NCCA pays tribute to devoted ecumenist Harvey Perkins
The Rev. Harvey L. Perkins, who is remembered by the National Council of Churches in Australian (NCCA) as a “devoted ecumenist”, died on November 25 in Canberra.
Harvey Perkins was the sixth general secretary of the Australian Council of Churches (ACC) (1956-1967).
He is remembered for the way he identified the major issues confronting the Australian churches in the mid-1960s as the need for more Christian presence beyond the institutional structures of the churches.
For Perkins, it was essential that the Australian churches find new ways of both communicating the gospel and living a life that authenticated its message. In his 1967 report to the ACC he said, “This constant struggle does not mean that we are changing the faith we confess. We are appropriating it, relating it, bringing out the emphases required for our situation.
“New situations and new issues require new expressions of the same faith.”
Ordained in 1949, Harvey Perkins began ministry in Victoria, serving three years in the Mitcham Methodist Circuit, then went to ACC. In the period 1973–1976 he served the Methodist Overseas Mission Board. Then, after concluding with CCA in 1980, he returned to New South Wales Synod with the Board for Social Responsibility (1980–1983). He retired in 1984.
When Perkins concluded as ACC general secretary he went on to the position of secretary ACC division Interchurch Aid, Refugee and World Service (1967-68).
That position laid the foundations for his service overseas. Firstly as secretary Inter Church Aid East Asia Christian Conference 1968-1971 then in the World Council of Churches Commission on the Churches’ Participation and Development 1971-1973.
After three years at home he returned to the Christian Conference of Asia as executive secretary Development and Service: 1976-1980.
The Rev. Tara Curlewis, general secretary of the NCCA, said, “Harvey Perkins assisted the churches to embrace unity, encouraging churches to work together locally and regionally. He helped facilitate conversations in South Australia that led to the formation of the South Australian Council of Churches.
“He had a deep passion for the unity and mission of the church and identified that there was much that could be learnt from the Asian Church.”
Ms Curlewis said, “He has left a large ecumenical footprint for which he will be long remembered. Today we give thanks to God for his ministry and uphold his family in prayer as they mourn his passing.”