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Shevill, Ian Wotton Allnutt (1917–1988)

by Alex Kidd

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

Ian Wotton Allnutt Shevill (1917-1988), Anglican bishop, was born on 11 May 1917 at Broken Hill, New South Wales, son of Victorian-born Erson James Shevill, engineer, and his English-born wife Gertrude Dorothy, née Allen.  The family moved to Sydney; Ian was educated at Scots College, where his interests lay in sports, writing and producing plays, the University of Sydney (BA, 1939; MA, 1945), Moore Theological College (Th.L., 1939) and the Australian College of Theology (Th.D., 1953).  Made deacon (1940), he was appointed curate at St Paul’s Church of England, Burwood, and the following year was ordained priest.  While at Burwood he founded the Anglican Truth Society, producing booklets and pamphlets on the Christian faith.  Organising secretary of the Australian Board of Missions for the province of Queensland in 1946-47, he travelled widely in Queensland and the Territory of Papua-New Guinea.

Shevill moved to London in 1948 when he was appointed metropolitan secretary of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.  Joining the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts as secretary for education a few months later, he founded the 'World Venturers' youth movement.  In 1949-51 he was assistant-priest at All Saints’ mission, Pentonville.  He wrote a thesis on Japanese culture and history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, but did not proceed to a degree.  In 1951 he returned to Australia as home secretary of the ABM, in Sydney, remaining in the post until 1953.

On 19 April that year, in St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, Shevill was consecrated bishop for the diocese of North Queensland, based at Townsville.  Aged 36, he became known as the 'boy bishop'.  He breathed new life into a diocese that was bankrupt and short of clergy.  Early in his episcopate he went to the United States of America, where he learned the techniques of planned giving.  He greatly improved diocesan finances and instigated a building crusade.  In February 1963 he raised funds for the Townsville diocese through a fund-raising 'mission from down under' at St George’s Church, Schenectady, New York, and at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  During his seventeen years in the diocese staff doubled in number, sixteen new churches were built, six new parishes were established, St Ann’s School was moved, St Mark’s College established at James Cook University of North Queensland, an appeal to build the Good Shepherd Hospice was launched and the Cathedral building was completed.  He travelled extensively overseas, and attended Lambeth conferences in London in 1958 and 1968 and the Anglican Congress in Toronto in 1963.

On 12 December 1959 at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Bishopsbourne, Brisbane, Shevill had married June Stephenson, an English medical missionary whom he had met in New Guinea.  In 1970 his wife died and he accepted the post of general secretary to the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London; he was also appointed assistant-bishop of London.  He visited South America in 1971 and the next year fourteen dioceses of the provinces of South and Central Africa and Tanzania.  In 1973 he attended the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Dublin.

Returning to Australia, Shevill was enthroned on 6 August 1973 as bishop of Newcastle, New South Wales, in Christ Church Cathedral.  Surrounding himself with people with professional expertise in the fields of administration, fund-raising, religious life and spirituality, he set about reorganising the diocese.  He launched an appeal for the completion of the cathedral, built a 'cathedral close' to give senior clergy the opportunity of worshipping and living together, and developed the diocesan theological college of St John at Morpeth.  He also continued to write articles for the press and to appear on radio and television, and, in 1975, conducted rallies in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia for the Church Missionary Society.

On 1 August 1974 Shevill married Margaret Ann Brabazon, a company secretary, at Bishopscourt Chapel, Darling Point, Sydney.  In 1976 he was appointed AO.  Having suffered a severe stroke early in 1977, he resigned his see in September.  He retired to Brisbane and took up a new ministry:  he wrote extensively; published his weekly 'Meditations' in the Sunday Mail; broadcast on radio; and assisted at services in suburban churches.  He also opened a weekly office called 'The Bishop Listens' and taught English to migrants.

Shevill wrote two volumes of autobiography, Half Time (1966) and Between Two Sees (1988), in which he documented his life and philosophy.  Despite his training at Moore College, he belonged to the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England.  Often controversial, he criticised the 'wowserish puritan image' of the church while rejecting permissiveness.  He advocated caution on the issues of re-marriage after divorce and the ordination of women and urged the hierarchy not to move ahead of the broader Anglican community.  A remarkably dynamic churchman, he was involved in Anglican affairs worldwide over a long period.  He died on 3 November 1988 at Auchenflower and was cremated.  His wife and the two sons of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 4 August 1970, p 2
  • Sunday Truth (Brisbane), 27 September 1970, p 27
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 August 1977, p 20
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 6 November 1988, p 26
  • Sun (Brisbane), 8 November 1988, p 14
  • Shevill papers (Brisbane Anglican Diocesan Archives)
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Alex Kidd, 'Shevill, Ian Wotton Allnutt (1917–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/shevill-ian-wotton-allnutt-15486/text26701, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 November 2019.

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

View the front pages for Volume 18

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