THE CATO VISITOR AND TRUST

The Cato Lecturer for the Fifteenth Assembly is Rev. Dr Ken Carter.

Rev. Dr Ken Carter the Bishop of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Bishop Carter is a significant leader in the United Methodist Church globally and will be the President of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church from 2018 through to 2020. He is also one of the three Moderators appointed by the United Methodist General Conference, to oversee the Commission on "Finding a Way Forward".

He has wide-ranging experience in ministry in multicultural and intercultural contexts. He has also been involved in Fresh Expressions ministries and has just published Fresh Expressions:  A New Kind of Methodist Church for Those Not In Church (Abingdon Press, 2017) with co-author Audrey Warren.

Bishop Carter has offered commentary on the Church’s response to the state of US politics, and has been a leader in the Church’s responses in Florida to natural disasters and to gun violence.

The generous support of the Cato Trust in providing the funding so that Bishop Carter 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.

Colleen Geyer
Assembly General Secretary


FREDERICK JOHN CATO   1858-1935

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 Rev. Dr Manhong Lin since Union.

As a leading Methodist layman, Cato played a crucial part in bringing the four Australian Methodist churches into union in 1902, something which was not to occur in the UK until some 30 years later.

Melbourne historian Ann Blainey has written a biography of Fred Cato’s life If God Prospers Me,  a portrait of Frederick John Cato (Chandos, 1990).

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