An Interview with Ken Short

bp-ken-shortOne of the great Sydney Evangelical Anglicans, Bishop Ken Short died this week. Alongside parish ministry, he’d been a missionary in Tanganyika (later Tanzania), a military chaplain, Dean of Sydney, Bishop of Wollongong, then of Parramatta, and of the Australian Defence Forces.

Here, courtesy of Jon Baird, is an extract from an interview conducted back in March, in Ken’s home of Kiama, for Jon’s 4th year project at Moore College.

JB: Moving on to theology, as you said with Archbishop Loane being very strongly Reformed, during your time as Bishop were there any notable shifts in theology that you saw impacting the region?

KS: Not shifts on theology – not on my watch!! (Laughs.) One of the things that did happen was, I had a vision. Don’t misunderstand me. I had a sense that the region was ripe for some form of evangelistic crusade.

It was still in the days of Billy Graham. So I myself visited every pastor of every denomination in the Wollongong area and invited them to a meeting with a view to try and get an evangelistic crusade going. It took a bit of a while. But the end result was that we had Leighton Ford, who was Billy Graham’s brother-in-law, come for a 10 day crusade with his team. We had it in Wollongong Town Hall.

So theologically there was a strong emphasis on evangelism and a number of people – you don’t keep numbers – but a number of people did respond to the Spirit of God, and turn to him in repentance and faith.

We had a fair bit of increase at some of the churches. Those that put the most into it got the most out of it, of course. That wasn’t a change in theology, but it was a sense of God’s Spirit moving among us.

JB: What were the challenges that you found to the role of Bishop?

KS: The first one that jumps into my mind, which wasn’t the first highest priority, was travel. I was doing at least 50,000 km a year, just sitting behind the wheel. That was year after year after year.

You’d go to Jannali for a Confirmation. The next day you’d be at Ulladulla or you’d be at Bowral. That was one of the challenges.

Another challenge was I realised that when I was made a bishop, that part of the Ordinal was that I teach. So I took the responsibility, or tried to take the opportunity, for teaching the Scriptures, in addition to what was going on in the parishes.

So I suppose that for about 6 years, I’d prepare a series of 4 or 5 Bible studies on a book. Then I would organise through the deaneries that I’d go and take a teaching session on this book in the deanery on, say, 5 consecutive Wednesday nights. I’d do 5 or 6 deaneries a year.

And it was very exciting. We used to get 100-120 people to come to a Bible Study on 4 or 5 consecutive Tuesday nights. That was terrific. God was very kind. That was another challenge – to thoroughly prepare.

With all the travel and then the preparation the next thing that I found that I had to really allocate time for pastoring my brother clergy. So what I used to do was I’d say to my secretary, “Here are 10 half days – you marry them with 10 blokes.” So I would spend hopefully the best part of half a day with a rector [= ‘senior pastor’].

And we’d talk together not just about what he was doing. But we’d talk about preaching programs, family life, what his day off meant, how he kept spiritual health, and how he prayed. They were pretty personal questions, but I thought, “If I’m going to encourage people then you have to ask these sorts of questions.”

That was a challenge too, to keep going and keep going.

I like administration and so I had to pull back and make sure that the area of pastoral care got enough attention.

In the midst of all this was family life. Our eldest daughter was married just before we came – she’s Simon Manchester’s wife. Then we had two – a son and a daughter down here. David would come in and talk about stuff, because he was the youth worker at St Michael’s. And our younger daughter was at school. It was pretty important… I concede that family life is very important. It mustn’t be squeezed out, nor must it become dominant. I think you’ve got to hold those two together.

I think keeping up with my reading and make sure it’s important. When some of the clergy found it hard going, if they’d had a bit of a prang, you’d spend a lot of time encouraging them – encouraging them in their preaching and this and that.

I was always anxious to have a missionary approach, having spent 10 years as a missionary ourselves in Tanzania. That was not a very strong – it didn’t work like the way I would have liked. But things happened.

…A missionary approach in the churches, because some churches are inward looking. They don’t have a go-into-all-the-world mentality.

Perhaps the highlight was Reg Hanlon who was the rector of West Wollongong. His theology was, if you obey by encouraging your congregation to be looking outward, then God is no man’s debtor and the local parish won’t be left high and dry. So he started supporting missionaries, by prayer, having them come, by finance, and I think that after about 4-5 years, it was something like 35 missionaries were being supported. The local income had doubled, and missionary income was 10 times. It was really quite staggering figures.

But he had quite a bit of opposition at the beginning. People would say, “Ah no, we can’t support this local missionary because the finances will dry up.” He said “You believe me, if we go the way the bible tells us to go, God will do it”. And as I say, the income from the local church at least doubled, if not more – quadrupled perhaps!

To see evangelism going on. I have a feeling these days that I don’t see as much evangelism going on and it worries me. That is, eyeballing people, and talking to them about coming to faith. Not saying, “Are you saved?” …But being willing to talk with them, to bring them to a point where they see their need of the Lord Jesus and come to commit themselves to him.

The whole bit of Romans 1:18 is so important. I’m sure I’ll think of more things as we go along, but that’s enough for now.

[Transcript very lightly edited for clarity in reading.]


From 2015, Jon Baird will be the FOCUS worker with overseas students at the University of Wollongong. You can find out more about supporting Jon here.

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