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Pointers 29-1 March 2019

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Inside this issue:

Denominationalism Today
More Christian denominations exist today in Australia, despite the efforts to put aside differences and bring Christians together. Some attend one community for a Bible study, another for an action group, a third for worship service. Also there are those that have little regard for the old divisions and choose to call themselves ‘Christian, nfd’ (not further defined). Philip Hughes explores these interesting trends.

Reimagining a More Compassionate, Less Anxious Society: A community conversation with Hugh Mackay

Stephen Reid outlines a public conversation with Hugh Mackay where he lists a number of ‘gloomy’ characteristics which he believes paint a picture of the current situation in Australian society. He is, however, optimistic about Australia’s future. Mackay listed some factors which have led to a socially fragmented society. 

In Memorium: Rev Dr John Francis Bodycomb
In the last edition of Pointers, Philip Hughes reviewed John Bodycomb’s book, Two Elephants in the Room: Evolving Christianity and Leadership. John was ordained into the Congregational Church. He had a number of appointments in churches in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Changes in the Religious Identification of Children between 2006 and 2016
Between the 2006 and 2011 Censuses, the number of children being identified with a Christian denomination (by a parent or guardian) rose by around 40,000 people, from 2.292 million to 2.332 million. Stephen delves into the statistics behind changes in religious identification of children. He also notes that immigration is contributing significantly to the growth of non-Christian religious groups in Australia.

Pointers 28-4 December 2018

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Inside this issue:

Volunteering and Change in Religious Involvement
Readers of Pointers may remember assisting us in the development of the survey for the Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society (SEIROS) in 2015. The survey was conducted in 2016, and some initial analysis was undertaken by the Christian Research Association. The survey data was then given to Deloitte Economics who prepared a report, which was released in May 2018. Deloitte Economics decided that they would focus only on those people who reported that they did not attend a religious group when growing up, but did attend when they were adults, that is, on religious converts. As a consequence of this focus, Philip Hughes has done more analysis on religious conversion and volunteering.

Unpaid Work in Australia
Unpaid or voluntary work fulfils many important functions for individuals and society. Voluntary work can provide meaning for individuals, can open up opportunities for community participation, and can assist with general wellbeing and health of the contributor as well as the recipient. Unpaid work also contributes to the national economy in often unrecognised and unmeasured ways.

A Review and Reflection of Two Elephants in the Room: Evolving Christianity and Leadership
John Bodycomb has been a minister in the Uniting Church for more than fifty years. He developed Christian Education programs in South Australia, taught in the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne, was chaplain at The University of Melbourne, and has ministered in many Uniting Churches. One of the fathers of the application of sociological thinking to ministry, he has never been one to shy away from challenging questions. His latest book is no exception and addresses very important questions for all those involved in Christian ministry: is there a future for organised Christianity, and for professional leadership within it?

Book review: God Is Good For You: A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times
God is good for you, argues Greg Sheridan, and his book with that title is good for you, too. The author is the Foreign Editor of The Australian newspaper, and all his journalistic skill and experience is on display in this easy-to-read but insightful and challenging book.

Changes to the Board of CRA
At the Annual General Meeting of the Christian Research Association in November, there were some significant changes in personnel. Although two long-serving members finished up, the future of the association remains bright with experienced members stepping into new roles, and new members coming onto the Board.

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Thursday, December 20th, 2018

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Pointers September 2017

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Inside this issue:

Some Notes about ReligiousIdentification in 2016 Census
The overall picture of the religious identity that is given by the 2016 Census is significantly different from the picture just 5 years ago in 2011 as shown in Table 1. However, it confirms the trends that were evident in earlier censuses.

‘No Religion’ in the Australian Census
More than 7 million Australians ticked ‘no religion’ on the Census form in 2016, compared with just 3.7 million in 2006. The numbers saying they had ‘no religion’ almost doubled in that ten year period. The proportion of the Australian population describing themselves as having no religion rose from just 18.8 per cent to 2006 to 30.1 per cent in 2016. What is the reason behind this very considerable change in a short period of time in the Australian religious/non-religious profile?

Some Notes from the Conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion 2017
The conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR) was held at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland between 4th and 7th July 2017. It was attended by more than 500 people from around the world, most of whom presented papers. This meant there was an enormous choice of papers. Apart from the major plenary sessions which were held each day, there were often fifteen or more papers being given simultaneously on a wide range of topics. Any one individual could only attend a small selection of what was on offer. The following are my notes on one of the major theme of the conference: the pluralisation of religion and responses to it.

Refugees, theology and the social sciences
A review of The Refugee Crisis and Religion: Secularism, Security and Hospitality in Question edited by Luca Mavelli and Erin K. Wilson (Rowman & Littlefield) 2016 ISBN 978-1- 7834-8895-7

 

Pointers June 2017

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

INSIDE THIS ISSUE:


This edition of Pointers looks at the issue of mental health and wellbeing amongst people involved in ministry positions within the Christian Church. Burnout is a serious condition that can affect members of the clergy and is often the cause of people leaving ministry. Church leaders face unique challenges in their daily ministry and the varied demands on their time can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion. Moreover there is an expectation that their life and example should be a model to others and this brings a degree of scrutiny that may not apply to other professionals. These and other factors can result in anxiety and depression and in many cases lead to burnout. Research suggests that having a strong reliance on spiritual resources will act as a buffer to the stressors experienced in pastoral ministry; these are discussed in brief in the paper by Dr. Wilma Gallet, entitled, ‘Drawing sustenance from a strong sense of calling’. Dr. Tom Edwards provides an overview of the various aspects of burnout and outlines helpful ideas to assist members of the clergy in managing their personal health and wellbeing in the paper entitled ‘Clergy wellbeing: Strategies for the prevention and management of burnout’. In his paper entitled, ‘Passion and Sustainable Ministry’, Rev. Dr. Nigel Pegram discusses the distinctions between harmonious passion and obsessive passion. Harmonious passion will ensure an energised ministry whereas an obsessive passion can have a damaging effect on relationships and negatively impact physical, mental and even spiritual health. In ‘Falling Apart in Christian Ministry’, Pastor Bob Field shares his very raw and personal experience of burnout and recovery. Finally, in his tribute to the late Rev Dr Ken Dempsey, Dr. Philip Hughes refers to some of the conflicts that can arise in the life of the church.

Pointers March 2017

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Pointers Vol 27 no.1

INSIDE THIS ISSUE:

‘Alternative Facts’ and the Tensions between the Social Sciences and Theology
A war of words has broken out between the Trump administration and the mainstream media in the USA over  ‘alternative facts’. The initial issue was the size of the crowds at the inauguration. The mainstream media reported that there were fewer people at Trump’s inauguration than at Obama’s. Their evidence was that 782,000 people had used the Washington Metro system on the day of Obama’s inauguration compared with 570,557 on the day of  Trump’s inauguration. Mr Spicer, Trump’s new press secretary, said that 420,000 had used the Metro system on the day of Trump’s inauguration, compared with 317,000 on the day of Obama’s inauguration. The senior White House adviser, Kellyanne Conway, appeared on ‘Meet the Press’ a day later and asserted that Mr Spicer’s figures were  simply ‘alternative facts’ (Fandos 2017).

Practical Theology and Contemporary Social Issues
As people of faith, our theology should be evident in our daily lives and in particular should inform our response to contemporary social issues, including those issues that evoke controversy because of their seemingly political nature. There are some Christians who argue that church leaders should not be intervening in the political arena, strongly asserting that politics is the sole domain of elected officials. While it is safe to assume that church leaders from most denominations respect the  legitimate role of government. Nonetheless scripture exhorts Christians and Christian leaders to make the church’s prophetic voice known, particularly in matters of injustice. This includes challenging unjust laws and structures that oppress the poor and marginalised. The words of the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of Jesus make clear God’s concern for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger. This paper uses a practical theology lens to examine how the  Christian church in general is responding to one of the more critical social issues affecting humanity: how we deal with the mass migration of people and, in particular, refugees who are fleeing  persecution and conflict.

Networking, Community and Youth Ministry:The Role of Youth Ministry in an Age of Networks
In the December 2016 edition of Pointers, Wilma Gallet discussed the role which local churches should play in the building up of community (Gallet, 2016). Within youth ministry, local churches provide an important gathering space for young people to experience community. However, in this ‘digital’ age one must also ask further questions in the world: Do youth ministry  programs provide true community or simply just provide a space for young people to gather? Can those who connect using alternative network offerings, such as digital technologies, share in community, or can community only happen when we gather together? What is the role of youth ministry in an age where networks are created in very different ways to previous  generations?
What it Takes to be Truly One of us
In response to the increasing mass migration of people across the globe, Pew Research recently undertook a study of 14 countries focusing on how people view the issue of national identity. The study found that relatively few of those interviewed said that national identity is strongly tied to place of birth. Australia was one of six countries where less than 26 per cent of  those surveyed felt that in order to truly claim national identity a person had to be born in that country.
Re-imagining Religion and Belief for Public Policyand Practice
A joint Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project in the UK, involving the Centre for Faiths and Public Policy at the  University of Chester, and the Faiths and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths University of London, should be of interest to Australian researchers inquiring into the role of churches and other religious traditions in public life in Australia. The project
Re-imagining Religion and Belief for Public Policy and Political Regeneration has received substantial funding from the relevant tertiary funding body in the UK, in strong contrast to the lack of interest in funding research in this field in Australia. Given that we can’t get funding here for highly relevant research I would suggest that we should make connections with this project to get what benefit we can from its work. This is something that the Public and Contextual Theology (PACT) program at Charles Sturt University might be well placed to explore.
Domestic Violence and the Church Community
It is now 12 months since the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV) released its final report. Chapter 29 of the Report is entitled Faith Communities and provides an overview of the importance of faith communities in providing support to women who experience violence. While being part of a faith community can be a great strength, there are also instances where an inappropriate or lack of response from faith leaders and other members of the faith community can do much damage and harm. There have been instances where woman have been disbelieved or blamed for the abuse they are experiencing. There have been many times where a woman’s effort to seek help has been turned back on her and the only advice given is ‘to be a better wife’ or to ‘not provoke her husband’. There are countless reports of this occurring in many denominations and church leaders need to examine their doctrines to ensure that these do not present a barrier to women seeking help.

Pointers June 2016

Friday, June 10th, 2016

What Has Changed Since 1985?
There is a tradition of older people looking back over their lives and noting how so many aspects of life have deteriorated. ‘What is the world coming to?’ is a complaint as old as humanity. Change creeps up on us and we find it hard to cope, and sometimes it is hard to see any good in it. It is now my turn to ‘complain’. But I will use some survey figures to correct and challenge my feelings. The book CRA has just released, Charting the Faith of Australians (2016), looks at the momentous changes that have occurred since World War II. This article will take a more limited period: from the beginning of the CRA until now.

Children’s Prayer: Multi-faith Perspectives
This paper provides a summary of doctoral research undertaken by Vivienne Mountain through the Australian Catholic University. Her thesis has been re-worked and published by the CRA as Children’s Prayer: Multi-faith Perspectives.

The Frontline of Interfaith Dialogue: Marriages between Muslims and Christians
Over recent decades, tensions have risen between Christians and Muslims across the globe. In Western countries, Muslims have increasingly been seen as potential threats to social security. In Muslim countries, there has been increasing suspicion of Christians trying to dominate the world and inhibit the freedom of Muslims to practise their faith as they see appropriate. At the forefront of this tension are those who have entered marriages that cross the boundaries between the two religions. Rev Dr Helen Richmond, a lecturer at Nungylinga College and past director in interfaith relations for the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, acknowledges this context and looks at its impact on marriages between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia and Australia in a recent book, Blessed and Called to be a Blessing.


Commitment, Nominalism and ‘No Religion’
Between the 2001 and 2011 Australian censuses, it is estimated that approximately 580,000 people ceased to identify with a Christian denomination (Hughes, 2012, pp. 3-9). However, while the Census can tell us about change in religious identification, it does not tell us anything about changes in patterns of peoples’ religious  activities or religious beliefs. Earlier this year, the Christian Research Association was commissioned to conduct a national
survey on the impact of religion as it influenced the behaviour and actions of Australian individuals. It is known as the SEIROS (Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society) survey. The survey covered a number of topics such as volunteering, informal  contributions to society, influences when growing up, as well as peoples’ involvement in religious activities and their attitudes and beliefs. More than 7,700 people completed the survey, giving us the fullest picture of religious faith in Australia since The Australian Community Survey in 1998.

uIne 20June 2016. Vol.26, no. 2 16. Vol.26, no. 2 June 2016. Vol.26, no. 2

Homeless Welfare Australia: A Study of Church Based Welfare, Secular Not-For-Profit Organisations and the Rise of Social Enterprise

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Homeless Welfare Australia: A Study of Church Based Welfare, Secular Not-For-Profit Organisations and the Rise of Social Enterprise

 

This research paper highlights the importance of social enterprise in the development of Australian homeless welfare. In the past, homeless welfare in Australia has been dominated by church based welfare. With the rise of secular not-for-profit agencies in the 20th century, there has been some replication in welfare models and practices. Towards the end of the 20th century, social enterprises began to offer new ways of funding homeless welfare with a higher level of financial sustainability.

Pointers Vol.21-1

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Pointers Vol.21-1. (March 2011)

Articles include:

  • Possibilities of Leadership in Rural Catholic Parishes – 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 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 Australia – In 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 Life – One 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 Education – Late 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 Church – This 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.