The changingreligious landscape in Australia reveals an interesting element of the changesin our country the past 70 years and mirrors how we feel as a nation. The 2016census compared to that done in 1947 provides empirical evidence of the changesin the composition and beliefs of our population. In broadterms, Christianity has remained the dominant religion in Australia. Catholicismhas remained constant, while Anglicanism has seen a 26% decline in adherence.Other religions have seen a 7.
5% increase, while people identifying as havingno religion have increased by 29%. These changesin Australia’s religious landscape reflect changes in our country and are dueto the following reasons:- Immigrationhas caused an influx of people from different religious backgrounds. There hasbeen a shift from the Anglo-Celtic population to a more multi cultural one.Immigration has also caused an increase in secularism as many new migrants arecoming from countries where the majority of the population is secular.- Post-modernismand hyper-individuality have become more prevalent over the past 70 years as thenature of the population changes. This has led to denominational switching andthe rise of new age religions.- Disillusionmentwith traditional religions as well as skepticism towards the supernatural hascaused the growth of secularism in society.
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This has in turn resulted in agreater number of people not identifying with a traditional religion. The best wayto judge the efficacy of churches in responding to these changes is byinvestigating the changes to their adherents. The three avenues that churcheshave responded to the changes are: the ecumenical movement, interfaithdialogue, and the process of reconciliation. TheEcumenical Movement refers to the movement towards religious unity amongstChristian denominations. This movement has been in response to the increasingsecularism in society and decline of Christianity over the past 70 years and hasassisted Christianity to remain the dominant religion in Australia. In the1960’s and 70’s Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches joined Anglican Churchesin the movement while a number of Catholic Churches only became members in 1994 with the creation of the NationalCouncil of Churches Australia. A significant milestone in the Ecumenical Movementwas the creation of the Uniting Church.
Interfaithdialogue is a process aimed towards promoting understanding between differentreligious traditions. This has been an extremely important tool in respondingto the increase of other religions in Australia. The Catholic Community hasbeen especially effective. Every year, The NSW Council of Christians and Jewsholds a service to commemorate those who died in the holocaust. While, theUniting Church are key members on the Australian National Dialogue ofChristians, Muslims and Jews. The use of interfaith dialogue has been anintegral part of responding to the more multi-faith Australia. In the last20 years the Australian community has worked to develop a closer affiliationwith the Indigenous people. The feeling that they are a very important part ofour culture has translated into the Christian churches becoming a part of thereconciliation process.
The Catholic and Protestant Churches have been active athelping with issues such as land rights, native title, and the formal apology. TheUniting Aboriginal and Islander congress include Indigenous people in theleadership of the church. It is evidentthat certain churches have been particularly effective in responding to thechanges in the Australian religious landscape. Catholic churches have respondedmost effectively and their success is echoed in their consistent percentage ofadherents.
Despite efforts the Protestant churches have seen a percentage decline.The Anglican Church is more closely aligned to Britain and our traditionalroots than any other church in Australia, this combined with an ageing Anglicanpopulation could explain the decline. Pentecostal churches have notparticipated in traditional avenues of response but have been successful inattracting members of the population through their contemporary style ofworship. Despite this,a large part of the population are not attracted to any traditional religion.This has been the largest change in the religious landscape. In summary,certain churches have been effective in responding to changes in the Australianreligious landscape but ultimately they haven’t been completely successful asthere has been a decline in Christianity over the past 70 years.