Prentis on Emilsen and Emilsen, 'Mapping the Landscape: Essays in Australian New Zealand Christianity--Festschrift in Honour of Professor Ian Breward'

Susan Emilsen, William W. Emilsen, eds.
Malcolm D. Prentis

Susan Emilsen, William W. Emilsen, eds. Mapping the Landscape: Essays in Australian New Zealand Christianity--Festschrift in Honour of Professor Ian Breward. American University Studies. New York: Peter Lang, 2000. x + 358 pp. $68.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8204-4880-0.

Reviewed by Malcolm D. Prentis Published on H-ANZAU (September, 2001)

Ian Breward is probably best known in Australia as the author of the only "substantial overview history of the Australian churches". His career, however, has had great impact on both sides of the Tasman and indeed exemplifies the strength of both ecclesiastical and scholarly connections between Australia and New Zealand. Several of the contributors to this volume have also moved from the latter to the former as did Breward in 1982, and some back again. The editors are well aware of the pitfalls confronting those who attempt a festschrift and, in most respects, this is a happy collection. The contributors often relate their work directly or indirectly both to the inspiration of Ian Breward and to the useful antipodean theme of mapping landscapes, though both are somewhat more noticeable in the New Zealand contributions. Indeed, the latter exhibit altogether more mutual coherence than the Australian contributions. (This is in itself possibly suggestive of trans-Tasman cultural differences.) There is thankfully not much evidence here of that "tired old paper rescued from the bottom drawer" festschrift syndrome; rather there is a freshness and enthusiasm which do honour to Breward's fruitful scholarship.

Muriel Porter presents an outline of Breward's life and career in an essentially journalistic style, and appropriately celebrates his personal qualities and scholarly achievements. Following this are nearly twenty pages of bibliography of Breward's writings. This and Porter's essay illustrate not only the geographical spread of Breward's interests, but also the breadth of his intellectual interests. In historyn (not only New Zealand and Australian Christian history and biography, but the English and continental Reformations), the history of education (his father was a teacher), Pacific missions, the early church, and (in the 1960s) homosexual law reform. The rest of the book is divided into "Part A: Australia" (nine essays) and "Part B: New Zealand" (nine essays). It is possibly a little disappointing (if not inevitable) that all of the Australian essays were written by Australians and all the New Zealand ones by New Zealanders. (However, some of the latter authors are currently or have been based in Australia.) I live in hope that one day, Australian historians might do work on New Zealand, or more comparative Australasian work--such as Hugh Jackson pioneered in Churches and People in Australia and New Zealand 1860-1930 (1987). In a few years, of course, we shall have Ian Breward's own Oxford history of Australasian churches.

The mixture of authors is a tribute to Breward's breadth. There is a mixture not only of national but also of denominational backgrounds represented, although nearly a half are of Presbyterian provenance. Cutting across these differences, both liberals and evangelicals are represented. Most authors work in either Universities or theological colleges and two are in formal ministries. As "settler societies", Australian and New Zealand have had to come to terms with the consequences of their displacement of the indigenous peoples.

In Part A, Hilary Carey discusses the failure of Aboriginal missions in the first half of the nineteenth century. William Emilsen surveys the origins of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress from the 1960s to the 1980s. In contrast, none of the "New Zealand" essays focuses entirely on Maori matters but, in several of them a Maori (and sometimes Pacific Islander) perspective is unselfconsciously integrated or, as in the case of Jane Simpson's essay discussed later, draws Pakeha lessons from Maori experience. This may simply be symptomatic of the greater progress made towards reconciliation with the indigenous in New Zealand. Roger Thompson paints a sympathetic portrait of Hector Harrison, minister of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Canberra from 1940 to his death in 1978. (The editors oddly refer to him as "Presbyterian-Uniting": he and his congregation did not join the Uniting Church.) Thompson's reference to John Curtin's spirituality is incomplete: the fact that both Curtin and Harrison had been in the Salvation Army is surely significant in both lives, along with a shared close experience of alcoholism. As well, Elsie Curtin had been moving from Methodism towards Presbyterianism. Thompson also says that Robert Menzies was raised in a "staunchly Methodist home". I thought that young Bob attended Cairns Memorial East Melbourne and Trinity Camberwell Presbyterian churches (Jeparit had no Presbyterian church) and that his father wanted him to go to Scotch. Stuart Piggin's discursive study of Jesus in Australian history and culture entertains and instructs, demonstrating the intertwining of the spiritual with the supposedly secular. His recognition of poet Francis Webb is welcome; it's a pity he seems unaware of Michael Griffith's biography of Webb (God's Fool, 1991) and the volume of collected verse, Cap and Bells (1991), edited by Griffith and Athanasius McGlade. David Hilliard and John Tonkin examine Anglicanism in Adelaide and Perth during the "swinging sixties" with their usual skill and style. Lawrence Nemer probes the beginnings of the German Divine Word Missionaries in Sydney around the turn of the last century. John Roxborogh puts the focus on evangelicals within the New Zealand religious scene. Sarah Mitchell's contribution concerns a brave experiment in community-based theological education in New Zealand in the 1990s. Jane Simpson tackles yet another of Breward's concerns: the place of religious education in the secular school system of New Zealand. Her challenging thesis uses the Treaty of Waitangi as a mandate for teaching not only "Maori religion" in the bicultural school, but also the fullness of Pakeha culture, including its religious heritage. "Current educational practices in the classroom, based on a biculturalism which is one-sided, show that the secular clause has become an historical artefact, an irrelevancy" (p. 348).

In reading these specifically New Zealand studies, in the context of the festschrift as a whole, turned this reviewer's mind repeatedly to how Australian as well as Australasian historical landscapes might be re-read in their light. Graeme Ferguson's poignant essay on Gallipoli and New Zealand identity engages with the concerns of historians of national identity, with theology and with the real flesh-and-blood veterans. It is done with verve and freshness and is a salutary reminder of the NZ in ANZAC, the importance of Chunuk Bair in the campaign and the similar but subtly different impact of Gallipoli on the two new nations. The essays by Allan Davidson, Colin Gibson and Peter Matheson on New Zealand history, hymnody and theology have no counterparts in the Australian half of the volume. They are, however, not only very informative for an Australian reader but also suggestive of lines of enquiry west of the Tasman. The quality of the historical scholarship to which Davidson refers is a gentle rebuke to secular critics of religious history. Looking at the issue more broadly, history has become very compartmentalized, so it is pleasing that these essays and much of the literature surveyed in them set a good example in transcending sub-disciplinary boundaries. Although some have done so, it would be good if more historians of other specialties took as much notice of religious history as vice versa. The fruits of such broadmindedness are there for all to see in much Australasian religious history over the last thirty years or so, including in Ian Breward's scholarship.

Other essays tackle more general issues. Chritiaan Mostert goes against the tide to argue for a place for a "non-contextual theology", though he almost apologises for daring to say it. This essay seems naturally more at home in the Australian section; its counterpoint in the New Zealand section is "Culture and Gospel" by Edinburgh-based ex-Kiwi Ruth Page. Clive Pearson, a trans-Tasman migrant like Breward, spans the Tasman in his survey of antipodean Christology.

It is a great pity that this book is so darned expensive because it would be a valuable resource for students of history and theology as well as stimulating for the general reader. It is thus no mere memorial; it is a useful and living honour bestowed upon an inspiring teacher, scholar and Christian gentle man.

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Citation: Malcolm D. Prentis. Review of Emilsen, Susan; Emilsen, William W., eds., Mapping the Landscape: Essays in Australian New Zealand Christianity--Festschrift in Honour of Professor Ian Breward. H-ANZAU, H-Net Reviews. September, 2001. URL:

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