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Missionary teacher returns as Melbourne's newest assistant bishop

Dr Paul Barker was consecrated as an Assistant Bishop of Melbourne in St Paul's Cathedral on 12 November

PHOTO: Janine Eastgate

By Mark Brolly

November 15 2016Asian church leaders joined their Australian counterparts and local Anglicans as the Revd Dr Paul Barker was consecrated as an Assistant Bishop of Melbourne in St Paul's Cathedral on 12 November.

Dr Barker, who has worked as a Bible scholar in Asia for the past seven years supported by the Church Missionary Society, was consecrated by Archbishop Philip Freier and welcomed to the episcopate by Archbishop Ng Moon Hing of South-East Asia, Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo of Myanmar, Archbishop Glenn Davies of Sydney and visiting bishops, clergy and laity from around Australia and the region.

He returns to the Diocese of Melbourne, where he served as Vicar of Holy Trinity Doncaster from 1996-2009, Archdeacon of Box Hill for eight years from 2001 and as a Visiting Lecturer at Ridley College in Parkville for nearly 20 years. After a service lasting about 100 minutes, the new bishop returned to his former parish in Doncaster where a celebratory lunch was held.

Bishop Barker's appointment, and that of Dr Bradly Billings, as assistant bishops were announced early this year. Bishop Billings was consecrated on 30 April but Dr Barker had to complete commitments in Asia before he, too, could be raised to the episcopate.

Dr Barker's roles for the past seven years have included Visiting Scholar at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia and Adjunct Lecturer at Myanmar Evangelical Graduate School of Theology. He has been Asian Regional Coordinator for Langham Preaching and Langham Scholar Care, in which role he has trained preachers in the region.

He earned his doctorate, published as The Triumph of Grace in Deuteronomy, 20 years ago at the University of Bristol.

The new bishop assumes responsibility for the Jumbunna Episcopate within the Melbourne diocese, succeeding Bishop Paul White, who has taken up a new part-time role of Assistant Bishop for Growth Areas Ministry.

The service and the symbols of Bishop Barker's new office also reflected his life as a scholar and missionary.

Archbishop Than was among those who presented Dr Barker to Archbishop Freier for consecration; the former Principal of Ridley, the Revd Dr Peter Adam, and the Revd Malcolm Falloon of Dunedin, New Zealand, handed the Bible to Dr Freier who presented it to Bishop Barker; the new bishop's episcopal staff was a gift from the Anglican Church in Myanmar; the episcopal ring was a gift from the Diocese of West Malaysia; and Bishop Barker's pectoral cross was formerly worn by missionary to Africa, Australian Bishop Alf Stanway, and Melbourne scholar Bishop John Wilson.

Mrs Alyson Smith of Holy Trinity Doncaster read the First Reading, from Deuteronomy chapter 18 verses 15-22, and Pastor Stephen Yu from China read the Second Lesson, from the First Letter of Peter chapter five verses 1-4. The Gospel reading was from St John, chapter 21 verses 1-19.

The retired Bishop of North Sydney, fellow scholar and long-time friend of the new bishop, the Right Revd Dr Paul Barnett, was preacher.

Dr Barnett spoke about the Gospel reading, in which St Peter had a painful encounter with Jesus on a beach after the Resurrection and after which Peter was "a changed man, a restored man, a failed man whom Jesus had redeemed and trusted". He said Peter was and remains the world pastor for all time, "the paradigm pastor".

"What we are thinking about here is Gospel humility – a deep, deep, deep thing," he said.

"So Paul Barker, my good friend, remember two things whenever you are ministering, when you are laying hands in prayer on confirmees. Say to yourself, 'I'm doing this because I love Jesus. And thank you, Jesus, for entrusting the care of your sheep to me'.

"When you are preaching the Gospel, say to yourself, 'I'm doing this because I love Jesus. And thank you, Jesus, for entrusting the care of your sheep to me'.

"When you are counselling a troubled person, say to yourself, 'I'm doing this because I love Jesus and because Jesus has entrusted his sheep to me'.

"My dear brother Paul and all of us, laypeople and ministers alike, take your cue from Peter. Ministry flows out of redemption... it flows out of tough grace. Peter is your paradigm."