Scripture Union NSW is praising God for the life of Dr William ‘Bill’ Andersen AM, who died on 31 August 2019. He was 96 years old.

Bill was extremely involved with SU throughout his life, and he leaves a profound legacy for our organisation. We are deeply thankful to God for giving Bill to us, and hope that this tribute to his life highlights the wonderful contribution that he made in shaping SU into the organisation that it is today.

Early Life

Jean Porter, Bill Andersen (middle) and Alan Langdon

Bill grew up in Sydney, and attended Fort Street Boys High School. It was there, in April 1936, that Bill heard the Gospel proclaimed in a scripture class by Wilfred Porter, the classics master, and was converted.

Upon coming to faith, Bill became a part of the school’s ISCF group, which formed in 1935, the very first year that ISCF operated. In 1937, the group at Fort Street became student-led by David Stewart, who became a close friend and mentor to Bill.

In 1938, Bill became a leader of the junior ISCF group, and spoke weekly to the boys. His very first talk was on 1 Corinthians 13. In 1940 Bill became a senior leader.

During his senior years of schooling and first few years out of school, while studying at Sydney University, Bill was involved in many ISCF camps. He also began to lead monthly meetings of student leaders from various ISCF groups around Sydney.

In 1943, the Second World War disrupted Bill’s studies, and he served in the army until the end of the war in 1945.

Growing SU involvement

Bill and Ruth's wedding

Upon being discharged from the army, Bill’s involvement with Scripture Union began to increase. This came about after he moved to Queensland for a year to be involved with a tour of Australia by General Dobbie, an acclaimed war veteran, sponsored by Inter-Varsity Fellowship. Bill was an aide to General and Lady Dobbie while they were in Brisbane, but after they left Brisbane they were accompanied by Ormond Porter, the then General Secretary of SU Queensland. Bill took over from Ormond to run the office. He lead camps ran a beach mission and ran a children’s mission. All this, and Bill was only in his 20s!

In 1947, Bill returned to Sydney to finish his Psychology degree and became involved with the Evangelical Union at Sydney University. He joined the SU NSW Council, but took a year’s break in 1948 in order to do his honour’s year and lead the EU as President.

Bill [offered] so much in the way of Christian maturity, wisdom and evangelical vision.

Keith Watson, SU NSW Governing Member

In 1952, Bill began to teach at Wyong High, where he recommenced the ISCF group. He later taught at Punchbowl Boys High where he started the ISCF group and trained a schoolboy leader to run the group.

Throughout this time, Bill remained on the SU NSW Council and was heavily involved in camps, missions and ISCF meetings.

Also in this period, Bill married his wife Ruth, in December 1953. Together they led camps and beach missions, and were committed to training leaders. Bill said of his marriage to Ruth, “Ruth and I were a team, active and harmonious, with shared dreams and projects, and shortly with a family of two boys and two girls.”

Together, Bill and Ruth were extremely committed to the ministry of SU. In fact, even on their honeymoon in WA, the couple spent time visiting SU leaders to encourage them!

Bill had an illustrious academic career after working as a school teacher. He taught at the University of New South Wales and Sydney University in the fields of Education and Psychology, and contributed greatly to the field of religious education as a writer and lecturer.

Shaping the future of SU

David Claydon and Bill Andersen (right)

In 1959, Bill was the Chair of the SU NSW Schools and Camps Committee. Together with the committee, Bill devised multiple training programs for every category of schools and camps workers. Bill and his team were instrumental in shaping and training a generation of leaders for ministry.

In 1960, he became the Chair of the short-lived Federal Schools and Camps Committee, then in 1962-1966 served as the Chair of the NSW Finance and General Committee, which operated as the Executive branch of the Council.

I found Bill’s energy and commitment to the development of our Schools and Camps ministry gave me a real sense of purpose that it was worth all the time and work involved as we developed this work across the state.

Dr David Claydon, OAM SU NSW 1960-70, Federal and Pacific 1971-80

In 1966, Bill, Ruth and their four children moved to London for two years so that Bill could complete his doctoral thesis. While there, he was appointed as a full member to the London SU Council, and spoke at meetings and conferences. While in London, the Andersen family attended a Beach Mission in Cornwall and also the Centenary Service of SU at St Paul’s Cathedral – a remarkable moment in the history of the organisation.

Also while overseas, Bill attended the 1967 SU International Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. At that Conference, Bill was commissioned to write a statement on the Evangelism of Children. At a follow up meeting in Sydney Bill and the committee highlighted from Matthew 19:14-15 that all children till the age of discernment are part of God’s Kingdom. The statement expressed that SU’s role is to bring young people Jesus and help them to grow in their faith.

Upon returning to Australia, Bill became the Chairman of the Scripture Union Australia Council, serving in that role until 1978, before returning to the NSW Council.

From 1979 to 1982, Bill chaired the Pacific Area Committee, and then from 1982 to 1987, the East Asia-Pacific Regional Council. Both these committees oversaw ministry around Australia and the region.

Major achievements

Bill Andersen (left) and Peter Jensen

During his time serving as Chairman of the East Asia-Pacific Regional Council, Bill attended the first International SU Conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, held in 1985. At this conference Bill presented drafts of the SU Aims, Beliefs and Working Principles document, which were discussed and accepted.

Some see this as one of Bill’s greatest achievements. SU was – and still is – a diverse organization, made up of people from various denominational backgrounds and Christian traditions. But through his extraordinary leadership, Bill was able to bring people together under a statement they could all agree to. Even more than that, Bill was able to create a document that would anchor and inspire SU work for years to come. The Statement of Belief, in particular, bears Bill’s fingerprints in its artful and poetic language. This document is still in use internationally today.

Also while at the International Conference in Harare, Bill was approached and asked to consider becoming the next Chair of the International SU Council. He commenced this role in 1987 and held it until 1993.

Bill loved serving as International Chair. He travelled twice a year – once to London for executive meetings and once wherever in the world the council meeting was being held that year! In 1990, that was Lima, Peru. Bill was able to open the new SU centre for the homeless in this city – an example of the extremely diverse and impactful work done under the SU banner over the past 152 years. That year’s meeting was also significant as it was decided that SU work would commence in former Soviet Union countries. By 1992 representatives from those countries were in attendance at the Council meeting.

Bill’s is the story of a remarkable man, and his passing marks the end of an era. We praise the Lord for gifting our Movement with such remarkable men and women through the course of its history.

Emmanuel Oladipo, former SU International Director

Amidst all of his service to Scripture Union in the three decades following his return from London, Bill was also lecturing at Moore College and Morling College in Sydney. He also served as Vice-Chairman of Morling College from 1981-1987, and Interim Principal of the College from 1988-1989.

In 1993, Bill’s final year as International Chair, he had the privilege of lecturing at the Institute of Foreign Languages in Kiev, Ukraine. Following his lectures, Bill ran an SU seminar on children’s work in the south of Ukraine, attended by people from near and far keen to be trained in gospel outreach to young people. Though had only been a few years since the collapse of the very closed and Christian-averse Soviet Union, under Bill’s leadership great strides had already been made in SU ministry in this region.

Bill then travelled on to Prague for his final International Council Meeting, where he said, in his words, ‘a rather tearful goodbye’. At that point Bill was 70 years old, and it was time for him to hand the role over to another.

Later life

But that was far from the end of Bill’s ministry. In God’s grace, he gave Bill another 26 years of life, in which time he penned books, served on various ministry committees, and remained heavily involved with SU. From 2003-2008, Bill was the Patron of SU NSW. In this role, Bill advised the SU Board and staff, bringing his extensive knowledge to bless the ongoing ministry and encouraging and praying for the whole team. At one point, as part of his role, Bill was asked to conduct a review of the governance of the board. Bill interviewed every board member, observed meetings, read minutes and then prepared an extremely thorough 25-page report to assist the board.

When I was chair of the board, Bill was an advisor to me in that capacity. He was incredibly thorough, unbelievably sharp and a thoughtful mentor.

Simon Flinders, SU NSW Patron

On his 90th birthday, Bill launched a book on Christian counselling, Walking Alongside, and he worked as a psychologist into his 90s. In his later years he also had more time for his passion for music, playing the piano Ruth gifted him for his 75th birthday.

In 2010 Bill was made a member (AM) of the Order of Australia. The explanation for his award says that he was recognized ‘for service to religious education through a range of academic and professional roles, and to the Scripture Union movement.’

Bill will be remembered as a man of great integrity, faith and humility. He was loved by so many around the world who were drawn to his warmth, wisdom and dependence on God. Please join us in thanking God for Bill’s life, ministry and for giving him to us as a faithful servant of Jesus, committed to the SU mission.

Key words stand out to me about Bill’s way of operating: friend first, intentional in the way he did things, humble, winsome and wise.

Jackie Keenan, SU NSW Governing Member

In an article written for his 90th birthday, Bill wrote, “For the Christian, to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord… Christ took me by the hand, and still does so; and he has called me ‘friend’.” We praise God that though we mourn his loss here on earth, Bill is now in the presence of his friend and saviour Jesus.

Read 'On Turning 90' >

See a timeline of Bill's involvement with SU >