By the time Brother Carter reached the shores of Australia, significant progress had already been made by the Unity Committee (NSW) and by the Victorian ecclesias in their own earlier reunion.

The British perception was that the fellowship situation in Australia was confused, in that there were ecclesias formerly of both fellowships now joined together in Victoria, whilst ecclesias in other states remained in their respective Central and Shield groupings.

In 1955 an open letter from the then Central Fellowship ecclesias in Australia was published in The Christadelphian expressing concern that Shield ecclesias would allow those holding error to be retained in fellowship. The Shield ecclesias denied such claims and the Unity Committee emphatically stated that acceptance of the reunion proposal required a sincere acceptance by all of the doctrines contained in the BASF.

Considerable progress had been made since those earlier negotiations and by 1958 a majority of Central ecclesias and some 95% of Shield brethren were in support of the reunion. However there were still considerable difficulties with Concord West (Sydney) and Elizabeth Street (Brisbane) ecclesias who had separated themselves from the Central Fellowship because of their concerns regarding the wording of the proposed reunion statements and possible compromises in doctrine.

In reporting on the issues raised and the correct understanding of the BASF, Brother Carter commented that, “After patient enquiry it was evident the Shield ecclesias were more representative of Central position than either Concord or Brisbane (Elizabeth Street) so far as the latter can be judged by the statements of their arranging brethren.”

On return to England Brother Carter gave a lengthy report to a large gathering in Birmingham on the work of reunion in Australia. In this address he referred to the circumstances that had transpired whereby some English brethren migrating to Australia had joined Central meetings and found that the views expressed by some Australian brethren were somewhat extreme and would not have been accepted in Central meetings in England.

In 1958 there were a little under 4,000 brethren and sisters in Australia, with over 3,000 being from the Shield Fellowship spread across the country. The main concentration of Central Fellowship brethren was on the eastern seaboard and in Melbourne the majority were Central.

While in Australia Brother Carter embarked upon a quite strenuous program involving visits to Melbourne, Launceston, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth over a 42-day period. This involved giving exhortations, lectures and fraternal addresses apart from the all-important discussions with Arranging Brethren.

Such discussions were co-operative, open and frank. However, at meetings with the Arranging Brethren of Concord West (Sydney) and Elizabeth Street (Brisbane) ecclesias, the atmosphere was rather strained and no real progress was made. The influence of Brother PO Barnard’s views was very evident in these meetings and reflected closely the position taken 50th Anniversary of Reunion in Australia by Brother JJ Andrew some 60 years earlier.

Before Brother Carter embarked upon the strenuous program, he sought assurance from the NSW Unity Committee that there was ready acceptance of the proposed “Basis of Fellowship”. The committee was able to advise of written acceptances by an overwhelming majority; and the committee intended to work closely with the smaller groups who had some difficulties with the proposed basis. The proposed basis had been drawn up by the NSW Unity Committee with input from the Victorian Unity Committee, and incorporated the addendum provided by Brother Carter and Brother Cooper in a letter to the Adelaide Conference in 1956.

Brother Carter made a particular point of saying that the invitation to visit Australia and attend the Melbourne Conference in 1958 came from a group of six Melbourne ecclesias of the Victorian reunion, the majority of which were former Central meetings. He went on to say, “Later the reunion committees in Melbourne and Sydney joined the invitation and it was decided to accept it and give what help lay in our power to clarify the situation.”

At the Melbourne Conference the motion putting forward the proposed “Basis of Fellowship” was accepted with great enthusiasm, being the culmination of several years work by a number of brethren throughout Australia but particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.

A comment from a leading Shield ecclesia late in 1958 summarised the response of many. “His visit removed many misunderstandings which have existed in the brotherhood for a long time… Brother Carter provided a wonderful stimulant by way of exhortations and addresses.”