Church and state in Presbyterian missions: Gulf of Carpentaria: 1937-1947

White, Francis D. (1995). Church and state in Presbyterian missions: Gulf of Carpentaria: 1937-1947 M.A. Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author White, Francis D.
Thesis Title Church and state in Presbyterian missions: Gulf of Carpentaria: 1937-1947
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1995
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Total pages 236
Language eng
Subjects 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Formatted abstract
The Introduction to this work sets forth the parameters and presuppositions of the following discussion. The Westminster Confession of Faith is acknowledged as the basis of confessional orthodoxy for the Presbyterian Church from its earliest days to the present.

The broad social and ecclesiastical context is presented in Chapter 1. Contradictions between what the Church professed and what it did are acknowledged. Oral history is introduced as the means whereby eye-witness accounts of the period under review could be incorporated into the discussion.

The second chapter focuses on the year 1937 and shows something of the neo-colonial character of missions in this pre—War era. It is in this chapter that the extent of the Church's financial and political dependence on the State is confirmed.

Chapter 3 deals with the year 1942 and demonstrates that World War II was a watershed in mission communities, in so far as their social, political and economic interests were concerned. It is shown that the disruption of war failed to precipitate any serious consideration of the role of the Church in the administration of civil affairs.

Chapter 4 elaborates the extent of post-War changes in the life of Gulf mission stations. The power and prestige of the Church were in decline. It is shown that the Church failed to recognise its own vulnerability in the face of mounting criticism. Its response was to draw back to the security of its relationship with the State.

Whereas the preceding chapters focus principally on the manner in which the Church engaged in missions in the Gulf, Chapter 5 shifts the focus to the issue of how the State understood its relationship with the Church. Across a range of topics, the State displayed an attitude of self conscious superiority towards the Church. For its part, the Church took no steps to disentangle itself from such a symbiotic relationship.

The concluding chapter draws together the key themes of the preceding discussion and evaluates the performance of the Church in the light of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The portrait that emerges is of a Church which never really understood what its unique contribution to Aboriginal communities in the Gulf might have been. The value judgments inherent to this chapter are not made with a view to destructive criticism. Rather, they are the substance a challenge to the Presbyterian Church that it may better appreciate the complexity of the relationship between its Confession of Faith and the work and witness of the Church in the community at large.
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