Contextualising the Gospel in a Contemporary Anglican School
by Bryan Cowling
A Discussion Paper
Published by the Anglican Education Commission
A Vision of Wholeness: Contextualising the Gospel in a Contemporary Anglican School is published by the Anglican Education Commission, Diocese of Sydney as a resource to assist Christian teachers to integrate their Christian faith within their day to day life and teaching. The material appearing in this essay may be reproduced for study, conversation and training purposes subject to an inclusion of an acknowledgement of the source and with permission of the publisher.
About this essay
This essay has been written to promote conversations among educators within Anglican schools within the Diocese of Sydney. It begins with a question to which many different answers have been offered over the past three or four decades: What is Anglican schooling? In his Isaac Armitage Lecture at the Shore School in September 2009, Archbishop Peter Jensen asked whether there was such a thing as Anglican education. In pursuit of the answer to this question the Archbishop established a small think-tank called the Anglican Education Fellowship which has now published a book: New Perspectives on Anglican Education. The book can be purchased from Wandering Bookseller. Other complementary resources will be available through this website in due course.
This essay begins with some observations on how Anglican schools describe themselves to the general public as well as some observations of what happens from day to day in some Anglican schools. It offers some explanations for why the professed mission of some schools tends to occur more at the margins than in the mainstream.
It asserts that for the Christian mission to be effective, it must permeate the whole life of the school. The essay acknowledges some of the difficulties schools have in mainstreaming an authentic, vibrant Christian approach to education and argues for a deliberate, customised contextualisation of the gospel within the contemporary culture of each school. How this is done will vary from school to school. But one thing about which the essay is unequivocal is that the changing curriculum landscape that is about to occur through the implementation of the Australian Curriculum provides Anglican schools with a great opportunity to provide all of their students with a relevant and authentic biblical view of God, the world and themselves through quality teaching and learning.
This essay is deliberately called a ‘discussion paper.’ It is intentionally provocative in order to generate robust discussion. It does not pretend to be authoritative nor does it preclude alternate ways of contextualising the gospel. It is not a ‘how to do it’ manual. It does not attempt to give definitive answers. It raises issues and questions which we think are worthy of discussion and debate within schools and school councils. It invites responses and welcomes schools’ engagement with Commission staff.
Author: Dr Bryan Cowling
Dr Bryan Cowling was appointed as the Executive Director of the re-constituted Anglican Education Commission in the Diocese of Sydney in 2007. This followed a career of forty years in education, as a teacher, head teacher, state curriculum consultant, inspector of schools, regional director of education, director of curriculum, director of vocational education and director of school education policy in the NSW Department of Education.
During this time he not only acquired two Masters degrees and a doctorate in which he examined an outcomes based approach to teaching and learning, but played an active role in Scripture Union and AFES and ministry amongst Christian teachers in government schools.
In 1999, he became the founding principal of Thomas Hassall Anglican College at Middleton Grange. He is an Honorary Associate Professor in the Education and Social Work Faculty of the University of Sydney and a member of the Academic Board of the Wesley Institute.
He is a prolific writer and has spoken at national and international conferences on the interface between Christian faith and education and has a passion for the development of a credible, robust and authentically Christian approach to education at all levels in Australia.