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Trends in Faith and Church. Rev Dr Philip Hughes Christian Research Association. Trends in Tasmania. Comparison of Denominations 2006 - 2011. Some Points of Interest. Tasmanian population is growing slowly
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Trends in Faith and Church Rev Dr Philip Hughes Christian Research Association
Some Points of Interest Tasmanian population is growing slowly Throughout Australia, the number of Christians continues to rise, but not at the same rate as the population Now just over 13 million or 61% of the population, up by 3% in 10 years Across Australia, other religions have risen faster than Christianity, by 60% over 10 years, but are still only 2% of the Tasmanian population Most of the increase has been because of immigration of young families Hinduism is the most rapidly growing religion in Australia Immigrants, however, are also moving to 'no religion' in significant numbers Across Australia, 'no religion' counts for 22% of the population – compared with 29% in Tasmania Much of the increase in 'no religion' is due to people who did not answer the question in 2006 describing themselves as 'no religion' in 2011
Denominationally Anglicans declining across Australia Baptists growing in most places Catholics growing because of immigration Pentecostals continue to grow, but now at the same rate as the population nationally Uniting Church, Presbyterians and Salvation Army is in decline nationally
Immigrants in Tasmania Immigration a major factor in religious change People from other religions from 5 to 7% Australians, but just 2% Tasmanians About 2,000 a year to Tasmania Largest group – Chinese Then UK and New Zealand. Also many Indians and Malays
We see some gradual trends … They reflect some revolutionary changes
We are at a special moment in human history In the ways, we have thought of our identity Partly as a result of globalisation of humanity In the ways we deal with the past And our understanding of tradition In the ways we put together our view of the world, previously through religion As something determined by individuals
Our Identity For millennia, hunter gatherers were associated with tribes and extended families The individual was entirely absorbed by the tribe Often, every member of the tribe wore the same distinctive dress World 'beyond sight' was seen in terms of a great variety of spirits, in natural world, ancestors, within Spirits could help or hinder, required acknowledgement
Remnants of hunting and gathering communities remain Asian and African tribal peoples Aboriginal traditions But also in more sophisticated cultures where other traditions have been over-laid like the Thai
Development of Settled Communities … Nations … Empires As farming communities developed, tribes increased in size, and settlement led to the formation of 'towns' and 'nations' Within these nations, people had diverse roles And social classes emerged But identity was of class and occupation within the nation With communities came belief in gods With larger and more powerful nations, belief in more powerful gods
Cybele Greek: Artemis Roman: Diana Goddess of hunting and fertility
Around 5th Century BC Religion changed from paying homage to the gods to living morally Isaiah and other prophets challenged Israel Socrates and Plato challenged Greek society Buddha challenged the Indian subcontinent Confucius challenged the Chinese empire Been continuing 'reminders' of the moral dimension of religion Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi
These Prophets Brought a Moral Dimension to Religion They challenged people to reflect on the way they lived … rather than simply requiring 'acknowledgement' as had the spirits and gods
Other Developments Religions moved from being national to being global Jesus and Christianity Buddha and Buddhism Mohammed and Islam Baha'i faith Religions became increasingly focussed on holy texts with the advent of printing Protestantism Sikhism
Rise of Educated Trading Class Middle class emerged as an independent part of society in 15th century in Europe Development of own educational institutions Development of independent religious organisations - denominations Authority seen to reside in religious texts Meaning found through roles in society, nation and religion, in occupation, in denomination and in obedience to the religious texts Faith provides the basis for belief in an ordered, structured world For example, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists
Rise of Industrial Communities Rise of the working classes in 19th century Development of 'small groups' Emphasis on personal religious experience Authority resides in religious experience, but is interpreted by the community Faith provides the basis for belief in a personal God who is a 'friend' in times of need For example, Methodism and Pentecostalism
Rise of Post-Industrial, Global Communities Middle class morphs into society of individuals Life becomes an evolving biography Series of different occupations Series of relationships Series of voluntary personal interests Organised religion becomes personal spirituality
Today, personal identity is no longer primarythe individual's relation to nationsor classes Identity is formed reflexively And is continuously variable When we describe ourselves … Often speak of our biography Jobs we have done Places where we have lived Our family We are individuals All of us are different, unique, creating lives
Changes in society Ethnicity no longer clear for many of us People are highly mobile geographically Increasingly see ourselves as part of a global humanity No longer clear class divisions People are highly mobile socially Financial division not linked so clearly to certain occupations or family history
Understanding of history and tradition Personal identity used to be determined largely by one's history and its traditions Still is for many people, such as the Indigenous people of Australia Every child learnt at series of stories, patterns of behaviour, which determined how one lived Today, most of us feel that we can pick and choose what traditions we adopt
Personal Challenge Some individuals take advantage of the freedom of our age Find satisfying occupations Develop worthwhile relationships Find sense of purpose Nurture their own sense of spirituality Some individuals struggle to find what suits Fail to find place in society, relationships with others Life becomes aimless
In last 50 years Religion as Institution Hierarchical leadership Associated with ethnic heritage To Spirituality as Sets of resources Individual 'ownership' Developed individually
Massive Turn in Western Culture Others ... argue that we are witnessing a tectonic shift in the sacred landscape that will prove even more significant than the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. What we are living through, they argue, is nothing less than radical change in which religion - namely Christianity - has been eclipsed by Christianity ... what Charles Taylor calls 'the massive subjective turn of modern culture'. ... It is a turn away from life lived in terms of external or 'objective' roles, duties and obligations, and a turn towards life lived by reference to one's own subjective experiences (relational as well as individualistic). Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead, The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2005. Introduction.
What Does 'No Religion' Mean? • Fundamentally, it means 'not identifying with a religious organisation' • For some, it means not identifying with a particular religious denomination • For some, it means 'spirituality' rather than denomination • For others, it is the rejection of anything beyond
For most Australians • Religion is simply not on the agenda • Most do not feel any need for it • Except as encouraging care • Around 25% of the population 'do not know' if there is a God, and another 35% are not at all sure • And have no particular reason to solve the issue
Why? • Can live without reference to whether God exists or not • Although sometimes, belief in God gives some additional hope, eg in sickness • Widespread lack of confidence in the churches – worse than Federal govt! • Many see hypocrisy, and 'judgement' • Science provides adequate picture of the world for most purposes
Hence • Increasing scepticism about religious institutions • Some turn to 'spirituality' • Others do not feel the need for either spirituality nor religion
The Ministry of the Church In a Disinterested Age
Plenary discussion: 1. List the major types of ministry 2. How well received are each of these and among who?
Group discussion: 1. What does the Census and survey data and the reception of ministries tell us about the population's perspectives of religion? 2. How should we respond theologically? (What works should not necessarily determine directions.) 3. What should be our directions for ministry in the future? 4. Are there forms of ministry in which we can better do together than as separate denominations?
Some of my conclusions • Build on effective ministries such as • Education • Welfare • Chaplaincy • These offer connections • But all of these more effective if the spiritual and communal dimension is integrated
Thai Church Story • Examined the Thai Church as it related to culture in order to reflect on how we should be relating to culture • On the surface, the Thai church looked American • Architecture • Dress of minister • Liturgy style • Music
At heart, in the practice of faith ... • Thai church was very Thai • Most sermons were developments of the theme 'Do good, receive good; do evil, receive evil' – the law of Karma • People placed Bibles under their pillows to 'get better' • People thought of God as the great and most powerful 'Spirit Lord'
Consequently • The Thai Church appeared to be 'foreign' and unattractive to most Thai • The Thai Church did not offer real alternative ways of dealing with the challenges of life • Except in terms of patronage from a 'higher spirit' • And hence most Thai felt Christianity was an alternative to Buddhism • And, mostly, Buddhism was adequate Just 1% of Thai people are Christians.
In the West • To what extent do we 'dress' Christianity in a 'foreign' cultural dress? • Forms which made more sense in the 19th or early 20th century, eg in architecture, music, liturgy? • To what extent do we offer a really different way of meeting the challenges of life? • That might be meaningful to people who are struggling?
Provide Opportunities for Exploration of Faith • Many people want to explore options for life, including faith • But not willing to be supportive of 'heavy' institutions • Provide new options through small groups, courses, immersion experiences • Note success of 'The Abbey' • Also success of Alpha Groups
Build on Openness to Spirituality • Through schools • Through welfare • Through community activities • Shown how attention to the spiritual can enhanced most aspects of life
Variety in Forms of Engagement • Do not put all resources into 'local community congregations' • What about festivals of faith? • Immersion experiences? Retreats? • Offer small groups advertised through mass media • What about engaging people in the spiritual dimension of our present economic problems, environmental issues, healthcare, etc.
What can be done together better than separately? • Festivals of faith? • Programs of engagement through education, music, retreats, immersion experiences …? • What about small rural communities? • Ecumenical congregations? • Social welfare activities?
Christian faith was never meant to be static • As the church moved out of Palestine • The church faced many new challenges • Now as the church faces a post-modern and individualistic society • So there is a need to develop new expressions • A matter of building the new alongside the old • I believe, as we do, we will find God ahead of us