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On Loane

There is an air of adventure in this biography of the first Australian-born Archbishop of Sydney and Primate of the Anglican Church, Marcus L. Loane.

Loane is described by a contemporary as ‘a very nice fellow indeed’, and by his biographer as a man of ‘rock-like character’. The supporting cast includes Loane’s rector and father-in-law, Rev David Knox, an Irishman with ‘the characteristic passions of the Celt’, who once cracked two boys’ heads together when they misbehaved in Sunday school. There is also Dr Broughton Knox, once Principal of Moore College, who did not get on with an English-born Archbishop of Sydney because Knox had been a chaplain in the Royal Navy and ‘disliked any Englishman in a position of authority’.

Loane is described as an unwavering conservative evangelical. At Moore College, he would read during classes on doctrine to avoid listening to the lectures of the liberal Principal. As Archbishop of Sydney, he refused to attend either an ecumenical prayer service or a lunch held by the NSW Governor to celebrate the visit of Pope Paul VI. He was mistrustful of both the Australian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches; and he refused to have anything to do with any Christian group that was not based on ‘the substitutionary death of Christ’.

Reid is honest about Loane’s weaknesses. Loane suffered from shyness; was neither a great innovator nor particularly prophetic. He did not keep his theological reading up to date; and did not always grasp the changes in society that took place during his time as Archbishop.

It is hard to know why Loane’s credentials as a conservative evangelical are not considered obvious. Is it because Loane saw one of the roles of the Sydney Cathedral to be the home of sacred music, while the current Dean of the Cathedral does not believe that music has a role in connecting people to God? Because of Loane’s commitment to the Book of Common Prayer? Because he opposed evangelical individualism? Maybe members of the Sydney Archdiocese will know.

Marcus L. Loane: A biography, J.R. Reid. Acorn Press, 2004. isbn 0 908 28447 0, rrp $34.99

Avril Hannah-Jones is a student at the United Faculty of Theology



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