Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kennion, George Wyndham (1845–1922)

by J. R. Warner

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

George Wyndham Kennion (1845-1922), by unknown photographer, c1894

George Wyndham Kennion (1845-1922), by unknown photographer, c1894

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 25306

George Wyndham Kennion (1845-1922), Anglican bishop, was born on 5 September 1845 at Harrogate, Yorkshire, England, son of George Kennion (M.D. Edinb., 1837) and his wife Catherine Elfrida, daughter of T. J. Fordyce of Ayton Castle, Berwickshire; his grandfather Thomas was permanent curate of Harrogate from 1825 till he died in 1846. Kennion was educated at Eton and Oriel College, Oxford (B.A., 1867; M.A., 1871). Ordained deacon in 1869 he was chaplain to the bishop of Tuam in Ireland. In Yorkshire he was priested in 1870, diocesan inspector of schools in 1871-73, vicar of St Paul's, Sculcoates, in 1873-76 and vicar of All Saints, Bradford, in 1877-82.

At the request of the Adelaide synod a panel of English bishops selected Kennion to succeed Augustus Short. He was given an honorary doctorate of divinity at the University of Glasgow on 7 November 1882 and consecrated in Westminster Abbey on the 30th. On 5 December he married Henrietta, sister of Sir James Fergusson, governor of South Australia in 1869-73. On 7 March 1883 Kennion was enthroned in St Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide. He was soon at grips with the major problem of supplying a ministry to the growing suburbs of Adelaide. At his first synod in April he announced his plan for a voluntary society to finance this work, to help in country areas and to bring new clergymen into the diocese. An obscure subcommittee of synod for Home Missions became the Bishop's Home Mission Society, an imaginative move which not only raised the number of clergymen in the diocese from fifty to seventy-five but also provided a loan fund which helped to build sixty-two churches by 1894. Under Kennion's stimulus the numbers of communicants and lay readers doubled. With the paddle-boat Etona he initiated ministries serving the new settlers along the River Murray. He introduced the Sisters of the Church to the diocese in 1892, formed the Diocesan Board of Education and the Financial Board and organized the diocese into rural deaneries. He raised money for completing the cathedral and the foundation stone for the nave and towers was laid in 1890.

Kennion's relations with his clergy and synod were normally good and fruitful because he accepted readily the system of church government through voluntary synodal compact though it was new to him. He won repute for upholding constitutional forms but never quite understood the antipathy in South Australian society towards the established church. This misunderstanding, coupled with his firm Anglican convictions marred his relations with other denominations and frustrated his many attempts to have religious instruction introduced into state schools, and negated his tentative steps towards church unity.

Kennion had visited England in 1888-89 and in 1893. On the first trip he had refused appointment as coadjutor to the bishop of Durham. When Earl Rosebery, a contemporary at Eton and Oxford, offered him the bishopric of Bath and Wells some jealousy was aroused in English ecclesiastical circles, but Adelaide received his resignation on 1 September 1894 with equanimity. He did not take a leading part in church affairs in England on his return, but was remembered in his diocese as a true pastor and a just administrator, zealous for faith and order. At the University of Cambridge he lectured in pastoral theology in 1890 and was Ramsden Preacher in 1901. He had written the preface to Wells Office Book in 1896 and The Teaching of the Wells Millenary in 1909. His Courage, Sincerity, Faith (London, 1902) was a sermon preached at Christ Church, Mayfair, in commemoration of the death of General Gordon. After a serious illness he resigned his see in 1919 and died at Ayr on 19 May 1922.

Kennion was a popular figure, a hard worker and not a brilliant academic. He was a moderate high churchman and moderate in most things. He fitted the establishment, yet maintained a deep concern for the working man from his days at Bradford, preaching the Christian Socialism of men like Charles Gore. In Adelaide he founded Kennion Hall as a home for boys and had a special concern for newsboys. Vigour, humour and generosity marked the man: dignity, reaching to the austere, tempered with warm-hearted pastoral concern marked the bishop.

A portrait is in Bishop's Court, North Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian, 21 Apr, 17 Nov 1888, 13 May, 18 Nov 1893, 14 July, 10 Nov 1894
  • J. R. Warner, The Episcopate of George Wyndham Kennion (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1958).

Citation details

J. R. Warner, 'Kennion, George Wyndham (1845–1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kennion-george-wyndham-3946/text6215, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 28 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

George Wyndham Kennion (1845-1922), by unknown photographer, c1894

George Wyndham Kennion (1845-1922), by unknown photographer, c1894

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 25306