- MMBW plans
- Abortion battles
- Bishopscourt garden
- Bomb shelter
- Cairns Memorial Church
- Early Melbourne
- Jean Campbell
- Margaret McLean
- Yarra Park
- Yarra River
Archbishop Sir Frank Woods (1907-1992)
Fire within his wiry frame
Frank Woods was a pioneer in many fields. He led Victoria's six dioceses into becoming a genuine province of the Australian Anglican Church, in spite of serious obstacles of law and personalities. Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo. Wangaratta, Gippsland and St Arnaud did very few things together in 1957.
He invited the diocesan and assistant bishops to meet with him for one or two days at least once a year. He offered the other dioceses access to several facilities which Melbourne provided. For example, we were invited to send newly-ordained clergy to Melbourne for post-ordination training. Similarly he made it possible for his newly-ordained men to have a few years' experience in rural ministry, with no strings attached. If the country diocese wished to retain them and they wished to stay, that was provided for in the plan.
The 'bush' was also invited to send candidates for ordination to his selection conferences, which was another innovation in Australia. This helped greatly to break down the wicked notion that someone rejected by the city might be 'good enough for the country'. He realised that the boot might even be on the other foot. The country priest, isolated by distance from his brother clergy, has to handle, or fail to do so, all the problems of ministry, without the help of close neighbors, whereas the city priest is surrounded by possible helpers.
Country bishops and clergy were invited to the new departmental opportunities which he brought into existence. For too long Australian Anglicans had relied on England to supply their bishops and other leaders. Though very English himself, he drew the sting of that fact, by becoming thoroughly at home in Australia. When he became Primate in 1971, he travelled very widely to all our dioceses, and also to other countries of the Pacific area. He made the Primacy a servant of the whole Australian Church.
This did not mean that he was only the servant of Anglicans. From the first, he stood for the vital importance of the ecumenical movement.
He quickly saw the importance of the eucharistic congress of the Roman Catholic Church in Melbourne in 1973. His personal relationship with the Roman Archbishop of Melbourne was warm and friendly. He joined in organising a representative meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall at the time of the congress and took a positive part in the seminar on ecumenism at Monash University.
The Town Hall meeting was packed. The night was stiflingly hot. The audience relied on ceaseless movement of their fans to keep awake. The effect of this was mesmeric to those on the platform. The Cardinal was the chief speaker and he spoke for over an hour. Frank discarded his own notes and spoke crisply and informally for about ten minutes. He created great interest when he asked the Roman Catholics present to raise their hands. They were greatly outnumbered by the rest of us. He commented that this showed that we now had an opportunity to know and achieve a greater catholicity than we had ever known before. Enthusiastic and prolonged applause greeted this observation.
The warmth of his personality was illustrated on Spencer Street Station one evening, when he discovered that he and one of our daughters were boarding the same Sydney train. "What fun!" he exclaimed. In our family that became his affectionate alias.
In some ways he was a conservative, but quickly saw the most urgent needs and took well-considered action to meet them. However, he did not dictate the way that others should act. The day before he consecrated me as a bishop, I asked him for advice for a new-boy bishop. But he disclaimed any ability to do so. Later when I asked him his opinion on a plan for co-operation with the Methodist Church in the scattered area of Cann River, he encouraged me to proceed. Some months later he wrote again saying that he advised caution and delay. Since an appointment had already been made, I rang him at once and told him so. He laughed heartily and accepted the situation.
And there was fire within his wiry frame. At a meeting of Victorian bishops, other clergy and laity, to discuss the syllabus of the Council for Christian Education in Schools, one of the bishops was caustic about its 'moralising' content and language, which he sweepingly dismissed as "that stuff'". Frank sprang to his feet and indignantly reminded the meeting that the syllabus included the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles' Creed. Did the bishop describe them as "that stuff'"? The pentecostal fire was in his spirit too.
So was courage. He was severely injured when knocked down by a tram in Collins Street. He and his family lost much of his library and personal possessions when the Beaconsfield house was destroyed in a bushfire – a baptism by fire indeed.
Bishop of Gippsland, 1957-1974