Former Ridley Principal Maurice Betteridge remembered
By Rhys Bezzant
Maurice Betteridge (in the blue sweater) passed away on 25 May at the age of 92
Maurice Stanley Betteridge (1927-2020) was the seventh Principal of Ridley College, following the tenure of Leon Morris. He brought to the position broad experience of the worldwide church, keen academic interest in church history (especially the Reformation), a heart for evangelistic preaching, and experience of leadership in ministry contexts.
But perhaps he is remembered best of all for his gentle wit and kind pastoral ways. He and his wife Jacqueline, who predeceased him, invited many students into their home and made the Ridley community a more collaborative environment for study and work. His death this week will be grieved by many Christian leaders in different parts of the globe.
Maurice was a New Zealander, the second to be appointed as Principal of Ridley with Stuart Barton Babbage the first. Maurice’s links with the College were built early, as he was ordained in 1951/1952 in the Diocese of Nelson by Bishop P.W. Stephenson, who was Ridley’s first graduate in 1914! It is remarkable that Maurice’s connection to the College went right back to its founding. Long before arriving to work in Melbourne, he had stayed at Ridley when invited to be the speaker at a mission held by the Melbourne University Evangelical Union in the early 1960s. He had studied at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, served as Chaplain to the University of New England, and based in Sydney was General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1973-1978.
In these diverse locations, Maurice developed insights into the complexities of evangelical ministry, but always affirmed his confidence in the Gospel of the Kingdom. He was not afraid to highlight the weaknesses of Christians past: once when I gave a lecture on Nicholas Ridley to mark the 450th anniversary of his martyrdom in 2005, Maurice pointed out to me that I had failed to note Ridley’s cantankerous character!
As Principal of Ridley (1979-1992), which at that stage incorporated both a theological college and a residential college of the University of Melbourne, Maurice brought energy and resolve. Finally a fit-to-purpose library was completed in 1984, with new lecture rooms beneath, a bookshop was opened, a new degree in theology was launched, certificate level courses were offered in suburban locations, and the faculty tripled in size.
While Leon Morris’s leadership had taken as its template a vicar with his curates (namely the faculty!), Maurice saw himself as first among equals and cultivated an esprit de corps which suited the mood of the times. The 1980s were days when the entrepreneurial spirit captured the international moment, so Ridley began several new programs to win new enrolments. Intentional youth ministry training was initiated, and study tours to the Middle East were introduced. Different overseas speakers were invited to lecture at the College, for example Dick Lucas from St Helen’s Bishopsgate and Alister McGrath from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Maurice supported women called to the ordained ministry of the church, first to the diaconate in 1986 and to the priesthood in 1992.
Many still speak fondly of Maurice’s lectures in Reformation history, and especially remember him using an overhead projector to illustrate a theological point by means of woodcuts. His hobby was to bind books, many of which will make their way to the Gravitas Room for display in our refurbished library.
He grew tired towards the end of his time as Principal, but still managed for some years after retirement to serve at St James’ Ivanhoe and to lecture in Reformation History at the Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne. His last visit to Ridley was a happy time of sharing stories over lunch with former students. We brought him into the Dining Room to introduce him to a new generation of students, and he received a warm ovation.
His portrait, the first to be composed from a live sitting, has above his right ear a rectangular upright. Long have students wondered whether this represents an open window onto the world outside, or the foot of the cross. Either works. Maurice was keenly aware of the responsibility of Christians to their community, and of our obedience motivated by Christ’s atoning death. We can be thankful as a College community for a life well lived and a servant now being welcomed home.
Stephen May (Vicar, St James’ Ivanhoe): “Maurice is remembered as a kind, gentle and unpretentious man who was a clear preacher of God's world able to take deep theological principles and make them relevant to the ordinary lay person. He had a warm infectious smile and he and Jacqui had a great ministry of hospitality together. At the funeral he was remembered as someone with a great intellect and yet a very practical man, with a love for golf and of course with a love for books. In the last days I remember well simply visiting him reading the Bible with him and then discussing the passage before we prayed together.”
Peter Adam (former Principal): “Maurice had a deep love for the Anglican Reformation, and exemplified the best of that tradition: a love for the Scriptures, trust in the Gospel of Christ and God's grace, a respect for the past, and careful scholarship.”
Katrine Bramley (Registrar): “My favourite memory of Maurice was the afternoon Darren Waterworth, Business Manager at the time, returning from community lunch walked up to him not realising who he was, to ask whether he realised that he was on private property and shouldn’t be wandering around. Maurice then identified himself and his relationship with Ridley and returned to the office having a great chuckle about almost being ‘bounced off’ the property!”
Charles Sherlock (Former Faculty): “As Principal, Maurice accepted the responsibilities involved, while treating staff as valued colleagues. I was there for all of his Ridley years, happy ones for me: in his first year Maurice adapted my teaching timetable so that I could finish my doctoral thesis (which he bound beautifully), and continued to encourage my writing … I give thanks to God for Maurice Betteridge, for his gentle strength, wise insights, delight in the beauty of design, craft and people, and above all for the grace of Christ shown in his life and ministry.”
The Revd Canon Dr Rhys Bezzant is Senior Lecturer at Ridley College.