23 September 2023

New AOA chief looks to young to carry on relief and development work

New Anglican Overseas Aid chief executive Jo Knight was commissioned in early March at a service at St Silas’ North Balwyn. Picture: Mark Brolly 

by Mark Brolly

4 March 2022

The new leader of Melbourne-based Anglican Overseas Aid, Ms Jo Knight, said a priority for her time as chief executive would be to engage younger generations in its work to sustain long-term partnerships and respond to issues such as climate change that could not be left to future generations.

Ms Knight, whom Archbishop Philip Freier commissioned as chief executive at a service at St Silas’ North Balwyn on 1 March, said she was conscious that she and others responsible for the work of AOA were standing on the shoulders of the late Archbishop David Penman and the pioneers and supporters who had helped sustain AOA since it was established in 1988 as the Archbishop of Melbourne’s International Relief and Development Fund.

AOA is an international development agency supporting projects in eight countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific, with work including women’s empowerment, child protection, HIV and AIDS prevention, breast cancer diagnosis and management and gender-based violence prevention.

Ms Knight paid tribute to her family and the influence of her early parish, St Alfred’s North Blackburn, as well as her later experiences at the Oaktree Foundation and St Hilary’s Kew. She arrives at AOA from Tearfund, where she was advocacy director.

Read more: New chief executive announced for Anglican Overseas Aid

Her predecessor, the Reverend Dr Bob Mitchell, and his wife Anita were acknowledged with a prayer led by Associate Professor Robin Ray, a director of AOA, early in the service.

Ms Knight’s husband, the Reverend Dr Peter Carolane, Vicar of Merri Creek Anglican church, read from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter five verses 3-10, while Ms Seak-King Huang, an AOA director, read the First Reading from Psalm 24.

Archbishop Freier said in his sermon that he was delighted to inaugurate a new ministry in something as important as Anglican Overseas Aid.

“… The successful transition of responsibility is one of the great moments of both risk and opportunity,” Dr Freier said.

He said the Gospel reading of the Beatitudes showed that it was not just people who were “pure and holy” who could access God the Temple in Jerusalem.

“They, in the meeting of humanity of God, have something that the world can’t take away. And Jesus, God’s Son, met with people – ordinary people like you

and me, learned people but just people who wanted to understand the holy in their midst.

“You look at the world around us and you know that that the crushing sense of injustice and iniquity and inequality is so profound.”

Alluding to the conflict in Ukraine, he referred to Psalm 2, which senior diocesan leaders had studied that morning during a brief retreat. It warned kings to rule wisely and in fear of the Lord.

“… It tells us something that was known in antiquity but is true today, that whilst worldly leaders might have some power that everything they touch is like ‘pop’, they break. You can imagine that almost in the situation of Ukraine … as simple as any of us just getting a clay pot and dropping it and smashing it.

“Now that Psalm ends with another beautiful verse: ‘Happy are all that take refuge in Him’.

“Now Jesus is saying: ‘These who are the poor in spirit – the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted for righteousness’ sake – they are the happy because they’ve taken refuge in Him’.

“I think these are strong principles that underlie an organisation like Anglican Overseas Aid because there is a speaking for justice as part of our mission, a speaking on behalf of those who do not have a voice. Because as Jesus forecast, this is a reality of the world, this is human nature at its sharpest division – those who magnify their own authority and power with concern for self and others who miss out bit by bit by bit by bit by bit until … at worst, have no share of the good things of life, not even rights about self, no rights about their role in society.”

Dr Freier concluded his sermon with a prayer that Ms Knight would be sustained in her new role, thanking her for her Christian vocation and her family and wider community of support, praying “that we can be the sort of people to encourage and nurture you in the big responsibilities you have” and offering blessings to her, AOA, its partners and other supporters.

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