There was something about Anthea McCall. Something impossible to describe or pin down came from her deep love for Jesus, her faith in the gospel and evident desire to share it, something to do with her zest for life and a seriously naughty sense of fun.
Anthea’s siblings, Belinda and Geoff, remember their free-range childhoods in coastal and regional NSW and Sydney. They speak of Anthea’s love of learning, cheerful spirit, sense of adventure, and childhood friendship. Her spelling skills in elementary school were a foretaste of later linguistic achievements, French, German, Italian, and New Testament Greek! Anthea, endearing, generous, and encou, raging, gathered friends from every stage of her life.
Anthea wrote about coming to faith. “I ended up in St. Philips (Anglican Church, Caringbah) after the pastor held my father’s funeral. I was 22 and had never been to a church. I heard the gospel there, was nurtured in spiritual disciplines from Bible reading, prayer, and Christian witness, received vigorous Bible teaching and caring Christian fellowship, and was encouraged to develop gifts for world service.”
Anthea graduated from the University of Sydney in 1984 and taught languages in secondary schools before training for Christian ministry at Moore College. She then worked in student work at the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students. In 1998 Anthea joined the team at St Hilary’s Anglican, Kew, where she held various ministry positions. Although her ministry was well underway before her ordination as a deacon and then a priest in 2001, “the ordination confirmed and strengthened her ministry, gave her confidence and enabled her to carry out holistic pastoral work from the cradle to the grave.”
Anthea ensured that Ridley was “deeply rooted in reality with all its joys and messiness” and not “having his head in the theological clouds”.
Anthea joined the faculty of Ridley College in 2007, teaching New Testament and Greek, and was Dean of Students and Associate Dean of the Anglican Institute. Anthea’s leadership was extremely influential as she was the only woman on the faculty. Richard Trist appointed a faculty member in 2007, explaining how Anthea was ideally suited to the task. “As an ordained woman with parish experience, Anthea has shaped the lives of those who sought ordination in the Anglican Church.
Confident in who she was, she recognized differing views on women’s ordination, but she rose above them to see how each ministry was a candidate for who they were and helped them in their formation. Many of those insecure about women in ordained leadership would have changed their minds after seeing Anthea in action and hearing her preach and teach with such clarity and conviction.” Brian Rosner, principal since 2012, appreciates Anthea’s influence on college culture Ridley. “For Anthea, relationships, pastoral care, and developing empathy were not optional extras, but central to life and ministry.”
Passionate about Preaching, Anthea joined the organizing committee of Ridley’s annual Preaching Conferences, conferences that few women attended. Encouraged by a fantastic evening event for women, Anthea started the Women’s Preaching Network in partnership with Hannah Craven and Karen Morris. Anthea supported related projects, including the Evangelical Women in Academia Conferences, led by Jill Firth, Diane Hockeridge, and Denise Cooper-Clarke. Anthea ensured that Ridley was “deeply rooted in reality with all its joys and messiness” and not “having his head in the theological clouds”.
Anthea loved her job. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016, she stayed with Ridley until 2020, when she reluctantly retired. Her siblings speak of Anthea’s love for God and God’s word for her family and friends: “God called Anthea, and she answered, not half-heartedly, but with all her heart, mind, and soul.”
“Anthea was called of God, and she answered, not half-heartedly, but with all her heart, mind, and soul.”
What was so special about Anthea? According to Peter Corney, Vicar of St. Hilary’s (1975-1999), “Anthea’s sole agenda was to see people come unto Christ and grow in Christ. She was highly relational and pastorally sensitive, relaxed about potentially divisive issues, and consistently positive and constructive with a quirky sense of humor. Anthea had no axes to sharpen.”
For Paul Perini, Vicar of St Hilary’s (1999-2008), encouraging Anthea to join the Ridley Faculty was “a no-brainer”. “Anthea was a gifted teacher and linguist with a reformed understanding of the faith. Her humility and her humor were great assets in a tertiary setting. We needed and still need women in our theological colleges.”
Peter Adam, director (2002–2012), paid this tribute: “Anthea was a remarkable preacher and teacher, with a heart of service, full of gospel clarity, lived and spoke with captivating enthusiasm. She had no chips on her shoulders, just a genuine passion for serving Christ, His gospel, and His people. Hiring Anthea was one of the best things I’ve done at Ridley!”
Andy Abernethy, an associate professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, wrote, “Anthea never tried to fit into the mold. She was a woman in male-dominated spheres, a relational pastoral teacher in an atmosphere of relationally stunted academics.” Diane Hockeridge, the education designer at Ridley, recalled: “Anthea always listened well and sometimes had that sly look in her eye before coming out with something incredibly helpful or hilarious.”
I knew Anthea through a circle of friendship that grew from a group of Church friends and lasted for over 20 years. We gathered to pray with Anthea after her diagnosis. Anthea spoke of her absolute certainty of salvation and her fear of dying. She asked us to pray for a miracle cure – and we did. Anthea loved life. She wanted to live! The miracle she longed for didn’t happen as we’d hoped, but it did. We were privileged to accompany Anthea as she approached death with courage and confidence, enjoying life and rejoicing in Jesus.
Anthea’s funeral joyfully celebrated her life and God’s love. Her music choices – including Getty Music’s “In Christ Alone” and “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow!” by Fleetwood Mac – reflected her joy in Christ and her cheerful spirit. Peter Carolane, Anthea’s friend and minister at Merri Creek Anglican, drew on Romans and John 20 to suggest that we follow three of Anthea’s “rules of life.” He urged us to: preach the gospel confidently and confidently for us, overflow into our love for others, and meet every challenge that is certain in our identity and calling in Christ. Amen.