By Ian Breward
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Extra resources for A History of the Churches in Australasia (Oxford History of the Christian Church)
Captain Frederick Irwin, a strong Evangelical who was briefly DeputyGovernor, used his connections in Glasgow and Dublin to have a missionary sent. Dr Louis Giustiniani proved too much for the Anglican elite of the colony. Not only was he an Italian convert, but he speedily established a reputation for Aboriginal advocacy which was most unwelcome to those who saw 'clearing' Aborigines as essential to the struggling colony's prosperity. He named people to the Colonial Office in 1838. Settlers did not object to limited charity for the deserving Aborigines, so long as they did not expect equal rights before the law, or security of title on desirable land.
A stronger lay leadership developed than was possible where clergy had secure social status, and were constitutionally accountable to colleagues and superiors. Relationships with colonial authorities were also, of necessity, much closer than with government in Britain, because of the small size of communities, and the emergence of a more democratic and egalitarian temper which limited possibilities for social distance. Whether welcomed or not, the churches were a significant part of the colony's public life, and contributed substantially to the development of a free citizenry.
Their attempts at communication of Christianity brought more mockery than conversions. Political changes slowly worked in their favour. The important chief, Pomare II, was forced to retreat to Moorea in 1808 where his friendship with Henry Nott, a missionary who had determined to stay, led him to see more clearly some of the advantages of Christianity, notably literacy. Nott was a fair linguist, who became fluent in Tahitian. By 1810, the first part of the Bible had been translated. Pomare had learned writing quickly and by 1804 wrote spirited letters to the missionaries, even though his lifestyle caused them grave concern.
A History of the Churches in Australasia (Oxford History of the Christian Church) by Ian Breward