Roland Ashby calls time as 'TMA' Editor and Anglican Media's Director after more than 23 years

Deputy Emma Halgren to oversee Anglican Media as Church's communications needs and priorities are reviewed.

Mr Roland Ashby's leadership had enabled 'TMA' to become an award-winning publication, admired as a pre-eminent Christian newspaper in Australia, said Diocesan Registrar Ken Spackman and Bishop John Harrower, who assists Archbishop Philip Freier in his role as Primate.

November 13 2018Roland Ashby, Director of Anglican Media and Editor of TMA for more than 23 years, is to retire on 21 December.

Mr Ashby wrote in a message to colleagues and friends today that it had been “an immense privilege” to serve Christ and his Church in his role “and I am eternally grateful for the opportunities it has provided, both to deepen and enrich my faith and also to share this knowledge with others”.

“I have met, interviewed and reported on many wonderful Christians whose powerful witness has been a tremendous inspiration,” Mr Ashby wrote.

“In concert with you, and with your hard work and support, it has been my aim to provide readers with a good balance of important local, national and international news reflecting our diversity, as well as topical feature articles of breadth and depth which nurture a well-informed and intelligent faith, and a deep and compassionate spirituality. Compassion and justice are at the heart of the Gospel, so speaking out, and urging action on, issues of social justice and care for creation have also been key priorities.”

Mr Ashby’s deputy, Emma Halgren, will oversee the work of Anglican Media while the communication needs and priorities of the Anglican Centre and the Diocese of Melbourne are reviewed in the coming months.

He expressed his warm appreciation to Archbishop Philip Freier, the Bishop assisting Dr Freier in his role as Anglican Primate of Australia, Bishop John Harrower, and Registrar Ken Spackman for their support for him, TMA and Anglican Media.

“I am also grateful to Archbishop Philip for his willingness to engage in public conversations in Federation Square on important issues of community concern. I have greatly enjoyed assisting him, Bishop John and Barney Zwartz (the Archbishop’s Communications Adviser) in organising these events.

“My chief hope for TMA and the Church is encapsulated in the prayer ‘Jesus, Saviour, may I know your love and make it known’, a variation of the Jesus Prayer used by Dave Andrews, a community worker and advocate I interviewed for TMA.”

Mr Spackman and Bishop Harrower wrote that Mr Ashby had shaped the Diocese’s print and digital landscape in a very significant way. 

The Melbourne Anglican (TMA) has developed considerably with Roland as Editor, to become an award-winning publication, which is admired as a pre-eminent Christian newspaper in Australia,” they wrote in a message to staff. “Roland and the team have separately received multiple awards for their journalistic efforts and their portrayal of topical local and international events. 

“As well, Roland has led the development of the digital version of TMA Online and has recently established the highly successful NewsStand to showcase the digital offering.  The richness and diversity of content serves to demonstrate the importance of this medium for our future.  Roland has also been pivotal in media and other events, ranging from Archbishop’s Conversations, Synod and General Synod reporting, Lambeth Conferences and in the promotion of the important work of Anglican Agencies across the Diocese.”

They also expressed confidence that Ms Halgren would undertake her role as acting Editor and Director “with her usual finesse and with the support of the Media team”.

Mr Ashby began as Editor and Director in June 1995 and worked with three Archbishops – Keith Rayner (until 1999), Peter Watson (2000-05) and Philip Freier (since 2006).

He led TMA to an unprecedented three Gutenberg Awards, the premier annual award of the Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA), in 1998, 2006 and 2015 – in the latter year being named with TMA as joint recipient of the honour. In 2017, TMA was named ARPA’s Publication of the Year.

Mr Ashby also developed Anglican Media’s book publishing activities, writing or editing titles including A Faith To Live By and Heroes of the Faith, drawn from interviews and articles that had appeared in TMA. A second volume of A Faith To Live By and a book of articles on the interface of science and faith co-edited by Mr Ashby, A Reckless God? Currents and Challenges in the Christian Conversation with Science, are to be launched on 23 November.

In his message to colleagues and friends, Mr Ashby wrote that he had been greatly inspired by people, practices and writings across the diverse traditions of the Church – evangelical, anglo-catholic and contemplative – “but in recent years it is the contemplative tradition in particular which has helped to nourish and sustain my faith”.

“Indeed it has been a profound joy to begin to discover the vast riches of the contemplative tradition, particularly Benedictine and Ignatian Spiritualities and the various life-giving and liberating ways of meditation (both on Scripture and also using a prayer word or mantra) and contemplative prayer and practice they offer.

“After over 40 years in social work, my wife Ros is also retiring in December, and we are planning take a six-month sabbatical next year overseas. This will include the ‘In the Footsteps of Jesus’ program at St George’s College, Jerusalem, Holy Week with the Taizé community in France, and a three-month stint as volunteers at Bonnevaux, the new international centre of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) near Poitiers in France. As part of my duties I will be assisting the director, Benedictine monk Fr Laurence Freeman, with editing and publishing projects.”

Mr Ashby’s achievements and long period of service will be celebrated as part of the Diocesan Centre Christmas gathering on 14 December.