Pointers

Pointers September 2014

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Pointers Vol 24 No.3

Inside this issue:

Does Faith Give you Better Health?
A recent book by Rodney Stark, a renowned sociologist of religion in the United States of America, America’s Blessings, argued that church attenders, on average, have an expectation of 7.6 years of life longer when they are 20 years of age than do non-church attenders (Stark 2012, loc. 1554). He argues that part of it is due to the ‘clean living’ of religious people. However, over and above that, he maintains religion contributes to lower blood pressure. In addition, he quotes another large study which found that church attenders were less likely than non-church attenders to have strokes. The major reasons, the book suggests, for these positive relationships are the fact that religion allays anxiety and tensions, loneliness and depression, and that it provides social support (Stark 2012, loc 1575). The data from a survey of public health which is part of the International Social Survey Program allows us to make some examination of the relationship between religious faith and health among Australians.

A Note on America’s Blessings
America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone Including Atheists (West Conshohocken, PA, USA: TempletonPress, 2012) summarises a wide range of research about the impact of religion on various aspects of life. The author, prominent US sociologist, Rodney Stark, argues that religion has a significant impact on many aspects of life including crime, fertility and the number of children in the family, levels of divorce, physical and mental health, generous citizenship, success in education, holding upper-prestige occupations, and home ownership. Taking all the benefits into account, Stark argues that American religion has an annual cash value of more than $2.6 trillion.

CRA Chairman’s Report 2014

Staff Report 2013-2014

CRA Finances 2013-14

Environmental Concerns among Christians and non- Christians
The lyrics of Australia’s national anthem reflect the environmental uniqueness of this country. With phrases such as “golden soil”, “nature’s gifts”, “beauty rich and rare”, arguably many Australians would consider the anthem as reflecting their own views of the Australian environment. While many Australian Christians consider it a responsibility to look after ‘God’s environment’, there are other Christians who take literally the Genesis 1:27 suggestion that human beings should rule over all the world and are unwilling to take action to protect the environment (see Hughes, 1997).

 

Pointers June 2014

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Pointers Vol24, No.2

Inside this Issue:

Church and Sport: Churches Connecting with Local Communities through Sport – Several decades ago, sport and the church existed side-by-side within many local communities. In fact, in many places, local churches took an active role in developing sporting activities or collaborating with local sporting clubs. Many churches entered sporting clubs in local cricket or netball competitions. In some instances a league or an association was formed to cater for church clubs which had numerous young people ready and willing to participate. For example, a junior football league was formed more than 50 years ago in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne to allow children from local Catholic primary schools the opportunity to compete against each other on a Saturday morning, leaving Sundays free for church and family commitments. In many places, tennis courts were constructed on the same property when a new church was built, then subsequently a tennis club formed.

Trust and Faith – One of the most important components of social life is trust. Trust is the basis of human relationships. It is the expectation that people will do what they say they will do, the belief that people are basically honest. Trust is the expectation that people will take into account your interests as they make their decisions, that they are not self-centred.

Examination of Growth in the Church of England in Britain – The Church of England recently commissioned a major research program looking at church growth in its churches throughout Britain. The research asked where the church is growing, and why some churches grow while others decline. A series of reports was released and are available on the Internet at http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk. This article is based on the summary report and the page numbers refer to pages in that report.

Ordained Local Ministry – Many Australian churches are led by people who have been given a special ordination to serve a particular local church. Most of these people have part-time appointments or are people who have retired from full-time employment but who have taken on the responsibility of leadership in a local church. Most of these people do not have the full training that is required of full-time clergy. A number of Anglican dioceses in Australia, for example, have ordained local ministers (see discussion in Hughes and Kunciunas 2009). In Uniting Churches, there is a similar appointment of people called ‘community ministers’ (who are not ‘ministers of the Word’). In Lutheran Churches, there are ‘PWATs’ (pastors with alternative training). There has been little research on these alternative forms of ordination and ministry. However, a book entitled Ordained Local Ministry in the Church of England (Bowden et al., 2011) begins to fill this gap in relation to the Church of England.

ARPA and Christian Press in Australia – In 1974, a Christian communication network was established in Australia: The Australian Religious Press Association. A New Zealand Chapter was formed in 1990 and ARPA became the Australasian Religious Press Association.

Pointers March 2014

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Pointers Vol24, No.1

Inside this Issue:

What Do People Mean When They Call Themselves Christians?
What do people mean when they identify themselves as Christians? The meaning varies, of course. Some mean that they are involved in Christian churches. In Australia, there are 10 million people who identify themselves as Christians but who rarely, if ever, attend a church. What do they mean by that identification? Do they ‘believe’, but choose ‘not to belong’? In other words, do they like Jesus, but dislike the churches? Or does their identification mean that, in some sense, they ‘belong’, even if they do not attend?

How Many Christians Are There Really in Australia? And Who Does Not Answer the Religion Question on the Census?
Most overseas publications say that 67 per cent of Australians are Christian (see, for example, the Pew Research Centre, p.49). Most Australian publications say that it is 61 per cent. Both figures are based on the 2011 Australian Population Census, but interpret the data differently. Overseas
scholars usually take the ‘missing data’, the people who have not responded to the question out of the equation. In other words, those people who do not answer the question are assumed to be ‘religious’ to the same extent as the rest of the population. Australian scholars report the missing data as one of the ‘responses’. On the other hand, a number of religious groups argue that the census under counts them. What do we know about those who do not respond to the question?

The Bible According to Gen Z
More than at any other time in history, Australian young people are exposed to the Bible. Close to 40 per cent of all students undertake some of their schooling in a church-runschool with religious education classes. Yet, one gets the impression from talking to many young people that the level of Biblical literacy is very poor. They know little of what is in the Bible and have little understanding of it.

Cathedral Prayer Boards
In England, a number of cathedrals have public prayer boards. Paper and pens are provided for visitors to the cathedral to write their prayers which are then pinned to a board or placed in a box. In many cases, people write prayer requests rather than prayers in themselves, and it is expected that cathedral staff will pray on their behalf. A recent study has analysed the prayers and prayer requests at Bangor Anglican Cathedral in North Wales and the results were presented in a paper presented at the International Society for the Sociology of Religion in Turku, Finland (ap Siôn 2013b) and the chapter of a book (ap Siôn 2013a).

Young People, Faith and Social Justice
Concern with issues of social justice may seem at odds with the individualism and consumerism of the world of young people. Yet, increasing numbers of young people are becoming involved in the community through volunteering and many are involved in social justice activities. To what extent does faith provide a basis for involvement in social justice among young people? What role does faith play in young people’s motivations? These issues were
addressed by Dr. Joan Daw in a project with MCD University of Divinity in 2009, published in Young People, Faith and Social Justice, by the Yarra Institute Press in 2013.

Pointers December 2013

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Pointers Vol.23-3

Inside this issue:

Religious Concentrations
No religious group is spread evenly throughout Australia. For each religious group, there are areas in which they are more concentrated and other areas where they are less so. One might expect that such concentrations have to do with vitality of local religious communities. However, the patterns tell us much
more about the history of settlement and the ways people make decisions about faith.

Australian Megachurches
If one defines a megachurch as one with more than 2,000 attenders on a typical Sunday, then Australia had about 21 such churches in 2012. While they constitute is a very small proportion of the more than 15,000 churches in Australia, they account for about 5 per cent of all people attending a church on a typical Sunday. Sam Hey, a lecturer at the Christian Heritage College, has
completed an excellent doctoral thesis on the megachurches, which has now been published as a book. It is highly recommended for those interested in the development of church life in Australia.

World Youth Day: What difference does it make?
World Youth Day has become the largest regular gathering of young people in the world. Conducted every two to three years, World Youth Day regularly attracts more than one million participants, including thousands of young Australians.

Media Matters

At the Connect Christian Media Conference in 2013, Peter Bentley spoke with Phil Cooke, media consultant and film producer. Phil is a prominent leader in media and filmconsultancy in the not-for-profit and Christian organisation arena in the USA, generally working with Protestants. The Salvation Army, Mercy Ships, and Media Ministry International are among the many groups he
has advised. As well as media qualifications, Cooke has a PhD in theology which has given him an unusual profile in Hollywood.

Postmodern Forms of Religion in Asian Islam
Over the past 50 years, Western forms of religiosity and spirituality have changed markedly. The individualism and consumerism of the post-traditional age have had great influence on the way that religion is expressed. As illustrated in the article on megachurches in this edition of Pointers, Pentecostal and charismatic megachurch growth has arisen in an age of ‘free market’ religion in which individuals have sought for that expression of faith which best suits their needs, rather than being attached to a denomination that is part of their heritage and a church which serves the local area. This has encouraged many churches to become ‘seeker sensitive’ in the ways they present their services. While the focus of research on change has occurred in Western countries, and in relation to Christianity, there have been some similar movements in Asia. At the International Society for the Sociology of Religion conference held in Turku, Finland in June 2013, the University of Western Sydney researcher, Prof Julia Howell pointed to growing new expressions of Islam in Indonesia.

Pointers September 2013

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Pointers September 2013

Inside this issue:

Opening the Doors:Teenage Participation in Local Churches
Over recent decades, the involvement of young Australians in worship services has been declining. However, analysis of surveys of students in Catholic schools has shown that many young people who do not attend services of worship are involved in churches in other ways. The most common form of involvement is through sporting clubs, but others are involved in small groups, social welfare and social justice activities, in
music and drama. This pattern reflects the individualistic and consumer-oriented way in which young people decide upon their
involvements. It is a reminder to the churches that if they want to engage young people today, they need to open many doors to them, not just the door to worship.

Growing Youth Spirituality Conference

On Friday 19th and Saturday 20th July 2013, more than 80 people gathered at Tabor College in Melbourne for the ‘Growing Youth
Spirituality’ conference. Those who attended came from around Australia and from a broad range of denominations. Many were working as teachers or chaplains in schools. Others were youth workers and some were working in local churches. A couple of priests and a bishop joined the conference. Other participants were working in educational or denominational offices developing programs and activities for youth ministry.

CRA Staff Report July 2012 – June 2013

CRA Finances 2011-12

Chairman’s Report 2013

Sexual Abuse by Clergy and Other Church Workers
In this issue Philip Hughes looks at the release of two recent books:- ‘For Christ’s Sake’ by Geoffrey Robinson, and  ‘Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power
and Organizational Culture’ by Marie Keenan.

Report on the ISSR Conference 2013:
Rethinking Community: Religious Continuities and Mutations in Late Modernity

Pointers June 2013

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Pointers Vol.23-2

Inside this issue:
Profile of Australian Clergy – The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) classifies ‘ministers of religion’ within the broader social and welfare professional occupation, and defines the occupation as people who perform:
“. . . spiritual functions associated with beliefs and practices of religious faiths, and provide motivation, guidance and training in religious life for the people of congregations and parishes, and the wider community” (ABS 2006, p327).

This article uses ‘clergy’ to describe these people, although in many denominations, this will not correspond with official usage of the term. The information provided by ABS Census statistics on clergy in Australia provides a useful picture.

CRA Youth Ministry Research Discussion Day – Twenty-one people gathered for discussion about Youth Ministry Research on 5th February 2013. Among the participants were youth directors from differentdenominations and dioceses around Australia, some advisors from organisations which work with youth including ACCESS Ministries, Scripture Union and Tabor College (Melbourne), and staff members of the Christian Research Association (CRA). Seven denominations were represented: Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, The Salvation Army and the Uniting Church in Australia.

Two Ways Anglicans and Other Christians are Responding to the Australian Culture – It is widely recognised that the Sydney Anglican Diocese is very different from most other Anglican Dioceses around Australia in its opinions, outlook and way of responding to Australian
culture. The difference has been apparent in relation to many issues, including the ordination of women and lay people presiding at the Eucharist. In 2011, Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism: The Sydney Experiment by Muriel Porter was published. It highlighted many of the differences between Sydney and other Anglican dioceses. While this book focusses solely on Australian Anglicans, it highlights differences in the ways Christians are responding to the Australian culture across the denominations.
The Absence of Religion in the Czech Republic -The Czech Republic was one of the strongholds of the Protestant Reformation. Jan Hus (1369-1415), a Czech priest, was one of the earliest reformers. In 1950, 11 per cent of the population of Czech republic identified in the Czech Census with the Hussite Church. However, in the 2011 Census, the Hussites were just 0.4 per cent of the population.
Pilgrims or Tourists: the Origins of World Youth Day -An initiative of the late Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day has become the largest regular gathering of young people in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands, and on occasions, millions of participants. The size and scale of the event has resulted in its comparison to the Olympic Games and it has also necessitated significant organisational and logistical
effort and financial support (Norman & Johnson, 2011, p.372).

Pointers December 2012

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Pointers Vol. 22-4 (December 2012)

Inside this issue:

  • The Impact of Recent Immigration on Religious Groups in Australia– Since World War II, immigration has played a huge role in  the development of religious faith in Australia. That role has been most evident in the place that many of the world’s religions now have in Australia. Since 1971, the number of Australians associated with a religion other than Christianity has risen from just 0.1 million to 1.5 million. However, many millions of the immigrants have been Christian and some denominations would hardly exist today without the enormous influx of members that immigration has brought. The 2011 Census shows that the story of immigration and its impact on the religious life of Australia is a continuing one.
  • Immigrant Ministers of Religion – Among the recent immigrants to Australia are 1,362 classified as ministers of religion. Of these, 1,242 were Christian, 22 were Buddhist, 32 were Hindu, 11 were Muslims, 25 were Jews, 19 were of other religions, and 11 described themselves as having no religion or as not stating their religion (possibly secular celebrants).
  • Encouragements and Discouragements in Reading the Bible –
    About 4 per cent of young people read the Bible daily, another 6 per cent read it at least once a week, and 15 to 20 per cent read it occasionally (Hughes, 2010). In 2009 and 2010, the CRA conducted 333 interviews with young people and youth leaders in youth groups across Australia to discover what encouraged and discouraged young people in reading the Bible. The project was commissioned by a group of organisations including The Bible Society, Scripture Union, YouthWorks, the Lutheran Church and The Salvation Army (Southern Territory).
  • Spiritual but not Religious  – In many parts of the Western world, belief in God as creator and as active in history is in decline. Yet people are increasingly looking for the meaning of life in ‘the Spirit’. This is occurring both within the churches, through Pentecostal and charismatic movements and through mystical movements, and outside the churches through the New Age movement and through interest in holistic  wellbeing. Why is this happening and what is its significance in  understanding our changing Western culture?
  • Ministry in Anglican Schools – While congregations are dwindling, church schools are growing. The proportion of Australians sending their children to schools associated with a Christian denomination has continued to grow for many years. Close to one-third of all students now attend a Christian school. Catholic schools are by far the largest part of this with more than 1,700 schools across Australia. The second largest group is the 147 Anglican schools. In many denominations, however, questions are being asked about why the denomination should sponsor schools, what their aims should be, and what forms of ministry are appropriate in schools where few students are committed to the Christian faith. A new book from Anglican Schools Australia, Ministry in Anglican Schools: Principles and Practicalities, explores some of these issues. (The following references are all to that book.)

Pointers September 2012

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Pointers Vol. 22-3 (September 2012)

Articles include:

The Persistence of Religion:What the Census Tells Us
When the 2011 Australian Census figures were first released on 21st June 2012, the percentage of Australians ticking the ‘no religion’ box made headlines. Newsreporters noted how Australia had become more secular. On talk-back radio, people either celebrated or lamented the increased numbers of atheists in Australia. However, the real story of the Census is somewhat different: it is a story of the persistence of religion.

Religion around Australia: Changing Populations
Whilst the previous article paints a national picture of religious identification according to the Census, different geographical areas throughout Australia have always revealed different pictures, particularly when one compares the capital cities to non-urban areas. States and Territories differ. Inner city areas can be different from the suburbs. Urban areas are different from rural areas. Different geographical areas have their own histories and traditions, and different denominations are stronger in some areas than in others.

CRA Annual Staff Report 2011-2012
CRA Chairman’s Report 2012

The City is my Parish?
Understanding the Hillsong Model

John Wesley is well-known for his ‘world’ outlook –

I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God has called me to; and sure I am that His blessing attends it. (Journal: 11 June 1739).
Among Pentecostal churches, Hillsong* is the most widely known in Australia and internationally. The weekly attendance at its Sydney services alone is more than 20,000, making it the largest mega-church in Australia.

What are some features that are helpful to understanding
the increasingly global phenomenon that Hillsong has become?

Pointers June 2012

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Pointers Vol. 22-2 (June 2012)

Articles include:

  • God’s Activity in Miracles –  It was reported in the Adelaide Advertiser at Easter time that around half of all Australians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and that he walked on water. According to this report, Australians are ready to accept the existence of miracles. Mr McCrindle, the researcher, was quoted as saying: ‘This idea of a 21st century sceptical secular mind dominating is not accurate’. Was he right?
  • Homelessness –  When we think of homeless people we often think of those on the streets, dishevelled in appearance, roaming the rubbish bins for food, a blight on the social landscape which we wish would just disappear, or at least hide themselves from our view. In effect, however, homelessness is much broader, and any understanding of it certainly requires more deeper vision than that first image conjures up.
  • Notes from an American Study of Youth Ministry –  Over the last decade or more, a project entitled ‘Exemplary Youth Ministry’ has been in progress in the United States. Results from the study were published in 2010 in The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry: Leading Congregations toward Exemplary Youth Ministry. While there are many differences between the American and Australian contexts, not least in the numbers of churches that can afford paid youth leaders, there are some findings that are important for youth ministry in Australia.
  • Reviewing Church Life –  Reviews of church life take place in many ways such as through an ‘Annual General Meeting’ within a local church, when the leaders for a region gather such as in a Synod, or when researchers do an analysis of church life. All such reviews make certain assumptions about what ‘church life’ should be about. The Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania has been thinking about these assumptions and suggesting some new ways to conduct reviews.
  • Faith at the Olympics – “Doctors and scientists said breaking the fourminute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead.” Roger Bannister’s witty comment on his own achievement captures much of the significance, wider context and even celebrity orientation of sport in the modern world.

Pointers 2007

Sunday, May 27th, 2012
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