It may be stating the obvious, but Australia is big. Very big. In fact, it is so big that developing and maintaining real gospel partnerships and unity across the nation is a significant challenge—and that is the primary reason why we believe now is the time to start The Gospel Coalition Australia.
Somewhat surprisingly, Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world. More than 60 percent of its approximately 24 million people live in the five main coastal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth with 89 percent living in an urban context. Between these cities and other, smaller but significant urban centers, largely within a couple of hours drive from the coast, there is almost nothing. Moving further inland, rich farming lands soon give way to the arid and relatively barren “outback,” which stretches for thousands of miles.
Australia consists of six states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania) and two territories (Northern Territory, with its capital, Darwin, and the Australian Capital Territory, which consists largely of the federal administrative capital, Canberra). One of the obvious consequences of urbanization and settlement is that each has its own unique identity. Moreover, the history of evangelical Christianity in each place has also been markedly different. Initially, this difference was a function of the character and conviction of the early settlers (whether free or convict). So, for example, the sole ecclesial presence in Sydney in the years immediately following the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 was the established Anglican church, whereas the situation in Melbourne was significantly more variegated, with Anglicans vying with Scottish Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists for influence from the beginning.
The national scene today continues to display remarkable complexity. Despite a high degree of theological unity, various expressions of evangelical Christianity across Australia remain largely disconnected and functionally divided, complicated by significant cultural differences between the various states and territories and between people in the inner city, suburbs, working-class suburbs, the country, and the outback.
But the picture is not entirely bleak. In recent years, as the religious and theological landscape has changed not just across Australia but the entire English-speaking world (and beyond), there have been encouraging signs of gospel unity, fellowship, and cooperation within Reformed evangelical circles. There has been an obvious willingness for people to gather together in large numbers to hear visiting speakers from the new Reformed movement (for example, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and more recently, Tim Keller and Matt Chandler). Don Carson’s tireless visits to these shores have patiently built key relationships and drawn people together. The emergence of colleges like Queensland Theological College in Brisbane and Trinity Theological College in Perth, which have a clear TGC flavor, has added to this momentum, as has the foundation of the biennial Oxygen conference. It has also become increasingly obvious that for younger Australian Christians (and many who are much older), the TGC website has become the first port of call for information and stimulation, as Sydney contributes more pageviews than any other city in the world. Younger preachers like Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, and David Platt gaining significant “virtual” followings. Given all these factors, it became obvious to us that we are living at a moment of significant opportunity here in Australia for visible fellowship and purposeful cooperation in the work of the gospel.
Following the broad pattern of the original TGC, we have formed a Council drawn from across Australia. Building on existing relational networks, we have drawn together a group of 13 men committed to the TGC Foundation Documents and to one another. Whilst we haven’t tried to ensure that every possible constituency is represented, we have ended up with a real mixture of denominations, backgrounds, geographical locations, and experience. The founding Council Members are listed for your information below. We meet for the first time as a Council in early August to pray, to talk, and to dream. TGC executive director Ben Peays has been a great help and encouragement in building this coalition. He will be joining and advising us. We have no fixed agenda other than to build gospel partnerships and then do whatever we can to promote the same kind of gospel-driven relationships across our nation as we work together for the sake of Jesus Christ. As often clarified by Carson, co-founder and president of TGC in the United States, TGC Australia will be self-governing and self-financing, because TGC is not like a U.S.-based mission agency or denomination.
We covet your prayers for us, for TGC Australia, and above all, for the cause of the gospel in our nation.
TGC Australia Founding Council Members
Peter Adam is vicar emeritus at St. Jude's Carlton, formerly principal of Ridley College Melbourne, and vicar of St. Jude's. His publications include Speaking God's Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching, Hearing God's Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality, Written for Us: Receiving God’s Words in the Bible, The Message of Malachi, The Majestic Son: The Letter to the Hebrews, and Walking in God’s Words: Ezra and Nehemiah. He speaks at training conferences for preachers.
Alistair Bain is senior minister of St. John's Presbyterian Church, Hobart. He is married with three children. As a university student he came to faith in St. John's Presbyterian Church, Hobart, before then working as a lawyer for eight years. He then completed his MDiv at Sydney Missionary and Bible College, completed further studies at the Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne, and in 2011 became senior minister at the church in which he was converted.
Neil Chambers is senior pastor of Bundoora Presbyterian Church, in the north of Melbourne. Neil and his wife have three adult children, one of whom is married. Neil grew up in a Christian family and was brought to trust the Lord Jesus for forgiveness at a Crusader camp at age 11. After working as a medical practitioner he studied at Moore College and the PTC Sydney [now Christ College] before commencing as assistant minister at St. Andrew’s Wagga. Following 13 years lecturing at Sydney Missionary and Bible College he was called by the congregation of Bundoora Presbyterian Church to serve as their pastor. Having commenced ministry at BPC in 2002 he continues there to the present.
Ray Galea is pastor of the Multicultural Bible Ministry (MBM) Rooty Hill and married to Sandy with three children. He came to Christ in 1980 at age 20 and went from altar boy of the Catholic Church to pastor of the Anglican Church down the road in Rooty Hill. He worked as a marriage and family therapist before entering Moore Theological College and church planted and pastored MBM since leaving college.
Paul Harrington was raised in Adelaide, studied law at the Adelaide University, and went on to do his theological degree at Moore Theological College, Sydney. He returned to Adelaide as associate minister at Holy Trinity before being appointed rector in 1993. His passion is to see people saved eternally by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul is married to Sue, and they have three children.
David Jones was born in Wales and converted at the age of 17. He is senior pastor of Ann Street Presbyterian Church in Brisbane. David has served churches in Wales, London, and Hobart, Tasmania. He is married to Ruth, and they have three grown-up children. Before moving to Queensland, he was involved in a church planting movement in Tasmania, which has led to the establishment of several new churches.
Rick Lewers is bishop of the Armidale Anglican Diocese. Before becoming bishop he was an evangelist with Evangelism Ministries in Sydney and just prior to that, the rector of St. Matthew’s Wanniassa in Canberra. His passions are Jesus Christ and telling people about him; his wife, Janene, and their three children; and all things sporting, especially fishing, golf, and watching those sports he no longer has the body to play.
Gary Millar is principal of Queensland Theological College. After studying chemistry in his home city of Belfast, Gary moved to Aberdeen in Scotland to study theology, before completing a DPhil at Oxford on Deuteronomy (published as Now Choose Life in the series New Studies in Biblical Theology). Gary worked as a pastor for the next 17 years in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and was involved in both church revitalization and church planting, before moving to Brisbane to lead the team at QTC. Gary is married to Fiona and has three daughters: Lucy, Sophie, and Rebekah.
Andrew Reid is the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Doncaster, in the east of Melbourne. He and his wife are parents to two married sons. Andrew was converted to Christ at 18, studied at Moore Theological College, and with his wife, Heather, has enjoyed lifelong involvement in student ministry through the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES). He has been involved in church planting in Perth and loves writing books that attempt to make the Old Testament accessible for Christians who don't really know how it fits with their faith in Christ.
Bill Salier is vice principal of Moore Theological College. He is married with three children. He became a Christian in his late teens, started working life as a primary school teacher before completing a BTh at Moore College and working as an assistant minister in an Anglican church in Sydney. He was invited onto the faculty at Moore in 1996 and has been lecturing in New Testament ever since, with some time away for further study.
Rory Shiner was born and raised in Western Australia. He studied arts at the University of Western Australia and theology at Moore College in Sydney. He is currently completing a PhD through Macquarie University's ancient history department on the life and work of Donald Robinson. He is involved in student ministry, pastoral work, church planting, and writing, and regularly contributes to the Langham Partnership preaching program. Currently he is senior pastor of Providence Church in Perth, where he lives with his wife, Susan, and their four boys.
David Starling is lecturer in New Testament and theology at Morling College, Sydney. He and his wife, Nicole, have four children, and belong to Macquarie Baptist Church. David grew up in a Christian family and worked as a high school English teacher in Western Sydney before studying theology at Moore College and Morling College. He served from 2000 to 2006 as the pastor of Petersham Baptist Church, and has been a lecturer at Morling College (first part-time, then full-time) since 2005.
CS Tang is senior pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian, Sydney. He is married to Lyn and father of Bethany and Brendan. He converted from Buddhism at a young age. Since completing ministry training at Moore College and the Presbyterian Theological College (now Christ College, Sydney), CS has been in church planting ministry. He is a director of City to City Australia.