As transpires through churches’ attempts in assisting Australia’s


As demonstrated by census data obtained
within recent years, the religious landscape of Australia has undergone rapid
change since the wake of the Second World War, seeing the nation evolve into
both an increasingly secularized and religiously diverse society. Such
transformation demands that interactions of those practicing different beliefs
sustain a pursuit of peace and social justice, a triumph most efficaciously participated
in by Australian mainstream Christian churches as a means of ensuring their
relevance in an increasingly pluralistic society. Whilst involvements in
interfaith dialogue have helped to create a peaceful multifaith environment, Christianity’s
own denominational differences have been celebrated under an ecumenical
movement. Efficacy also transpires through churches’ attempts in assisting
Australia’s reconciliation with its indigenous people.

 

During the post-war period, Australian
society saw both ethnic and religious diversification that necessitated reappraisal
of traditional sectarian methods. Christian churches have largely responded to
this change efficacy, imbuing the Australian religious community with a sense
of continuously developing interfaith dialogue through their unprecedented
efforts. The Second Vatican Council’s 1965 document Nostra Aetate which permitted Catholics to engage in dialogue on
equal terms with other religions created a fundamental basis for the development
of interfaith dialogue in Australia, with Catholic influence extending into more
recent years with Pope John Paul II hosting an interfaith prayer service in the
Domain in Sydney in 1996. Despite Australia’s interfaith dialogue lacking
explicit action of other denominations, the hosting of the 1989 fifth world
assembly of Religions for Peace in Melbourne embodied an effort of all
Christian churches in ecumenically uniting to intensify the Christian approach
towards achieving respect and appreciation for Australia’s shifting religious
landscape.

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In recent years, Australia’s religious
landscape has shifted on a narrower level through an increasing prevalence of
denominational switching within the Christian faith. Churches have responded to
this change with extreme efficacy through a national ecumenical movement,
despite historical dispute between Christian denominations. Blossoming to life
at the turn of the 19th century, Christian ecumenism was initiated
by Anglican and Protestant churches, the dialogue joined by Eastern and
Oriental churches throughout the 1960s and 70s. Undeterred by failed efforts of
the Protestant Church in the early 20th century, the Presbyterian
Church’s 1945 vote to reopen negotiations with Methodist and Congregational
churches eventuated in the 1972 formation of the Uniting Church of Australia. The
Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane at the time, Francis Rush, described the
occurrence as “the most significant ecumenical event in Australia’s history”.

The contemporary church is renowned for it’s ecumenical aims, its formation
explained in ‘The Basis of Union’ as their “seeking to bear witness to that
Unity which is both Christ’s gift and will for the church”.

 

In the midst of Australia’s attempt at
reconciliation with it’s indigenous people, Christian Churches have somewhat
responded with efficacy to the changing society around them, as their
connection with Aboriginal spirituality can be inherently problematic. With a
vast majority of Indigenous Australians affiliating with Christian churches,
mainstream denominations have attempted to assimilate them into the
institutional church through the development of an ‘Aboriginal Christianity’. Some
denominations have been somewhat successful in integrating aboriginal
spirituality with their own beliefs and practices; the Assemblies of God Ganggalah
Church does not commemorate Australia Day as a congregation, whilst the
Australian Churches of Christ Indigenous Ministries has become a part of the
Churches of Christ Global Mission Partners, working towards establishing
sustainable Christian indigenous partnerships. However, such efforts have been
met by conflicting views, such as that of Chicka Dixon, stating “For mainstream
churches to try to absorb Aboriginal culture is genocidal. We will lose our
traditional ways if they continue to marry our beliefs into their religious
beliefs”, highlighting the presence of a primitive, seemingly colonizing
mindset within contemporary churches.

 

Ultimately, the response of Christian Churches
to Australia’s changing religious landscape has been efficacious, yet could
still benefit from a more sensitive approach to certain cultural differences.

Interfaith dialogue has proven itself as a progressive response to an
increasingly diverse society, whilst previously condemned differences within
Christianity itself have been mended and celebrated in an ecumenical movement.

Whilst controversy surrounds the efforts of churches in assisting the
Australian movement of reconciliation, it is undeniable that such efforts have
been exerted with good intentions; their negative interpretations, whilst
valid, were not the intended result of attempts to reconcile.

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