Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pekoe Pips: A Legacy

My approach to Christian faith is shaped by my upbringing, both in household, local parish and involvement in the Christian Unions of the Universities of Canterbury and Otago. The shape of this evangelical approach was influenced by a number of clergy, beginning with my father (the writer of the article below) and including our vicar in the Parish of Bryndwr when we arrived there in 1971, Dick Carson (one Orange Pip). But my father was a Bible Class member in the Parish of Spreydon when Roger Thompson (another Orange Pip) was its Vicar. Though senior in life, both Roger Thompson and Harry Thomson (an Orange Pip) were memorable models in my own youth, along with other Pips mentioned below. One of them, Maurice Goodall, as then Bishop of Christchurch took a punt when he encouraged me to offer for ordination. In various ways then, Canon William Orange (whom I do not personally remember - he died when I was six) has influenced people who have influenced me. In two sentences below (italicised by me) the whole of my biblical hermeneutics is summed up. The article has recently been published in our local diocesan magazine, Anglican Life. (Not yet online).

Fruitful Orange Pips

One of the most influential parish ministries in the 150 year history of the Christchurch Diocese was that of a man who never held high office or was renowned for his charismatic personality. The man was Canon William Orange (or ‘Pekoe’ – after the English tea).

Canon Orange

Of slight stature, conservative and precise in dress and style akin to Hercule Poirot, softly spoken, and in many ways quite unworldly, William Orange was Vicar of Sumner 1930-45, then later Precentor at Christ Church Cathedral. But over this time his preaching and teaching, complemented by his personal mentoring, led to dozens offering themselves for ordination, and many others for missionary service overseas..

At Sumner he built up a Sunday afternoon young men’s Bible Class of more than 40, some drawn locally from his parish, but most cycling out week by week from the City. The fare they came for was invariably plain and undecorated – an hour of Bible teaching, the systematic working through of one book of the Old or New Testament before moving on to another. This was followed by a prayer meeting and light meal before concluding with Evening Prayer where the sermon was also consistently bible exposition. In time, those who regularly attended his Bible Class were referred to jocularly as ‘Orange Pips’. Many of these same Orange Pips were in turn to emulate their mentor’s style of ministry and produce similarly fruitful ministries.

There were few peculiarities in Pekoe’s style. He allowed the Scriptures to speak for themselves, but in such a way that held people in rapt attention absorbing his teaching. There were no histrionics, no ear-tingling oratory – just the opening up of the Scriptures with clarity to reveal the depth of their significance, then relating this in practical terms to the world of that day. The experience of those present was like that shared by the two disciples on their way to Emmaus:
Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?

His students welcomed his insights into the way Christ and his salvation was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. Pekoe often reminded his students, ‘The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.’ There were many ‘Orangeisms’ which those who sat at his feet still recall with appreciation. ‘Interpret any single passage of Scripture in the light of the teaching of Scripture as a whole. Therefore always read widely as well as closely.’ Pekoe also had delight in quoting the astute comment of Mark Twain: ‘It is not the things I cannot understand in the Bible which trouble me, but the things I can understand.’ One of the strengths of his appeal was his subtle sense of humour, selectively introduced to lighten his teaching and enliven his students.

The Orange Pips

Among the Sumner first generation Orange Pips were a number who in later decades would make their own mark in the Diocese or in the Church overseas. Max Wiggins would become a Bishop in Tanganyika, Roger Thompson would have a fruitful ministry at St Martins (Spreydon), Harry Thomson would become the first full-time General Secretary of NZ CMS after a notable ministry at Woolston, Dick Carson would serve many years in Pakistan before returning to parish ministry in Christchurch, and David Aiken likewise would distinguish himself as a missionary in Pakistan before a role as a Bible College teacher in Auckland. Peter Tovey would also serve his best days as a CMS missionary in the Sind, Harvey Teulon and Graham Lamont would become Vicars of parishes in the diocese, Maurice Betteridge would teach at College House before parish ministry in Christchurch and Dunedin Dioceses and later becoming Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne.

Maurice Goodall was to have an outstanding ministry as Vicar of Shirley before roles as City Missioner, Dean and Bishop. Lester Pfankuch and Robert Glen would also be ordained. Others in that Sumner Bible Class would take secular paths, none-the-less making an impact in their various vocations, such as Edwin Judge who would become Professor of Ancient History at Macquarrie University in Australia. 

Roger Thompson

As Vicar of Spreydon (1946-60) Roger Thompson was the immediate successor to Canon Orange, following his mentor’s style and substance closely. His ministry also focussed on a Sunday afternoon 4 pm Bible Class for young men and now (note) women, once again followed by a light tea, prayer meeting and Evening Prayer.  But an extra factor was built in – an after-service gathering at the Vicarage for a fellowship hour. 

Numbers steadily built up to a point where the old 75-seater church was regularly full at 4 pm each Sunday. The same sense of eager anticipation of each week’s study was as much a feature of this second generation bible teaching ministry as it had been the mark of Canon Orange’s seed-sowing pattern at Sumner. And the fruit of this ministry was to be similar also.

Those fifteen years of ministry at Spreydon produced 38 members of the Sunday Bible Class, men and women, who went on to be ordained (three of whom later became bishops), and 35 who responded to the missionary call. At a reunion of former St Martin’s Bible Class members in 1992, 120 came from around New Zealand and overseas to recall the formative role of this Bible Class in their lives.

Harry Thomson

In Woolston across the other side of the city through this same post-war period another Orange Pip was having a similarly fruitful ministry, following the same principles learned from Canon Orange, but with some different emphases and outcomes.

Harry Thomson’s passion was overseas missions, particularly CMS. It is not surprising therefore that his efforts in the end led not so much to vocations to ordained ministry in this country as to missionary service beyond our shores. For some years he combined a part-time CMS organising role with his responsibilities as Vicar of Woolston. Nor is it surprising that many of the missionaries sent or supported overseas during this decade were fellow Orange Pips (eg Max Wiggins, David Aiken, Lester Pfankuch, Peter Tovey, Dick Carson, Robert Glen). By 1961 it was evident that the CMS task needed full commitment and Harry Thomson left his parish role to become the first General Secretary.

Also from that time the fruits of the Orange Pip ministries of Harry Thomson, Roger Thompson and others now in parish ministry began revealing themselves in a growing number of second and even third generation Orange Pips discerning a call to missionary service. Most of these had also been significantly nurtured in faith and a vocation to some form of Christian service through their involvement in a youth branch of CMS, the League of Youth - encouraged by Harry Thomson and supported ardently by other Orange Pips. A vibrant programme of monthly meetings, periodic weekend house parties and annual Easter Camps often featured first or second generation Orange Pips as speakers or bible study leaders. 

An Appreciation of Canon Orange

William Orange had been brought to conscious faith as a lad of 10 during a parish mission in Kaikoura. Some years later, in another parish mission, he experienced a turning point in life where he committed himself to the service of Christ. In his 1911 diary he wrote:
My great ambition is that love for Jesus may become the one absorbing passion of my life.
Ordained in 1919, he served a curacy at Sydenham followed by a locum at Fendalton before becoming Vicar of Waikari (1924-30). After his years at Sumner he was briefly based at Tyndale House, Cashmere, before becoming Precentor at the Cathedral as his last appointment. He died in 1966 and is buried in the Avonside Churchyard.

Dean Martin Sullivan in his book Watch How You Go, reviewing Orange’s ministry, made the claim that his ‘ability to inspire others to enter the ordained ministry was unparalleled in any other New Zealand churchman’.  This did not always please the Anglican hierarchy! In 1934 Canon Parr, the Principal of College House, complained to Bishop West-Watson that four of the six new ordinands were “men put up by Orange”.

Pekoe himself was averse to labelling fellow clergy through a perception of their theological views. In his own words, ‘labels too easily become libels’.

                                                          - Brian Carrell


Further reading:  For an excellent and recently published detailed survey of this period see Stuart M Lange, A Rising Tide, Evangelical Christianity in New Zealand, 1930-65, Otago University Press, 2013.

I am grateful to my father for supplying the text. I am currently in the process of reading the book mentioned just above for review for Stimulus. 

One note struck above concerns humour. In my own evangelical upbringing there was always laughter as many jokes were told and many riffs on the quirks of life and faith were shared. In contrast to some aspects of evangelicalism today (at least as I read around the world) which seem dourly serious and seriously dour, I look back fondly on my upbringing in the life of the church. We had fun. I suppose, theologically speaking I should describe that as 'joy.' 


hogsters said...

And the fruitfulness of expository preaching and teaching still goes on.

I came back to faith under the teaching of Derek Eaton. After ten years searching spiritually, and occasionally visiting a church to be left wondering if the preacher believed what he was talking about, I heard Derek preach. The next morning I was at his door.

That marked a turning point in my life. Every week I would eagerly await the mid week teaching and two sunday sermons. I would later be ordained by Derek and now, following a bunch of years in parish ministry I seek to open the scriptures and present Christ to men inside as a prison chaplain.

I am not ashamed of the gospel it is the power of God for salvation for all who have faith.

The gospel captivated and captured me nearly 30 years ago. I am thankful to a whole bunch of people and many names in the list above have helped and influenced me.

I thank God for such people. I only wish there were more of them. Back in those years in Sumner I would literally sit on the edge of my seat waiting and expecting God to speak to me through his word.

To be honest I have yet to hear a preacher or teacher who has moved and inspired me as I was under that teaching of a pip of a pip of a pip.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter - a veritable who's who of names that I recall, either by acquaintance or (more often) by reputation.
Almost made me misty eyed!


Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for this inspiring commentary on a servant of God whose love of God so obviously flowed out into his students. This is the sort of love that is meant to renew and revive the Church in every age. He was a living expression of "The great love of God as revealed in the Son" - that can be easily by-passed in today's field of mission.

Anonymous said...

I knew none of these folks, but this story really blessed me.

Tim C.

Anonymous said...

The gospel that William Orange taught all those years, and which his followers taught in turn, would be complete anathema to liberals today. He took the Bible in all serious as the inspired, inerrant word of God, and was strongly committed to the Thirty-Nine Articles. He had no time for modern theology.


Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Martin. The Gospel message of Love to all God's children has not changed. It is, sadly, sometimes narrowed down by narrow minds.

Your mind-reading view of Orange theology may convince some, but others of us give him credit for a more inclusive view of the Gospel than you might suppose.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Martin and Ron

As an aside on the course of your comments, the Stuart Lange book mentioned in the post, telling a fuller story of evangelicalism in NZ churches, 1930 to 1965, makes the point that Willie Orange's inimitable approach to teaching from the Bible, heavily laced as it was with allegorical readings, did not always find favour with other evangelicals (e.g. within the Inter Varsity Fellowship) who felt that Bible teaching should be shaped more by doctrine than by (in their eyes) an idiosyncratic method of interpretation (at least of some details in Scripture).

Anonymous said...

William Orange was no liberal, which is what is usually meant by the code words "more inclusive". This is a matter of record which calls for no "mind-reading", just the ordinary kind of reading. Read his writings and what the Latimer Fellowship said about him; don't project.
The "allegorical readings" which I wouldn't find convincing either (e.g. seeing Jesus in Genesis, OT numerology or reading the Song of Songs in an allegorical way) were common enough in the early church and the Middle Ages, and were favoured by people influenced by the Biblicism of the Brethren. They don't take a preacher in a liberal direction either; they just press the OT to mean more than it probably did. They don't affect doctrine.


Anonymous said...

"Narrow minds"?????????????


Ok, I am well and truly sick of this Peter, and time has run out. The rest of your readers should not have to put up with this, not at all. STOP SUBJECTING US TO HATRED AND INSULTS.

For gooodness sake stop the Ron and Kurt cricus! The rest of us cannot engage in worthwhile discussion so long as we have to put up with this constant stream of insults and evil from these two. One refuses to stop insulting anyone who does not agree with what passes for theology in his mind, and the post above proves that your moderation is failing badly. The other justifies genocide and the deliberate mass starvation of millions!

Why, why, why do we have to put up with this crap, some of downright evil, on a Christian blog? WHY?

For goodness sake, BAN THEM!!!!!

Or find someone else to do the moderation. Clearly you cannot.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
Please read very carefully what I am about to write: not everything written as a general comment is an insult to specific people.

When Ron above wrote about narrow minds he uttered a general observation which is true as far as it goes (i.e. there are narrow minds which narrow down the scope of the love of God).

Why does this need to be read as an insult when no specific individual or set of individuals is named as doing the narrowing?

As moderator it gets pretty difficult if I am expected to moderate general truisms on the basis that someone somewhere might read into the truism a specified insult against themselves.

Ron's virtue on this sight is to remind readers of the breadth of the love of God. But he does not have a monopoly on that virtue and any commenter here is welcome to remind us of the breadth of the love of God.

As I have tried to point out above, there were narrow minded folk in William Orange's day who tried to suppress his message. The Stuart Lange book points out that some such were fellow evangelicals. Elsewhere in the book senior clergy of our diocese were also out to suppress the Orange message (or at least limit its influence).

For what it is worth, I have been deleting a number of Ron's comments lately ... but I am prepared to let the one you object to stand, but on the basis that it expresses a truism. Not on the basis that it expresses an insult which sneaks past my radar.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
I do not mind publishing criticism of me; I do mind publishing comments which read things into comments which are not actually said, or make an inference that when a commenter says one things he or she means another. Accordingly:

"Oh please Peter, thats utter crap. [] Get a grip and stop making excuses. "

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that Ron was not the first commentator on this thread to turn what had up until that point been a non-partisan celebration of a man's ministry into one more attack against people we disagree with.

Ron and I have our differences, but let's be fair here. And I'm sorry, but the choice not to take offence is always available to Christians.

Tim C.

Anonymous said...


Ron is a one issue man. With rare exceptions everything he says is in related to that issue. When he makes comments like this, it is plain what he means. The rest of us are narrow minded for not agreeing with his take on marriage and sexuality. The issue is not, as Tim says, about attacking others views. I happy for my views to be attacked. I'm not happy to be called phobic, a hater, or in this case narrow minded.

Your right, nobody has to read your blog, but that is hardly a reasonable response. It is just another excuse for inflicting Ron's insults on us.

For a year I have asked you to do something about that, and you have repeatedly promised you would. Yet nothing has changed. You dug this hole yourself by inflicting Ron's insults on us, then promising to do something about it. Don't blame me or anyone else, even Ron for that matter. If you had no real intentions of acting to stop the insults, then why promise that you were?

Your reacting with petulance. It's your fault, not ours.

Don't make promises you have no intention of keeping, and then blame your failure on the rest of us. Stand by what you say. Deal with it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn

I am trying not to be petulant but if petulance is coming through then petulant I am.

Can I be clearer than perhaps I have been?

(a) I am not banning anybody here because others recommend I do so. The only banning will be if I decide to do so. (As a matter of fact a whole series of robot produced comments have been banned :) ).

(b) I am deleting comments which are not worthy of this blog. That is good enough for me.

(c) I am moderating (i.e redacting) comments to a degree where the time is being ill spent by me.

(d) The problem is more simply solved by deleting comments than by banning a commenter or commenters.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Some fine sentiments here and some excision needed:

"Thank you, Peter. I, for one, now appreciate your even-handedness on your own blog. []

[] For my faults, I express my regret. I will take a few days off from commenting, to let things cool off