After the respite of a partial day’s rest at Melbourne, we resumed the work of our tour on Wednesday, July 9. We left at 8:45 in the morning on a long taxi ride to the railroad station in downtown Melbourne, where we caught a train for Geelong, some 60 miles away. Interestingly enough, we learned from our cabby that Geelong has gotten the nickname of “Sleepy Hollow.” We, of course, were not really interested in the city of Geelong itself—although it seems to be a rather peaceful little harbor city to the southwest of Australia’s largest city, Melbourne. Our interest lay in the fact that Geelong is the site of the Reformed Theological College, the training school for ministers in the Reformed Churches of Australia and New Zealand and known to our readers through our comments concerning the views of Dr. Runia and Dr. Woudstra in past issues of our Standard Bearer. Our friends who were in charge of arrangements for our tour of the Australia mainland had made arrangements for us to visit Geelong also. And although some effort had been made to have us officially invited to the College, this, as we had expected, did not materialize. A friend had generously made all the arrangements for our stay at the Commodore Motel, which is directly behind the premises of the Reformed Theological College. He had also made arrangements for us to use the conference room at the motel, so that we might be able to hold an informal meeting with interested persons. Our contact man among the students was Mr. John Cromarty, a student from the Free Presbyterian Church, and the man who was the first among the students to detect the errors of Dr. Woudstra. We met him over lunch at the motel, where we talked over arrangements for possible activities during our brief stay at Geelong. After noon lunch, Mr. Cromarty introduced us to Prof. Barkley, the principal of the college; and then he took us on a tour of a building which houses the Reformed Theological College, a building which is actually a rambling old mansion. Perhaps comparisons are odious; but as we were touring the building, I thought to myself that I much preferred our modem, commodious, and comfortable facilities on Ivanrest Avenue thousands of miles away. As to size, the Geelong College is not much larger than our Seminary, either as to faculty or student body. (And from some recent correspondence, I have been given to understand that since the time of our visit all the students at Geelong from the Free Church have withdrawn, for some reason which I have not yet learned.) During the afternoon Mr. Cromarty acted as our host and our guide on a sightseeing tour to some of the sights in the immediate Geelong area as well as along the ruggedly beautiful coastline in that vicinity. Our attentions, however, were divided rather unequally between sightseeing and listening to Mr. Cromarty’s briefing concerning the Reformed Theological College and, in particular, concerning the development of the Woudstra situation, with which he was intimately acquainted. Our chief interest, however, was in holding a meeting if possible and of becoming acquainted with some of the personnel of the college; and arrangements were made for such a meeting on the following day at 1:30 P.M. in the conference room of our motel. Present at that meeting were the members of the faculty (Prof. Barkley, Prof. Wilkinson, and Prof. Harman), an Anglican minister, a Reformed Presbyterian minister (Rev. McEwen, whom we had occasion to meet again in Melbourne), and a Free Presbyterian minister, and about a dozen students. It had been suggested that we talk about current theological trends, or issues. We gladly accepted this suggestion: for it gave us the opportunity to discuss various issues which are vital and which are very much on the foreground in Reformed circles today. But we wished to do this, of course, from our Protestant Reformed viewpoint; and in order to accomplish this for an audience which was not well acquainted with our Protestant Reformed position, we first gave a brief introduction concerning the origin and the position of our churches. After our introductory talk, the meeting was opened for questions. And there were a good many interesting questions, including several in connection with the question of a free offer, common grace, and the AACS. Our meeting lasted more than two hours; and after the meeting itself there were some who lingered to make further acquaintance and to ask more questions. Since our visit we have not had much of any direct contact with those whom we met at that time. We did receive requests for catalogues of, our Seminary and for information concerning seminary notes and other publications, as well as requests to be placed on the mailing list of our Theological Journal. We found the meeting to be extremely interesting because it gave us an opportunity to gain some insights into Geelong and into the state of theological education in the Reformed Churches in that part of the world. We were also very pleased to make the acquaintance of several of the students and to lay the groundwork for possible future contact.
Late in the afternoon of July 10 we boarded the train for our return to Melbourne. On our trip back to Melbourne we were accompanied by a young man of the Launceston Evangelical Presbyterian Church, David Higgs, who was also a house guest at the Morgans, whom we were expecting to host us at Melbourne. At the Melbourne station we were met by Mr. Ian Morgan, a man who has played a leading part in the doctrinal odyssey of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. At the time of our visit Mr. Morgan was still a lay member, though a man of wide theological knowledge who has been with the EPC movement from its beginning. He has been responsible for instruction in dogmatics for the students of the EPC. Since the time of our visit, the Presbytery of the EPC has ordained Mr. Morgan as a teaching elder in charge of theological instruction. I may point out at this time that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church does not have a seminary, but what is called a Collegiate of Theology. They have mapped out for their theological students a five year course, which, however, is conducted on an extra-mural basis, and largely by correspondence. Our seminary has already been giving some assistance by correspondence, and we hope to continue this in the future. It remains to be seen, however, whether it will be possible and advisable to provide a greater degree of assistance. If this should be mutually acceptable and should prove feasible, one of the best ways in which we could both render assistance and strengthen the ties between our denominations would be that of receiving students for the ministry from the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches at our Theological School. But to return to my account, we spent Thursday night and all day Friday with the Morgans; and our visit with them was delightful. On Friday we engaged in long conversations with Mr. Morgan. He had prepared a list of questions which he wished to discuss with us, chiefly concerning various doctrinal matters. Not only was this interesting for its own sake, but it also furnished us an insight into the large degree of agreement in viewpoint between their churches and ours. During the afternoon of that day we did a little sightseeing, b driving to the heights of Mt. Dandenong, whence we could get a view of metropolitan Melbourne, though it was through the smog. I may mention that we interrupted our sightseeing to pay a visit to the firm which was supposed to be the Australian distributors of our RFPA publications. One of our incidental purposes during the trip was to check up on the channels of distribution for our publications; and wherever we had the opportunity, we did this, and at the same time tried to establish better channels and to obtain new distribution centers for our literature. On Friday evening there was a cottage meeting at the home of the Morgans which was attended by some 15 people. At this meeting there was considerable interest in the subject of Christian education, which was supposed to be the main subject of discussion for the evening. But there was also interest in the subject of common grace and also the subject of the AACS. And so as the evening wore on, those present ended up being divided into three smaller groups: a group talking about Christian education with Mrs. Hoeksema, another group talking with Rev. Hanko, and a third group engaged in discussion with me. The hour became late all too soon, and thus ended our stay in the Melbourne-Geelong area.
On Saturday morning, July 12, we regretfully had to say good-bye to the Morgans; and after our auto trip to the Melbourne airport, we caught our TAA flight for Sydney, almost 500 miles to the north on the east coast of the continent. But that is a new story, and it will have to wait until our next issue.