Congratulations to contributors, including Shurlee Swain, Patricia Curthoys, Kate Laing and Neville Buch, for the publication of Charles Strong’s Australian Church: Christian Social Activism, 1855-1917 edited by Marion Maddox(MUP, 2021).
The collection tells how, in the optimistic years preceding Federation, the Melbourne-based Australian Church emerged as a progressive Christian movement to serve a brand-new nation. Galvanising many members of Melbourne’s social and political elite, activist Reverend Dr Charles Strong imagined the Australian Church becoming the national church, while addressing a broad social and political reform agenda, inspired by both theological and social liberalism. Their approach was described as ‘progressive’, ‘liberal’, ‘radical’ and ‘socialist’. Strong and his wife, Janet, founded or led organisations for causes ranging from peace to penal reform. They fought for urban slum improvements, rural village settlements, childcare and adult education, the minimum wage and women’s suffrage. Some organisations endure today; others left lasting legacies in Australian methods of addressing social inequality. The collection, by scholars of religion, history and politics, analyses the church’s radicalism, while taking account of debates and obstacles on the path to social reform.