Obituary: The Most Rev Frank Woods

Frank Woods, priest, born Davos Switzerland 6 April 1907, ordained deacon 1931, priest 1932, Curate St Mary's Portsea 1932-33, Chaplain Trinity College Cambridge 1933-36, Vice-Principal Wells Theological College 1936-39, Chaplain to the Forces 1939-45, Vicar of Huddersfield 1945-52, Chaplain to the King 1951-52, Suffragan Bishop of Middleton 1952-57, Archbishop of Melbourne 1957-77, Primate of Australia 1971-77, KBE 1972, married 1936 Jean Sprules (two sons, two daughters), died Melbourne 29 November 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.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas