Year

1990

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of History and Politics

Abstract

The thesis of this history of the Sydney Anglican Home Mission Society (originally named the Sydney Church Society), spanning the years 1856 to 1958, demonstrates the central argument of this study that the development and prosperity of the Society was dependent on the ability or its episcopal leadership to win the support of the largely conservative Evangelical clergy and laity of the Diocese of Sydney. The establishment and growth of the Society will be explored by examining five recurrent topics, namely, episcopal leadership, ecclesiastical party loyalties, church extension, church-state relations and welfare services.

Under the leadership of Bishop Frederic Barker, the founder of the Society, the organisation prospered as a parochial support organisation. Following Barker's death in 1882, for 50 years the Society was plagued by debilitating division and social upheavals which curtailed the Society's flexibility and usefulness. Bishop Alfred Barry was thwarted in his attempts in the 1880s to redirect some of the financial resources of the Society into the ailing Anglican school system and to overseas mission work. Barry's Evangelical successor, W.S. Smith, deficient in leadership skills and energy presided over the situation where the Society suffered a protracted period of malaise in the 1890s and the early 1900s. By his death in 1909, the Society was in deep financial difficulties and was troubled by fundamental divisions within the ranks of the Society's supporters. Some Evangelicals wanted the Society to establish parochial welfare services while others believed the Society should only fund the establishment and the maintenance of parishes.

J.C. Wright, the fourth Bishop of Sydney, was chosen to administer the Church because some Synod members felt he would be able to shepherd the diocese from its societal insularity into the main stream of Sydney life. Wright addressed this task in the difficult days of the War World One and in the Depression, but largely failed because he was not able to unify or win support for his policies from many Sydney Anglican Evangelicals. The Society's name changed during his episcopate, but otherwise remained as Barker had fashioned it.

Wright's successor, H.W.K. Mowil, a conservative Evangelical, unified Sydney conservative Evangelicals and received enthusiastic support from them. He re-structured much of the work of the Diocese and of the Society, and by so doing facilitated the establishment of meaningful contacts between the Church and the general community. He transformed the Society into a centralised ecclesiastical bureaucracy, under his control, which became a major welfare provider with some residual responsibilities for parish ministry.

Under Barker and Mowil the Society was the 'Bishop's Society', for they were able to deploy the Society as their principal instrument for the establishment and the maintenance of their initiatives. Intervening bishops often failed to win support from the numerous and influential Sydney Evangelicals because either their major policies or their theology or both differed from those of Sydney evangelicals.

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