1960’s – The Beginnings
From what can be discerned from the historical documents available, two men independently established FGBMFI chapters in Australia under the auspices of the FGBMFI in USA.
In 1960 Howard Seidel had approached Demos Shakarian and brought into Adelaide some Voice magazines and felt he had to commence the work in Australia. In 1960, the Adelaide FGBMFI Chapter was chartered. Their mission statement included “To help believers be baptised in the Holy Spirit and grow spiritually. Early committee members were Harry Seidel, Lawrie Wallquist, Colin Pitman, Bill Britcher, Derek Corbell, Peter Cracknell, Don Ridge, Perc Ridge, Gerald Rowlands. Later Ken Durrant was appointed as Australia’s first field representative.
In those early years, the FGBMFI was very often the catalyst, a forerunner, for the Charismatic Renewal. Miracles of healing, many salvations and men and women being baptised in the Holy Spirit was the norm for most meetings.
In 1961 Ray Moulton, founder of Gospel Film Ministry in Melbourne, attended a Booksellers Convention in Los Angeles California USA. Having found a magazine called “Voice” he returned to Melbourne with a number of this publication. Within a few days he sent copies to his contacts in each Capital City throughout the nation. In Queensland John McKewen received the “Voice” magazines and immediately called Bernie Gray and his son-in-law James Tatters. They came together to explore the possibility of circulation of this new found evangelistic tool for the marketplace as they all had business interests in Brisbane City. The men in the other States of Australia began in a similar way discovering the value of what they were given.
In September 1962, a group of Melbourne men applied for chapter affiliation with the FGBMFI in America. In May 1963, the Melbourne Chapter was chartered with Ray Moulton as President and Frank Bladin and Laurie Barlow as Vice-Presidents. Its chartering process was not without difficulty as founding members wrestled with the issue of whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit and whether speaking in tongues as the essential and initial sign of the infilling of the Holy Spirit be essential for membership. It was finally agreed that their constitution would be in strict harmony with the American articles. Membership fee was £1/1-.
In Brisbane, Bernie Gray and others invited other men to join them in discussion, regular prayer times and reading numerous testimonials of successful business men who had become Christian believers. They also took note that these stories spoke of Breakfasts, Luncheons and Evening Dinner meetings held in the type of venues where business people frequented. An organisation called Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International convened these functions and men testified to the wonderful and miraculous power of the Holy Spirit being resident in the ordinary everyday happenings and issues of business life.
Eventually when they attended a World Convention in Los Angeles, Bernie found a man who was the World Ambassador so Bernie visited him in his office the next working day. During his visit Bernie met all the office workers and Demos Shakarian, Founder of FGBMFI and was greatly impressed with what he had seen. Then the Lord burned into Bernie’s spirit that which was without any doubt whatsoever, “This Fellowship is birthed in the Holy Spirit and therefore it is maintained by the same Holy Spirit and will always be alive to the time only when the Holy Spirit is taken out of this world.
In 1966 the Toowoomba chapter was chartered. FGBMFI was now national within Australia, with records showing that the Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Geelong chapters all very active in 1967..
1970’s – The Decade of Influence
In 1974, an unincorporated voluntary association known as the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International was formed to strengthen the FGBMFI movement in Australia. During the second half of 1974, a special meeting of Chapter Presidents and officers was held at the Noah Hotel in North Sydney, with fourteen men in attendance. John McKewen, an architect, was appointed first National Chairman with Bernie Gray as National Secretary.
In 1976, the first National Convention was held in the Park Royal Hotel in Brisbane.
In 1978, John McKewen stepped down and Ron Oastler, an Executive Training Officer and premium speaker for IBM Australia, was appointed National President at a special meeting during the National Convention that year.
1980’s – The Decade of Growth
In 1980, Demos Shakarian visited Adelaide for the 20 year celebration. By then, there were three chapters in South Australia, Adelaide, Regency and Eyre Peninsula, and others elsewhere around the nation.
However, in 1983, due to Lawrence Fraser stepping down as Regional Director because of family and other commitments and Barry Young moving his family to Adelaide, the Eyre Peninsula chapter closed. But then the was a powerful prophecy that God would establish the FGBMFI throughout the nation.
In 1984, Bernie Gray was appointed National President with Ron Oastler remaining as the Chairman of the National Board.
Also in 1984, Adelaide Chapter was renamed South Adelaide Chapter, and new chapters formed elsewhere in Adelaide, namely Adelaide East, Adelaide North, Glenelg, which was later renamed as Adelaide Central. New chapters were also formed in the country areas, namely Riverland Loxton, Balaklava and District, Naracoorte, Lower Eyre Peninsula, Mt Gambier, Port Augusta and Coober Pedy.
Elsewhere around the nation, other Chapters were being established and were gaining momentum. The Gold Coast Chapter was believed to have been the largest Chapter in the nation.
Early in the 1980’s it became apparent the FGBMFI needed to be restructured to manage the rapid growth of the FGBMFI in Australia, and on 10th August 1985, a not-for profit company, the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International Ltd, was formed, with Bernie Gray, James Tatters, Ron Oastler, David Grantham and Keith Cleland as the directors of the board./p>
Also in 1985, the FGBMFI World Convention was held in Melbourne.
1990’s – The Decade of Change
With the passing of Demos Shakarian in 1993, the FGBMFI began to decline in membership and chapters in many parts of the world, including Australia. From a high of around 2500 members in Australia during the 1980’s, membership fell to around 800 in the year 2000 despite the strenuous efforts of the national board.