The NSW Council of Churches is the oldest body of its kind in Australia. It is the lineal descendant of the first such council in this state formed in 1889. In 1892, an Evangelical Council was set up and functioned for 29 years until 1921. Parallel with it, a Council for Civil and Moral Advancement operated from 1914 to 1920.
In 1922, the then Anglican Archbishop of Sydney the Most Reverend J.C. Wright strongly urged the formation of a new Council of Churches. Addressing the fifteenth Provincial Synod of NSW, Archbishop Wright spoke of organizing Christian effort by common councils and committees which would concentrate the whole force of Christian conscience to stem the tide of social and moral evil, and promote movements necessary for the uplift of the community.
The date of the inaugural meeting of the Council of Churches in NSW is unclear. A meeting held in April 1924 has more documentation and so the Council’s 80th birthday was celebrated in 2004.
Ever since the 1920s the Council has been active in bringing together representatives of like-minded denominations to establish and maintain a voice across the wider community and to governments, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and taking a stand against the forces of moral and social decline within the community. Moreover, for fifty years from the thirties to the nineties, the Council held the Radio 2CH license (the CH stands for CHURCHES) Although no longer the license holder, the Council has continued access to 2CH as a means of speaking and ministering to the community in the name of Christ.
Membership of the NSW Council of Churches is open to any Christian denomination that is committed to the authority of the Scriptures as the Word of God, and has a desire to have the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ applied to the daily life of the community. The seven current constituent churches are:
- The Anglican Church (Diocese of Sydney)
- The Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT
- The Christian Reformed Churches of Australia (NSW Classis)
- The Churches of Christ in NSW
- The Fellowship of Congregational Churches, NSW
- The Presbyterian Church of Australia, NSW
- The Salvation Army (Eastern Territory, Australia)
On Tuesday 3 June 2008, the Council elected its first woman President, Deaconess Margaret Rodgers.
For more information see Rev Bernard Judd’s “A short history of the NSW Council of Churches” (1995); and Briget Griffen-Foley, “Radio ministries: Religion on Australian commercial radio from the 1920s to the 1960s” (Jun 2008).