For more than 150 years, the Anglican Board of Mission has been building partnerships to support individuals and communities.
Led by the bishops of the Church of England in Australia and New Zealand, the ABM was founded in 1850, in response to a plea from the Bishop of New Zealand for funds to buy a boat so the Church could take the Gospel to the islands of Melanesia.
The fruits of this became the Melanesian Mission, and later the independent Anglican Church of Melanesia, which remains one of ABM’s partners to this day.
Now the ABM works with partners in 14 countries to provide health and education services, help improve food and water resources and assist in economic development initiatives.
Chair of ABM’s Provincial Committee Bishop David McCall says its focuses are broad and constructive.
“From its earliest days the Christian Church has been concerned about every aspect of our humanity,” David says.
“The Christian Gospel is about bringing men and women to wholeness of life through relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
“This is why the Church has been so strongly involved in education and healthcare.”
ABM’s work comprises three major project areas: the Church to Church program, which focuses on Anglicans in Australia assisting international partners through leadership formation and training, Community Development and Reconciliation.
The Community Development program works with partners in Papua New Guinea, Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia to help deliver grassroots, community-driven development projects around issues like basic health and education, food security and livelihood support.
“The ABM believes a strong and vibrant church focusing on evangelism and growth can also be an effective provider of services to the wider community,” David says.
“Education and literacy, health and HIV treatment, water and sanitation are all focuses of ABM projects.”
ABM hopes to combat poverty through its development work by embracing the Sustainable Development Goals and operating as a full member of the Australian Council for International Development, a network of Australian Non-Government Organisations sharing a commitment to poverty reduction and the promotion of human rights.
Closer to home, ABM’s Reconciliation program sees it support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglicans to support the ministry of Indigenous Australians with their own people and communities, as well as supporting training and leadership development programs.
In doing so, ABM hopes to contribute to the development of Indigenous communities and the Australian community as a whole, while emphasising local leadership development, rather than external leadership.
While ABM projects currently run in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, South Australia also plays a significant role in the Board’s work through its Provincial Committee and Auxiliary.
“Since the foundation of ABM over sixty South Australians have served as ABM missionaries, including Lilla Lashmar and May Hayman from South Australia who were amongst the twelve Anglican martyrs executed by the Japanese in PNG in 1942,” David says.
Elaine Edwards is a member of the Provincial Committee and president of the ABM Auxiliary in Adelaide. She is proud of the work the Provincial Committee and Auxiliary do to support ABM.
“Part of the support of course is raising the money to allow ABM to carry out its projects and programs, apart from that its prayer support and promoting ABM within the parishes,” she says.
“We do that through our newsletters and our contact with people in parishes – the Auxiliary’s role is to pray for, promote and support the work of ABM
“We organise speakers to speak to groups in parishes about ABM, and in 2014 the Auxiliary gave $12,000 to ABM for its general work.”
The common theme through all ABM’s projects is partnership – ABM's partnerships and projects are built upon solid foundations of and cooperation.
In Australia it works closely with churches, government and other NGOs to address poverty, while overseas its partners empower their local communities to work together, ensuring successes are owned by the whole community.
“ABM embraced the new understanding of mission espoused by the Anglican Consultative Council in the 1970s which stated that, ‘there is but one mission in all the world, and that this mission is shared by the world-wide Christian community, that is Partnership in Mission’,” David says.
“The Board continued to support developing churches, but respected the independence of the churches it supported.
“The idea of partnership was a gradual development over a long period of time but was clearly articulated and adopted as the appropriate method of relating to churches which are now responsible for their own life and mission.”