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Portrait of the Rev’d Canon Frank Coaldrake MA ThL, Chairman of the Australian Board of Mission January 1957-July 1970.
Portrait of the Rev’d Canon Frank Coaldrake MA ThL, Chairman of
the Australian Board of Mission January 1957-July 1970.

February 2020

In the archival library in the Anglican Board of Mission in Sydney, I am surrounded by tangible records of ABM’s one hundred and seventy year history of mission.

This past can be our friend for the present and the future. It awaits our inquiry and can inspire, challenge, correct and also make us regret some of what has been done or not done in Australia’s past.

The ABM archival library has taught me that all the Anglican Board of Mission’s work across one hundred and seventy years has been supported by the sacrificial, financial and community support of faithful Anglicans, from the days of the Church of England in Australia until now.

ABM is fit for purpose in the present partly through its dynamic past and now through its support of Christian mission where it is happening; and by committing to the local churches as the primary mission agents, and through its own holistic five marks of mission. These marks include what the older catholic tradition called corporal or bodily works of mercy.  Our Lord said that doing these things for the needy was doing it to him.  Best practice and empowering responses to the brother and sister in need remain basic imperatives.

Artefacts and written records inspire. Things speak. Photographs and letters can help us gospel to bring forth treasures old and new – as the Gospels imply. In this room I see reminders of the mission that is Christ’s. There is a photograph of the remarkable Frank Coaldrake whose personal ministry of reconciliation in Japan immediately post World War Two remains profound and is now embedded in the history of that church. One can read his diaries from the time before he became a university student. Or, one can enter the world of the PNG mission in 1890 and track it through the later Bishop Strong years to the emergence of an independent Anglican Province. Or one can read accounts by missionaries of life in the Solomons. The archival goldmine has many shafts.

I have begun to track the deep and often troubled history of engagement with the prior people of this land and reflect on the history of mission to the aboriginal peoples, knowing that today ABM is committed and active in ongoing reconciliation. Best practice today demands considered reflection. That reflection can involve our own substantial John and Ernest Gribble material and the critical re-reception of their own writings and their own lives. The study of the histories of these missions, within the history of British imperial and colonial engagement and the emergence of federated Australia are important activities, in their own right and signposting paths into the future.

All these matters invite the clearest and deepest Christian thought, as commentators will leap daily into a polarised debate. The matter is as deep and large as the continent.

ABM is distinctive as an Anglican agent of mission, within the scope of the General Synod, and expressed in many nations of the world.  ABM invites each of us to re-identify for ourselves the mission of Christ, that we too may support that; the mission of the Christ who would and does in dwell his people. ABM believes that its actions remain worthy of gifts and bequests. 

The Anglican Board of Mission raises core questions about mission and the question of bequests – that generous commitment of its supporters who give a considered percentage of final estate assets to its continuing work in the Christian decades to come. 

Rev’d Dr Ivan Head
ABM Gifts in Wills Officer


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