Barry Oliver

Thoughtful scholar put people first

Saturday, August 26, 2023
Brenton Stacey
About the Author

Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale University’s Public Relations and Philanthropy Officer. He brings to the role experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities.

Alumnus of the Year a servant leader of the South Pacific

Barry Oliver’s education at Avondale (BA Theol, 1973) not only deepened his relationship with God and developed a network of friends, it gave him an understanding of the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He would become a student of its structure—writing his PhD thesis on principles for reorganisation and their implications for a worldwide church—and a leader of its South Pacific Division.

Experience as a pastor in South Queensland, a mission leader on New Britain and New Ireland and an academic at Avondale helped prepare him for senior administration. A pragmatist with the ability to think as a strategist, Barry would serve 10 years as general secretary and eight as president of the division and is privileged to have experienced “the richness and vitality of the church.” From baptising with crocodiles in the Kikori to the warmth of “family” on Bora Bora, Aitutaki and in Samoa and Papua New Guinea. “The joy on the faces of so many: that’s what I remember.”

His legacy? Growing the church in the Pacific through a reduction of union conferences, a deployment of resources away from administrative overheads and transition to missions becoming self-governing conferences. Presiding over the development of Avondale towards being a university and of the San as the largest private hospital in New South Wales. And advocating for ordination without regard to gender. “People are much more important than things, or plans or even rules—although you do need some of them.”

In retirement, Barry has commissioned and edited 630 articles as regional editor for the new Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. While the South Pacific is only one of 13 divisions of the worldwide church, Barry and his writers—most of who are Avondale academics and alumni—contributed about 30 per cent of the encyclopedia’s total number of articles.

When not researching, writing, gardening and golfing, Barry loves travelling with wife Julie in their caravan and spending time with family—especially grandchildren—and friends. “It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to do this after spending so much time away from home.”

Barry met Julie on his first day at Avondale. The two celebrated their golden wedding anniversary this past year.

Avondale Alumni honours Dr Barry Oliver as its Alumnus of the Year for a lifetime of service to God, the community and the church.

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