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 Bruce Jenner's 'Interview of the year': Suicidal thoughts, rejection by family members and new wardrobe
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...
£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...