Friday, December 29, 2006

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

An obituary of Brian King, beloved son of God, formerly Bishop of Western Sydney, the Australian Defence Force and the 2000 Olympic Games. (He also confirmed me).

A fine all-rounder

- in life, sport and the church

Brian King, Bishop, 1938-2006

USUALLY Bishop Brian King had no trouble combining his sporting interests with his Christian faith, but occasionally when playing for Gordon first-grade rugby side or Manly reserve grade, the game would have started when King would come flying onto the field after conducting a wedding, hastily exchanging his clerical collar for his football boots.

King played 112 first-grade games and was a member of two premiership-winning teams. He was selected for the Waratahs, scoring two tries, and played against New Zealand, Fiji and Queensland. However he surprised many, when at the height of his rugby career he decided to pursue full-time Christian ministry. He spent many years working as a rector in Sydney parishes, before serving as the Anglican bishop in the western region of Sydney from 1993 to 2003 and concurrently the Anglican bishop for the Australian Defence Force from 1994 to 2001.

King was the son of a Herald journalist, Frank King. Like his father and three brothers, he attended Sydney Boys High where he played cricket and rugby in the first teams.

He worked as a chartered accountant for eight years, completing a bachelor of commerce degree at the University of NSW in the evenings.

However after much soul searching for the answers to life while at university, he finally decided to devote his life to Christ. He felt wasted as an accountant and made the decision to attend Moore Theological College and become ordained as an Anglican minister. He spent two years as a curate at St Matthew's, Manly, before being appointed the rector of St Jude's, Dural, in 1967.

Parish ministry was one of the most satisfying periods of his life. At Dural King was responsible for seven churches, and regularly drew more than 100 people to services in the 60-seat St Jude's. In 1972 he moved his young family to St Paul's, Wahroonga, where he spent 14 years.

In 1987, at the request of the archbishop, he returned to St Matthew's, Manly, as the rector and implemented many of the principles of church growth that he had written about when he obtained his doctorate of ministry from Fuller Seminary in California. His sermons are remembered fondly: he'd often start with a weak joke, have three alliterated points based upon a Bible text and finish with a rugby analogy.

King's interest in sport continued throughout his life. He played touch football and ran half-marathons until a few years before his death. As a bishop, he was the chairman of the combined churches for the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic games in 2000. His ability to meld Christians from different denominations into an effective team for a huge pastoral and evangelical outreach during the Olympics was typical of his ministry.

With the Australian Defence Force he was responsible for 45 full-time Anglican chaplains stationed at various bases around Australia and overseas. Despite being responsible for an area from Lidcombe to Lithgow in the western region of Sydney, he managed to visit each of the defence force chaplains, as well as support them in Canberra.

He started going out with Pamela Gifford, whose family lived in the same street in Artarmon, when she was just 16. However it was not until she went overseas at the age of 20 that he realised how much he loved her. When she returned by ship passing under the Harbour Bridge, three enormous sheets were hanging from it spelling "PAM".

They married in 1965 and forged a great partnership in all their endeavours, including raising three sons. His family was a source of great pleasure for King and he had many happy family holidays, including adventures in the outback. After his retirement he and Pamela spent a year in Britain, looking after a village church.

King will be remembered for his love of Christ and of his fellow man, whether at the bottom of a ruck on the rugby field, on the deck of a naval ship or at the door of a church.

He struggled with stomach cancer for more than two years and died at home. He is survived by Pamela, his three sons and four grandchildren.

Paul Barnett is a retired bishop.

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