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Australian Board of Mission celebrates 165th anniversary

Posted on: October 29, 2015 2:10 PM
A Melanesian cross
Photo Credit: Don Brice / ABM

[ACNS] A response from the Church of England to a request from the Bishop of New Zealand for a boat to be used in missionary work in 1850 led to mission outreach work whose fruit is seen today in a number of Anglican provinces. The response led to the creation of what is now known as the Anglican Board of Mission (ABM) – the national mission agency of the Anglican Church in Australia – which has been actively engaged in mission and outreach work in the Pacific – work which it remains committed to today.

Bishop George Augustus Selwyn of New Zealand appealed for funds to buy a boat so that the Church could take the Gospel to the islands of Melanesia. This led to the Melanesian Mission, and later the independent Anglican Church of Melanesia, which continues to partner with ABM today.

ABM’s fruitful work continued in later years: firstly, in the 1880s, ABM supported missions to the indigenous people of Australia; and in 1891 ABM sent the first Anglican missionaries to the island of New Guinea. Eventually, there were sufficient new churches for New Guinea to became a diocese within the Church of England in Australia; before becoming its own independent province - the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea – in 1976.

This work continued throughout the 20th century when ABM was active in supporting missions in the Pacific as well as around the world, including China, Japan, India, Indonesia, and part of Africa.

Support for the Diocese of Jerusalem began in the first decades of the 20th century and continues today. ABM sent Australian Anglicans to Korea in the 1950s, and the independent Anglican Church of Korea remains a partner today. The Episcopal Church of the Philippines became a partner of ABM in the early 1990s, as did the Anglican Church of Myanmar.

The ABM was originally formed as the Australasian Board of Missions, led by the bishops of the Church in Australia and New Zealand. Its philosophy is based on “a belief in holistic mission – that God calls us to serve people in all aspects of their lives, from the spiritual to the practical,” the ABM says. “This includes all the evangelistic activities of the church in its witness to the Good News, such as ministry, theological education and training, and the development of Christian worship and liturgy resources.

“Mission also includes providing health and education services, helping people to build capacity to improve food and water resources, and assisting in economic development initiatives. In all of its work, ABM seeks to serve God through supporting our Partners in their local witness and service.”

In addition to planned mission and development work, ABM is also involved in crisis response, and is currently running a number of emergency appeals. These include support for many of the casualties, internally displaced persons and refugees in and around Syria; victims of the floods in Myanmar (Burma), which has affected one million people since June this year; the work of the ACT Alliance and the Lutheran World Federation in response to April’s Nepal earthquake; and emergency relief aid and ongoing relief and reconstruction efforts being carried out by the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan in South Sudan.

The ABM has issued a series of prayers to mark the 165th anniversary of its foundation:

Gracious God we give thanks as we celebrate the 165th anniversary of ABM and the journey that started so many years ago – so many plans ago – and so many dreams ago. We celebrate all the joys that have been come to birth in these 165 years. We celebrate all the happy times, all the accomplishments, and all the triumphs. Thank you, Lord, for blessing us. We acknowledge that there have been, and will continue to be, struggles and heartaches. Yet we have travelled together under your protection and love. Thank you, Lord, for being with us in good times and bad. We ask, Lord, that you would continue to protect us, guide us and sustain us as we go forth from this 165th anniversary commemoration. Amen.

We praise you heavenly Father for the great privilege which is ours this day to humbly come before you, and lovingly praise and thank you as we reflect on the history of ABM. Many people have come and gone from us over the 165 years, and we are thankful for what each one has contributed to ABM. By your grace, Lord, ABM has established and sustained partnerships with Anglicans throughout Australia and around the world. We are thankful for the support we have received from within the Church and beyond it that have allowed us to do the work of playing our part in your mission. We continue to pray for your gracious Spirit to work through us as we support our partners here in Australia and around the world. May we be faithful in hearing the Holy Spirit, in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, and being a gift to our world. Amen.

Gracious God, as we celebrate our past and rejoice in our present, we also look forward with eager eyes to the future. We pray that you would continue to make your love known among us. Give us a zeal for mission. Help us to encourage our Partners to look beyond their walls to those who do not know you. Make ABM to be a blessing to those we work with, and embolden us to move forward with strength toward what lies ahead. Amen.