So much of twentieth-century evangelicalism centred around the same broad network of people and organisations. Billy Graham and Carl Henry, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott, T. C. Hammond and Howard Mowll – all feature. The Doctor noted ‘the importance of personal contacts’ in Christian ministry – especially in the international spread of evangelical cooperation in mission and evangelism. John Stott is quoted in similar vein in his biography, about going to conferences for the contacts, not necessarily the content. It is a lesson many contemporary leaders need to learn, for the sake of the Gospel mission to the world.

2. The key ministry of converting and encouraging young people into ministry was another recurring theme. Edmund Clark, a Children’s Special Service Mission (CSSM – the progenitor of Scripture Union beach missions) worker, raised up Woods, converted Marcus Loane and was influential in Don Robinson’s family. Sadly, the Clark’s ‘failure’ and ejection from Australia cut short this ministry here and, in God’s sovereign purpose, led to Woods’ departure for the US. I remain struck by how few individuals there are with these both gifts. There are evangelists among us, and there are encouragers of others into ministry – but we have too few who do both at the one fell swoop. We must pray for them.

3. The key ministries of financial giving and business acumen run through each episode of ministry growth in the book. Woods may have been the charismatic networker and speaker, but it was a succession of well-heeled generous Gospel-hearted men and women who bankrolled staff salaries, travel costs and organisational costs. Additionally, they brought wisdom from the cut-and-thrust of the business world to bear on the Gospel enterprise and played an important role in offering encouragement and personal support to Woods. A similar story has yet to be adequately told of Christian business workers’ major part in the progress of much evangelical effort in Australia – both in giving and in leading. Woods linked the ‘increasing preponderance of academia over business’ on boards and councils as a reason for IVCF’s weakness. We might say the same of the preponderance of clergy over capable laity in some of our organisations and committees.

4. Woods’ passionately innocent pietism – appealing to prayer and unity in Christ in the work of evangelism whenever conflict threatened to erupt – was striking feature. The portrait painted is of a compelling preacher and writer, a charismatic visionary leader, but a poor administrator and team leader. Someone whom God used to achieve much, even as he caused and created tension in his wake. This is a biography that, as Timothy Larsen observes on the back cover, is ‘full of grace and truth’. It deserves many humble, self-reflective readers.

Wei-Han Kuan is editor of Essentials.

A psychologist friend of mine once told me, mid-conversation, that the ‘mmmmm-ing’ I was emitting and the ‘mmmmm-ing’ she was reciprocating with actually had official psycho-babble (my term, not hers) names: they were minimal encouragers.

Minimal encouragers, I thought, that makes sense. You know how it goes: a parishioner needs a pastoral chat, a co-raconteur is regaling you with a tall tale, a colleague is offering up their latest evangelistic idea, and you find yourself ‘mmmmm-ing’. Perhaps without knowing it, you’re urging them on to tell you more, anticipating the next nugget of news, humouring them so that silence won’t discourage them, agreeing with the overall sentiment of what’s being said (or, at the very least, agreeing that they agree with the overall sentiment of what’s being said).

And it’s not just the one-to-one, in-the-flesh conversations in which the minimal encourager makes its presence felt. Think of the multitudinous phone calls you make to various agencies and companies that require a transaction of information. If we haven’t given, we’ve certainly gotten.