The Right Reverend Dr John Wilson, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne’s Southern Region for nearly 22 years, retired on 18 March 2007 at a farewell service in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne Dr Philip Freier has paid tribute to Dr Wilson, thanking him for his many years of faithful and dedicated service to the Diocese. “The Diocese owes him a great debt of gratitude for his energy and drive, as well as the gifts of leadership, scholarship, preaching and pastoral care he has demonstrated over this time. He will be greatly missed.”
“I also want to thank him for his leadership of the Diocese both as Vicar General during the absences of the archbishop, and as Bishop Administrator in the interim period between Archbishop’s Watson’s retirement and my commencement. His chairmanship of two election synods during this period was exemplary and won the praise and admiration of all involved,” Dr Freier said.
Before his nomination by Archbishop David Penman to be a Regional Bishop, he was the Lecturer in Old Testament at Ridley College from 1973 until 1985. During that time he assisted in the parishes of St Hilary’s, Kew, St Michael’s, North Carlton, and St James, Old Cathedral. He had previously served in parishes in the Diocese of Armidale and in North Carolina.
He has always taken a strong interest in education and schools, and in the welfare work of the church. He was Chairman of Korowa Anglican Girls’ School Council for sixteen years. For many years he has been Chairman of the Board of Sponsors of Anglicare Dixon House in Clayton. He continues to work with the Melbourne Anglican Foundation to raise money especially for work among children, youth and families, for hospital chaplaincies, and to assist refugees.
Bishop Wilson helped to bring the Cursillo movement to Melbourne from the Diocese of Gippsland in 1993. He acted as the Episcopal Overseer of Melbourne Cursillo for ten years until 2003.
He has given strong support overseas mission and aid programmes. He is a member of the Federal Council of the Church Missionary Society of Australia. In 1989 he and Mrs Wilson were invited to spend a month in Tanzania by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika. In 2004 they were a part of a study team which spent a month in South India and in Sri Lanka, including he war-torn northern parts of the island.
He has a well-know interest in books and was largely responsible for the establishment of the Ridley College Bookshop. He also helped to found Acorn Press Ltd of which he is currently the Chairman. He was also an instigator of the Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards. He is the author of numerous articles and of a number of small Bible study books.
After leaving school he trained at Bathurst Teachers College and taught for three years in Papua New Guinea. He then came to Ridley College to prepare for ordination. He also holds degrees from the University of London, and from Yale and Duke Universities in the United States.
In recent years he has been Vicar General of the Diocese of Melbourne and became Administrator when Bishop Peter Watson retired. He chaired two meetings of Synod members to elect an Archbishop.
Bishop Wilson has always had the strong and able support of his wife Jill, who was for many years President of the Medical Mission Auxiliary which sends assistance to hospitals and schools in East Africa. Jill has been a speaker in churches across the Diocese. She was formerly a teacher of the deaf, a teacher in primary and secondary schools, and a media officer. While working for the Mission of St James and St John, she wrote a book on “Understanding Child Abuse”.
They moved to their retirement home in Berwick in 2005. They have two married daughters, one of whom lives in the United States. They love being the grandparents of Emma and Jack who live with their parents in Blackburn. John hopes to complete in 2007 a book on “Christianity alongside Islam”.