Pointers 2009

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.

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