The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams awarded Lambeth Degrees to the Rev. Dr. John Harris and Professor John Harper, in at a ceremony on Tuesday, November 9, 20010 at Lambeth Palace in London.
The Rev. Dr. John Harris was awarded a degree of Doctor of Divinity in recognition of his outstanding contribution as a Bible scholar and translator, his advocacy on behalf of Aboriginal Australians and his unstinting endeavors to raise awareness of indigenous issues within the church and the wider Australian community.
After the ceremony, Dr. Harris presented a portrait to the Archbishop on behalf of the Aboriginal churches of Arnhem Land in the Diocese of the Northern Territories.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, by the powers invested in him by the Reformation Parliament’s 1533 Ecclesiastical Licences Act, has conferred on the Rev. Dr John Harris, the Lambeth degree of Doctor of Divinity, in recognition of his “outstanding contribution as a Bible scholar and translator,” his “advocacy on behalf of Aboriginal Australians,” and his “unstinting endeavors to raise awareness of indigenous issues within the church and the wider Australian community.”
This exceptional honor conferred on him, and only four others who have worked in the Australian Church.
The Diocese of Sydney recommendation says in part: “We gives thanks for the labors and devotion which justify this honor, especially his monumental histories of the encounter between the Christian faith and Aboriginal people and his participation in the translation of Scriptures into Aboriginal languages thus acknowledging the faithful ministry which he and his wife, Judy, and his parents Len and Margarita Harris, have made through many decades to our Indigenous people through CMS and other organisations.”
John spent many years as a teacher and school principal in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory of Australia and is married to Judith. They have three children and now live in Canberra, Australia’s Capital City.
Professor John Harper was awarded a degree of Doctor in Music in recognition of his distinguished contribution to the development and appreciation of church music as a scholar, administrator, teacher and composer and to a greater understanding of the relationship between music and the liturgy of the church.
The Lambeth Degree is a real academic award. The candidates are exempt from both residential and examination requirements and the special awards are made on merit in recognition of the recipients’ contribution to religious, academic and public life.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s right to grant degrees is derived from the Peter’s Pence Act of 1533 which empowered the Archbishop to grant dispensations previously granted by the Pope. The practice began during the time when attendance at Oxford and Cambridge, the only universities at that time in England, was frequently disrupted by the difficulty of travel or outbreaks of the plague. The Archbishop was empowered to grant exemption from the residential requirements necessary for a degree.
Lambeth Degrees can be awarded in Divinity, Law, Arts, Literature, Medicine and Music.
John Harris’ book “One Blood” was a mammoth undertaking, documenting 200 years of Aboriginal encounter with Christianity, published in 1990.
Dr. Graham McLennan