Pointers

Pointers June 2015

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Pointers Volume 25 No. 2, June 2015

In this issue:

The Economic Impact of Religion in Australian Society: Possibilities and Challenges in Its Measurement 

While most religions provide ways in which people can access God, the divine or the sacred, they also encourage the adoption of particular views of the world, beliefs about the nature of life, values, and patterns of behaviour. Indeed, it has been argued that the great transformation of religion which took place in human society between 700 BC and 400 BC, the period known as the Axial Age, developed that dimension of religion associated with human values. It was a period in which Confucius, Buddha, Jeremiah and Socrates and many other religious leaders and prophets proclaimed that the fulfilment of life or the appropriate response to the divine would be found in compassion and a concern for social order and justice and not just in paying respect to the gods or God (Armstrong 2006). Through the centuries, all the major world religions have encouraged a range of pro-social values and behaviours.

The Impact of Faith on Society: Some Global Perspectives
The Critique of Christian Faith
The critique of the Christian faith has become much louder and more persistent in recent years, particularly in northern European societies. The debate has been getting more intense and the voices more shrill. The criticism of religion is present not only in northern Europe and Australia but in many other countries, as shown by responses to questions in the International Society Survey Program which was conducted in 44 countries. On the other hand, a recent World Values Survey (2012) provides some valuable data for looking at the other side of the ledger and evaluating what contribution religion is making in societies around the world.

The Global Growth of Christianity
According to Gordon-Conwell University which puts together the World Christian Database, the number of Christians around the world is continuing to grow. This year (2015), it has been calculated that 2,419 million people identify themselves as Christian, constituting 33.4 per cent of the world’s population (7,325 million people).

The Future(s) of Religion
On 13th April 2015, Prof Grace Davie, a worldrenowned sociologist, delivered a lecture at Tabor College addressing the future of religion. The lecture was sponsored by Tabor College Victoria, Harvest Bible College and the Christian Research Association. Prof Grace Davie’s lecture drew substantially on her latest book, Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox.

Edward Bailey and Implicit Religion
Edward Bailey was a maverick in the study of religion. He was an Anglican priest who was Rector of Winterbourne, Diocese of Bristol, UK,from 1970 to 2006. In the 1960s, he studied for his doctoral thesis by becoming a waiter at a pub and listening to the conversations of the customers. He argued that, underlying those conversations, were forms of ‘implicit religion’. He spent the rest of his life pursuing the study of this ‘implicit religion’. While remaining rector in Winterbourne, he taught at universities and spoke at many conferences on religion. He developed his own annual conference on implicit religion, which became known as the Denton Conferences. He founded a scholarly Journal of Implicit Religion which is now published by Equinox. He started a Centre for the Study of Implicit Religion at Middlesex University. He wrote several books and published many articles around the term.

Pointers March 2013

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Pointers Vol 23 No.1

Inside this issue:

The Missing 1.8 Million. In 2001, the Census told us there were 12.8 million Christians. Between 2001 and 2011, 1.4 million children were born in Australia who were identified with a Christian denomination in the 2011 Census. In addition, 767,000 migrants arrived from overseas who identified with a Christian denomination. There should be nearly 15 million Christians. In fact, the Census counted only 13.15 million. This article looks at what has happened to the ‘missing Christians’.

Comparisons with Canada. Reginald Bibby has identified similar patterns in Canada to those we have found in Australia. Religion is not disappearing, but it is growing largely because of immigration to Canada, and there are challenges in ‘internal market for religion’.

Church Attendance among Young People. How many young people in Australia attend a church? Obtaining accurate answers is very difficult. This article identifies some of the problems with sampling and getting accurate information. We conclude that probably about 10 per cent of teenage Australians attend a church monthly or more – somewhat less than the average for the population.

Almost Christian’. In America, many young people attend, but research has indicated that they practice a highly diluted form of the Christian faith which some researchers have described as Moral Therapeutic Deism. Kenda Dean has written a book about the problem and suggested that teenagers are simply not being introduced to articulate, passionate Christian faith that changes lives. While her book contains many challenges for those involved in youth ministry and will assist us in our research on youth ministry, we wonder, however, how well she has understood the fact that young people today ‘put their own lives together’.

The Midi-Narrative of Students in Australia and India. The ways young people do put their lives together and some of the contextual influences on that process are illustrated in conversations with several groups of young people in India. These conversations also reflect two basic approaches to religion in our contemporary age: as tradition and as a personal life-style.

 

Pointers March 2015

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Pointers Vol25, No.1

Inside this Issue:

Why Young People are Leaving the Church

A large proportion of children who grow up attending a church in Australia, United Kingdom or the USA drop out of church attendance.
According to the 2009 International Social Survey Program, the drop-out rate in Australia was 72 per cent. In the United Kingdom, it was 57 per cent, and in the USA it was 47 per cent. Over the past four decades, the drop-out rate in the United Kingdom and Australia has not changed a great deal. Indeed, in Australia, there is some evidence of it decreasing. In the United States, it has been gradually climbing. A recent book has been prepared by the head of the Barna Group, David Kinnaman, exploring why young people are dropping out. The book is entitled You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church … and Rethinking Faith.

Is there an Optimum Length of Ministry?

I was once talking with a colleague who mentioned that very often churches experience decline in attendance at worship services during the first few years of a new leader’s tenure, before recovering to experience growth, or declining even more. Our conversation moved on to cover possible solutions, or whether attendance fluctuation in congregational life was just an inevitable part of ministry. One wonders whether there is an optimum length of time Christian clergy should serve, and how the length of tenure affects growth or decline in church life. Does the newness and enthusiasm of a newly-appointed pastor assist in attracting people to church? Are attenders more comfortable with the long-term pastor, vicar or priest who knows everyone and maintains stability?


Coaching: An Essential Ingredient

Freedom of Speech

In the aftermath of the killing of the Charlie Hebdo journalists in France, millions of people came out onto the streets in France and in other places around the world in support of free speech. The murders were in response to controversial cartoons which were seen as mocking Muhammad. It was argued that free speech lay at the basis of Western democracy and that any attempt to limit free speech is a threat to our way of life.

Perspectives on Unemployment

Australia has a large and diligent labour force, comprising more than half of the population. Full-time and part-time employment are the two major sources of income for Australians, and as the labour force changes over time, finding and sustaining constant employment is becoming more and more difficult. Not only does employment provide money for essential staples such as food, water, shelter and electricity, it also provides a sense of self-worth and identity for many. Long-term employment allows for the development of skills, the expansion of social networks and the growth of friendships. By contrast, those who are unemployed have little to no continuous income, have less social interaction and may experience a loss of self-esteem and self-worth. Though unemployment seems overwhelmingly negative, it can often be a matter of perspective.

Pointers December 2014

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Pointers Vol24, No.4

Inside this issue:

Schools and Local Churches

Catholics have long seen their schools as playing a very important role in the development of faith among young people. In many Australian dioceses, most children are prepared for the various sacraments such as First Communion and Confirmation at school. The schools provide most of the education in faith. And the schools also engage young people in social justice activities, in spiritual retreats and in Masses, so that they learn about and are initiated into the practices of faith.
In recent decades, Protestants have also turned increasingly to schools to provide not only education in faith itself, but a Christian perspective on other areas of the curriculum. Again, through the schools, students are initiated into the practices of faith: prayer and study of the Bible and the practices of charity and social justice.

Christianity After Religion?
It has been suggested that some patterns of religious involvement in the USA are about 20 years behind those in Australia. The decline in church attendance which has affected mainstream churches in Australia over a period of 40 years is now having a significant impact on mainstream churches in the USA. Americans are now embracing the more individualised spirituality that is common in Australia and Europe, but with their own American twist. This is the story that American author, Diana Butler-Bass, tells in her book Christianity After Religion, and embraces as a new spiritual awakening.

The Value of Sunday School
Dr Juhani Tuovinen (Tabor College, Adelaide) has put together a report on the value of Sunday School. The report is based on some items in the National Church Life Survey of 2001. While the data is now 14 years old, it does indicate some trends which are worthy of reflection.

The Gospel and the Cultures in Australian Cities

Tim Foster, vice-principal of Ridley College, has recently written a book, The Suburban Captivity of the Church: Contextualising the Gospel for Post-Christian Australia. It describes three different cultural contexts of city life in Australia, surban, urban and battler, and argues that the gospel needs to intersect with these sub-cultures in different ways. At the heart of the book is the assertion that the gospel narrative both ‘affirms and critiques culture, providing a new vision for life shaped by God’s new order’ (p.5).

Conversion Into and Out of Islam

There have been some high profile cases recently of converts to Islam in Australia and in other parts of the Western world who have become spokespeople for fanatical forms of Islam. Such cases give support for the idea that Islam is ‘conquering’ the Western world. But how common are such cases?

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).