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Vogt, Arthur Erwin (1907–1987)

by P. A. Howell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Arthur Erwin Vogt (1907-1987), Methodist minister and social worker, was born on 9 May 1907 at Kapunda, South Australia, elder son of Nathaniel Alfred Vogt, blacksmith, and his wife Anna Hulda, née Preuss, both Australian-born. Though Alfred had been a Moravian and Hulda Lutheran, they had joined Kapunda Methodist Church. After attending local primary and high schools, Erwin trained for the Methodist ministry at Wesley College, Adelaide (L.Th., 1931), then served as probationary minister at Karoonda and Alawoona. Ordained in March 1933, Vogt became minister at Wudinna then, in 1935, at Berri. On 8 April 1933 at Riverton Methodist Church he had married Alma Clara Schultz.

In 1938 Vogt was transferred to Port Pirie, an industrial town with widespread unemployment and alcohol-related problems. Over 2500 of its residents were self-described Methodists but few were churchgoers. The collections at Sunday services yielded only about £11 per month, prompting Vogt to institute a planned-giving program. In 1941 destruction by fire of the Central Methodist Mission hall and a major flood increased the challenge. The South Australia Methodist Conference executive committee granted Vogt permission to conduct a State-wide appeal. This revealed his preaching ability to many who had not previously heard him and put the Port Pirie Central Mission on a sounder footing.

Appointed in 1943 to the middle-class congregation of Gartrell Memorial Church at Rose Park, Adelaide, Vogt encountered resistance to his style of preaching, including cautions against narrowness and intolerance. In 1946 he became director of the South Australian Methodists’ Thanksgiving Memorial Crusade, inaugurated to raise money (£50,000 in total) for various church projects. For three years ‘he criss-crossed the state, conducting teaching missions and ministers’ retreats, speaking at public rallies, and preaching at hundreds of services’. His success led to his appointment as federal director (1949-51) of the nationwide (Methodist) Crusade for Christ. In both roles his evangelism inspired religious conversions and revealed his increasing emphasis on social issues.

Vogt was appointed superintendent of the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission in 1952. At the same time he was elected chairman of directors of radio stations 5KA Adelaide, 5AU Port Augusta-Whyalla, and 5RM in the Riverland, all majority owned by the Methodist Church. His evening service at the Mission’s Maughan Church was broadcast on those stations. Welcoming the ecumenical movement but expecting it would develop slowly, he built boldly. In the 1960s the century-old Maughan Church was replaced by an octagonal, twenty-four-gabled new one that remains Adelaide’s most striking expression of the revolutionary movement in ecclesiastical architecture promoted by Michael Scott. It was adjoined by a four-storey office block, a large meeting hall, rooms for Sunday schools, underground parking and accommodation for station 5KA and new mission activities including a crèche and a crypt with facilities for the homeless. During his eighteen years as superintendent, Vogt greatly increased the mission’s social outreach, transforming its approach to rehabilitation and aged care. Kuitpo (pronounced ‘Kypo’) Colony, 44 miles (71 km) south of Adelaide, which had been founded in the Depression to give work to jobless men, was turned into an alcoholics’ rehabilitation centre with trained professional staff. Vogt then established hostels in Adelaide, where those emerging from Kuitpo could live while being reintegrated into the general workforce. He also transformed a home for old men at Felixstow into Aldersgate Village. Dormitory-style accommodation was replaced by small flats and units, enabling male and female residents to live independently.

Vogt chaired the committee that prepared for the Billy Graham crusade in Adelaide in May 1959, organising buses to bring people from distant places, and ensuring that the public sessions were relayed live throughout the State. In conjunction with the South Australian Association for Mental Health, of which he was a member, he set up Lifeline in 1963, a round-the-clock telephone counselling service for people in emergency situations. He was the service’s first national chairman and became an executive member of Lifeline International. Remaining convinced of the value of mass media in proclaiming the gospel, from 1958 to 1972 Vogt served as a director of Television Broadcasters Ltd, which established Adelaide’s first television station (ADS Channel 7).

Prominent in denominational affairs, Vogt was president (1957-58) of the South Australia Methodist Conference and chairman (1952-71) of the State’s Council of Charitable Relief Organisations. He was appointed OBE in 1963. After retiring in 1971 he continued to serve as a preacher and consultant. Chubby, and always cheerful in manner, Vogt possessed ‘prodigious energy’. In 1986 he and Alma moved to Aldersgate Village. Survived by her and their two daughters, Vogt died there on 24 November 1987 and was buried in Dudley Park cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • A. D. Hunt, This Side of Heaven (1985)
  • B. Dickey (ed), Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography (1994)
  • Voigt/Vogt in Australia 1855-2000 (2001)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 8 June 1963, p 3, 25 Nov 1987, p 9
  • SRG 4/78 files 13, 15-17 (State Library of South Australia)
  • B. Radford, interview with E. Vogt (typescript, 1973, State Library of South Australia)
  • private information

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Citation details

P. A. Howell, 'Vogt, Arthur Erwin (1907–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/vogt-arthur-erwin-15917/text27118, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 18 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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