Tim Harris
Assistant Bishop

Find Tim at his blog, on Twitter, or by email at tharris@adelaideanglicans.com

Like his biblical namesake, Tim was nurtured in faith from childhood in the context of a Christian home. However, there were a number of moments when this faith took on a more personal dimension, including the experience of preparing for confirmation in his mid teens, when the need to own such a public profession of faith for himself came through very strongly.

Moving to Adelaide in 1995, Tim spent thirteen years as rector of St. Matthew’s Kensington, before establishing and leading a combined ministry team responsible for five Sunday congregations between Kensington and Norwood. Involved in parish ministry since 1985, Tim has led two short-term ministry teams to Nepal and has been the guest speaker at various clergy conferences, societies, mission agencies and parishes.

Two features have characterised Tim’s approach to ministry: the desire to create an environment in which each person’s gifts can be nurtured and given the fullest possible expression, together with a strong commitment to building a team approach to all that comes with ‘being church’. 

An extract from an interview and article in The Guardian in October 2011:

You are to be the ‘Bishop for Mission and Evangelism’ in the Diocese of Adelaide. Can you discuss what this means for you and the Diocese?

Tim: The role has three main dimensions: the major focus will be on encouraging and developing ‘mission and evangelism’ within the Diocese, alongside some teaching at St. Barnabas College, and also some of the more traditional ‘assistant bishop’ side of things.

My understanding of ‘mission’ is defined entirely with reference to the ‘mission of God’, into which in God’s grace we are called to participate. Exploring core questions of what we understand God to be about is for me probably the most vital and exciting area of theology to explore, where things are identifi ed very much in grass-roots and ‘flesh and blood’ terms. The challenge is a sobering one: if no initiatives are undertaken, if things remain as they are at present and we seek to maintain the status quo as best we can, where will we be in fi ve years and ten years time? Yet new initiatives and change must be purposeful, with a clear sense of where it fits within our perception of our particular opportunities and calling, grounded in a good theology of church and mission.

My intention initially is to ask lots of questions and do a lot of listening. I hope to be a gathering point for resources, networking with others who are exploring and learning in similar areas, and to put some frameworks in place for the types of planning and dialogue that results in action. I read recently (in the area of education) of four modes of response: talkers, walkers, lurkers and baulkers. My hope is to encourage as many fellow ‘walkers’ in mission and evangelism as possible, to move beyond just talking, to encourage ‘lurkers’ in mission-shaped church to get more proactive, and to engage constructively with those who baulk at such initiatives. Yet none of this will be of any consequence unless it starts with expectant prayer, so my hope is to call the Diocese to regular and sustained prayer that God will go before us in guiding, enabling, over-ruling and sustaining effective mission and evangelism.

How do you see the emerging future of the Anglican Church in Adelaide, and in Australia generally?

Tim: Along with most other mainline churches, the Anglican Church in the west finds itself in uncharted territory. For many centuries we have occupied a privileged position in society, with a well-recognised place and voice. That is no longer the case, and the number of people who will seek us out and make a path to our door will increasingly diminish. Generational transition is a clear demographic ‘time-bomb’, and established patterns of parish life and ministry will cater for an ever-decreasing pool. The cultural and worldview gap between our church and society is widening profoundly.

Recent decades have seen a range of new approaches explored to reinvigorate church life, largely stimulated by ‘church growth’ strategies. I believe we need to go deeper than this. We need to move beyond how we ‘do’ church, to more profound questions about what it means to ‘be’ church in the 21st Century, in our day and age.

There is growing recognition in Anglican circles about the importance of ‘mission shaped church’ (the title of an influential 2003 Church of England report), with its associated impetus to develop ‘fresh expressions’ of church shaped around the distinctive missional needs and opportunities of diff erent contexts. As experience in these areas grow, there is much learned wisdom being gathered from which we may benefit. The Anglican Church was never conceived as a static entity. It has an inheritance of ‘considered innovation’, and our goals need to address not only ‘fresh expressions’ of church, but also move into ‘mature expressions’ of church.

In recent years I have given a name to this: ‘New Anglicanism’, in which we explore afresh where an application of this ‘Anglican DNA’ takes us as we think about Anglican ministry in a rapidly changing 21st Century Australia, now located in a much more culturally diverse, globalised village. Discussion of this ‘New Anglicanism’ featured much in my interview discussions with Diocesan Council, and I am keen to bring this focus to our approaches to mission and evangelism in Adelaide.

One thing is clear. The future will be much more diverse, including and combining more ‘traditional’ forms of ministry (but with no less a commitment to mission) with some all-new initiatives and forms of church. I will be proposing three main priority areas (all under the banner of the New Anglicanism ‘NOVA Church Project’): (1) seed bed projects, looking at establishing Anglican faith communities in areas where we have little or no presence; (2) transplanting projects – establishing new congregations in association with existing churches; and (3) renovation projects – looking to bring new life and focus to existing forms of ministry.