The training of men for ministry in the Newcastle Anglican Diocese of Australia from 1847-1860
In September of 1860, Bishop Frederic Barker, Metropolitan of New South Wales, extended an invitation to Bishop William Tyrrell of Newcastle. Barker suggested that Tyrrell send his ordination candidates to attend the fledgling Moore Theological College, which had been established near Liverpool some four years earlier. Barker commented that, ‘the College may offer its advantages to the other Australian Dioceses without fear of it being overcrowded’.
Barker’s invitation came twelve years into Tyrrell’s episcopate. That Tyrrell did not accept the invitation suggests he was already satisfied with the current system of training candidates in Newcastle. Ruth Teale is one historian among many who views this decision as catastrophic for the training prospects of Newcastle’s ordinands. In refusing to send students to Moore College, she argues that ‘candidates for orders were [instead] inadequately trained as catechists within the [Newcastle] diocese’.
How fair is this assessment? This is the question that this essay will seek to answer by examining the alternative approach to training taken by Tyrrell during the early years of his episcopate. We will look specifically at the period from 1847, when Tyrrell accepted his nomination as bishop of the new diocese of Newcastle, until 1860. But we begin with a brief consideration of William Tyrrell’s own training for ministry prior to 1847. This will give some background to the Bishop and will set the scene for our subsequent assessment of how much Tyrrell’s approach to training was influenced by his own experience. We will then examine the 1847 voyage of the Medway, during which Tyrrell spent an uninterrupted four-month period with seven ordinands and accordingly instituted a training program for them. In these very initial stages of Tyrrell’s episcopate, we see his ideals for the training of his ordination candidates. From that, we can then examine the merits of these ideals by looking at what became of the seven ordinands aboard the Medway. The final section of this essay will consider the Bishop’s plan to recruit and train clergymen from within the colony itself.
Ultimately we will show that Tyrrell’s approach, while theoretically legitimate, had significant practical problems that meant that, for the most part, his ordination candidates could not be sufficiently trained. Throughout his episcopate, Tyrrell was committed to a system of placing candidates to live with already ordained clergymen, in order to study under their instruction. We will see that this was only valuable for exceptional candidates who already had a solid education. But for the most part, clergymen simply did not have the capacity to teach all that was required by Tyrrell. Despite the Bishop’s unrelenting commitment to this scheme, the conclusion of most others—including his own examining chaplains—was that it was a not particularly successful way to prepare men for ordained ministry. It this conclusion that this essay will endorse.