With the abandonment of the White Australia Policy under
Holt Government, the increasingly multifaith and pluralistic nature of post
1945 Australia forced the churches to reassess their past sectarian ways.

 

Succeeding World War 2, Australia transformed into an
increasingly diverse and globalized society. With
immigration from locations including Italy and Malta, the Catholic Church increased
from 4% from 1947 to 2011. Paradoxically, the initially dominant Anglican
Church declined by 22%. Other immigration-based changes included an increase in
the Orthodox Church – with migrants of Greek, Russian and Eastern European descent
– the formation of reformed bodies – such as the Pentecostal, Lutheran and
Baptist churches – additional ethnic parishes and rise in non-Christian
religions – including Buddhism from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia,
and Islam from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran.

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Within this increasingly pluralistic and
multi-faith society, gradual globalization and evolving social values have contributed
to a rise in
secularism. Straying from Christian traditional roots, the freedom
to be religiously selective to gain spiritual fulfillment has been reflected
through the rise in denominational switching, particularly towards the Pentecostal
and Evangelical churches. Tthe Pentecostal church increased of 60% in the past
decade. Through its ecstatic festivals of contemporary music such as Hilson, it
delivers to the excitement and self-gain sought by modern capitalist society.

 

With Australia’s decreasing Christianity, the mainstream
churches have renewed their relevance by becoming more involved in issues of
peace and social justice. Demand for harmony and racial tolerance have produced
broadening ecumenical and interfaith perspectives.

 

To promote the restoration of unity amongst all
Christian divisions, the Anglican and Protestant churches first initiated the
ecumenical movement in Australia. Events such as the formation
of the Uniting Church in 1977 were followed by the emergence of the National
Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) in 1994 – in which the Eastern and
Oriental Orthodox Churches joined in the late 1960s. The group of fifteen
churches aims to promote a unified front on important issues, commitments such
shared ordained ministries and theologically agreements were unprecedented half
a decade ago. In partnership with state ecumenical councils such as the 1982
NSW Ecumenical Council, it runs interdenominational programs including The
Social Justice Network and A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

 

In an increasingly secularised society, interfaith
dialogue assists with uniting differing religions together in their common
proclamation of the important of faith. The
Second Vatican Council’s declaration of the 1965 Nostra Aetate enabled the Catholic Church to enter dialogue with
other religions including Hinduism,
Islam and Judaism. Since 2000, Religions for Peace Australia has sponsored
interfaith initiatives nationally, including the Australian Council of
Christian and Jews. The 1997 Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations addresses
misconceptions through methods such as employing social media to serve
Australia’s technologically familiar society.

 

Australia’s growing recognition and sensitivity of Aboriginal
spiritual perspectives has influenced the development of an ecological
awareness in the Christian Spirituality. In
1996, Patrick Dodson, a chairperson for Aboriginal Reconciliation expressed
that ‘A united Australia” is one that “respects this land of ours” and
“provides justice and equality for all”. Similarly, a united Christianity is one
that abandons the horrors of Australia’s past missionaries, and infuses
Aboriginal ceremonial and ritual culture into churches. This initiative, particularly
adopted by the Protestant Church, responds to the majority of Indigenous
Australians that are affiliated with Christianity. While events such as the
1993 Week of Prayer for Reconciliation are steps towards working ‘with’ the
Aboriginal people rather than ‘for’ them, the journey towards reconciliation remains
ongoing.

 

In essence, in Australia’s transforming religious
landscape – which is increasingly diverse, and increasingly non compliant to
traditional spiritual approaches – the Christian churches have responded effectively
by strengthening relationships within their divisions, and with other religious
traditions. However, the treatment of Indigenous Australians,
and excluding refugees by closing the borders, are current and ongoing tensions
that must be responded to.