Pointers Vol. 22-2 (June 2012)
- 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.
- The Christian Faith in Rural Australia – The proportion of Australians identifying themselves as Christian is in decline. But is there much difference between the capital cities and outside the capital cities? Are the rural areas the heartland for the Christian faith, or are they too in decline? There are many rural churches struggling, but is this because of declining populations and a lack of ordained clergy, or are other factors having an impact? Analysis of the 2006 Census data and the 2006 National Church Life Survey throws some light on the trends across the nation.
- Christian Management Today – A growing number of churches and Christian organisations in Australia are becoming aware of the need to have a solid professional base, and yet one that maintains a distinctively Christian approach to administration and organisation.The organisation Christian Management Australia was formed in 2002, to provide help to churches, organisations and individuals to develop appropriate forms of administration as part of their ministry.
- Out-of-home Care for Indigenous Children and Young People – The care of Indigenous children is a national issue. We have heard a lot about the problems of Indigenous children, but less about the solutions. What is happening to Indigenous children and young people who need care? In a national study the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) conducted interviews with professionals, carers and Indigenous young people in out-of-home care. The results have been published by the National Child Protection Clearinghouse operating from the AIFS.
- The Spirit of Generation Y: Young People’s Spirituality in a Changing Australia
ISBN: 9781920721466 ISBN 13: 9789781920721468 PP: 400
Authors: Michael Mason, Andrew Singleton and Ruth Webber. Publisher: John Garratt Publishing
This is a second book on the research conducted through the combined Monash University, Australian Catholic University and Christian Research Association project (from the 2002 pilot study to 2006).
- Being Single: Some Insights for the Church – Twenty-three per cent of all households in Australia are people living alone. Over the last ten years this proportion has risen while the number of family households has fallen. Among Australian men 15 years and over, 39 per cent have not married nor are living in a de facto relationship. Among women, 45 per cent are not in a partnership. Perhaps more people are choosing the single life-style. Perhaps some find themselves living by themselves because relationships have failed or have never developed. Whatever the reason for the change, the proportion of single person households is growing.
- Why the Lausanne Conference Will be Different – The 5th International Lausanne Researchers’ Conference will be held at the Geelong Conference Centre from Tuesday 8th to Saturday 12th April 2008. More than 65 people have registered to attend the conference. We are looking forward to a most worthwhile occasion. The Lausanne Conferences are different from other conferences that I attend. They offer something special to those looking at issues of Christian faith and mission.
- Spiritual Development – A major global challenge for our age is the spiritual development of young people. The Western growth of individualism has laid the responsibility of choice about religious faith and the development of a sense of identity firmly in the hands of individual young people, rather than being something handed on by the communities into which they are born. It has left millions of young people around the world feeling confused about life. On the other hand, some young people have reacted strongly to Western individualism and consumerism by an unquestioning, even fanatical, commitment to their religion or ideology. The result of these two developments around the globe has led to a rise in conflict between the confused and the ‘overcertain’. An understanding of spiritual development is critical to helping young people find meaning and purpose in life and, ultimately, in resolving some of the world tensions.
- Moving Beyond Forty Years of Missing Generations – Around forty years ago, the age profile of church attenders matched the wider community, but, since the 1960s, younger generations have gone missing. Latest results from the 2006 National Church Life Survey confirm the size of the current gap between church and community, as well as denominational variations. This is ‘old news’ but the need for effective responses by churches are more urgent than ever. In the next two decades, older and younger generations will need to negotiate through a significant period of transition. Perhaps the time is coming for the gap to begin to close.
- The Global Picture – Issues in Counting Religious Numbers
- Is Decline in Religion Inevitable? Religion and Young People: A Global Perspective – In many countries the task of passing on the Christian faith to younger generations is proving very difficult. In some countries, such as Australia, most young people have little interest in religious organisations. As shown in the graph on this page, young people identify less with Christian groups than do older people in Australian society. It is tempting to believe that this must be the inevitable pattern : hat inevitably the forces of secularisation will mean that young people lose interest in religion. However, one of the papers presented at the 2008 Lausanne Researchersʼ Conference challenged this through a global review of young people and religious involvement.
- 5th Lausanne Researchers’ Conference, Geelong, 8-12 April 2008 – Sixty researchers gathered at the Geelong Conference Centre early in April. It was a splendid opportunity to share the research in which we are engaged. Thirty-three papers were offered by the participants, covering a wide range of topics. Each presenter had 45 minutes to describe their research and to engage in conversation with colleagues about it.
- Transforming Melbourne Painting a Picture of Churches and Community in Melbourne – Christian mission to the city of Melbourne needs a concerted and cooperative effort. It needs all the churches to be involved, working together for common ends. In order to begin the task, an accurate and detailed picture of the church and of the city is needed. No-one has ever ‘painted a picture’ of the whole work of the churches in Greater Melbourne. No-one has ever undertaken to provide a canvas showing all the Christian Churches – their locations, activities, services, and schools. Did you know that there are probably more than 1,800 local churches in the Greater Melbourne area? There are at least 60 Chinese-speaking churches across Melbourne. But how many other ethnic-speaking congregations and parishes exist? How many house churches are active?
- Lay Leadership and the Vitality of Rural Congregations – Within rural Australia, a great range of patterns of organisation of ministry has emerged. Declining and ageing populations and increased costs and limited availability of full-time clergy have forced congregations to re-think how effective ministry can be conducted. Lay forms of leadership have become common. But it is not just a matter of necessity. Some people have argued that in giving ministry into the hands of lay people, it is giving it back to the whole church where it should reside.
- WORLD YOUTH DAY 2008 – World Youth Day 2008 was held in Sydney, Australia, with the Theme: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). World Youth Day, as an event, was established by Pope John Paul II in 1986, with the first being held in Rome, “to bring together young Catholics from around the globe to celebrate and learn about their faith on a more regular basis.” The Catholic body responsible is The Pontifical Council for the Laity.
- Unravelling Identity: Immigrants, Identity and
Citizenship in Australia
Trevor Batrouney and John Goldlust
For me, living overseas raised most poignantly the question of my national or ethnic identity. When I was living in Thailand, I was often asked where I came from. I was not sure how to answer that. I was born in England, but had lived in Australia. I had a British passport at that time, but I was on leave from work in Australia. I was very conscious of being a ‘Westerner’ rather than a Thai, having more in common with Americans and Europeans rather than Thai people, not only in my appearance but in my habits and my ways of thinking.
- Financial Giving to Churches – This article reviews the financial giving patterns of church attenders. It reveals very different cultures of giving across denominations. However,
a common trend is that more involved and motivated attenders tend to be more generous givers.
- Recent Publications in the Religion-and-Film Field – Peter Bentley’s (2007) article in Pointers: Bulletin of the Christian Research Association entitled “Visual Faith?” provided a good overview of recent internet resources pertaining to movies and the visual media ministry and claimed: “Images are all around us, but it sometimes takes a second look to see what is there” (p. 15). The same advice applies equally well to the many references relating to the emerging interdisciplinary field of religion-and-film (aka sacred cinema, spiritual cinema, holy film, cinematic theology, cinematheology, theo-film, celluloid religion, film-and-faith, film-faith dialogue), which nowadays is slowly turning into an
excitingly innovative cottage industry. The following is a brief, roughly categorised compilation of selected 2004-2008 items for your enjoyment and edification.
- Spiritual Capital ? – All businesses need financial capital. Their achievements are measured in the financial capital that they accumulate over time. But businesses need more than financial capital in order to function effectively. They need staff with the appropriate skills and capacities – sometimes referred to as ‘human capital’. The relationships between staff and with suppliers and clients which enable people to work effectively together, qualities of respect, trust and goodwill – sometimes referred to as ‘social capital’ – are also fundamental to the operation of every business. These forms of ‘capital’, financial, human and social, are needed for the effective operation of every human organisation and community, not just businesses. All human communities, whether as small as a family or as large a nation or a multinational company, need resources (which can be measured in financial terms), human skills and capacities, and relationships through which people can act effectively together. Recent literature has argued that there is yet another important factor: spiritual capital.
- EMERGING CHURCHES IN MELBOURNE – There is a growing movement of churches around the world that are reinventing themselves or starting afresh as new congregations which take seriously their missionary challenge. ‘Missional’, ‘new paradigm’, ‘fresh expression’, ‘new expressions of ’, ‘emerging’ and ‘emerging missional’ are among the terms used to describe these new ways of being and doing church. Among the experiments in emerging churches are Alternative worship, Cell church, Pub church, Cyber church, House church, Café church, Table church, Liquid church, Celtic church, Youth church, base ecclesial communities,new monasticism, commonpurse communities, mosaic multicultural groups, festival celebrations, art cooperatives and missional orders. In his book on emerging churches in the United Kingdom, Stuart Murray offers an overview of many of the different approaches.
- Marriage in Australia: Changes and Challenges – At the Lausanne Researchers’ Conference in April 2008, Peter Bentley presented a preliminary paper looking at the changes to marriage: status, place and wedding arrangements. The focus was on marriage in Australia with particular attention to Christian understandings of marriage. His interest in these topics has been stimulated over the last ten years by reading articles in newspapers and magazines, and having discussions with people at weddings and social events about marriage and relationships. This article is based on the Conference presentation.
- Conversion in Singapore – Singapore is a multicultural and multi-faith city. New charismatic churches and Christian cathedrals sit next to ancient Taoist and Hindu temples and Moslem mosques. Some new religious movements such as Soka Gakkai and Satya Sai Baba have had considerable success in gaining converts. Among certain parts of the population there has been considerable movement from one religion to another, but in other parts, very little movement. A recent book by Chee Kiong Tong, Rationalizing Religion: Religious Conversion, Revivalism and Competition in Singapore Society, published by Brill, Leiden, 2007, has analysed the changes and the trends. The author’s insights tell us not only about Singapore but more generally about the dynamics of religious conversion.
- Australian Clergy – Every denomination counts its clergy differently. Some include those who are retired while other denominations do not. Some include those who are in non-pastoral positions while others do not. The lines between those who are ‘ordained’ and those who may be taking leadership but as non-ordained leaders varies greatly from one denomination to another.
A Brief Review of Church-Related Research in Australia 1975-2005, by Peter Bentley and Phillip Hughes
ISBN : 1-875223-23-1
This paper has two parts. The first is a brief survey of sociological research that has been undertaken in church-related organisations since 1975. This review does not cover historical, economic or psychological research, nor research based on ethical, Biblical or theological grounds. Nor does it attempt to cover the research that has occurred in tertiary institutions, although some references are made to such research. This overview focuses on religious faith and church life. It does not cover the large amount of research that has been done in relation to religious schools and religious education. Nor does it cover the research conducted by welfare agencies and social justice arms of the churches.
The second part traces some development in thethinking about church life and faith in the Australian cultural context, focusing particularly on the journey that has occurred in the Christian Research Association over the last twenty years while acknowledging contributions from other research bodies. In tracing this journey, this review reflects on the evolving understanding of the Australian context, summarising some of the major insights and findings from the research.
- Leadership in Rural Churches – Over the past 12 months, the Christian Research Association has undertaken a study of organisation and leadership in rural Anglican churches. Five case-studies have been conducted, each of a different kind of leadership and organisation. This article discusses the pros and cons of the various patterns.
- Door to Door Evangelism
- Research and Reflections on Rural Church Life in England – The Church of England has produced a range of materials on rural church life and the Christian responses to rural issues. As a demonstration of its commitment to rural research, the Church of England has contributed one full-time national officer to the Arthur Rank Centre, Warwickshire. The Arthur Rank Centre is a partnership between the Royal Agricultural Society of England, the Rank Foundation and the churches working in rural England and is focussed on equipping the rural church. A variety of materials for rural churches is available on their website: http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk
- Leading with our Strengths: Empowering Others – Wherever communities of people exist, leadership exists – or needs toexist. But how do you create, or contribute to, “good” leadership? And what might it look like? NCLS Research has seen that inspiring and empowering leadership is a key factor in developing vital and growing churches. Using data from the Church Life Surveys, they have been exploring the kind of leadership that can make a positive difference to building stronger communities, organisations and churches.
- Religion and Occupation – What is the most religious occupation? This paper looks at the links between religion, occupation and industry sector and suggests some reasons why people in some occupations are much more involved in churches than others.
- All Melbourne Matters – Research of the Church in Melbourne – The Christian Research Association, together with the organisation ‘Transforming Melbourne’, has released a series of 32 reports on the churches and communities in greater Melbourne. The research utilised data from the 2006 National Church Life Survey (NCLS), additional supplementary surveys undertaken by Transforming Melbourne and the Christian Research Association, and the 2006 Australian Census of Population and Housing, along with special sections written by a variety of church leaders and other researchers. As part of the project two different types of reports were written:
• a Citywide Report looking at the greater Melbourne area as a whole and,
• extended reports on each of the 31 local government areas.
- The Reports (Citywide and LGA) – The report for greater Melbourne provides a comprehensive picture of its population and the nature and activities of its 1720 churches. Many people have contributed to the report, which shows the variety and quality of congregational life and its many activities in education, health and social welfare. It covers house churches through to the regional churches. The great diversity of Melbourne’s population is described and future trends are plotted. The report was written as a basis for strategic thinking about mission and ministry, and it puts a number of challenges clearly before the churches. Containing more than 100 A4 pages, it is available from the Christian Research Association for $75 including postage.
- De Facto Relationships – One of the most significant changes over recent years in the structures of families has been the increase in de facto relationships (where two people live together as a couple and are not married), and the public acceptance, or at least tolerance of these relationships. While the majority of partnered people are married, it is rare to find a family today in Australia in which one of the adult children is not in, or has not been in, a de facto relationship. The Census data confirms the prevalence of people ‘living together’, particularly among young people. The exceptions are usually where the bride and groom are committed members of conservative denominations, such as Pentecostal churches which have a younger age profile and a stronger proscription on sexual relationships before marriage.
- Marriage Within and Outside the Religious Group – Most people look for life partners who share their values and their approach to life. For many people, this means looking for people who have similar religious or spiritual values. Nevertheless, the numbers of people who marry people of the same religious group varies greatly in Australia: from 36 per cent among those who identify with nature religions to 94 per cent of those who identify with Islam.
- What Social Factors Contribute to Divorce – Mariah Evans and Jonathan Kelley have just published a paper on the social factors which contribute to or protect against parental divorce,that is, divorce of parents of children. The paper is based on the analysis of 27,386 cases in the International Social Science Program surveys between 1984 and 2002. The paper was published this year in the International Journal of the Sociology of the Family.
- Transforming the Quality of Relationships – In the various studies reviewed in this edition of Pointers, we have seen how religious groups discourage de facto relationships and divorce and how they encourage people to marry within the religious group. We have noted that some religious groups exercise greater influence on their members than do other groups.
- Religion and Ethnicity – More than one-fifth (22%) of all people resident in Australia at the time of the 2006 Census were born overseas. Seventy-one per cent were born in Australia, and a further 7 per cent did not answer the question. This article explores the impact that migration has had on Australia’s religious profile.
- USA or Europe: Who is Setting the Trend for the Future? – Is the USA or Europe setting the trend for the global future of religious faith? This has been a contentious issue for decades. In Europe, some commentators describe the trend as ‘secularisation’ in which religion gradually loses its place in society and in people’s ways of thinking, to be replaced by non-religious organisations and ways of thinking. It has been described as an inevitable process rooted in the nature of modernity. Commentators in the USA have responded by arguing that the problem of the lack of vitality of religion in Europe is just the lack of plurality of religious options and the absence of a competitive spirit. There is no fundamental reason why religion in Europe should not be as vital as it is in the United States if European countries allowed the competition that comes from a plurality of religious groups, it has been argued. This debate has been the topic of recent books by major thinkers in the world of the sociology of religion such as Peter Berger, Grace Davie and David Martin. The discussion continued in July 2009 at the conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion held in Santiago, Spain.
- The Civil Wedding Option – One of the most significant impacts on marriage celebration in Australia was the introduction of a broader civil marriage option in 1973. Previously, couples desiring a civil marriage were mainly confined to an official Registry Office. From 1973, authorised marriage celebrants could conduct weddings in parks, homes and a variety of non-church settings, usually with a style that met the needs of the couple. In 1973, 83.6 per cent of marriages were conducted by religious celebrants. Civil marriages have outnumbered religious ceremonies since 1999 when 51.3 per cent of all marriages were performed by civil celebrants. In 2008, the trend toward civil ceremonies continued, with 65.0 per cent of marriages performed by civil celebrants.
- Snapshots of Migration and Church Attendance – The 2006 National Church Life Survey asked all participating church attenders about their country of birth.
• Seven in ten church attenders were born in Australia (72%)
• Three in ten church attenders were born elsewhere (28%)
• The percentage of migrants in church life is similar to the percentage in the wider Australian population (26% born elsewhere)