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  • Erin Mollenhauer

A key source of Evangelical Anglicanism

'The legacy of the Mowlls included the Youth Department and the Church of England National Emergency Fund (CENEF), the Anglican Retirement Villages, as well as the rejuvenation of Moore College and the Home Mission Society and widespread church planting. I ought to include his ability to choose and advance the leaders of the next generation' Peter Jenses (p. 9)

Peter Jensen’s introduction to ‘Howard and Dorothy Mowll: global Anglican pioneers’ sums up the lasting impact that Archbishop Howard Mowll and Dorothy Mowll left in the Diocese of Sydney. The papers delivered at the Moore College Library lectures in 2021, as well as several chapters commissioned after the event, explore many aspects of his life and work at Cambridge University, wartime France and most significantly, as the Archbishop of Sydney. Peter asks the question, “Was he the right man for Sydney?”, and the remainder of the book demonstrates how, in many ways, the answer is “Yes”.

Both Howard and Dorothy Mowll lived immensely full and varied lives of service in missionary work and church ministry. Soon after Howard’s death in 1958, Marcus Loane published a biography of his good friend the Archbishop, which is quoted by each of the chapters in this book as it has been the main source of information about Mowll’s life until now. This book does not claim to be a comprehensive biography of either of the Mowlls, but it does go a long way to filling the gap in scholarship on their life and ministry, and the passage of some decades since their deaths allows for a deeper historical analysis of their legacy.

We hope it will become a key resource for studying the history of evangelical Anglicanism in the early 20th century, because the broad reach of the Mowlls’ influence allowed for contributions on such a wide variety of topics. From student evangelism to both World Wars, Sydney Diocesan politics, theological education, youth ministry, South African Anglicanism, liturgical lawsuits, Chinese missions, housing for the elderly and personal Bible reading. There really is something for everyone! Unfortunately, we were not able to find contributors to examine Mowll’s work in Canada or China, and there is a noticeable gap between Michael Gladwin’s chapter on Mowll as First World War chaplain, and Ed Loane’s analysis of his election as Archbishop of Sydney in 1933. However, this book gives the reader both a substantial overview of his entire life in ministry, and in-depth analyses of specific aspects of his work.

Dorothy Mowll deserves a biography in her own right. Jane Tooher’s extensive research in the Church Missionary Society archives (among other sources) brings to light a ‘woman of courage’ indeed. A mountaineer, geographer, and devoted missionary to the Chinese, whose gracious offer of tea to marauding river pirates, after they had hit her on the head, has become an iconic and defining incident in her life. It is no surprise that several contributors independently chose to mention this remarkable act of forgiveness, which exemplified both her love for others and her cool head in a crisis.

I was delighted when Stuart Piggin offered to write a chapter on the manuscript annotations in Howard Mowll’s Bibles, which rounds out the volume very nicely. The study of annotations in books is a rich source of information on how an individual interacted with the text of their books, and the marginal notes in Howard’s ‘Chaldercot Bible’ in particular give a fascinating insight into his personal spirituality.

One of the main concerns for the contributors was the lack of primary sources. In fact, the process of researching the Mowlls’ lives has provided very useful information for future researchers on the gaps in the source material. Notably, it has established the true fate of the papers from Archbishop Mowll’s office at Bishopscourt. They were not destroyed on Mowll’s orders, as was previously thought, but due to the independent and reprehensible actions of one of his secretaries. Both Howard’s and Dorothy’s diaries are no longer in existence, and Michael Gladwin has discovered the lack of sources relating to Mowll in the archives of Wycliffe College, Toronto. As well as examining the historical impact of the Mowlls’ ministry,

I hope this book can help to emphasise the importance of preserving archival sources, and the impediments to historical research caused when this is neglected or impeded.


Erin Mollenhauer is Senior Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at the Donald Robinson Library at Moore Theological College in Sydney. She was the convenor and organizer of the Library Day in 2021 from which the present volume of essays arises.

Views expressed in blogs published by the Latimer Trust are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Latimer Trust.



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