Professor the Revd Gary Bouma remembered

September 7 2021

Image source: Rotary Club

Melbourne Anglican priest and leading international sociologist of religion Emeritus Professor the Revd Gary Bouma died on 19 August, aged 79.

In a message read out at Professor Bouma’s COVID-restricted funeral at St John’s East Malvern on 26 August, Archbishop Philip Freier offered deep thanks to God for his life and ministry, both as a priest and an academic.

“His generous sharing of his ongoing research greatly challenged us all, yet more importantly gave much hope for the future,” Dr Freier’s message said.

Prominent academic and commentator on international affairs Greg Barton delivered the eulogy, describing Professor Bouma as “much, much more than a scholar”.

“He loved humanity and he showed us what it meant to be fully human,” Professor Barton, Research Professor and Chair of Global Islamic Politics at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Monash University, said. “He was a humanist in the best sense of the word.

“Gary’s religious faith and his interest in the lives and beliefs of others were bound up in a love of all creation and especially human beings in all their rich diversity.”

The Revd John Baldock, former Vicar of East Malvern, knew Professor Bouma for 40 years, when both men were preparing for ordination in the Anglican Church.

“I can hardly think of another Anglican in this country who has been such a consistent, well-informed, passionate voice calling the Church to be engaged in the complex issues and debates of the day,” he said.

Professor Bouma was born into a Dutch Reformed family whose involvement in the civil rights movement led to the Ku Klux Klan setting a flaming cross in their yard.

Ordained a Presbyterian minister in the US in 1970, Gary Bouma came to Melbourne in 19 and was ordained in the Anglican Church in the early 1980s.

He served as Assistant Curate at St John’s Toorak and as Assistant Priest at St Andrew’s Brighton, St Faith’s Burwood, St Martin’s Hawksburn and St Dunstan’s Camberwell, as well as Associate Priest at St George’s Flemington and at St John’s East Malvern and St Agnes Glen Huntly.

Archbishop Freier wrote in a Clergy News bulletin announcing Professor Bouma’s death that “Gary was called to a ‘’Pauline tent-making ministry’, like St Paul, his service being of no financial burden to the Church”.

Among many accomplishments, Professor Bouma chaired the Board of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne in 2009 and four years later was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to the Academy, to Interreligious Relations and to the Anglican Church of Australia.

In a tribute published in The Age, Monash University honoured him for his 42 years’ service there.

“Professor Bouma was an eminent sociologist, a lifelong and tireless worker for promoting tolerance of difference, respectful inclusion of diverse races, religions, genders and sexualities, and a multicultural and interfaith approach to combating the challenges of social injustice and oppression,” a notice placed by Monash said.

“He devoted much of his professional and non-academic life to showing that religion is a legitimate causal agent of social change, and he was a leader in developing a broad range of studies in religion and theology, and elaborating and strengthening the highest standards of research ethics.

“In all this and more he displayed boundless energy and an exceptional depth and diversity of competence considered rare in higher education.

“An ordained priest in the Anglican communion, Professor Bouma was active in parish ministry and in the wider work of the church to the end of his days.”

A notice placed by his family said: “An Anglican Priest and Sociologist of Religion, Gary was admired, respected and honoured in Academic and Religious circles worldwide for his generosity, wisdom, intellect, scholarship, wit, humility, gentleness, kindness and passion for justice, encouraging people and making the world a better place.”


Professor Bouma is survived by his wife, the Revd Patricia Bouma, and family.