The 2012 Banner of Truth Conference at Collaroy, Australia
The same day that I heard a Sudanese pastor and a Chinese missionary speak of their countries I read the text, ‘Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them’ (Matt. 13:17). Even our little conference in New South Wales was representative of the blessing now come to the world – men and women of different nationalities, united in Christ and all placed by him in their various places. Most came from Australia, three pastors from New Zealand, and a few from further afield. This conference, begun in 1979, has struggled to survive. The persistent attendance of a comparatively small number of ministers and elders, some of them coming a considerable distance, has been the anchor. At the end of this year’s three days together, ‘This was the best ever,’ was to be heard. The words are no sure guide, for fresh blessing is more real than that of former days, but it is true to say that we were greatly encouraged.
Chairing the opening session, Allan Blanch suggested that the subjects to be taken up in the main addresses might be summarised under the heading ‘Carefulness and Confidence.’ The former had to do with ourselves and the times in which we are living; the latter with what we have in the Word of God. The first address in which Peter Barnes spoke on ‘Prayer for More Fruit’ (Phil. 1:9-11) set the tone for all that was to follow. David Jones took the three evening sessions from the letter of Jude, under the headings, ‘Knowing the Times,’ ‘Understanding Ourselves,’ and ‘Safe Ministry’. Wales parted with David in 1981 when he began twelve years ministry at Grove Chapel, London; since that time he has served both a local and larger mission field in Hobart and Australia. Two main addresses were given by Bruce Winter, whose ministry, largely among students, has been in Singapore, Cambridge and Brisbane. His was a new voice in Banner conferences and one that was greatly valued. Concentrating on 1 Corinthians 1 and 2, he demonstrated how Paul’s principles of teaching were in marked contrast with the popular methods admired in the Greek and Roman world, and how, therefore, he was in direct collision with the contemporary scene of his day. The relevance of this to dangers now facing evangelicalism was as disturbing as it was compelling. Other main sessions were taken by Lee-On Tan (‘China, Today and Tomorrow’), Todd Stanton (‘The Happy Pastor’), and Iain Murray (twice on ‘John 17’). All these addresses are available on one MP3 at AUD15 from email@example.com.
In addition to the main addresses, there were much-valued short contributions of an informative nature from several speakers. Major Howard Davies of the Salvation Army, on the first night, told us how the splendid Collaroy Conference Centre came into being. In the 1890s the site – a bushland hillside above the ocean – had only the homestead of a Mrs Elizabeth Jenkins. This Christian woman was impressed by the witness of the young Sarah Kells who led Salvation Army work among gangs and others in Manley, and this probably contributed to her leaving 1,800 acres of prime land to the SA in her will (1900). Thereafter Collaroy became a place of quiet and devotion for thousands of Christians, with prayer often marking the lives of those who came to enjoy it. Of one early morning prayer meeting we read that there was, ‘no music, no singing, no noise to waken other sleeping ladies, but many singular answers to those prayers.’ Major Davies was no new attender at the Banner conference and he told us again of how, as a SA officer, Banner of Truth books and magazines – beginning with a Lloyd-Jones title in 1984 – brought him to Reformed convictions.
Others who took five minute slots were Stephen Bignall, about to take up work with the Aboriginal Inland Mission; Rob Flinders, worker with the Seamen’s Christian Friend Society, who also provided a fine visual display of this important but little-known work; Noel Weeks on MERF; Tut Wan Yoa on the church in the Sudan; and Andre Holtslag, a pastor in earthquake-stricken Christchurch, New Zealand. Mathew Murray led the two morning prayer meetings.
The conference noted with sadness the recent death of Martin Holdt, twice a speaker with us, and of John Campbell of Adelaide. Family needs detained some who would otherwise have been there, but there were younger men to swell the numbers to around one hundred. The journey of two men to Collaroy, which I overheard, was a reminder that the southern hemisphere is not the same as England. One pastor spent the best part of a week coming by car from Western Australia; another had less distance to travel, but transport took him only as far as Manley, five miles or more from Collaroy. The remainder of the distance he did on foot with his bag, stopping twice on his route beside the ocean for a swim!
In various places this Collaroy Conference was remembered in prayer and we thank God that prayer was answered.
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