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The Reverend Dr. Gordon Powell AM.MA.BD, c. 1986

Donald Cameron

oil on composition board (frame: 104.8 cm x 91.3 cm, support: 80.0 cm x 66.5 cm)

Gordon Powell AM KCSJ (1911-2005) Presbyterian minister, broadcaster and writer, is regarded as one of the most influential Australian Presbyterians. Powell was educated at Scotch College and Ormond College, Melbourne, rowing for both. Having taken up a postgraduate scholarship to study theology in Glasgow, in 1935 he saw the 'Loch Ness monster'. Between 1941 and 1943 he was the preaching associate at Scots Church, Melbourne, the largest Presbyterian church in Australia. Having served as chaplain to Australian troops in New Guinea during World War 2, he published his first book, Two Steps to Tokyo (1945). In 1945 he began ministering at the Independent Church (which became St Michaels) across the road from Scots Church in Collins St Melbourne; there, he introduced Alcoholic Anonymous to Australia. At the age of 41 he moved to Sydney to mount the pulpit in St Stephens, Macquarie Street, where he regularly preached to more than a thousand listeners on Sundays and Wednesday lunchtimes. When Billy Graham came to Sydney in 1959 Powell was closely involved in the massive tour. In 1953 he began his thirty years' broadcasting on the Christian Broadcasting Association. In 1954 he and his wife were chosen to sit beside the Queen at lunch on her Australian visit, and in 1960, on a visit of his own to the USA, he delivered the opening prayer in the US Senate. Powell's books and publications include The Secret of Serenity (1957), Release from Guilt and Fear (1961), The Joy of Doing Good on the Sly (1961), Difficult Sayings of Jesus (1962) and Happiness is a Habit (1963). Having ministered at Scots Church in Collins Street, Melbourne from 1966 to 1975, Powell resigned when his congregation voted to remain a continuing Presbyterian church instead of joining the Uniting Church. He moved to Quaker Hill, in Pawling, New York, and ministered there for the last seven years of his career, receiving an honorary doctorate from Pace University, New York. Having returned to Australia, late in life he co-edited John Dunmore Lang: Australia's Pioneer Republican (1999).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the Powell and Beynon families 2010

Accession number: 2010.117

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Donald Cameron (age 59 in 1986)

Gordon Powell AM KCSJ (age 75 in 1986)

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