Pointers 2010

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
  • 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.

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