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Francis J. Butler

Photo courtesy of Mark Johnson.

Butler, Francis James (1896–1979)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 16, 2022

Francis James Butler's long denominational service included various administrative positions in Australia.

Early Life

Francis James Butler was the fourth child of James Lewis Butler and his wife Lillian (Allen). He had five siblings: Lewis Allen (b.1893), Sydney Clifton (b.1894), Winifred (b.1895), Frederick E. (b.1897), and Edward Adrian (b.1900).1 Francis (usually known as Jim) was born at Willoughby, suburban Sydney, on April 19, 1896, into a Presbyterian home. When he was seven years old, his parents joined the Seventh-day Adventist faith, impressed by the health work of the Sydney Sanitarium. He attended the denominational schools on the campus of the Avondale School for Christian Workers, Cooranbong, New South Wales, culminating in graduation from the shorthand and commercial course in 1913.2

A Long Denominational Career

Jim excelled in stenographic work. Upon graduation he was appointed to be secretary to Elder John Fulton, then president of the Australasian Union Conference (now South Pacific Division).3 He held this role for three years and was then appointed to be secretary/treasurer of the New South Wales Conference.4

The year 1919 ushered in a different prospect for Jim. He was appointed to do secretarial and treasury work in the Lucknow office of the Southern Asia Division of the General Conference, eventually working with John Fulton again.5 While serving far from home as a single young man, the year 1920 proved to be a traumatic one. He was sobered by the news of the passing of his college friend, Norman Wiles, serving as a missionary in the Solomon Islands. Then, in November, came the devastating news of the death of Eva Clements, his bride-to-be, in Burma. This was followed by news of his mother’s death on the last day of 1920.6 Poor Jim! Weakened by malarial attacks, he collapsed and a passage back to Australia was speedily booked for him to recuperate in the homeland.7 He returned to India later in 1921 to take up duties as secretary/treasurer of the South India Mission with headquarters at Bangalore. The following year he transferred to Poona for secretarial work. His overseas mission service ended in April 1923 with his return to Australia for a six-month furlough.8

From October 1923 through May 1925 Jim worked in the accounts office of the Australasian Missionary College and briefly taught a class in the Commercial Department. His health, however, remained indifferent. He decided to take sick leave and do some farming in Queensland in order to get out in the open air and sunshine away from an office desk.9 On December 28, 1926, he married Mary Anderson in the Concord Church, suburban Sydney. Mary was a successful church-school teacher at Fairfield, Sydney. Elder Norman Faulkner conducted their wedding service.10 He never went back to farming. Instead, feeling confident about his health, he accepted the role of secretary-treasurer of the Tasmania Conference in late 1926. It was a small conference, and Jim had a number of portfolios added to his chief role, including the responsibility for the Missionary Volunteer, Sabbath School, and Education departments. He remained in Tasmania for five years and then transferred to the South Australia Conference as secretary-treasurer and Missionary Volunteer secretary.11

For the next two decades of his career, Jim enjoyed a record unbroken by ill health. He served as secretary-treasurer for the Victoria Conference, December 1935 through October 1940: secretary-treasurer for the Queensland Conference, November 1940 through January 1944; accountant for the Sanitarium Health Food Company at Cooranbong, February 1944 through January 1949; and secretary-treasurer for the South New South Wales Conference, February 1949 through March 1956.12 During his last appointment he also carried at times the portfolios of Sabbath School secretary and Book and Bible House manager. He was ordained in 1950.13

After Retirement

Retirement came in 1956 after forty-two years of service. Jim and Mary had raised their family of five during the various transfers from one conference to another. The children were adults when he retired. They were Terence Alwyn (b.1929), Clifton Ian (b.1931), Maureen Faye (b.1933), Frank Milton (b.1934), and Douglas Neve (b.1936).14 Jim and Mary attended the Waitara and Woy Woy churches for most of their senior years. Jim painted houses for elderly people, gardened, and read Scripture to lonely invalids.15 Mary passed away peacefully in the Parklea Nursing Home, Blacktown, on March 21, 1978.16 Jim quietly passed away on November 26, 1979. They are at rest alongside each other in the Macquarie Park Cemetery, North Ryde, suburban Sydney.17

Sources

Aitken, J[ohn] D. K. “Lillian Butler,” Australasian Record, February 7, 1921.

Butler, Allan. “Francis James Butler.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, March 17, 1980.

Faulkner, N[orman] H. “Butler-Anderson.” Australasian Record, January 17, 1927.

Francis James Butler Biographical Information. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Work Service Records. Folder: Francis James Butler. Document: “Francis James Butler Biographical Information.”

“Francis James Butler.” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LZ51-5XF.

Fulton [Susie]. “Eva May Clements.” Eastern Tidings, December 1, 1920.

Johnson, Maureen. “Life Sketch of Pastor F.J. Butler.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, March 17, 1980.

Noble, Merle [Butler]. Glimpses of Our Ancestry: The Butlers and the Allens. Cooranbong, New South Wales: Heather Dixon, 2000.

Salom, A[lwyn] P. “Mary Butler.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 1, 1978.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1918-1956.

Notes

  1. “Francis James Butler,” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed December 19, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LZ51-5XF.

  2. Maureen Johnson, “Life Sketch of Pastor F.J. Butler,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, March 17, 1980, 14.

  3. Ibid.

  4. “New South Wales Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1918), 143-144.

  5. Francis James Butler Biographical Information. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Work Service Records. Folder: Francis James Butler. Document: “Francis James Butler Biographical Information.”

  6. J[ohn] D.K. Aitken, “Lillian Butler,” Australasian Record, February 7, 1921, 7.

  7. Merle {Butler] Noble, Glimpses of Our Ancestry: The Butlers and the Allens (Cooranbong, New South Wales: Heather Dixon, 2000), 26-28.

  8. Francis James Butler Biographical Information. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Work Service Records. Folder: Francis James Butler. Document: “Francis James Butler Biographical Information.”

  9. Ibid.

  10. N[orman] H. Faulkner, “Butler-Anderson,” Australasian Record, January 17, 1927, 7.

  11. Francis James Butler Biographical Information. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Work Service Records. Folder: Francis James Butler. Document: “Francis James Butler Biographical Information.”

  12. Ibid.

  13. “South New South Wales Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1951), 87-88.

  14. Francis James Butler Biographical Information. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Cooranbong, New South Wales. Work Service Records. Folder: Francis James Butler. Document: “Francis James Butler Biographical Information.”

  15. Maureen Johnson, “Life Sketch of Pastor F.J. Butler,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, March 17, 1980, 14.

  16. A[lwyn] P. Salom, “Mary Butler,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 1, 1978, 14.

  17. Allan Butler, “Francis James Butler,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, March 17, 1980, 14.

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Hook, Milton. "Butler, Francis James (1896–1979)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 16, 2022. Accessed November 29, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AJ9X.

Hook, Milton. "Butler, Francis James (1896–1979)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 16, 2022. Date of access November 29, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AJ9X.

Hook, Milton (2022, January 16). Butler, Francis James (1896–1979). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved November 29, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AJ9X.