Pointers

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
MARCH,JUNE,SEPTEMBER,DECEMBER

Pointers 2008

Sunday, May 20th, 2012
MARCH, JUNE, SEPTEMBER, DECEMBER

Articles include :
  • 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.
Articles include :
  • 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.
Articles include :
  • 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 : that 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?
Articles include :
  • 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

Pointers 2009

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

March, June, September, December

Pointers Vol.19-4 ( December 2009)

Articles Include:

  • Religion and Education – Does a university education destroy a person’s religious faith? The Census data from 2006 suggests that it is certainly not destroying the faith of Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims or Sikhs. It does show that highly educated people in Australia identify less with the Christian faith than does the rest of the population.
  • Education and the Church – Australia is becoming an increasingly educated nation. The 2006 National Church Life Survey results show that church attenders are also becoming more educated. But how do the two compare? How educated are church attenders in comparison to the nation, and what impact does this have on church ministry?
  • Spiritual Development of Young People – In 2008, the CRA was part of an international project to explore the spiritual development of young people organised by the Search Institute of the USA. The Search Institute Inventory of Youth Spiritual Development was designed in the USA and conducted in a number of countries around the world. The CRA organised the  survey in both Australia and Thailand.
  • Recent Publications in the Religion-and-Film Field Following the success of “Recent publications in the religion-and-film field” in Pointers (2008, vol. 18, no. 3), below is an updated compilation of 2008-2009 items (and selected others) for your further interest, enjoyment and edification
Articles inclue:
  • 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)
Articles include:
  • 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.
Articles include :
  • 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 to exist. 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.

Pointers 2010

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

March June September Demember.

DECEMBER 2010 Volume 20 No.4

  • Global Religious Trends – The religious trends occurring in Australia are not typical of the rest of the world. The Atlas of Global Christianity, a new book from the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity, plots the global trends.
  • Lausanne Congress 2010 – October 2010 saw Australian Christians on the move. Just in front of me in the passport queue was a nun on her way to Rome to celebrate the canonisation of Sr Mary Mackillop. I was heading in a different direction: to Cape Town, South Africa, for the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Since 1974, the Lausanne movement has brought together Christians from around the world to focus on mission and evangelism. It has been a global movement of evangelicals, inspired by the world mission of Billy Graham and John Stott. The third Lausanne Congress involved around 4200 selected participants from around the globe.
  • Attitudes to the Variety of Religions – The First European Settlers to Australia thought of Christianity as the only ‘civilised’ religion and had no interest in the religions of Chinese miners, Hindu peddlers or Islamic Afghan camel drivers. Since the 1970s, attitudes to other religions have changed markedly. The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (2009)
    provides the most recent perspective.
  • Who Reads the Bible? – The Bible Society of South Australia, Scripture Union, YouthWorks, the Lutheran Church and The Salvation Army are currently sponsoring a study of Bible reading among young people. The CRA is currently visiting youth groups around Australia talking with young people about their attitudes to the Bible, their reading habits (if any), the catalysts and the hindrances for reading, and how they interpret the Bible. As a prelude to this study, the CRA re-visited the research
    it has done on young people in the Spirit of Generation Y Project (2002 to 2008) and the associated Schools Spirituality Project. It summarised the results of that earlier research in relation to Bible reading. The full report can be found on the CRA website. Here is a summary of the findings.
  • Attitudes to Issues of Sexuality – In revising the materials for the 3rd edition of Australia’s Religious Communities CD-Rom, we discovered some interesting patterns in the changing attitudes to issues of sexuality amongst Australians.
    As might be expected, Australian adults have become more accepting of pre-material sex and homosexuality. However, in relation to extra-marital sex, Australians have become less accepting. This suggests that while Australians usually move into
    a de facto relationship before marriage, they take faithfulness in marriage very seriously.

SEPTEMBER 2010 Volume 20 No.3

Articles Include :

  • 25th Anniversary Dinner Speech – 2 September 2010  Speech by Rev Dr Bruce Kaye
  • CRA: Chair’s Report 2010 – Rob Steed, chair of the board of the Christian Research Association at the 25th Anniversary
    Dinner
  • CRA: Staff Report 2010 – Philip Hughes, Senior Research Officer of the Christian Research Association speaking at the 25th Anniversary Dinner
  • Shaping Australia’s Spirituality: the Conference – Between 31st August and 3rd September 2010, 140 people met in Glen Waverley, Victoria, to review the ministries of the churches in the contemporary context. Thirty-five people were involved in presenting research, and leading plenary and small group discussion on the various aspects of Australia’s ministry.
    Each of the four days examined a separate topic. The first day looked at the national picture of Australia’s spirituality and the ways in which the churches have a national impact. The second day focussed on children and young people, examining the churches’ ministries through church activities, schools and chaplaincies. The third day examined the scene in relation to family, workplace, community and health. The fourth day focussed on the spirituality of the churches. The following is a brief summary of some of the major themes in the discussion, arranged in terms of reflections on context and on ministry.
  • How We Make Sense of Life Does Matter – Spirit Matters, by Peter Kaldor, Philip Hughes and Alan Black,was launched at the “Shaping Australia’s Spirituality” conference in Melbourne on 31 August 2010. Subtitled How Making Sense of Life Affects Wellbeing, it presents an in-depth analysis of national surveys undertaken in Australia on wellbeing, religion, spirituality and how we make sense of life. The book argues that there are significant links between how we make sense of life and our personal and societal wellbeing.
  • Third Edition of Australia’s Religious Communities Launched – The Third Edition of the Australia’s Religious
    Communities CD-Rom (ISBN 978-1-87522369-5) was launched on at the CRA 25th anniversary dinner by Dr Trevor Batrouney, a researcher at the now defunct Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research which originally commissioned the CRA to produce a series of 12 books on the major religions of Australia. The third edition has been fully revised. All statistics have been up-dated, using the latest Census and survey data. All the text has also been reviewed and
    up-dating has occurred throughout this encyclopedia of religion in Australia.

JUNE 2010 Volume 20 No.2

Articles Include:

  • Are Australians ‘Losing Their Religion’? – New data, gathered late 2009, provides a new comprehensive picture of the religious faith and spirituality of Australians. The data is part of the International Social Science Survey (ISSP) program and involved surveys of 1718 adult Australians. It is the best picture we have had of the religious faith and spirituality of the Australian population since the Wellbeing and Security Survey of 2002 conducted by Edith Cowan University, Deakin University, Anglicare and NCLS Research. Indeed, this new survey repeats a range of questions asked in 1993 and 1999, giving us an excellent picture of changes over time.
  • Factors in Declining Church Attendance – The number of Australians attending church services is declining. Data from the ISSP (International Social Survey Programme) shows that, between 1993 and 2009, the proportion of Australians attending a service of worship monthly or more often dropped from 23 per cent to 16 per cent. Occasional attendance (less than monthly) also dropped from 42 per cent to 36 per cent. In turn, the proportion claiming they never attend services of worship rose from 33 per cent to 43 per cent. What might be some of the underlying factors and transitions influencing these trends?
  • Power and the Churches – In the 2009 International Social Science Program (ISSP) survey just released, 42 per cent of Australian respondents indicated that churches and religious organisations had ‘about the right amount of power’ and 37 per cent indicated they had ‘too much power’ or ‘far too much power’. In addition, 78 per cent ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that religious leaders should not influence how people voted, and 71 per cent that religious leaders should not influence government. What implications does this have for Christianity’s underlying principles of social justic ? Do these figures suggest that churches and religious organisations the Australian public wants the churches to remain silent on issues?
  • Is the End Nigh? Print based ReligiousPublications in Australia – In 1992, the CRA published a special section in the annual Yearbook for Australian Churches, which focused on religious periodicals. There were about 220 religious periodicals, including a handful from coordinating agencies of the major non-Christian religions. There is now a much wider diversity of periodical and web publications from Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist communities in particular, and also notably there has been development of inter-faith publications. A follow-up article in Pointers considered some of the issues facing the Christian press at the time, with five major points outlined.

MARCH 2010 Volume 20 No.1

Articles Include:

  • Climate Change and the Human Spirit – Environmental problems, such as pollution and global warming, are seen as the greatest threat to the future of the world, according to young people surveyed in Australia, United Kingdom and Thailand. At the popular level, awareness of environmental issues has grown and there is widespread awareness that this threat is the most critical ever faced by human beings. It was also a major topic at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Melbourne in December 2090. It  was noted that climate change and environmental pollution have their roots in the human spirit, and will not be solved simply by new technology or by spending a lot of money. The problem must also be addressed by the world’s religions as a spiritual concern.
  • Sectarianism in Australia – A new book by the Anglican priest Dr. Benjamin Edwards, WASPS, Tykes and Ecumaniacs, sketches the long history of sectarianism in the Australian cultural scene. A brief survey of 1788 to 1947 notes the deep cleavage in colonial society between the Irish Catholic community and the mainstream British Protestant and Anglican society. This cleavage, as Edwards amply illustrates, lies deep in the memories of many older Australians (ch.1). Edwards also points out that it has been the theme of many novels, films, comedy sketches and television sitcoms, ensuring its enduring place in popular culture (ch.2).
  • Review of Chaplaincy in State Schools – The first chaplain was appointed to a government school in 1955. Since that time, chaplaincy has become more common in State schools around Australia. However, chaplaincy in State schools has grown hugely in the last 3 years from around 650 to more than 1870 chaplains.
  • Counselling and the Church – The client-based approach to counselling which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s was something of a threat to traditional religious establishments. It suggested that people would come to wholeness through inner reflection and self-direction rather than through the teaching of an external body. The tension between these two approaches was particularly strong in the Catholic Church, and is well illustrated in Opening Up: a History of the Institute of Counselling by David Bollen.
  • Satanism – In the 1996 Census, 2091 people in Australia identified themselves as Satanists. In 2001, the number was down to about 1800, but rose again in the 2006 Census to 2248 people.
  • Which Churches Use Email? – There have been extraordinary technological advances in the ways that people communicate with each other. Are there some churches that are more likely to  embrace these trends and use new electronic methods to communicate with attenders? In the 2006 National Church Life Survey churches were asked about their email and internet use.

Pointers March 2012

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Pointers Vol.22-1 (March 2012)

Articles include:

Is the ‘New Atheism’ influencing Australians?
There is little evidence from surveys of the Australian population that the ‘New Atheists’ are having widespread impact on people becoming atheist.For a detail account of Australians belief in God, and the factors inhibiting belief, see the first article

Changes in Beliefs and Attitudes to Life Among Students
Responses to surveys of 4100 students in Catholic schools in 2011 can be compared with students responses to surveys conducted between 2005 and 2008.

Being Faithful in Diversity
A series of lectures by Gary Bouma, published by ATF Press in a small book Being Faithful  in Diversity, explores the challenges of faith in a multi-faith society.

Celebrating the Canonisation of Mary MacKillop
In May 2011, CRA researchers interviewed 14 students who had travelled to Rome for the canonisation. Eight months on, the interviews found that the students remained very enthusiastic about the event.

Attitudes to Abortion and Approaches to Ethical Issues
15% of Australians say that abortion is always or almost always wrong. Younger people are more likely to accept abortion than older people. However, the views of those who attend church are vastly different with 56% of them saying that abortion is always or almost always wrong.

Pointers 2011

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

MARCH,JUNE,SEPTEMBER,DECEMBER

Pointers Vol.21-4 (December 2011)

Articles include:

Why Some Churches Decline While Others Grow. New research from England provides an explanation which fits, in part, with the Australian experience. Read more in this edition of Pointers.

Dropping Out of Church. Not many children attend church today compared with years gone by. Yet the drop-out rates have not changed greatly. For the details of this new research, see this edition of Pointers.

Social Networking. Social networking is widespread among young people. What are some of the challenges and pitfalls associated with it? Pointers looks at the latest data gathered from secondary school students in the last 6 months.

Faith and Film. The Christian use of film has had many ups and downs. Today, there are new opportunities for local churches to use visual media effectively. Some of the possibilities are outlined in this article in Pointers.

Factors in Church Giving. Some new research on financial giving to churches in the United States suggests why some churches thrive better financially than others. Find the details here.

Pointers, Vol.21-3. (September 2011)

Articles include:

  • Religion and Youth: World Perspectives – an exploration of how young people are relating to religion around the world.
  • Who’s Coming to School Today? – the attitudes of students, staff and parents to Catholic Schools in Queensland.
  • Access and Values: Functions of Religion in Australian Society – what Australians regard as important functions of religion.

Pointers, Vol.21-2.  (June 2011)

Articles include:

  • Global Trends in the Changing Context of MissionReflections on the 6th Lausanne Researchers
    Conference, Sao Paulo
  • Researching the Church at the Local LevelWhile several papers at the 6th International Lausanne Researchers Conference focused on overall issues in Worldwide Christian mission, a number of researchers presented papers outlining issues in research at the local church level. Each of the papers presented a local context for church ministry: the vitality of local evangelical churches in Rio de Janeiro, alternative models of church development and planning in Germany, and the inclusiveness of churches to disabled people in
    Brazil.
  • The Church and Family Life in AustraliaThe following paper was delivered by Stephen Reid at the 6th International Lausanne Researchers Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April 2011. Whilst the paper looked at family life in the Australian context, comparisons to other countries was possible through analysis of data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) and the World Values Surveys (WVS).
  • Cross-Cultural Ministry Now and Then
  • Publications in the Religion-and-Film FieldIn the tradition of Pointers 2008 (vol. 18, no. 3) and 2009 (vol. 19, no. 4), below is the third compilation of useful articles in the religionand- film field for your interest, enjoyment and edification.
  • On-Line ReligionThe Internet has become an increasingly
    important part of people’s social interactions as well as a means of accessing information. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009), the proportion of Australian households with computers rose from 44 per cent to 78 per cent between 1998 and 2009. Access to the Internet has increased even more rapidly, from just 16 per cent of households in 1998 to 72 per cent in 2009. It is inevitable that the role of religion on the Internet would also increase over time. A recent edition of the Australian Religion Studies Review was dedicated to articles on religion and
    spirituality in cyberspace.

Pointers Vol.21-1. (March 2011)

Articles include:

  • Possibilities of Leadership in Rural Catholic ParishesWith the declining number of priests available, many Catholic dioceses are investigating various ways of organising their parishes. The issue is similar to that faced by many denominations. Catholic parishes, however, have some issues not faced by some Protestant denominations in that priests have an irreplaceable role in celebrating the sacraments. Priests are central to parish life in the Catholic Church and there has not been a tradition of lay people as leaders of worship services. However, two case studies suggest that the patterns of leadership can change and may even strengthen parish life as they do so.
  • Catholic Religious Institutes in AustraliaIn 2008, the National Council of Catholic Religious Australia commissioned the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Pastoral Research Office to
    survey all Catholic Institutes of Clerical Religious, Religious Brothers and Religious Sisters in Australia.The final report of the survey, ‘See, I am Doing a New Thing!’, was launched in Sydney in November 2010.
  • Looking at Art Looking at LifeOne way of understanding the culture that we inhabit is to consider how it is sustained in visual
    terms. This means looking at the visual shape of things as they are expressed through the images, signs and symbols of the world of hopes that make up contemporary consumer culture.
  • Spirituality, Care and Wellbeing in EducationLate 2009, Springer Publishing House released a huge twovolume collection of essays on spirituality, care and wellbeing in education. The volume is timely as schools and other institutions increasingly find themselves grappling with issues of mental health and wellbeing. The first volume of essays focusses mainly on the psychology of religion and spirituality. The second volume is primarily about educational programs and environments in promoting holistic learning and wellbeing. This review will focus on the second volume.
  • Demographics of a Nation: Australia and the ChurchThis article from NCLS Research presents a summary of Australian population, age, marital status, education, country of birth and religion. The Australian population is compared with church attenders using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and
    the 2006 National Church Life Survey.

Possibilities For Leadership In Rural Catholic Churches

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

With the declining number of priests available, many Catholic dioceses are investigating various ways of organising their parishes. The issue is similar to that faced by many denominations. Catholic parishes, however, have some issues not faced by most Protestant denominations in that priests have an irreplaceable role in celebrating the sacraments. Priests are central to parish life in the Catholic church and there has not been a tradition of lay people as leaders of worship. However, two case studies suggests that the patterns of leadership can change and may even strengthen parish life as they do so.

The first case study was undertaken in far western Victoria where one priest has been appointed to look after four parishes. The area for which the priest is responsible is 250 kms across and involves ten centres where Mass is said. The priest has focussed on those roles that he alone could fulfil and has encouraged lay people to take more responsibility for other roles. In taking greater responsibility for the life of the parish, some lay people reported an increased sense of their own ministry and of growing in faith.

In another case study in Victoria, the small parish was given the option of closing (and joining with a larger rural city congregation) or taking responsibility for the parish themselves. They decided to look after the parish themselves. Through a process of discernment, the parish appointed three people to be in charge of liturgy and sacraments, administration and stewardship, and community connections. A retired priest visits the parish every fortnight to say Mass. On other occasions, lay-led Assemblies of Communion and the Word take place. The result has been increased vitality in the parish. In particular, there is a high level of involvement of young people. People in leadership reported that they had grown in faith. Some of the success, however, is due to the fact that the lay people were mentored into these roles by a Sister of the Good Samaritans.

For further detail of these studies, read Pointers Vol.21, no.1. Click here to purchase and download.