The first Anglican chaplains came to Australia as the convict settlement was being formed, from 1788.
Bishops, clergy and Anglican lay men and women played a prominent role in the development of Sydney and surrounds, and thus influenced the colony and what was to become the nation of Australia.
Among of the first church leaders in Sydney were Richard Johnson (chaplain to the first fleet) and Samuel Marsden (who held both civic and religious posts). These men were products of the Evangelical Revival in England of the later eighteenth century. It was the Yorkshire MP William Wilberforce, famous for his heroic fight to abolish the slave trade, who recruited Johnson as chaplain to the convicts and soldiers of the original Botany Bay penal settlement.
Samuel Marsden achieved considerable success as a missionary to the Maoris in New Zealand.
In the years that followed some strong bishops such as Frederic Barker (1855-1882) and in the twentieth century Archbishops Wright (1909-1933) and Mowll(1934-1958) had a significant influence on the city of Sydney and helped establish and consolidate the conservative Protestant Evangelical character of the Anglican church in Sydney and surrounds.
Sydney Anglicans have always had strong links with the Church Missionary Society, with its worldwide outreach, such as to the Diocese of Central Tanzania, and Aboriginal missions in North Australia, and with the Bush Church Aid Society which ministers in many remote parts of Australia.
The theological training provided by Moore Theological College in Newtwown has, especially since Archdeacon T C Hammond was appointed Principal in 1935, strengthened Sydney's tradition of strong evangelical conviction and scholarship amongst the majority of its clergy. Moore is the largest theological college in Australia with a significant number of full time resident students and hundreds more as external students, including enrolments from 31 overseas countries.
The 1959 Crusade by evangelist Billy Graham had a marked impact on Sydney and especially on Sydney Anglicans, who were in the forefront of support for the event. A young Peter Jensen, who would eventually become Archbishop of Sydney, was among those who decided to follow Jesus at that crusade.
Today, the diocese stretches from Lithgow in the west, to Ulladulla in the South and Norfolk Island in the east and provides a network of more than 250 parishes and over 400 local churches.