Independent churches (by nature of their definition) are not connected to formal denominations. What this means is that the pastoral emphasis is usually on historical personalities or thematic developments correlated to the Bible. Without association, independent churches are free from denominational positions and historical skeletons in the closet. The large Evangelical churches on the NSW Central Coast are a good example of independent churches birthed in an Anglican context.
These significant benefits are not without problems. Firstly, the lack of a denominational context can lead to a detached attitude to the greater work of God throughout the ages. I recently attended the ordination of a minister into the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The order of service grew out of processes established by John Knox in the Scottish Reformation! I find that fascinating. From a historian’s perspective, an even greater problem is that there is no coordinated attempt to record and collate primary sources in the independent church movement in Australia. There is no Moore College Library for independent churches. My skeptical readers could immediately come up with five reasons why this could never happen. Here are some reasons I thought of: 1) who would invest the time? (Passionate conversation preserves primary sources), 2) how could we ever agree on anything, and 3) even if all the data was collected – who would do the writing?
Perhaps step one could be creating a central digital repository of primary sources specific to each independent church in Australia. Records, events, meetings, and oral history are the building blocks for future work on the independent church movement. The repository could use a wiki-engine with tagging to make content accessible to curious historians. I think this is worth further discussion as a positive step towards building up historical data. Australian denominations could take part in the same repository with similar goals. Your thoughts?