Pointers

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Pointers 28-3 September 2018

Inside this issue:

Enhancing Forgiveness Outcomes: A Unique Approach
Forgiveness is an important touchstone for all Christians. At once we recognise it as central to Christ’s salvific mission (Matthew 26:28); link it to the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38); and, by inference, consider it vital in the life of the Church (Romans 12:9-21). However the practical realities of forgiving, or being forgiven, are both complex and subtle. Moreover, as both pastors and mental health professionals know, if forgiveness is got wrong resentment flourishes. For this reason practitioners should approach forgiveness with a clear methodology and achievable goals – not as an exploration of what might be possible. To this end the current paper will show readers how a simple
mathematical model can structure ‘forgiveness work’ and be used to identify appropriate goals (Chiera & Edwards, 2018). Implications and relevant pastoral examples will be provided.

Report on the 2018 Australian Population Association Conference
The Australian Population Association (APA) Conference, usually held every two years, draws together population experts, practitioners, policy makers, researchers and students from across Australia and beyond to explore important contemporary demographic and related issues relevant to Australia.

In memoriam – Dr Gerald Rose

Some notes on Graham Rossiter
Life to the Full: The changing landscape of contemporary spirituality: Implications for Catholic school Religious Education,
Kensington, NSW: Agora for Spiritual, Moral and Religious Education, 2018, ISBN: 978-0-9808681-5-9.

Professor Graham Rossiter is well known among those involved in Catholic Education in Australia. He has been teaching religious education for many years at Australian Catholic University (Sydney) and has written a number of substantial books. Among those books is the mammoth manual Reasons for Living: Education and Young People’s Search for Meaning, Identity and Spirituality: A Handbook (Crawford, M, and G Rossiter. Melbourne: ACER, 2006). Professor Rossiter has just released another book in which he summarises the major themes of his work on religious education. While the book is written for Catholic educators, it has broader implications for all educators in contemporary Western cultures. In many respects, his work parallels my own in Educating for Purposeful Living in a Post-traditional Age and Rossiter generously notes those parallels throughout his book.

CRA Staff and Approved Researchers

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Providers of Religious Services in Australia in 2016
The profile of Australian clergy provides some insights into the vitality and health of the church as a whole. However, getting a reliable picture of Australian clergy across the denominations is almost impossible. There are many hundreds of denominations, some of which keep better records than others. In some places, clergy are appointed by local churches and have no wider recognition. In many places, the leaders of congregations are lay people who may or may not have had any training. Some denominations count retired people, while others count only those in active service. Some count those in administration and teaching who could be leading a congregation, while others do not.

Personal Income in the 2016 Census
In the 1933 Australian Census, in an attempt to assess the effects of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, a question about income was asked for the very first time. It has since been included in every Census since 1976.

Catholic Religious Orders and Recruitment, 2000-2015
In February 2018, a report on a large-scale study of recent recruitment to Catholic religious orders in Australia was released. The report uncovered some common characteristics of religious orders that are attracting new members. It also corrected two common misconceptions: first, that only conservative or traditional religious orders attract new members; and second, that only people who were born overseas are entering religious life in Australia.

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Pointers December 2017 – PDF version

Inside this issue:

Immigration and Its Continuing Impact on Religion in Australia
While the Australian government has cracked down heavily on people arriving in Australia without visas by boat, it has continued to allow in many migrants who arrive in other ways. The 2016 Census recorded 2,309,756 people who had arrived in Australia in the ten years between 2006 and 2016 and who remained in Australia at the time of the Census: an average of about 231,000 people per year. Immigration has contributed greatly to the increase in Australia’s population. Over that ten year period, the total population increased by 3.5 million. Immigration accounted for 65 per cent of that growth.

Census data for Church Life and Mission
One of the strengths of the Christian Research Association for many years has been its unique role in compiling, analysing, understanding and disseminating Census data for local churches, denominational leaders, and other church or Christian organisations to assist them in supporting church life and mission.

A Few Facts about the Fastest Growing Immigrant Group
The growth of the Indian diaspora in Australia over the past ten years has been phenomenal. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of Indians in Australia has grown from 147,106 to 455,389 according to the population censuses, a growth of 210 per cent.

Church Growth amidst Decline in Scotland
Peter Brierley, the former director of the Christian Research Association in the UK, has recently completed a census of the churches in Scotland. He has written up the results in a Growth Amidst Decline: What the 2016 Scottish Church Census Reveals. The patterns were similar to those occurring in Australia: evidence that what is happening in both countries reflects larger trends in Western cultures.

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Pointers September 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

 

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Pointers June 2017

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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.
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Pointers March 2017

Pointers Vol 27 no.1

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‘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.
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Pointers December 2016

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Social Connectedness: The role of the local church in building community
In the digitised, commercialised western world, a great deal has been written about the loss of community and the impact that lack of connectedness has on mental health and well-being (Emery, 2012; Hughes et al., 2007; Pretty et al., 2006; Putnam, 2000; Mackay, 2014). Loneliness is seen as an increasing social problem affecting many people in modern society. Older people, people who are unemployed, young mums and people with limited financial means are all vulnerable and may experience social isolation and loneliness as a consequence of their individual circumstances.

Retreats and Camps for Young People
Graham Rossiter, professor in the Cardinal Clancy Centre for Research in the Spiritual, Moral, Religious and Pastoral Dimensions of Education at Australian Catholic University, has just published a book about retreats in Catholic schools: Research on Retreats: The views of teachers and senior students about retreats in Australian Catholic secondary schools. It claims to be the largest study of retreats ever conducted in the English speaking world, based on surveys of 150 students and 500 teachers from 40 Catholic schools. The results are significant, not only for Catholic schools, but for education in general.

Disability in the Church
US Catholic parishes and People with a Disability
At the recent meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and Religious Research Association, held in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the papers reported on a recently conducted study of American Catholic parishes and people with disabilities. The paper was delivered by Jonathon Holland, a researcher from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the US Catholic research office located at Georgetown University in  Washington DC. The results of the study warrant reflection about the importance of the inclusiveness of churches toward people with a disability.

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Book review:
A HANDBOOK FOR BUILDING STRONGER PARISHES
Trudy Dantis (2016).
ACBC Pastoral Research Office A Handbook for Building Stronger Parishes is an excellent resource for church leaders and local churches in developing parish ministries. Compiled by Dr. Trudy Dantis and based on her important research on parish vitality, this publication details several inspirational case studies from across Australia, focusing on the achievements of these parishes in various areas that are critical to the overall ministry of the parish.

The “return of theology” to the social and political sciences:
A very brief introduction

There has been a long tradition in Australia, going back to the sectarian conflict in the colonial era, of excluding theology as a legitimate subject of study, let alone as relevant to serious research in Universities. There has also been an implicit acceptance by researchers in the late twentieth century of a strong version of the secularisation thesis. With the anticipated departure of churches and Christianity from public life, researchers concluded that they could develop careers with apparently more promising and viable research agendas, making theology irrelevant. Operating outside this academic environment indifferent to theological issues, the Christian Research Association (CRA) has explored with academic rigor both religious practice and its institutional manifestations, while paying attention to broader societal implications. CRA has also from time to time surveyed the social science literature that underpins its research. Such literature surveys are important in offering the opportunity to reframe and refocus the research.

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Pointers June 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

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CRA Announces a New Director
The Board of the Christian Research is delighted to announce the appointment of Wilma Gallet as the director of the Christian Research Association from 1st July 2016. Wilma Gallet worked in the public service for many years before  being asked by The Salvation Army to establish E-Plus, the Army’s employment services. Since that time, she has  worked extensively with other welfare agencies in the various churches. She has just completed a doctorate at  Melbourne University on church-administered welfare and government. Her management and research skills,  knowledge of the churches, ability to make the findings of research available through written materials and oral presentations, and experience in commissioned research in church-related organisations make her eminently suitable for the position. We look forward to the development and growth of the CRA’s service to the churches under her guidance.Where’s the difference:Christian or secular welfare services?
Church groups in Australia have a long involvement in providing welfare services. Indeed they are among the largest providers of various services including aged care, homelessness services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, family services, poverty relief and health services. In an increasingly competitive and secular environment, churches are faced with a range of challenges, not the least of which is how to remain faithful to their mission and calling and demonstrate distinctively Christian characteristics in delivering these services. This article raises some of these issues and points the way toward further research in this important area of ministry.

Intergenerational Churches?

To what extent should churches be developing intergenerational activities and programs, and to what extent should they develop activities to cater for the different generations? The importance of having services of worship and educational activities which cater for the different generations is being challenged by recent research in the United States. But how valid is that research for Australia? This article looks at the research and the Australian situation.

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Is Sport an Australian Religion?

There has been a connection between sport and religion since ancient times. Games played by Greeks around 900 BC were based upon religious beliefs and mythology. The early Greek Olympics were religious ceremonies. What has been handed down in the form of the modern day Olympic Games is much like a great liturgical event, particularly the opening and closing ceremonies in which “masters of ceremonies, celebrants, acolytes, and ecstatic public” honour the ‘god’ of sport (Cipriani, 2012, p. 147).

Youth and Church in the Age of Experience

There is a strong focus on experience in many Australian churches. Much of the emphasis in youth worship is on the provision of environments which will generate positive experiences for young people. In educational contexts, youth ministry seeks to help young people to interpret the experiences of daily life in terms of the activity of God in their lives. This article explores these experiences and how young people have explained them to us.

Mental Health and Coexisting Physical Health Conditions in Australia

In December 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the findings of a survey of the mental and co-existing physical health conditions of Australians.


Youth Ministry Roundtables
The Christian Research Association is conducting a series of Roundtables on youth ministry. In January 2016, a Roundtable was held with 26 leaders in youth ministry in Melbourne. In February 2016, we were in Sydney, and in April 2016 we plan to go to Adelaide. These Roundtables have discussed the  results of the CRA’s research into youth ministry in local churches. Some of the issues are discussed in this issue of Pointers.
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Youth Leadership

In most organisations, leadership is one of the keys to the successful achievement of the organisation’s goals. This is true in relation to church leadership in general and leadership of youth ministry in particular. In our studies of youth ministry across 21 churches in Anglican, Catholic and Salvation Army denominations conducted in 2014 and 2015, we have observed youth leadership, interviewed youth leaders and discussed leadership with young people. This article discusses some of the findings. For the sake of clarity, we will use the term ‘youth minister’ to refer to the senior or leading youth leader, and the term ‘youth leader’ to refer to other people who assist the youth minister in the role. It should be noted this was not the way these terms were used in many of the churches we visited.

Lay Pastoral Ministry
In many denominations, non-ordained people are involved in ministry alongside those who are ordained. Research undertaken by the Christian Research Association between 2006 and 2008 for Uniting and Anglican churches explored the patterns of lay ministry in rural areas. With declining numbers of clergy available for ministry, and declining capacity to support ordained clergy, many denominations have engaged local lay people to take responsibility in leadership (Hughes & Kunciunas, 2008, 2009). Urban churches also often use non-ordained people as part of a team or to take the responsibility of leadership in small churches. Earlier this year the CRA was commissioned by the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry, of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, to carry out research examining lay pastoral ministry in the Catholic Church in Australia. The project involved an exploration of current theological and sociological literature on the topic, and a series of case studies of Catholic parishes in different contexts where lay pastoral ministry is occurring.This article summarises some of the findings.

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Leadership into the Unknown
We all make decisions that have an impact on our future. Yet, we can never be sure what the future will be, and whether our decisions will be right or not. The dilemma is heightened for those in leadership. People expect leaders to know what will be the consequences of their decisions. Leaders often pretend that they do. But leadership, in fact, often means making decisions which have unknown consequences. This is an issue for leaders in church and mission as well as in every other field of endeavour. It was the subject of one of the plenary sessions at the Lausanne International  Researchers’ conference in Kuala Lumpur in May 2015.

The Search for a Public Christianity?
In recent decades, a number of organisations have been established to explore the intersection of faith and Christianity. An early example, the Zadok Centre, was founded in Canberra in 1976 by its inaugural director Dr David Millikan.The article describes a number of such organisations which now exist around the world.

Pilgrimage
This article is based on two papers that were presented at the International Society for the Sociology of Religion held in Belgium. It looks at the different forms pilgrimage takes today, including The Hajj and pilgrimages to Neolithic sites.

 

 

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