Inspiring stories of Aussie Army Chaplains and their men wins Book of the Year Award

NEWS | John Sandeman

Friday 14 August 2015

“I am a bit stunned, but honoured as well,” was Australian Christian Book of the Year winner, Michael Gladwin’s reaction on taking out this year’s award. His book, Captains of the Soul, is an official army history of Australia’s chaplains.

The “soldiers without a gun,” as one soldier in Vietnam dubbed the chaplains, have waited a long time for their story to be told, being one of the last Army corps to have an official history published. It is a history of inspiring home-grown stories, according to the Australian Christian Book of the Year judges.


Author Michael Gladwin won Australian Christian Book of the Year with his work, ‘Captains of the Soul’.

“The common task remains the ministry of God’s word and the sacraments to soldiers, burying the dead and presenting an alternative reality to the conflict, chaos and suffering,” said Gladwin.

Gladwin told Eternity that in writing the book he was struck by the chaplains’ ”Testimony of Christ while being with Australians in the most difficult and horrendous circumstances imaginable.

“The story that had the most impact on me was about Geoffrey Bingham, a famous Australian evangelist. But in the POW (prisoner of war) camps in Singapore it was a chaplain who enabled him to work through the difficult existential and philosophical questions brought on by being a POW.  

“Bingham who went on to have an international ministry, always looked back to that time when the chaplain Aubrey pain, was standing with him helping him through that difficult time. Chaplains leading men to a transcendent hope in God throughout all of Australia’s military history is a powerful testimony,” said Gladwin.

“I think Michael Gladwin did a brilliant job, capturing the essence of what chaplains have done for 200 years,” the Army’s principal chaplain, Geoff Webb, told Eternity.”I asked him to give an accessible history, while being academically rigorous, and he has done that.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 4.58.50 pm2015 saw an especially strong field of entries to the book awards which were opened to books published by overseas publishers for the first time. This meant that books like John Dickson’s A Doubters Guide to the Bible, (published by US-based Zondervan), and Michael Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church wrote the Story of Jesus (published by Eerdmans, also from the States), with other local entries provided stiff competition.

The Young Australian Christian Writer award, for an unpublished manuscript, was won by Tim Sharpe for Undying that features a narrator who is an assassin sent from a different realm into ours. 

“Where God raises up a people, he raises up a writing and reading community”, Michael Collie, the National Director of Sparklit, which organises the awards, told the crowd at the ceremony: “It has always been that way.”

” ‘Preach the Gospel, if necessary, use words’ is falsely attributed to St Francis. It is also a falsehood. It is true that words without actions are hollow. But it is also true that actions without words are meaningless.”

Collie introduced mission partners from Sparklit’s work of supporting Christian publishing in majority world countries.

“We are publishing the first Bible handbook”, said Chim Titmakara of Fount of Wisdom in Cambodia.

“The first commentaries, too. Everything is ‘first’ because they don’t have resources.” Christian books are so unusual in his Cambodia that pastors are still learning that Christian resources can be trusted. They are used to only having the Bible and no other Christian literature at all.

In Pakistan the Open Theological seminary has 500 tutors teaching 5,000 in extension courses.

“We publish a lot of books,” Julius Qaisar, told the awards crowd. “There are 4 million Christians living in Pakistan and we have to look after them.”

Read the review of Captains of the Soul, or buy the book now. 

For the list and more information on this year’s shortlisted books for the Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards, click here.

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