Obituary: The Most Rev Frank Woods
Monday 07 December 1992
FRANK WOODS's appointment to Melbourne was unexpected. A majority of the Board of Electors was committed to the appointment of an Australian. But, when agreement could not be reached on a local candidate, Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher was asked to suggest some English possibilities. Fisher had made an extended tour of the Australian Church in 1950 and knew its shortcomings. He made only one recommendation, that of the Bishop of Middleton, and this to their eternal credit the board accepted.
The diocese to which Frank Woods succeeded in 1957 was well served by its clergy and specialised agencies. Though lacking the massive endowments of its Sydney sister, its resource had been well husbanded. If it had a fault it was complacency and this Woods soon dissipated.
A survey of the diocese indicated potential growth areas, and a diocesan-wide 'Forward Move' was launched. A good response was achieved, which allowed expenditure to be increased on clergy training, new area parishes and hospital and institutional chaplaincies. In tandem with this went a four-year study programme, Forward-in-Depth. Woods's episcopate was also marked by growth in ecumenical understanding. It saw increased participation in the Australian Council of Churches, and new ventures in industrial mission and in theological education through the United Faculty of Theology and in personal and theological dialogue with Roman Catholics.
In 1971, following a far-reaching review of diocesan life by a series of broadly based and representative committees, the Synod approved the establishment of three Regions of Episcopal Care. Beginning in 1971, the three Bishops Coadjutor each took responsibility for a 'geographical area' comprising one-third of the parishes of the diocese together with 'functional areas' for the diocese as a whole.
In 1955 the General Synod adopted what proved to be the final draft Constitution for the Church of England in Australia. This required acceptance at diocesan level, and it took until 1962 before the first General Synod under the new constitution was convened in Sydney. From the outset Melbourne representatives assumed national leadership in a number of key areas. The election of Woods as Primate was recognition not only of his personal standing, but of Melbourne's role in the wider national Church.
Woods's episcopate saw the Church move from its traditional role of 'hallowing the Establishment' and providing care and carers through its institutions, to one of offering a more radical critique of society. On issues such as capital punishment, poverty and Australian involvement in the Vietnam war, the Church in Melbourne, officially at least, was in the vanguard of public opinion.
Ecumenically, overseas influences were apparent as the impact of Vatican II was felt. Theologically, John Robinson's questionings in Honest to God were echoed in Melbourne. Parochially, the Parish and People Movement influenced the course of liturgical change and the development of new pastoral strategies, especially in Christian initiation. The 1970s saw a decline in Sunday School enrolments, in formal youth work and in nominal adherents. But this was paralleled by a greater commitment at every level by those who continued to identify themselves as Anglicans.
Intellectually, theologically, ecumenically, pastorally and spiritually he contended for an 'open' position. He encouraged a similar stance among his clergy through his Ordination and Retreat addresses, through a series of notable Synod Charges, and through sponsoring visits by leading contemporary theologians. And despite his essential Englishness he won and held the affection and trust of his diocese and community.
Woods retired in 1977 but continued an active ministry, in demand as a preacher and retreat conductor. Always a forward thinker, he was a great encourager, especially of the younger clergy, and supported strongly the ordination of women to the priesthood. He will be remembered within the Australian Church for his ecumenical initiatives, his national outlook and his modelling of a relevant contemporary episcopacy - pastoral, collegiate and community-orientated.
- 1 Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
- 5 Watch Richard Dawkins read his own hatemail: 'I hope you do get sodomised by satanic monkeys in hell'
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'
£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...
£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...