I would like to discuss church history within the context of the independent church movement from a historian’s perspective.

Independent churches (by nature of their definition) are not connected to formal denominations. What this means is that the pastoral emphasis is usually on historical personalities or thematic developments correlated to the Bible. Without association, independent churches are free from denominational positions and historical skeletons in the closet. The large Evangelical churches on the NSW Central Coast are a good example of independent churches birthed in an Anglican context.

These significant benefits are not without problems. Firstly, the lack of a denominational context can lead to a detached attitude to the greater work of God throughout the ages. I recently attended the ordination of a minister into the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The order of service grew out of processes established by John Knox in the Scottish Reformation! I find that fascinating. From a historian’s perspective, an even greater problem is that there is no coordinated attempt to record and collate primary sources in the independent church movement in Australia. There is no Moore College Library for independent churches. My skeptical readers could immediately come up with five reasons why this could never happen. Here are some reasons I thought of: 1) who would invest the time? (Passionate conversation preserves primary sources), 2) how could we ever agree on anything, and 3) even if all the data was collected – who would do the writing?

Perhaps step one could be creating a central digital repository of primary sources specific to each independent church in Australia. Records, events, meetings, and oral history are the building blocks for future work on the independent church movement. The repository could use a wiki-engine with tagging to make content accessible to curious historians. I think this is worth further discussion as a positive step towards building up historical data. Australian denominations could take part in the same repository with similar goals. Your thoughts?

~ Jeremy

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About Jeremy Kwok

Jeremy grew up in Sydney before moving to the United States for tertiary studies. Jeremy completed the BA, MA (History), and M.Div degrees before returning to Australia with his wife Debbie. He currently works for Christian Education Ministries, a company that owns and operates private schools.

8 Comments

  1. Steve 15 July, 2010 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Excellent idea. We have discussed this in the past and there is some writing out there about the history of the idependent movement in Australia but it is scattered and needs to be organised. The wiki format would be good to allow for corrections and updates as new information is gathered.
    There are probably at least 3 streams of idependent churches that I can think of straightaway, firstly, the American founded ones, second, churches who separated from a major denomination, and thirdly, completely independent ‘mushroom’ churches which pop up by themselves.

    Looking forward to further developments here.

  2. Jason Harris 15 July, 2010 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Good thoughts.

    I’m not familiar with the kind of work the “Moore College Library” does in this regard. Could you elucidate?

  3. Jeremy 15 July, 2010 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Oops – I knew there should have been a link here: http://www.library.moore.edu.au/

    They’re doing a great job cataloguing lectures from visiting guest speakers.

    Steve – Love your description of the independent churches origins.

  4. Jeremy 15 July, 2010 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    I knew I forgot something – Moore College Library documents and publishes lectures and other content generated by the college. It also has an Australian religious index. Both helpful. http://www.library.moore.edu.au/

    Steve – Love your categorisation of Australian independent churches.

  5. Steve 16 July, 2010 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    As I understand it, each independent church would be responsible for their own historical data, is that correct?

    Would the churches involved be arranged in alphabetical order, or some other classification?

    I think the main challenge would be getting each church to agree to contribute to the database. Given the fragmented nature of idependent churches (to other churches) and the independency of each church, it may be hard to get them to do something of a collective nature, like this.

    Also, as you point out, someone would have to put their hand up and at least get the ball rolling. It would take some cooperation and people would have to agree to disagree about doctrinal issues.

    But then again, it could work. I think the idea has merit.

  6. Jason Harris 16 July, 2010 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Come to think of it, several years ago GMT made an attempt at something somewhat like this. It was called “GMT Connect” but was focused more on the Independent Baptist circles in Australia.

  7. Jason Harris 16 July, 2010 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the link Jeremy.

  8. Jeremy 17 July, 2010 at 11:27 am - Reply

    The technical issues behind this kind of venture are quite easy to overcome (data storage and bandwidth excluded).

    The issues (as mentioned) – is user engagement.

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