An Enigmatic Life: David Broughton Knox – Father of Contemporary Sydney Anglicanism

Marcia Cameron


David Broughton Knox, principal of Moore College, Sydney from 1959–1985, remains a major influence in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney a decade after his death. Broughton Knox presided over the training of more than a thousand students, who have changed the nature of Evangelical Anglicanism in Sydney. Among his achievements are the raising of academic standards at Moore College and shaping its curriculum, the purchase of strategic real estate that has enabled Moore to grow, and the growth of its library into the largest theological collection in Australia.

A dearly loved husband, and to many a wise and approachable mentor, counsellor and friend, he was nonetheless a controversial figure in college and diocesan affairs. Marcia Cameron provides us with a fascinating insight into both the domestic and public life of Broughton Knox, demonstrating the considerable achievements of this enigmatic man who inspired such a wide range of reactions in others.

DBK & Ailsa

Broughton Knox and his wife, Ailsa

Marcia Cameron, a former English-History teacher, is the author of S.C.E.G.G.S. A centenary history of Sydney Church of England Grammar School and Living Stones, St Swithun’s Pymble 1901–2001. Her 1999 doctoral thesis, entitled ‘Aspects of Anglican Theological Education’, examined Moore College and three other theological colleges, from 1900 to 1940.

A lifelong Anglican and active member of her local church, St Swithun’s Pymble, she preaches there regularly and is responsible for the leadership of a flourishing women’s Bible study and the teenage confirmation program. Currently she is a Sydney representative on the Anglican General Synod and a Board member of Robert Menzies College, Macquarie University. Her interests include reading, theatre and opera, walking her dog and long lunches with friends. She is married to Neil and has four adult children.

Review by Bp Robert Forsyth, Southern Cross, August 2006:

‘This well written book is a significant one for us in the Diocese of Sydney for two reasons. t is a new kind of biography. An Enigmatic Life breaks away from the somewhat two-dimensional picture of Christian leaders which has been our ustom in Sydney Diocesan biography to date. It takes a mature and confident people to be able to look at the good and bad side of their heroes and to see them as complex human beings. An Enigmatic Life certainly does this with its subject, the principal of Moore College from 1959 until 1985, David Broughton Knox. Given the kind of man DB Knox was, any attempt to do anything less than that would have made the book completely ineffective.

The second reason why this is such a significant biography is that the subject was, and in many ways continues to be, a very important character in the diocese of Sydney.

The subtitle The Father of Modern Sydney Anglicanism portrays Marcia Cameron’s belief about Knox’s significance. His impact, particularity on significant generations of clergy, has been profound. I think that Knox has had more to do with the way Sydney Anglicanism is today than any other single figure.

This is not to say that he is universally admired. By letting many voices be heard in the narrative (including Broughton Knox himself) An Enigmatic Life presents us with a complex man who is, for many, greatly loved and for others, disliked. Either way hard to ignore. A bit like Sydney Anglicanism itself really.

Dr Cameron’s style makes every event accessible and interesting. Her extensive use of interviews and private papers in the preparation of the biography means that the book is very well researched, and full of vivid detail. I am sure that it contains much that is made public for the first time. Like, for example, Knox’s war time experience being shelled on a ship standing of Normandy.

The figure of David Broughton Knox that emerges from An Enigmatic Life is of a man indeed with limits and weaknesses and yet who is capable of remarkable clarity on key questions of the faith of the Christian, the nature of church and strategically prescient on the future of theological training.

I thoroughly recommend An Enigmatic Life. Whether, like me, you knew and loved ‘DBK’ or whether you (surprisingly) have never heard of him until now this book will richly repay careful reading.’

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