In matters Parra, God trumps art

SMH, 9 Dec. 2010


A clever but abusive use of aesthetics and religious and social stereotyping by Elizabeth Farrelly, who reinforces the myth of separation of church and state, and comes to the conclusion that the Church has a conflict of interest in bidding for ‘public land’ but architects (like herself) have no vested interest in promoting State largesse in design contracts for art gallery outposts. She touches on a lot of sensitivities here – see the comments section, where clearly ‘westies’ don’t always like to be categorized as either aspirational-my-life-will-be-better-with-french-impressionism or V8-loving-boguns. The use of patronising ‘educating the west’ approaches hits a nerve… but then, what newspaper could ever be accused of that?


Female Foundations

It is a commonplace in the literature of Australian Pentecostalism to note that much of the movement was founded by women. The first leader of an enduring Australian Pentecostal Church was Sarah Jane Lancaster. Her Good News Hall network was built upon the labour of women – Winnie Andrews was at ‘headquarters’ as secretary and editor, while former missionary Florrie Mortomore and her colleague Annie Dennis ” opened up Queensland, Mina Ross Brawner cooperated with other women (such as Kate Metcalfe) to expand the small pentecostal work in Sydney, and Sisters Edie Anstis and Ruby Wiles were among the earliest workers in Perth. ‘Over half of the first thirty Pentecostal congregations were founded by women.’ (Chant, 1999)  Jacqui Grey goes further: ‘By 1930, twenty of the thirty-seven churches (for which information is available) were initiated by women.’  (Grey, ‘Torn Stockings’)

There are both apparent and less apparent reasons for this predominance of women. First, it has been observed that new religions provide women with more freedom and opportunities for leadership which are often denied to them in patriarchal societies and organisations.

Secondly, Pentecostalism is a faith of express emotion – Western men often found it difficult to overcome cultural prescriptions about the public display of emotion, while women could ‘play the edges’. Lancaster’s public persona as ‘Mummy Lancaster’ was part of this appropriation of social roles for gospel purposes. Thirdly, Pentecostalism — at least in the British Commonwealth network — and very close ties to preceding revivalist movements, in particular Methodism and the Salvation Army. Almost every major Pentecostal actor in the early twentieth century came from one or both of these movements, women leaving them because of their institutionalisation, men because of their liberalisation.  One doesn’t have to go very far in Australian Pentecostalism to find the influence of renegade branches of the Booth family: Herbert as Commissioner in Melbourne (where he was personally known by Sarah Jane Lancaster), and William Booth-Clibborn (whose father Arthur Clibborn and mother Catherine Booth left Salvation Army over the controlling ways of Bramwell Booth, and disagreements over healing ministry) as revivalist in Brisbane.  In a certain sense, it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Australian Pentecostalism in its early years was, in a sense, the Methodist/Salvation Army community in search of its revivalist roots. The role of the Army in the life of those two friends and significant Australian Pentecostals – Kevin Connor and George Forbes – as well as in the lives of many in their networks, was a continuation of what the women of early Pentecost had begun.

A final reason for the effectiveness of women is one that has been best covered in the missionary literature. As Rosemary Gagan points out (*A sensitive independence: Canadian Methodist women missionaries in Canada and the Orient, 1881-1925*, Montreal: McGill Queen’s Univ. Press, 1992) women provided a cheaper ministry labour force than men.  Not only were their average incomes lower than men, but the gradual relocation of religion to the private sphere over the latter half of the 19th century effectively disconnected spiritual pursuits from expectation of social advancement. For women, this meant that there was often no expectation of ministry as career, or of any payment at all. Different solutions for providing ‘shape’ to women’s ministry were tried in different places.  Lancaster, for example, maintained the public myth that her husband Alfred was the pastor, she was simply the secretary of the church and editor of the journal. No one was fooled, however, into thinking that Lancaster and her nationwide network of women workers were not effectively running the church. This was the strength during the lean early years of the movement (1909-c.1925), when there was little in the way of church structure and nothing similar to the vast asset accumulations of the mainstream churches to depend upon. It was, however, also a weakness — most of Lancaster’s network were, like herself, former Methodist and Salvation Army activists for whom the baptism of the Holy Spirit was their ‘charter of liberties’.  The cohort tended to age together, and Good News in the latter half of the 1920s is full of the obituaries of female workers who had spread Pentecost around the country.  This decline in tracks with the decline of her Apostolic Faith Mission as an organisation, just as the rising presence of men in prominent leadership positions tracks with the rise of more formalised Pentecostal denominations. The influence is not one way — the decline of more informal ways of spreading Pentecost reflected both contextual conditions (the 1920s, widespread male unemployment from the 1930s) and the fading of the holiness/ Methodist/ healing mission alliance which had given birth to Pentecostalism in the first place, while the rise of more formal organisations tracked with contextual factors (such as the increasing organisation of the Australian state and welfare system) and the second generation rise of male technical leadership (such as the baptism in the Spirit of organisers such as accountant, A. T. Davidson, who went on to play a critical role in the organisation and ascendancy of the Assemblies of God in Australia.)  In Brisbane, W. H. W. Lavers’ Peoples’ Evangelistic Mission tried another solution, organising a female diaconate (‘ the Sisters of the Church’) on the lines of the deaconess orders already running in Presbyterian and Anglican churches. Lavers’ daughter, M.I. Grace Lavers, was ordained as ‘Sister Grace’, one the first of these Sisters, who undertook social and evangelistic work at the Mission’s Brisbane and Toowoomba outreaches to the poor.

Two of the less well-known female Pentecostal leaders – Mary Anne Frances Tebay (Woy Woy) and Emily Stott (Perth) — indicate the grit and determination needed by the founders of this new spiritual movement. Stott was a singer well-known in social circles in Perth, whose conversion through the campaign of F. B. Van Eyk led to the establishment of a church on William Street, Perth. Stott — always referring to herself as Secretary or Evangelist – pastored the church until her death in 1946. She was replaced with a man – R. J. Pillifeant, from an Adelaide family whose connections to Pentecost reached back to 1870. Mary Tebay was the daughter of Monaro pioneers and the wife of a blacksmith. Their relocation during the Depression to coastal Woy Woy led to the establishment of a small work which, through its influence on A. T. Davidson and others, was to have much broader influence. She also was replaced by a man – first Davidson, then T. L. Evans.  Further information is available on both in the Dictionary entries attached to this site.  A good introduction to the work of women in the foundation of Australian Pentecostalism may be found in the Centre’s publication, Shane Clifton and Jacqueline Grey (eds), *Raising Women Leaders: Perspectives in Liberating Women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Contexts* (2009).


Ray Moore Collection

One of the additions to the APSC sound-archives, includes an interview with Ray Moore, one of the founders of Youth for Christ, and the Uniting Church Charismatic movement in Newcastle.  Ray, a fighter pilot in WWII, and from a profoundly spiritual Methodist home, was heavily influenced by the Hyman Appelman crusade in 1951, which sent his sister and brother-in-law into missions in PNG and gave many workers to the Church. The Youth For Christ conventions – one of the first instances of the neo-evangelicalism described by George Marsden (in his Reforming Fundamentalism) in Australia – were in Moore’s words ‘the closest to revival that Newcastle has come.’ He also refers to the R.G. LeTourneau campaign (see the APSC Flickr collection) of the period, one of the many great preachers who influenced the youth of Newcastle through the activities of Youth For Christ.

Many of the people so influenced later became involved in the Charismatic Movement. This is an area in which the Centre is collecting, so if you have resources or memories which might assist us in this collection, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Related resources:

Vision Magazine on Webjournals

Biographical entry on Alan Langstaff, in ADPCM

Search results for ‘Methodism’ on Webjournals.

Interview, Ray Moore, Pentecostal Sound Archives (by appointment only)

Biographical entry on William Murray Rule, ADEB.



Digitization @ APSC

One of the key issues with archives is that, for the most part, the sources are unavailable to the average person. When they are in physical form, archives are often distant from people wishing to do research, and any thorough going research requires the sort of time, funding and commitment which most people are often not willing to spend. This is not only true with regard to casual or family historians, but also often with regard to professional historians, for whom the slide in  humanities funding and cuts in university funding has meant less free time to undertake detailed research. Then there is the nature of the sources — Pentecostal communities are largely oral in the way they articulate narratives, and almost always are scattered around the nation in minority groupings largely invisible to the public eye. From the beginning, therefore, the Australasian Pentecostal Studies Centre determined to construct itself as a digital archives, making available its sources online and – where possible — free of cost. This is a very significant undertaking, but one which will pay off over time – and indeed has already been paying off in supporting the research of early career scholars at the College.

The first major project undertaken by the centre was to locate surviving Pentecostal journals, and make these available in digital format. Significant portions of the following journals have been made available online through the centres Webjournals publishing framework (

1. Good News:

The magazine for Australia’s first enduring Pentecostal Church, founded by Sarah Jane Lancaster in North Melbourne in 1909, Good News magazine had at its peak a circulation of about 3000. It was a key organ for spreading the news of restored charismatic gifts around Australia, and connecting the scattered Pentecostal community to international events. Heavily eschatological in its content, the magazine is the most valuable source for the history of early Pentecostalism in Australia.

Provenance: The Australasian Pentecostal Studies Centre thanks Dr Barry Chant for making available these rare and important sources. Without Barry’s careful collection over the years, it is doubtful that these sources would have survived.

Coverage: Oct 1913, Nov. 1923, Jan 1924-Aug 1935 (incomplete) The collection is incomplete, partly due to several arson attacks on Dr Chant’s offices over the years, and through the incompleteness of the original collection. If readers of this blog are aware of issues not held, or better copies of those held which are damaged, the APSC would be grateful to hear from you.

2. Glad Tidings Messenger

Commencing in November 1934, the GTM was the official Journal of the Assemblies of God in Queensland. Its editor was Sarah Jane Lancaster’s daughter, Leila Buchanan, who moved with her husband W. A. Buchanan, to plant churches in Queensland, in the wake of the William Booth-Clibborn campaigns of the early 1930s. The commonality of stylistic and content elements with Good News magazine is apparent.

Provenance: James Wallace Memorial Library Collection

Coverage: November 1934 – January 1936. In 1937, the GTM and the Australian Evangel were fused (first as the ‘Australian Evangel and Glad Tidings Messenger’, later as purely the Australian Evangel,  see below.)

3. Australian Evangel

Commencing in 1926, in the wake of the Sunshine Revival in Melbourne, the Australian Evangel was the organ of the Pentecostal Church of Australia founded by Adolfo Valdez, Kelso Glover and Charles Greenwood. In competition with Good News, the aim of the journal was to spread the revival, and assist in organising coherent Pentecostal communities. In 1937 it was fused with the Glad Tidings Messenger on the formation of the Assemblies of God in Australia (through the merger of the Pentecostal Church of Australia and the Queensland Assemblies of God). Ironically, having commenced in competition with Good News, the combined journal was placed under the editorship of Leila Buchanan until she retired in the early 1940s.


Provenance: James Wallace Memorial Library Collection

Coverage: July 1927 – November 1940, May & July 1941, September 1943, Jan-Nov 1944, Jan/ Feb/ June/ July/ Sept 1946; Jan 1947, March 1948, July/ November 1948,  Jan 1949- end (incomplete).

4. Vision Magazine

The magazine of the Temple Trust (later renamed Vision Ministries), Vision was the magazine of the peak interdenominational institution for the organised charismatic movement in Australia. Commenced in February 1974 (with a joint “Jan-Feb” number), the magazine spanned the leadership of Alan Langstaff. Langstaff left the Temple trust in 1980 to pursue opportunities in the United States. The magazine covers most of the key national events of the charismatic movement, provides a unique interdenominational insight into this important period of Australian Christian history, and covers the first use of many of Australia’s future important Pentecostal leaders (such as Frank Houston, David Cartledge, etc) as they emerge onto a national stage.


Provenance: Alan Langstaff

Coverage:Jan-Feb 1974- Sept/Oct 1978.

All of these items may now be searched through the convenient Google search engine embedded in the site. There are many lacunae in the collections, and the Centre would be appreciative of donations (or even photocopies) which would help it fill those holes.

Future Projects:

  1. Revival News: The broadsheet of the latter rain evangelist, Ron Coady, in New Zealand. Incomplete and based on photocopies, the Centre is seeking to complete its collection.
  2. other Australasian denominational magazines, eg. The Australian Revivalist, the New Zealand Evangel, etc.
  3. local church publications
  4. publications by independent ministries.

The Centre is open to expanding its digital journals collection. Please contact the APSC Director: Rev Associate Professor Denise Austin: +61 2 8893 9000; you have anything to contribute.