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Early Australian Baptists
The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881

The earliest mention in official reports of the churches founded by the Baptists in Australia is in the appendix to the account of the session of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, held in London, April 19-24, 1844. It is there stated that the following churches had been established: Sydney, 3; Port Jackson, 1: Port Philip, 1; Van Diemen's Land, 2; South Australia, 2; in all, nine churches. The number of members does not appear, and probably was very small, the colonies being then in their infancy. During the next twenty years the population of the several colonies greatly increased, and the steady stream of immigration from the mother-country strengthened the existing churches and promoted the formation of others. In 1865 the official report of the Baptist Union stated that there were 26 churches in Australia and 2 in New Zealand, nearly all of them having pastors. The 2 churches in Melbourne reported an aggregate membership of 727, but most of the others were small, only 1 besides having more than 100 members. During the next few years some efforts were made in England to secure for the Australian field the services of ministers of superior training and ability, and the principal cities were supplied with pastors whose presence and efforts gave an impetus to denominational growth. In 1874 there were 22 churches in New South Wales, 10 in Queensland, 41 in South Australia, 51 in Victoria, 14 in New Zealand, 3 in Tasmania, or Van Diemen's Land. The population of Victoria was 731,538, and the aggregate Baptist membership about 1700. From the Baptist Union report for the present year (1880) it appears that much has been done in later years to consolidate and unify the denomination. Scarcely any of the Australian churches are unassociated, and societies for promoting missions in foreign countries, for succoring weak churches, and for educating students for the ministry are in regular working order. The Victorian Association reports 34 churches, with a membership of 2636, and 19 branch schools and stations, 367 Sunday-school teachers, and 3880 scholars. Besides a home mission, this Association supports several native missionaries in India. The South Australian Association has 38 churches and 5 preaching stations, 21 preachers engaged in ministerial work, and 2311 members. The New South Wales Baptist Union reports 14 churches and 4 stations, 716 members, 1035 Sunday-school scholars, 118 teachers, and it circulates a denominational paper. The Queensland Association has 21 churches and stations, 729 members, 10 pastors, not including 6 German Baptist churches, with a membership of about 300. In New Zealand there is 1 Association in the south of the island, with 7 churches, and there are about twice as many unassociated. The aggregate membership is 1450, with 15 ministers. No progress appears to have been made in Tasmania, the report showing the existence of only 3 churches, but giving no statistics. The total number of Baptist churches in Australia may be given approximately as 127, with 87 ministers and 7700 members. In the leading cities the church edifices are large and elegant, that in Collins Street, Melbourne, accommodating 1050 persons. The largest metnbership is reported by the Hinders Street church, Adelaide, namely, 474. Two of the Melbourne churches report more than 400 members in each.

[From William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; rpt. 1988, p. 50. -- jrd]

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