Bishop Barker

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
23rd October 2006

Tagged: australian history

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Frederick Barker became Bishop of Sydney on 31st May 1855. Few appointments have had such long lasting effect as his arrival in the colony.

In the following year he started two organizations that have shaped Sydney ever since. For in 1856 he founded the Church Society and Moore College.

The Church Society came to be known as The Home Mission Society, and now Anglicare.

The aim of the Church Society was “to provide the church with an organization capable of vital work beyond the resources of individual congregations.” It has had a rich history of creating all manner of Christian evangelistic and charitable ministries. It runs parallel to parish church ministries helping and even creating parishes.

Today, it is impossible to imagine Sydney Anglicanism without Anglicare. It is our urban mission and welfare arm.

Each year, Anglicare reaches out to over 400,000 people, bringing Christian care and support to those struggling with poverty, disability, illness and despair.

Anglicare services include emergency relief for families in crisis; foster care and adoption for abused children and those with special needs; counselling and support for children and youth with disabilities; migrant services; aged care through both nursing homes and community services; opportunity shops providing low-cost clothing; emergency services in times of disaster and chaplains in hospitals, prisons, mental health facilities and juvenile justice institutions.

This year also celebrates the 150th anniversary of Bishop Barker's other great foundation: Moore Theological College.

Before leaving England in late 1854, Bishop Barker knew of the need for more clergy. In 1856 Mrs Barker wrote: “forty-five additional clergymen (were) required” for the diocese. That would have almost doubled the number of clergy.

Through friends at home the Bishop recruited more clergy for the colony. There was in his first three years a considerable increase in the number of clergy. But the long-term future lay in Sydney providing its own.

The importance of this matter can be seen in the speed with which Bishop Barker operated. On the first of June 1855—the day after taking up appointment—Bishop Barker made inquiries about the estate of Mr Thomas Moore. On the 13th of June he proposed to his fellow trustees “That as soon as a suitable Principal can be found, Moore College shall be opened as a Theological College for the training and preparation of young men for Holy Orders”.

In March 1856, less than one year after Bishop Barker arrived in the Colony, the doors were opened and the college commenced. It started with three students and an Acting Principal.

Today it has over 300 full time students, and another 175 part time mainly post-graduate students. It offers diploma and degree courses up to doctorate level. It runs an international correspondence course with over 5000 students. It is the largest theological college in Australia, and one of the largest Anglican Theological colleges in the world. Its very highly qualified faculty are leaders in evangelical scholarship.

Mrs Barker back in 1856 wanted 45 more clergymen. This year in 2006, one hundred and fifty years later 47 deacons were ordained St Andrews Cathedral.

The city of Sydney has grown beyond the expectations of most people. But the far-sighted activities of Bishop Barker have kept the preaching of the gospel in step with the growth of our great city.

We must thank God that he has blessed Bishop Barker's foresight and gospel-focussed energy, as we seek His blessings upon our labours in this day and for the future.