H5 – The Cato Visitor and Trust

The Cato Lecturer for the 14th Assembly is Dr LIN Manhong

Dr LIN Manhong is the Associate General Secretary of the China Christian Council and the acting Dean of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.

Dr Lin received her doctorate in 2007 from Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley USA) in the area of interdisciplinary studies of Christian ethics, Confucianism, Marxism and History of Chinese Christian Thought. Her early studies included a MA from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (2002), the Graduate School of Bossey Ecumenical Institute in Switzerland (1997), and postgraduate studies in China.

While Dr Lin is the dean for academic affairs, she teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and manages various roles within the life of the Church. She worked for the Department of Overseas Relations of the National Office, and currently she is a Central Committee member of the World Council of Churches. She has several major publications including her book Ethical Reorientation for Christianity in China: The Individual, Community and Society (2010), and various articles in international and national journals in the field of intercultural dialogue.

In the last 5 years, Dr Lin played an important role to build the partnership between the UCA and the CCC. Together with the General Secretary Rev Kan Baoping, her seminary hosted the first joint theological conference with the UCA on church unity. Last year, Dr Lin was a speaker at the Basis of Union Conference in Sydney on the topic of church-based social service in China.

The generous support of the Cato Trust in providing the funding so that Dr Lin Manhong is able to be with us is gratefully acknowledged. The Cato Trust has a long history of assisting the Methodist General Conference and now the Uniting Church Assembly to have access to gifted scholars and leaders from across the world. Below is a brief history of Frederick Cato and the Trust he established.


Fred Cato was born in a tent on the goldfields of Stawell, a town in the Wimmera District of the State of Victoria. His father Edward had little success as a goldminer, and the family continued to live in a tent during Fred’s early years, Edward managing to sustain his family as a part-time carpenter. Fred showed early aptitude for learning, encouraged by his mother, and after leaving school, attended night classes at the Mechanics Institute and became an assistant school teacher.

On becoming an accredited teacher Fred travelled to New Zealand in 1879 and taught in three schools, the last in Invercargill where he met fellow teacher and daughter of a local Presbyterian minister, Fanny Bethune, whom he was later to marry. He returned to Australia in 1882 at the invitation of his cousin Edwin Moran, to work in his grocery store. When Fred became a partner soon after in the business to be called Moran and Cato’s, he determined to set aside a proportion of his weekly salary for charitable purposes. Moran and Cato’s flourished with stores throughout Victoria, and Fred became known in the local press as a ‘merchant prince’ while continuing to set aside the same proportion of his income ‘for good works.’

This commitment to philanthropy, arising from a deeper commitment to Christ whom he had come to know within the Wesleyan Methodist community, was remarkable both in amount and extent. His biographer notes that he gave to every public hospital in Victoria and his generosity made possible the founding of Epworth Hospital in 1923 (now the largest not-for-profit hospital in Australia.) On his last birthday he gave the largest sum ever received by one of Melbourne’s major charities, the Lord Mayor’s Hospital Fund. He financed stained-glass windows in Wesley’s Chapel, City Road, London. He gave large sums to build church, hospital and mission houses, and to pay the salaries of missionaries, in places as far apart as the Sudan, India, Fiji, New Guinea and Arnhem Land. Every Methodist educational institution in Melbourne (primary, secondary and tertiary) received scholarships, buildings or large monetary gifts during his lifetime, and continue as beneficiaries.

To ensure that these works would continue, he established in 1928 the F.J.Cato Charitable Fund for ‘the advancement of education and religion, the relief of sickness and poverty, and other charitable purposes beneficial to the community.’ The Fund still exists, and its Trustees annually disburse funds especially to those whose needs are not met by Government or other welfare funding.

It was the same commitment to education and religion that led to his setting up, in 1932, the Cato Lectureship. Its three stated purposes were: the promotion and enhancement of religion and / or education; the presentation of material of interest to the general body of church members; the goodwill and friendly relations between Methodist or related churches in Australia and other countries. It was stipulated that the Lecturer was to come from overseas, and the Lecture to be given within the proceedings of the triennial Methodist General Conference (or, he had the foresight to state, any Church with which the Methodist Church in Australia might merge). It was customary, in addition, for the Lecturer to tour around the Australian States, speaking and preaching in various contexts, with the visit lasting overall from six to eight weeks. Notable scholars have been Cato Lecturers, and their Lectures published – Newton Flew, Harold Roberts, C.K. Barrett , Gordon Rupp to name a few from Methodist days, Leander Keck, C.S Song, Ivor Jones, Mvume Dandala, Daniel Smith Christopher and Kirsteen Kim since Union.

Three developments in recent years have impinged on the original intention of the Lectureship.

First, especially since the 1960s, many more overseas scholars have been coming to Australia, and Australian scholars have spent time overseas, so that the unique contribution of the Cato Lecturer has diminished.

Second, it is no longer possible for scholars to spend as much time in Australia, and engagements beyond the Assembly have been confined to some theological colleges.

Third, the Assembly programme has become much tighter, and a separate session within the Assembly for a Lecture has not always been deemed possible.

After a hiatus of some Assemblies the Cato Lecture has now been returned to the regular program of the Assembly meeting. As well as being of interest to the members of the Assembly it also provides an opportunity for the Assembly to invite the wider church and community to join with it for a very special part of its agenda.

The Cato Trustees warmly welcome the return to the delivery of a Cato Lecture as a regular part of the Assembly program and to be able to provide the necessary funding.

Robert Gribben (Rev. Professor Emeritus) | Chair, F J Cato Charitable Trust

References to Cato’s biography are to
Ann Blainey If God Prospers Me, a portrait of Frederick John Cato (Melbourne, 1990)

In a longer biographical article, much more could be said about Cato’s role as a leading Methodist layman, e.g that he played a crucial part in bringing the four Australian Methodist churches into union in 1902, (which was not to occur in the UK until some 30 years later) and in that year was the Australian representative at the British Wesleyan Conference.

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