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John and Merle Newman, 1995.

Photo courtesy of Laurel Newman.

Newman, John Harvey (1918–2003) and Merle Hope (Grosser) (1921–2022)

By Barry Oliver

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Barry Oliver, Ph.D., retired in 2015 as president of the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Sydney, Australia. An Australian by birth Oliver has served the Church as a pastor, evangelist, college teacher, and administrator. In retirement, he is a conjoint associate professor at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored over 106 significant publications and 192 magazine articles. He is married to Julie with three adult sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 29, 2020 | Last Updated: April 18, 2022

John Newman and his wife, Merle, spent most of their working lives ministering in cross-cultural environments in Australia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Papua, New Guinea, and Pitcairn Island during a time when, after World War II, the Church was beginning to gain considerable momentum, particularly in Melanesia.

Early Life

John Harvey Newman was born on March 31, 1918, at Parkes, New South Wales, Australia.1 His parents were William Thomas and Dora Sarah Maria Elizabeth (Pardington) Newman2 William Newman had two children by a previous marriage: Polly and Nell.3 Dora had a son, Oscar.4 The children of William and Dora Newman were Walter, Dora (Oliver), Ernie, Davie, Reuben, John, Ada (Sheen), George, and Edward “Ted.”5

John attended Parkes High School, where he obtained his Intermediate Certificate in 1932. He did one more year at school but did not go on to complete his Leaving Certificate.6 Then in 1934, John was baptized. On his first Biographical Information Blank, he recognized Pastor Thomas J. Bradley as being particularly influential in his decision for baptism.7 Pastor Bradley had been influential in leading many members of the Newman family to a decision for baptism into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.8 John’s father, William, however, was never baptized.9 Between November 1935 and October 1937, John was a literature evangelist, working to gain experience in meeting people and to raise funds so that he could attend the Australasian Missionary College.10 He worked in Broken Hill for a time, traversing the countryside in the heat of summer on a bicycle.11

Merle Hope Grosser was born on July 16, 1921, at Millicent, South Australia.12 She was the daughter of Fergus George13 and Daisy Mary (Holloway) Grosser.14 Her parents had become Seventh-day Adventists in 1913 and were founding members of the Millicent Church.15 Merle had five siblings: Tom, Verna (Bowman), Jeff, Bert, and Esther (Hodgen).16 She attended school with her siblings in Tantanoola and the Adventist school in Millicent. In 1938 she spent a year at the Australasian Missionary College17 before completing the nursing course at the Sydney Sanitarium, graduating in 1943.

Education and Marriage

John attended the Australasian Missionary College from 1938 to 1941, when he graduated from the shorter ministerial course.18 He was president of the graduating class in 1941.19

John and Merle met at Avondale.20 They were married on January 22, 1945.21 Three children were to be born into the family: Raymond Bruce, born at Kwailabesi, Malaita, Solomon Islands; Valerie Joy (Melvin), born at Honiara, Solomon Islands; and Laurel Dawn (Hope), born at Wau, Papua New Guinea.22

Early Service

While at Avondale, John had been very much involved with the youth program, the Master Comrades, as it was then known.23 After graduating, while still single, John was appointed to be a ministerial probationary in North Queensland, Australia.24 He soon found himself as the MV, JMV, and Sabbath School secretary for the North Queensland Mission.25 He remained in departmental work during 1942 and 1943.26 Then he engaged in evangelism in the North Queensland until the end of 1944. In 1945, after John and Merle were married, they moved to New Zealand, where John cared for churches at Hastings and Napier27 for nine months before they received an invitation to relocate to the Solomon Islands.28

Mission Field Service

John Newman commenced his service in the Pacific Islands as the district director at Kwailabesi on Malaita29 between 1945 and 1950.30 While there, Merle was heavily involved in caring for the hospital that had been established in Kwailabesi and dedicated in 1937.31 While the family was back in Australia for furlough, John was ordained on July 9, 1949, at Wahroonga, New South Wales.32

Then, between February 1950 and February 1953, he was the president of the Eastern Solomon Islands Mission based in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.33

A transfer to Papua New Guinea followed, where the family lived in Wau,34 and John was the president of the Morobe Mission between February 1953 and December 1954.35 John was responsible for establishing the Church at Wau and would patrol into the mountains behind Wau in the Morobe Province.36 At the beginning of 1955, John was appointed to the Western Highlands,37 where he was the district director at Rakamanda. He was heavily involved in requesting the Church to build the Sopas Hospital.38 Once a house was built, John and Merle and family moved to Tetamanda.39 In August 1957 John became the president of the Western Highlands Mission based in Mount Hagen.40 The Ialibu area was opened up for the Church at that time.41

The family returned to Australia and remained there between April 1961 and July 1965.42 Until December 1962, Pastor Newman was caring for churches at Busselton and Margaret River in Western Australia and was associated with an evangelistic series at Bunbury conducted by evangelist Alfred Jorgensen.43 The Newmans then moved to the Karalundi School for Australia’s indigenous youth, where John was superintendent between January 1963 and July 1965.44

Then, in July 1965, John and Merle were invited to return to Papua New Guinea. They accepted and were located at Bisiatabu, where the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Papua and New Guinea had commenced almost sixty years previously.45 They were at Bisiatabu less than a year before they were relocated to Kabiufa High School, where John taught Bible subjects at the school while also caring for some responsibilities at Moruma in the Chimbu Province.46 After just five months at Kabiufa and Moruma, in January 1967, they were relocated at Lae, where John once again was president of the Morobe Mission.47 In January 1970, the family transferred to Madang, where John had been appointed as the president of the Madang Mission.48

Just a few months into 1972, John and Merle Newman were granted a furlough to give them an opportunity to regain their health.49 They had served in the tropics of the South Pacific for some 23 years, and they needed time to recuperate. Before their furlough concluded, however, it was decided to appoint Pastor Newman to pastoral evangelism in the Greater Sydney Conference. They ministered in the Corrimal Adventist Church50 and the Wollongong Seventh-day Adventist Church51 between May 1972 and December 1975.52

In December 1975, Pastor and Mrs. Newman accepted a two-year appointment on Pitcairn Island. Unfortunately, they were not able to complete the full two years and had to return to Australia some months early because of Pastor Newman’s ill health.53 After some time recuperating, John pastored the Windsor church in the Greater Sydney Conference until he retired in 1978.54 During this time, Merle was working as a nurse at Kings Langley Retirement Village operated by the Greater Sydney Conference.55

Summary of Service56

Nov. 1, 1935–Oct. 31, 1937  Literature evangelist South New South Wales
Jan. 1, 1942–Dec. 31, 1943 MV, JMV, and Sabbath School Sec. North Queensland
Jan. 1, 1944–Dec. 31, 1944 Evangelist North Queensland
Jan. 1, 1945–Sep. 30, 1945 Pastor North New Zealand
Oct. 1, 1945–Jan. 31, 1950 District director, Kwailabesi Solomon Islands
Feb. 1, 1950–Feb. 1, 1953 President Eastern Solomon Islands
Feb. 2, 1953–Dec. 31, 1954 President Morobe Mission
Jan. 1, 1955–Jul. 31, 1957 District director, Rakamanda Western Highlands
Aug. 1, 1957–Mar. 31, 1961 President Western Highlands
Apr. 1, 1961–Dec. 31, 1962 Pastoral/evangelism Western Australia
Jan. 1, 1963–Jul. 3, 1965 Superintendent, Karalundi School Western Australia
Jul. 4, 1965–Jun. 30, 1966 District director, Bisiatabu Papua
Jul. 1, 1966–Dec. 31, 1966 Teacher Kabiufa High School
Jan. 1, 1967–Dec. 31, 1969 President Morobe Mission
Jan. 1, 1970–Mar. 11, 1972 President Madang Mission
Mar. 12, 1972–Apr. 30, 1972  Furlough
May 1, 1972–Dec. 6, 1975 Pastoral/evangelism Greater Sydney
Dec. 7, 1975–Jun. 30, 1976 Pastor Pitcairn Island
Jun. 30, 1976–Feb. 4, 1978 Pastor Greater Sydney
Feb. 4, 1978 Retirement

Retirement

John and Merle Newman officially retired on February 4, 1978, after 38 years of service.57 They continued for one additional year on sustentation.58 Then they moved to Yarrawonga Park, New South Wales.59Then, after a short time in the Avondale Retirement Village at Cooranbong, they moved to Kings Langley, where John shared with his brother-in-law, Pastor Bert Grosser, the supervision of the Kings Langley Retirement Village in the Greater Sydney Conference.60 They moved briefly back to Avondale but then they settled back at Kings Langley.61 John Harvey Newman died on June 4, 2003, at Blacktown, New South Wales. Merle Newman died Monday, February 21, 2022 aged 100 years.62

Sources

“Also laying aside his work. . . .” Australasian Record, February 28, 1972.

Draper, G. “William Thomas Newman obituary.” Australasian Record, August 12, 1957.

Fraser, A. M. “Adjustments in the Solomons and Papua-New Guinea Mission Territories.” Australasian Record, July 7, 1947.

“Greater Sydney Providing Care from the Cradle to the Grave.” South Pacific Record, February 1987.

Grosser, Bert, Ron Craig, and Wal Taylor. “John Harvey Newman obituary.” Record, July 19, 2003.

John Harvey Newman Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Newman, John Harvey.” Document: “Biographical Information Blank, 14.07.42.”

John Harvey Newman Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Newman, John Harvey.” Document: “Biographical Information Blank, 13.07.49.

John Harvey Newman Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Newman, John Harvey.” Document: “Newman, John Harvey Biographical Record.”

John Harvey Newman Service Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Newman, John Harvey.” Document: “John Harvey Newman Personal Service Record.”

John Harvey Newman Service Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Newman, John Harvey.” Document: “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

John Harvey Newman Service Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Newman, John Harvey.” Document: “Worker Service Record.”

John Harvey Newman Sustentation Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Newman, John Harvey.” Document: “Newman, Mr. John Harvey.”

John Harvey Newman Sustentation Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Newman, John Harvey.” Document: “Pastor J. H. Newman (Gtr. Sydney Conf.)”

Jorgensen, A. S. “And So We Say Farewell: The Emotions of a Minister on Transfer.” Australasian Record, March 5, 1962.

Judd, Claude D. “Lewis Graham Rampton obituary.” Australasian Record, September 24, 1973.

Kent, J. W. “Fergus George Grosser obituary.” Australasian Record, March 19, 1951.

Mackay, F. L. “Daisy Mary Grosser obituary.” Australasian Record, July 1, 1974.

Newman, J. H. “Newman-Elliott.” Australasian Record, February 16, 1976.

“Nominations, Appointments, and Transfers.” Australasian Record, October 6, 1941.

“Pastor and Mrs. John Newman. . . .” Australasian Record, October 25, 1976.

Piper, A. H. “Itinerating in the Solomons, Part 2.” Australasian Record, August 9, 1937.

Scarr, Goldie. “Master Comrade Investiture at AMC.” Australasian Record, December 8, 1941.

Stewart, M. M. “The Church That Was Moved Three Times.” Australasian Record, September 4, 1972.

Notes

  1. John Harvey Newman Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Newman, John Harvey,” Document: “Biographical Information Blank, 13.07.49.”

  2. Barry Oliver, personal knowledge as a great-grandson of William and Dora Newman.

  3. Barry Oliver, personal knowledge.

  4. Raymond Newman (son of John and Merle Newman), telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  5. Lewis Newman (grandson of William and Dora Newman), interview by author, March 13, 2018, Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia; G. Draper, “William Thomas Newman obituary,” Australasian Record, August 12, 1957, 7.

  6. John Harvey Newman Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Newman, John Harvey,” Document: “John Harvey Newman Personal Service Record.”

  7. John Harvey Newman Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Newman, John Harvey,” Document: “Biographical Information Blank, 14.07.42.”

  8. Barry Oliver, personal knowledge.

  9. Ibid.

  10. John Harvey Newman Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Newman, John Harvey,” Document: “Worker Service Record.”

  11. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  12. John Harvey Newman Biographical Records, “Biographical Information Blank, 13.07.49.”

  13. J. W. Kent, “Fergus George Grosser obituary,” Australasian Record, March 19, 1951, 7.

  14. F. L. Mackay, “Daisy Mary Grosser obituary,” Australasian Record, July 1, 1974, 14.

  15. Ibid.

  16. Raymond Newman, e-mail message to author, March 16, 2018.

  17. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  18. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Worker Service Record.”

  19. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  20. Ibid.

  21. Bert Grosser, Ron Craig, and Wal Taylor, “John Harvey Newman obituary,” Record, July 19, 2003, 14.

  22. John Harvey Newman Biographical Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Newman, John Harvey,” Document: “Newman, John Harvey Biographical Record”; John Harvey Newman Biographical Records, “Biographical Information Blank, 13.07.49;” Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  23. Goldie Scarr, “Master Comrade Investiture at AMC,” Australasian Record, December 8, 1941, 8.

  24. “Nominations, Appointments, and Transfers,” Australasian Record, October 6, 1941, 8.

  25. John Harvey Newman Service Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Newman, John Harvey,” Document: “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  26. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  27. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  28. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  29. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  30. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record”; A. M. Fraser, “Adjustments in the Solomons and Papua-New Guinea Mission Territories,” Australasian Record, July 7, 1947, 3.

  31. A. H. Piper, “Itinerating in the Solomons, Part 2,” Australasian Record, August 9, 1937, 3.

  32. John Harvey Newman Biographical Records, “Newman, John Harvey Biographical Record.”

  33. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  34. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  35. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  36. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  37. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  38. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  39. Ibid.

  40. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  41. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  42. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  43. A. S. Jorgensen, “And So We Say Farewell: The Emotions of a Minister on Transfer,” Australasian Record, March 5, 1962, 4.

  44. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  45. Ibid.

  46. Ibid.

  47. Ibid.

  48. Ibid.

  49. “Also laying aside his work . . . ,” Australasian Record, February 28, 1972, 16.

  50. M. M. Stewart, “The Church That Was Moved Three Times,” Australasian Record, September 4, 1972, 6.

  51. Claude D. Judd, “Lewis Graham Rampton obituary,” Australasian Record, September 24, 1973, 14.

  52. John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record.”

  53. “Pastor and Mrs. John Newman . . . ,” Australasian Record, October 25, 1976, 16.

  54. Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  55. Ibid.

  56. Compiled from two documents: John Harvey Newman Service Records, “John Harvey Newman Personal Service Record” and John Harvey Newman Service Records, “Newman, John Harvey Service Record”; also from Raymond Newman, telephone interview by author, March 11, 2018.

  57. John Harvey Newman Sustentation Records, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Folder: “Newman, John Harvey,” Document: “Pastor J. H. Newman (Gtr. Sydney Conf.).”

  58. John Harvey Newman Sustentation Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: “Newman, John Harvey;” Document: “Newman, Mr John Harvey.”

  59. Ibid.

  60. “Greater Sydney Providing Care from the Cradle to the Grave,” South Pacific Record, February 1987, 10.

  61. Ibid.

  62. Bert Grosser, Ron Craig, and Wal Taylor, “John Harvey Newman obituary,” Record, July 19, 2003, 14. Laurel Hope (Newman), email message to author, March 28, 2022.

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Oliver, Barry. "Newman, John Harvey (1918–2003) and Merle Hope (Grosser) (1921–2022)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 18, 2022. Accessed April 17, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D818.

Oliver, Barry. "Newman, John Harvey (1918–2003) and Merle Hope (Grosser) (1921–2022)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 18, 2022. Date of access April 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D818.

Oliver, Barry (2022, April 18). Newman, John Harvey (1918–2003) and Merle Hope (Grosser) (1921–2022). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D818.