Archbishop Kanishka Raffel has paid tribute to Australia’s first Indigenous Bishop, Arthur Malcolm, who has passed away at the age of 87.

Bishop Malcolm was born at Yarrabah in Queensland and began training as a Church Army Officer in New South Wales where he completed a Certificate course in Evangelism in 1959. He served in Victoria and at Brewarrina in New South Wales) before returning to Yarrabah in 1974 as Chaplain.  As well as ministering to his people at Yarrabah he had responsibility for Anglicans on Palm Island.

In an historic move, he was consecrated Bishop with special responsibility to Aboriginal people in 1985 – the first Aboriginal Bishop in Australia.

His historic leadership of Indigenous Christians, pointing us all to an everlasting homeland, paved the way for generations to follow

His influence and ministry led to the public apology from the Anglican Church to Aboriginal people in 1988.

At St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australian Anglican Bishops led by the Primate, Sir John Grindrod, delivered an apology to Bishop Malcolm, saying “My brother in Christ: …May I express on behalf of all non-Aboriginal people of our church profound sorrow for the suffering that your people have had to endure, with its violence and hurt. We humbly ask God’s forgiveness; and we seek your forgiveness as a leader of your people, for the actions of the past and those causing hurt at the present time. We have longed to share with your people the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We confess our endeavour has often fallen short of his love.”

In turn, Bishop Malcolm said “My brother in Christ: For a long time we have been hurting…but it is through the message of Jesus Christ that we have learned to forgive.  We have received this forgiveness, and now in turn we must also forgive.”  

Archbishop Raffel called Bishop Malcolm’s passing ‘a great sadness’ and recalled his pioneering ministry.

“His historic leadership of Indigenous Christians, pointing us all to an everlasting homeland, paved the way for generations to follow,” the Archbishop said. "We express our condolences to his family and his people and thank God for his example of gracious, humble and faithful service. Home with the Lord.”

The Archbishop also commended the prayer for reconciliation, written by Bishop Malcolm and his wife Colleen. 

Lord God,
Bring us together as one.
Reconciled with you and
reconciled with each other.
You made us in your likeness;
You gave us your son, Jesus Christ.
He has given us forgiveness from sin.

Lord God,
Bring us together as one.
Different culture, but
given new life in Jesus Christ;
Together as one, your body,
your church, your people.

Lord God,
Bring us together one.
Reconciled, healed, forgiven,
Sharing you with others,
as you have called us to do.
In Jesus Christ,
let us be together as one.

Main photo: Bishop Malcolm with Archbishop Grindrod in St Andrew’s Cathedral - Ramon Williams, Worldwide Photos