Benson, Sir Clarence Irving, CBE

Born in Hull on 1 December 1897. After a brief period at Cliff College, he left for Australia in 1916. On arriving in Melbourne, he was appointed to Cavendish, Western Victoria as a lay missioner. Accepted for the ministry in 1918, he was stationed at Toorak, Melbourne, where W.H. Fitchett beame 'like a father to him'. In 1926 he moved to Wesley Central Mission, Melbourne, where from 1933 to 1967 he was Superintendent and attracted large congregations. This enabled him to enter into civic, business and political circles and enhanced his status as Melbourne's leading Methodist minister. As trustee and later chairman of the State Library he helped to extend free library services in Victoria. He pioneered a controversial 'Questions and Answers' radio session from 1938 to 1944 and broadcast the Mission's Pleasant Sunday Afternoons, making them a forum for social and community issues. His weekly column 'Church and People' appeared in the Melbourne Herald for 50 years. He received a DD from Toronto University in 1939, was awarded a CBE in 1960 and a knighthood in 1963.

He was elected President of the Victoria and Tasmania Conference in 1943. An evangelical preacher with a strong following, he also administered a range of innovative community welfare work and residential care. His dominant, conservative personality was frequently misunderstood and criticized from within the Church, and he often distanced himself from the official line taken by his fellow Methodists. But he 'always pointed Melbourne to Christ'. Although more a journalist than an author by nature, his books included A Century of Victorian Methodism (1935).He died in Melbourne on 6 December 1980.

  • Australian Dictionary of Biography
  • Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography