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Canberra-Goulburn Assistant Bishop Matt Brain chosen to lead Bendigo's Anglicans

Bendigo's new Bishop elected days after Bishop Andrew Curnow ends his nearly 15-year term

One of Bishop Matt Brain's early tasks in Bendigo will be to find a new Dean for St Paul's Cathedral (pictured), with the Very Revd John Roundhill to succeed Bishop Alison Taylor as Bishop of the Southern Region of the Brisbane diocese. Bishop Taylor is retiring to Melbourne to do doctoral studies. Photo of Bishop Brain courtesy of Bendigo diocese, photo montage by Chris Shearer.

By Mark Brolly

December 8 2017Canberra and Goulburn Assistant Bishop Matt Brain, 42, has been elected 10th Bishop of Bendigo.

His election on 6 December came only four days after Bendigo’s Anglican leader since 2003, Bishop Andrew Curnow, laid up his pastoral staff, mitre and cope on the altar of the restored St Paul’s Cathedral in the Goldfields city. The announcement was made to all clergy and parishes on 8 December.

Bendigo’s Bishopric Electoral Board began its search for a new Anglican leader of the 115-year-old diocese after Bishop Curnow, 67, announced on 3 April that he intended to resign.

Bishop Brain is to be installed as Bishop of Bendigo on Saturday 17 February after he, his wife Rachael and their five children, aged from eight to 15, move to Victoria in the New Year.

“Being able to serve God and his people is a great privilege and I rejoice in this new opportunity to serve,” he said. “It is wonderful to be able to follow a leader like Bishop Andrew who has skilfully and faithfully borne witness to Jesus in the many communities that make up the diocese.”

The Vicar-General, the Very Revd John Roundhill – who himself is to become a bishop in 2018 when he succeeds Bishop Alison Taylor as Bishop for the Southern Region of the Brisbane diocese – said in a special edition of Bendigo’s Diocesan Update on 8 December that Bishop Brain had worked in both lay and ordained capacity in five dioceses, including North-West Australia, where he was ordained and gained valuable experience in rural and remote ministry.

“As a diocese we have worked hard to be transformative, mission-shaped communities of faith so that our society may be transformed by Jesus,” Dean Roundhill wrote. “Bishop Matt is delighted to be able join with us as we seek to be true to this calling and is looking forward to sharing in Jesus’ transformative work with us.

“Please pray for Bishop Matt, Rachael and their children as they make their way to Bendigo and Matt starts his new ministry with us.”

Bishop Brain has been responsible for Ministry Training and Development in Canberra-Goulburn and oversees Parish Support Chaplaincy and Mission. He has served as Acting Registrar for the diocese on two occasions and was Director of Anglican Diocesan Services until recently.

He has served on numerous diocesan and school boards and is a member of General Synod and the Primatial Panel of Electors.

Bishop Brain is also Rector of Arawang Anglican Church, in south-western Canberra.

He has published numerous books, articles and conference papers and lectures at St Mark’s Theological College in the national capital on Ministry and Outreach, as well as serving as deputy chair of the board there.

His doctoral thesis was Treasures in Jars of Clay: Towards a new Pauline Pastoral Theology of Mission to Generation Y in Australia.

Dean Roundhill wrote that Bishop Brain has a keen interest in advocacy and is a trustee of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund – Australia.

“Bishop Matt originally trained and worked as a physiotherapist. He lists his interests as playing guitar, reading, cycling and jogging.”

Bishop Stuart Robinson of Canberra and Goulburn – who announced his own resignation in the same week – wrote in a Pastoral Letter read out in services in his diocese on 10 December that Bishop Brain had served with aplomb in a variety of roles since arriving in the diocese in 2010.

“I realise this is the second piece of surprising Episcopal news you have received in the past week and no doubt there will be mixed emotions as you process the prospect of both our departures in the New Year,” Bishop Robinson wrote. “I want to assure you that God sovereignly works all things for the ultimate good of His people, and I am therefore convinced he will attend to all the future needs of this great Diocese. In particular, God has provided and will continue to provide the people we need in this considerable time of transition in diocesan life.”

Bishop Robinson, 58, is to resign, effective from 31 March 2018. He was elected in November 2008 following 20 years as a priest in the Sydney diocese and a three-year secondment to the Anglican Diocese in Europe, where he served in Belgium.

The announcement of his departure said he was leaving to re-engage in parish ministry and to devote more time to family matters.

The 154-year-old diocese will be led by its long-serving Vicar-General, Assistant Bishop Trevor Edwards, until a diocesan synod in mid-2018 elects Bishop Robinson’s successor.

Bishop Brain, in his own letter to Canberra-Goulburn Anglicans, wrote that his excitement at the opportunities to serve and grow alongside brothers and sisters in Christ in a new place “is coloured by the reality of leaving you”.

“Since arriving in Canberra & Goulburn at the beginning of 2010 the Brain ’mob’ has flourished as we have been able to partner with so many saints who love Jesus and work hard to live this love out in their day to day lives,” he wrote. “You have been very good to us. Thank you.

“The Diocese of Bendigo shares many values and characteristics with Canberra & Goulburn. Indeed its vision is to ‘… transform society through the gospel of Jesus Christ by building healthy mission-shaped faith communities’. What a great call. Many of the changes we have sought to make, and priorities we have sought to keep are shared in the Diocese Bendigo and I am following a very able bishop (+Andrew Curnow) and will go to work alongside godly and faithful clergy and lay people.

“In the midst of change we can be sure that God not only has our best interests at heart, but is active in providing for our needs.”

Dean Roundhill – who led the completion of restoration works on St Paul’s Cathedral, which had been closed for safety reasons in January 2009 and reopened in June 2016 – told the Bendigo Advertiser on 29 November that his 2014 arrest in Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie’s office, during a protest with the Love Makes A Way movement advocating for refugees, was a significant event of his almost six years in Bendigo.

Charges of trespassing were brought against him and other protesters, but were dismissed in court.

“For me that was a really important moment, when I realised my beliefs have to be translated into action,” he said. “I can’t just say I believe something, I’ve got to do what I believe.”

Dean Roundhill said his involvement in the Believe in Bendigo movement, a group promoting diversity in the city that was born from tensions surrounding the proposed mosque there, had been another highlight. With the congregation of St Paul’s Cathedral at the time having no church in which to worship as it was being restored, he told the paper it seemed natural that they would support another group of faithful people seeking a place of their own to worship

He said he knew Queensland well, having served as a rector, area dean and archdeacon in Brisbane diocese from 2006-11 after ministry posts in the UK and Hong Kong.

“The region I’m moving to has got a good number of churches to work with, and schools and other agencies, and that really interests me, this idea of actually not just being, in a sense, working inside church buildings, but actually working in communities,” Dean Roundhill said.

His predecessor in Brisbane, Bishop Taylor, is retiring to Melbourne, where she served as a priest and archdeacon from 1997-2013, as well as Chair of Anglican Overseas Aid for eight years until her move north.

Bishop Taylor will begin doctoral research in the New Year, through Trinity College Theological School, into theology related to the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

She was formally farewelled by the Brisbane diocese in St John’s Cathedral on 2 December.