By Professor Anthony Maher (pictured, inset), the Executive Director of the Charles Sturt University Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra, and the Director of the Centre for Religion, Ethics and Society (CRES). He will deliver the inaugural ‘Wisdom for the Common Good’ series public lecture in Canberra on Thursday 11 May.
My talk, ‘The State of the Church: Back to the Future’, is based on academic research but is accessible to the public, particularly those interested in the state of the Church today and its place in Australian society in the future.
The 2021 Census shows that nearly 10 million Australians indicated they had no religion; the data also shows a reduction of more than a million Christians since the 2016 Census.
The statistics highlight an increasing rate of decline in Christianity and a trend that has continued since the 1960s.
So, is Australia becoming a Godless nation?
th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche right? Have we killed God in Western culture?
Are we currently in the midst of the greatest and unnamed ‘schism’ in the history of the Church? Should Australians be concerned, and if so, why?
I suggest there are various and interrelated sociological reasons for the decline in mainstream Christianity in Australia, including, the so-called ‘turn to the self’; a more ‘me’ focused mentality increasingly prevails in Western culture rather than a community or even family outlook.
Other factors include improvements in education and prosperity, along with internal institutional issues, such as the child abuse scandal, the role of women and issues of sexual ethics.
Perhaps the most significant factor is the evolution of the autonomous ‘thinking self’, as the authority on all matters of faith, belonging and sexuality.
Drawing upon a chapter from my forthcoming book with Professor Stan Grant, Refounding Australia: a theology of liberation, I will offer a forthright assessment of the health of the Church in light of the 2021 ABS census data, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the recently concluded Australian Catholic Plenary Council.
I’ll further argue for a ‘refounding’ of the Church’s Mission and identity, looking at the past to envision the future.
I propose that the Church of the future requires an unambiguous, contextual and inclusive articulation of Christian love, imagining a Church as expansive as the Australian landscape and as generous as the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The inaugural ‘Wisdom for the Common Good’ talk ‘The State of the Church: Back to the Future’ by Professor Anthony Maher is at 6pm to 7.30pm on Thursday 11 May in the Chapel at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, George Browning House, 15 Blackall Street (corner of Kings Avenue), Barton, Canberra, ACT.
Professor Stan Grant will respond to the ‘State of the Church’ lecture from the perspective of First Nations spirituality and the theology of Yindyamarra. To attend this free event please register.
This public lecture is the inaugural lecture in the ‘Wisdom for the Common Good’ series. ‘Wisdom for the Common Good’ lectures will be held annually, bringing academic research to bear on the issues confronting the Church and Australian society today.
See other Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture event details here.
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