Geoffrey Bingham – poet, mystic, and fruitful evangelist

The following is an excerpt from the book Attending to the National Soul: Evangelical Christians In Australian History, 1914-2014 by Stuart Piggin and Robert D Linder published in 2019. Available from Koorong and Amazon. Excerpts republished by permission

An evangelical soldier who lived to reflect deeply on the spiritual implications of his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese [in World War II] was Geoff Bingham.

He was born in country NSW in 1919, the son of a prominent dentist. He came to faith in an unconventional manner, as he became aware of what he called ‘a Presence’ that seemed to be always with him. He began to attend an Anglican church and in his late teens decided to enroll in theological college, much against his father’s wishes.

He left Sydney’s Moore College after only one year to enlist in the School AIF in 1940. With the outbreak of the war with Japan in December 1941, he and his fellow Diggers found themselves confronting an overwhelming force of Japanese invaders on the Malay Peninsula.

By then he was Sergeant Bingham and a section leader. He was subsequently awarded the Military Medal for acts of outstanding bravery before his unit withdrew to Singapore Island for what was presumably to be their last stand in its defense.

It was while defending the northern part of the island that Bingham was badly wounded. After lying in pain for a day and part of a night, he was evacuated to a hospital and treated. After the surrender of all British forces to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, he was taken into Singapore city where his wound was cleansed of maggots, dressed, and his fractured bones reset.

Within a few days he was a resident of the War Camp at Changi. It was this place and, later, the equally infamous Kranji POW Camp, that were to be his home for the next three and a half years.

It was not only a deplorable situation to be in physically, a hell-hole of starvation and disease; it also ravaged the psych: ‘the humiliation of defeat, the early degrading of fighting men, the loss of Singapore, … the deeper humiliation of the Thailand experience, and the anger at separation from loved ones’.

Bingham recorded his disappointment not only with several of the chaplains, but also with himself. Was it or was it not all right to scrounge, perhaps sometimes steal, food in order to stay alive? He wrote: ‘I discovered that I very much wanted to live, and I was quite hungry. If being in rackets didn’t matter, then why hold back from being in them?’ Indeed, where was God amidst all the misery and suffering that now surrounded him – ‘starved daily for two years without a break’, as he put it?

Where was God? Bingham discovered that he was present to the suffering through the sufferings of his own Son. It was a presence which brought salvation, healing and hope, and enabled hitherto defeated and demoralized men to transcend their selfishness in the service of others. In Changi in 1943 he wrote the poem ‘Angel Wings’ which was to become a hymn sung in churches over six decades later:

Angel wings, beating my face,
Forcing me into grace.
Dear eyes, loving my soul,
Drawing me to the goal.
Strong Word, piercing my brain,
Bringing me holy shame.
Pain’s cry, welling within,
Lifting me out of sin.
Red hands, clotted with blood,
Thrusting me up to God.

Typical of the evangelical, perhaps, Bingham’s spirituality was intensely personal, but it resonated with some who formed with him a community of hope. Bingham and a handful of other prisoners became exceptionally close as they shared almost everything, including their food and their thoughts and spiritual concerns.

It was a community which transfused faith and hope into the wider prison community. It was a major factor in their survival, and it left Bingham with a settled conviction that spiritual renewal and revival were possible in every situation. As the members this close-knit spiritual community prepared to part and go their separate ways at the end of the way, a torrent of emotion swept over them. According to Bingham, ‘The British men grieved over the fact that they would not see us again’.

Toby Critoph, his close mate and one of their spiritual inner circle, spoke for them all when he said to Bingham: ‘What worries me is that you will go home, marry some girl and all your love will go to her and your children. Then you won’t love us as you do now. That’s fair enough. But we have never known the experience of love that we have had here’.

Bingham explained that most men would not have used the word ‘love’ to describe their relationship but that a great affection based on their common experiences and their close spiritual connection certainly had grown up among them. Bingham always struggled to describe this Christian community within the prison community – it was not, he insisted, a ‘clique’ because in addition to being an opportunity to deepen the spiritual life, it existed to serve those in most need who were not its members.

It was best described, he concluded, as a ‘community of love’, which he subsequently realized was what every local church should be.

Geoffrey Bingham, poet and mystic, was [also an] exceptionally fruitful evangelist. In the hell-hole of suffering as a POW he had witnessed the depths to which the depravity of humanity could sink, but he came to believe that the love of God in the cross of Christ could outreach it.

When subsequently counselling any who shared with him their deepest hurt, he would impulsively gather them in his arms and assure them vehemently that God had already dealt with it on the cross and that it need not imprison their spirits any longer.

Following the war, he returned to Moore College, was Senior Student in 1952 and received first class honours in the Licentiate of Theology (ThL). He discussed the East Africa Revival with Marcus Loane and others, and reflected on the foundation premise of Keswick theology, that the believer is ‘crucified with Christ’ (Galatians 2.20).

He read the works of Andrew Murray who infused the Reformed faith with the pietism of the Evangelical Revival. He studied Walter Marshall’s The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (1692) and discussed it with T.C. Hammond who declared that it was ‘spot on’, and Born Crucified (1945) written by L.E. Maxwell, an American fundamentalist.

He also studied the works of the church’s greatest theologian of revival, Jonathan Edwards. To synthesise such influences required a powerful intellect as well as a passionate heart, and Bingham seemed to be endowed with both as is evidenced not only by his preaching, but also by his literary and poetic output.

The Gospel, he taught, promised more than the forgiveness of sins. Through the cross, guilt is destroyed, and through the destruction of guilt, the power of sin is destroyed. Living in the freedom which results from the destruction of the penalty and power of sin is the holy life. From 1953 to 1956 each Sunday he packed out the Garrison Church, Miller’s Point, in Sydney.

The fires of revival fell: all-night prayer meetings just ‘went like a flash’. Remarkable scenes of revival accompanied his ministry in Pakistan where he served from 1957 to 1966 as a missionary with CMS. He analysed the success of his labours in terms of his preaching the Gospel of grace:

The ministry we had in Pakistan was that of preaching the Scriptures, and especially the great themes. That seemed to raise the spiritual ‘water-table’ – so to speak – until eventually there was a great outflowing of grace and the Spirit in the truth of Christ. That is how I see what happened with Edwards and his ministry, and no less the Wesleys, Whitefield and the somewhat later English Evangelicals … My thinking is not in term of revival, but in the power of the Gospel proclaimed in the power of the Spirit.

Bingham’s spirituality preceded that of the main influence of the Charismatic movement, and was a genuinely indigenous revitalization movement of a type rarely experienced in Australian history. Perhaps his greatest work in Australia was in local church missions where revival was often experienced. The addresses he gave at these missions were on bondage to sin and Satan, the powers of darkness and of flesh and the world, and the true freedom which Christ gives from such powers.

From August 1962, when he held a mission in the Parish of Thornleigh in Sydney, the tapes of his addresses with these themes were played over and over by those who heard him gladly, and his teaching on the holiness and love of the Father in the efficacy of the cross became their regular diet. Scores were converted and many went into the mission field or the ministry.

During the Thornleigh mission, a prayer meeting of about thirty people was held in a private home. Bingham read from Psalm 24, ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.’ Then he suggested that those present should come to the Lord and ask him to reveal himself to them. They all knelt down in a circle, someone began to weep, and a great conviction came over all of them. Some tried to pray, but dissolved in sobs.

And then there came over one present an incredible sense of his own depravity in the sign of God. He was crushed and broke down and sobbed convulsively, and the others quietness came over the whole group, followed by a wonderful sense of God’s total forgiveness. Then they sang and sang until they were hoarse, on and on, until someone said, ‘It’s half past four in the morning’. Bingham was poet and lover as well as preacher and teacher, and his ministry was to the heart. Through it thousands of Australians were confronted with holiness of God and comforted with the experience that Jesus cared for their souls.

Although Geoffrey Bingham saw amazing scenes of revival in Pakistan in the late 1950s and returned to Sydney full of joy of the Lord, he was not heard gladly by those nervous of anything which could be interpreted as Charismatic or sinless perfectionist. Bingham, hurt, left the rather cool and unwelcoming bosom of Sydney, went to South Australia, first as principal of the Adelaide Bible Institute (later Bible College of South Australia), and then as Director of the New Creation Teaching Ministry (NCTM), where he wrote, published and taught an ever-expanding army of devoted disciples, who attended conferences and schools. NCTM’s doctrinal stance was: ‘biblical and Reformed, without prejudice to the movements of God’s Spirit which come at times of revival and renewal of the Church’.

At some of the missions taken by Bingham, the fire of revival fell. In August 1969 a mission entitled ‘Free Indeed’ was held at Wudinna on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The large crowd at the opening meeting startled the organisers and they moved to a hall, but even there many hearers had to stand outside and listen through the open windows.

The atmosphere was one of the heightened expectancy, the listening was intent, and many attended who were not thought to be at all interested in Christian things. There was a sense of the presence of God brooding over the whole geographical area. A farmer who had not been going to the meetings, although his wife was, was out of his tractor ploughing, when great conviction came upon him and he got down in the dust and gave his life to the Lord.

The sense of wonderment came to characterise all the meetings. Crowds of people would just sit in aw for half an hour after the meetings were over without moving or saying a word. Many felt that it was like Pentecost, although without tongues.

Over 400 people came to the last meeting. They came from as far away as Ceduna and Cummins. Of the final night, Bingham said ‘like a great raid of beauty and silence and joy, it just descended on the whole congregation. It was quite remarkable. I’d have called it a very gentle but a very powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And I can remember the joy in the worship and the praise that night.’

Excerpts from the book Attending to the National Soul: Evangelical Christians In Australian History, 1914-2014 by Stuart Piggin and Robert D Linder published in 2019. Available from Koorong and Amazon. Excerpts republished by permission

A story for ANZAC Day

During World War Two the Japanese guards brutally mistreated their prisoners of war, including Geoffrey Bingham

Geoffrey Bingham, 1945, taken on the ship bringing him home from war

At the end of the Pacific Celebration in Adelaide in 1995 an elderly Japanese tourist, in broken English, confronted Bingham as he was leaving to catch the bus home. This is what transpired.

In August 1995 Australia commemorated the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, with events around the country called ‘Pacific Celebration’ to mark the 50th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific.

Geoffrey Bingham, 1919 – 2009, was an Australia author, soldier, prisoner of war, farmer, Anglican minister, evangelist, missionary, theologian, entrepreneur and down-to-earth thinker about life, love and community.

In his late teens he began studies at Moore Theological College, but joined the army when World War II broke out, despite inclinations to pacifism. He was assigned to the 8th Division Signals and left for Malaya in February 1941.

A year later, he earned a Military Medal for outstanding courage and leadership under fire as Singapore fell to the Japanese. For the rest of the war, with a badly smashed leg, he was a prisoner in the Changi and Kranji camps.

Bingham wrote an account of his participation in the Pacific Celebration in August 1995 with his wife Laurel. The text is reproduced below, and close friend of Bingham, Trevor Faggotter, kindly read and recorded the story, press play to listen.

Bingham wrote many war stories. Many are available to download and read for free

Pacific Celebration—Fifty Years On

Geoffrey Bingham

Reproduced from the book No Life without Dryads

They are saying a lot about fifty years after the war, about the fiftieth anniversary, and I am hearing them.

I am hearing through and above the things pressing around me which are of the present. For example, the writing of a book, teaching others out of what little I know, and the extras, like being a husband, a father, a grandfather. It is she, Laurel my wife, who is interested in the ‘Australia Remembers’ celebrations.

So a friend of ours has composed a CD-ROM. I hardly knew what a CD-ROM was until I saw it on the computer where I was being interviewed by Rob Linn the historian who is its maker. His book titled Their Sacrifice also helped to prime me. Laurel and I saw both productions at Government House where some hundreds of us had been invited to the launching of the CD-ROM and book.

So, then, how could I escape the fiftieth celebrations in this city of Adelaide?

I rarely go to Anzac marches, since one leg is too gammy to take the distance, so I see it more easily on TV. Not today, however. She will go herself, on her own, if I won’t go; so I know I must go, and this requires a polishing of the old medals to their pristine purity pitch. Because a huge crowd is expected, we go by bus.

We wait for this Route 191 vehicle, and even before we get into the bus, folk are looking at the medals and nodding with a mite of reverence so rare in our everyday community. I respond with a modicum of embarrassment. All along the route, at each stop, folk clamber aboard and flash that look which tells us we are folk admired from the past.

The next thing is that we are in Victoria Square, heart of the city of Adelaide. I make bold to discover where we can join the parade in the luxury of a provided bus. The Army men and women see my medals, and kind of bow to me.

‘Buses? Well now, sir, things are just the same in the Army now as ever they were. Organised chaos you know! Ha! Ha! No! Wait! Sure! There will be a bus but when and where is not too certain! Look sir; look over there. That is the Chief Marshal. He should know if anyone would.’

I am pointed to the Chief Marshal. I visualise how I must look to him. An old gentleman with pure white hair, wearing a white shirt, a blue jacket with gold buttons, elegant grey slacks, and that double row of medals, one of them for bravery and a fern leaf for a Mention in Dispatches. They give me a little boldness of spirit.

He is tall, awesome with his Chief Marshal’s brassard. He, alone, holds the secrets. I politely interrupt his conference with less senior marshals. ‘A bus? Of course, just there sir. Not long now. You’ll see it come. Oh, by the way sir, there are the vintage Army vehicles. They will also be there. They should prove interesting.’

Armed with what we used to call ‘the griff’, we reassure a number of anxious widows who are wearing their husbands’ ribbons and medals. We even get seated in a bus, all dark- glass windows out of which we can see, but none can see us. We have always disliked anonymity, but the bus is so comfortable.

We look with longing at the vintage Army vehicles; jeeps, an amphibious ‘duck’, and an assortment of trucks. Everywhere they are getting ready for the parade. I suppose you call it a parade, a ‘Remembrance Parade’.

My Army mates are gathering over in one place and the men and women of the Navy and Air Force in other places. Ahead of us all will be the Police Band, its members tricked out in full ceremonial dress, including silver-piked white helmets.

Their rig-out reminds me of the old colonial days, the remnants of which I have seen on the Indian subcontinent and other places. Others are deeply interested in the vintage Army vehicles, especially the amphibious duck.

I am more interested in the university and college cadets, slightly amazed at the proportion of lassies tricked out in uniform. I remember my self-conscious days as a raw recruit. In all this I am beginning to relax. To see the event through to its end was my firm resolve, mainly to please my wife.

She has her memories, too, of fifty years ago when a ghastly war was suddenly concluded and she was a nurse in a Sydney Hospital. Ran up and down Martin Place, she did, with her nurse colleagues. Went crazy they did in their mad happiness.

Now we are both relaxed, and comfortable in the bus. Not for long, however. The eager Army folk crowd into our bus to tempt us out of luxury. Would we like to go in the World War II army vehicles, in the ancient jeeps, and the amphibious duck and the trucks?

My mind opts for the duck, but we miss out on that. Maybe the Jeeps, then! Alas! they are bagged by Land Army girls of our own vintage but less shy and more spry.

Would we ride, up high, in a truck? Would we! How would Laurel get up there? No problem: four of them lift and push and shove and assist and she is up. I have a bit of dignity to retain so I manage it myself, but then I don’t have arthritis.

Now we are seated in the truck, a bit cramped up, but happy. My dignity is dissipating. I am beginning to feel human. Fifty of my seventy-six years are beginning to dissolve. Strictly speaking, I am not back to the end of the War for it was in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp, and the Japanese Area General was refusing to surrender.

No matter: here we are in calm Adelaide, and I am as young again. Laurel’s eyes are roving over the massing multitude, and I think she is giggling. Also my writer’s sense is on the alert. Here I might catch another story.

The next fiftieth celebration is far away and probably well beyond our reach. So I turn to face the folk who will be crammed on the footpaths, looking up. I hope the vintage vehicles will lead the parade, but I dare not expect it. Of course, the Police Band will be to the fore.

I am both stunned and delighted, for the buses for the physically disabled and our old Army vehicles are going first, behind the Police Band of course. Unbelievably we are moving off, and the next thing is ticker tape floating down from the tall buildings.

Few of the new buildings have windows, but the old sandstone and brick buildings come to our aid. Down from above the flutter of white paper like flat flakes of snow. Easily shred and done! What is most surprising is the crowd we meet, caked on the edge of the footpath, crammed back almost to the shops and the offices.

The eyes of all are on us. The very old, the moderately old, the middle-aged, the young and the younger and then the children to the forefront gathering up piles of shredded paper to throw and snow upon us. Streamers fly out, unrolling, bringing back memories of ocean, postwar voyage departures.

None of those, of course, during the War. Then we slipped away quietly lest the enemy know of us. On other days people tread the city footpaths with solemnity, curved into themselves, unsmiling. Today everyone is smiling. People want to smile: the smiling is genuine.

The children are laughing and so the adults laugh. It is fun to laugh! It is a day of great glee. The children have no respect for my white hair and my natural dignity. They cast handfuls of ticker tape, made into paper snowballs, and shriek hysterically if they hit me or my wife, but smiles are breaking out in me and Laurel and our truckful of veterans.

I have not seen so many people together in years. Later they will tell us 73,000 have come in from every city and town and hamlet in the State.

Then I see tears. I see faces passionate with pain and pride. To some we are remnants of other proud days, and suddenly, afresh, they sense sacrifice. Maybe some are weeping because a husband or wife, a grandparent or a parent has gone beyond their ken.

Maybe they are just proud because so many can be so interested when, for a long time, small rivulets of life and pride had been almost lost in the wide continent, dry it was assumed, of national joy and delight at the valiant efforts of fighting men and women.

Suddenly they are realising a nation has not been asleep nor dry in its spirit. It has just lacked the opportunity to express itself. Today inhibitions are cast off, but not for some inane Dionysian revel, but for a celebration of the greatness the human spirit can know in its finest hours.

So we battle with the children and their paper bombs and their streamers, and the adults further back who are in the streamer-casting business and as delighted as children when one reaches us and we grasp it, a link with them however transitory.

Some communion of the spirit is effected, and they have huge joy. So they are laughing. It is not that there is much to laugh about in the world for the atrocities in the Balkans are in our mind. We have not forgotten the genocides in Burundi and Rwanda, and the breaking out of bitter tribal warfare in Zaire.

We have not forgotten the innumerable wars that have happened in the past fifty years, especially that vast war of attrition—the Cold War. We have memories of the Berlin Wall, but that has collapsed. The great powers have not really been at war for fifty years, albeit lesser powers have.

As though, then, this is the moment, a thousand white balloons are liberated and, up in the high air, a thousand pure spirits are dancing. Of course the people in the crowd are real Aussies, holding hands or helpless with pride and pain and tears and laughter.

We look down at children whose backgrounds are ethnic, who are the firstfruits of our multicultural society. They, too, are laughing up at us. When they shout and joke their accents are of this land. We are all one together whatever the rich cultural secrets they retain for themselves.

Suddenly we hear shouts. Our names are called. We look out with wide eyes and there are friends, folk we know and folk who are glad to know us, and maybe proud to see we have laid aside our regular dignity to become human again in a long march of humans in their human history. So we shout and wave madly and they do the same, and others are glad we have friends, but then they are all our friends.

We do not stop waving to all. We wave and we wave and smile and smile until smiles become almost fixed, but yet they are real and warm, and we grow with the interchange and the human communion. What we are not seeing are the folk behind us.

We simply have our gaze on folk, young and old, who have their eyes and, seemingly, their hearts fixed on us. Behind us, however, are thousands who are marching, and they are not spectators but participators in an event which can be considered to be major in their lives.

They, too, are from every walk of life. Some are the men and women of the fighting forces, their physical powers diminished by reason of age, but they are marching as once they marched, and as some might not beyond the year they are now in.

At home, later, I will see them on a recorded video and so I will see their quiet joy, their reasonable pride, their active tribute to comrades now gone from them. The tribute is there, also, to the society they love, with all its shortcomings.

Like others, these marchers, too, have their idiosyncrasies but these are reminders of our humanity. The way we are is the way we want it, and so we tramp in swaying rhythm. Some on the sidelines try to recapture that ‘first fine careless rapture’ they had known in the hour of the War’s cessation from its six long, weary years.

So they try to dance, try to sing, try to show the original joy, but not with much success. They are really quite overcome with a different joy, the development of nationhood which has happened in the half century, the change in life, the growth of an even richer identity, all built on the foundation laid in two wars of great significance to this continent of the south.

Time cannot be reversed. I appreciate the young man I was on return in 1945 but I do not want to be again that grown boy. I am glad of what fifty years has added to me as a person. I quietly revel in the gifts that have come to me and, I trust, gone from me to others, as theirs to me.

So, whilst, as others are now attempting to do, I could sing, ‘Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag’, and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, even so, these songs no longer grip me in the way they did. I have sung other songs myself, those less jingoistic and more to the point of developed human living. My future has grown stronger than it was then. I have had other things to feed my hope. Beside me is a remarkable woman who has spent almost all those years with me.

We have no cause for cynicism or crass celebration. At last we are at the Parade Ground, and Laurel is assisted down, stepping on a milk crate and then on to the ground. I make my way down, myself, still insisting I have agility no matter what my age.

We make our own way across to Elder Park where the long stream of marchers is spilling into the swelling ocean of people. We all wander around, looking at one another, some exchanging secret looks, knowing nods as they recognise your war medals and calculate where you were and what you did.

You think medals should be worn daily for this reason, but then what would be the surprise of vagrantly finding out one another? Gratefully we find chairs, and sit, rest weary bones, wave to old friends, chat with a few, watch innumerable pies being munched and cans of drinks being consumed.

The unbeatable desire not to be stereotyped in dress or in action keeps manifesting itself. The variety is remarkable and it is all accompanied by a willingness to chat with those we have not previously met. Social, cultural and age barriers have all dissolved.

The time for the air-raid sirens has come. The machines from fifty years ago, now outdated, wail out the warning of the terror to come, but no terror comes. At the first siren all conversation dies to a murmur and then the murmur is lost and a holy silence is like an unspoken sigh.

Minds flow back to the terrible days that once were, and find their way to many war cemeteries, to turfed green fields with white crosses or other kinds of bronze plaques on white stone or marble.

Those who have lost the fifty years we have had in precious peace from war’s mutilation sleep unconscious of their sacrifice made deliberately or in bewilderment. They are missed, the beloved ones; and I see, silent with my eyes opened, tears starting in eyes, and tears trickling down faces, and I am made aware again of the depths of emotions human beings have for one another.

Children somehow seem caught up in it all, proud to be one with oldies and wrinklies and crumblies. The second siren wail is like a streamer across the assembly of rememberers. Yellow and green balloons are suddenly released, beating their way upwards to freedom. Siren and liberated balloon awaken a fresh sense both of the past and the present.

I am seated next to Laurel, and do not know her thoughts. My own are of our return to Australia from the prison camp, and the fast beating of the heart, the choking with emotion, the barely restrained tears, and the huge joy that enveloped us as we alighted at Circular Quay in Sydney in 1945.

That day, too, there had been a solid phalanx of joyous people meeting us with tears of pity and shouts of joy and a veritable snowstorm of ticker tape, old Sydney resounding to the music of the military bands and the cries of the people lining their foot- path. They had remembered us in the years when men wasted away with sickness and starvation.

I awake to the fact that this is the 15th of August 1995. I sit in silent joy, contemplating my fellow creatures. After a time we think we have had enough. We are satiated. Any more emotion may debilitate us. To this point it has kept us strong.

So we make our way across King William Road, whilst the long streams of schoolchildren are still flowing. We interrupt them and find a haven in a bus shelter whilst we await the time of the buses. I meet a bishop I have long known, and his wife and a brood of young grandchildren to whom they are interpreting this event.

Laurel, for some reason or other, is overcome with giddiness. She is glad to sit down and try to calm her trembling and the tension which is giving her chest pain. She takes tablets to counter the effects of the attack. I stand, walking stick in hand, waving it, trying to hail a taxi, but the traffic has only just begun to filter through. The few taxis I see are engaged. I worry a little.

Without thinking, my eyes light on a rather wry man who is, maybe, a tourist.

He is not dressed very well, but has a camera hanging around his neck. He is from the East. I sense he is Japanese. He has looked at me for some minutes, and makes a sign of greeting. He is gazing long at my war medals.

His eyes hold a kind of plea.

We use sign language, he to ask permission to take a photograph of me, and I to agree to his request. We stand whilst he takes the photograph. Then he comes across to me. As he walks across I am trying to determine his age.

Perhaps he is my age.

I feel a faint inner tremor as I think he may have been a guard on one of our prison camps. Perhaps he was once a harsh and cruel guard: I do not know. The tremor passes. I am calm. We shake hands. His voice is very soft. He is trying to communicate through broken English. His eyes are more eloquent than his words.

He is speaking haltingly.

‘Fifty years ago Japanese verry bad’, he says. He shakes his head regretfully.

‘Verry bad.’ He sighs. He wishes to be fluent.

‘Verry wrong.’ He looks into my eyes, and I sense sincerity.

‘Japanese bad.’ His articulation is spaced out.

‘Sorry, verry sorry.’

I know he is sorry. I am thinking of a book I have on my shelves back at home. Its title is Nippon Very Sorry—Men Must Die, words spoken by a Japanese officer on the Burma Railway, but there was no sorrow in that!

A great warmth for this man grows within me. I am in wonderment that on this day I should meet this man. I have met Japanese in their thousands in their homeland, but this one all alone and so stricken with sorrow affects me deeply.

I can scarcely withhold the tears.

I can scarcely remember such a moving time in all my life. Laurel is looking around from her bus shelter. She also seems quite moved. I take both his hands and hold them with affection. I would erase his sorrow, but I think it will remain, perhaps for ever.

He whispers almost hoarsely, ‘We pray for peace. We pray for peace of the whole world.’

I want us to talk on but I think he has exhausted his supply of words, though his eyes tell me the same message that he has spoken.

We both press hands, and he is gone; a lone, thin figure who has captured the picture of a white-haired, bemedalled man who was once the prisoner of his cruel regime.

I share my deep emotion with Laurel, and although she looks quite faint, she too has a joy. I return to hail a taxi but before that a bus comes and it has our number on it. Good old 191 all the way back to Kingswood.

Packed as it is, we are given seats by young children. That seems good to us as we make our way home.

Early in the morning at the bus stop a man had said, ‘Have a good time!’ Well, his bidding has come true.

The New Creation archive

Geoffrey Bingham and a passionate team founded New Creation Teaching Ministry in Adelaide, Australia. This organisation, through New Creation Publications Inc, published hundred of books and studies. New Creation closed in 2013.

This site will add books and studies written by Bingham, however for now the entire archive can be downloaded as one file.

Once you have unzipped the file on your computer and extracted the files, look for the file index.html in the root directory which will enable you to browse the archive on your browser, without needing an internet connection.

Download ZIP file – size 500mb

His ministry was wider than one church

 

This tribute first published in 2009 by the Sydney Morning Herald

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GEOFFREY BINGHAM was an author, soldier, prisoner of war, farmer, Anglican minister, evangelist, missionary, theologian, entrepreneur and down-to-earth thinker about life, love and community.

In the mid-1950s he packed the Garrison Church, Millers Point, on Sunday nights as he preached on holiness, influenced by stories of revival in East Africa brought back by the then Moore Theological College lecturer Marcus Loane, later Archbishop of Sydney.

Eventually, Bingham’s take on holiness changed and he rejected the Keswick-influenced view that a life of victory could be attained by faith. Instead, he adopted the reformed view that Christians will struggle against sin throughout their lives.

Geoffrey Cyril Bingham was born in Goulburn, the sixth of nine children of Horace Bingham, a dentist and later farmer, and his wife Eileen (Dowling). Her father was originally a Tattersall’s bookmaker who was rich, and generous in philanthropy, but the family kept quiet about his earlier occupation.

Bingham grew up mainly in Wahroonga and all his life was conscious of what he called the Presence – the inescapable awareness of God. He began studies at Moore Theological College, but joined the army when World War II broke out, despite inclinations to pacifism.

He was assigned to the 8th Division Signals and left for Malaya in February 1941. A year later, he earned a Military Medal for outstanding courage and leadership under fire as Singapore fell to the Japanese. For the rest of the war, with a badly smashed leg, he was a prisoner in the Changi and Kranji camps.

The experiences of the war, especially the suffering of POWs in the Japanese camps, shaped or broke the faith of Christians who lived through them. Bingham was one whose faith was immensely strengthened and he developed a powerful and practical philosophy of how the law of love, the love Jesus Christ exemplified, could shape human behaviour and create community even amid extreme degradation.

He became camp librarian and shared his faith, focusing on the cross, in a way that inspired his fellow prisoners and gave them hope.

He discovered that even in that food-obsessed environment, close to death from starvation, it was possible, with freedom and even joy, to resist the temptation to claim the best and biggest of the rice cakes on offer and take the smallest.

Back home in 1946, Bingham married Laurel Chapman, a nurse, and farmed for some years before re-entering Moore College. His first (and only) parish was the Garrison Church. He then served with the Church Missionary Society in Pakistan from 1957 to 1966 and founded the Pakistan Bible Training Institute in Hyderabad.

He returned to Australia in 1967 to become principal of the Adelaide Bible Institute (now the Bible College of South Australia) at Victor Harbor. In 1973 he left the college and became an itinerant Bible teacher, and set up New Creation Publications, an independent, non-denominational ministry, with a second-hand duplicator in a borrowed farmhouse. Soon, as New Creation Teaching Ministries, it became the base for the rest of his life’s work.

Bingham’s early war stories, such as The Laughing Gunner, were published in The Bulletin. Short stories, novels, poetry and hymns, Bible commentaries and other theological writings, in total more than 200 books, poured from his pen over the years.

With teams of fellow teachers (now successors) such as Martin Bleby and Ian Pennicook, he established and led missions and annual or weekly preaching and teaching schools – at the NCTM headquarters in Victor Harbor and Coromandel Valley in South Australia, and in Chatswood in Sydney.

He was often invited abroad as well. He preached and taught in Britain, the US, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Thailand and New Guinea.

Bingham remained an Anglican priest and pastor, but his vision and ministry was wider than one church. His influence extended across all denominations, including to the enthusiastic pentecostal churches. He never sought to compete with churches, only to supplement and strengthen them.

In 2005 he was appointed a member of the Order of Australia.

Written by Lesley Hicks, with John Sandeman