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Arresting Australia's religious decline


According to 2011 census data, since 2001 the proportion of the population who belong to a Christian church fell from 68 to 61 per cent. This is evident in all denominations, including the three largest: the proportion of Catholics fell from 27 to 25 per cent, Anglicans, 21 to 17 per cent, and Uniting Church, 6.7 to 5 per cent.

Meanwhile, those reporting 'no religion' increased markedly, from 15 to 22 per cent. This was most evident among younger people, with 28 per cent aged 15–34 saying they had no religious affiliation.

The man featured in this video is a leader in analysing and addressing this problem for Australian Christianity. Adrian Pyle is director of relationships and innovation for the Victorian and Tasmanian Synod of the Uniting Church of Australia, in the Culture and Context Unit of the Uniting Church's Commission for Mission.

According to its website, this new unit contains a number of projects, 'each of them a serious exploration of what theology, spirituality and transformative community looks like in places that the church often doesn't reach, or where it doesn't know what to do when it's there'.

As well as an interview with Pyle, the video contains excerpts from a talk entitled 'Awakening Faith in an Alternative Future' he gave recently at the annual gathering of the Sea of Faith Network on the Gold Coast. This progressive group describes itself as 'Australians of widely different backgrounds who are interested in the open exploration and non-dogmatic discussion of religion, faith and meaning'.

After finishing high school in Ipswich, Queensland, Pyle studied commerce and economics at the University of Queensland. After completing his degree he worked with business management consultancy firm, Accenture, then as an executive with Telstra and ANZ Bank.

Following this, in 2004 he moved into work as a lay person with the Uniting Church, first in a parish with the job title of community interaction coordinator. He built links with the local community, and sought to break down stereotypes and barriers in communicating with those outside the church.

After this he became director of the Mission Participation Resource Unit in the church, and in 2009 took up his present position as director of relationships and innovation. The brief is community development, fostering relationships with groups outside the church, and bringing innovative thinking and approaches into the church.

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Adrian Pyle, Anglican Church, Uniting Church



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Existing comments

There are two sides to everything. The drop in religious affiliation is a good result for all of us. Clearly, religions are now being seen for the power hngry machines they are, serving a very Earthly need for the humans who are engaged within the power structure. Religions are used as another arm of government, to prevent any thinking or challenges to the status quo. What we need now though, is a corresponding drop in all the other religions, beyond Christianity.

janice wallace | 18 October 2012  

As a Catholic am I a customer of the Church or a shareholder. I think I have the rights of a customer but not those of a shareholder, so it is little wonder that so many Catholics are shopping elsewhere on Sunday. A shareholder has a sense of ownership while the customer does not. And that to me is the crux of the situation. I am a Telstra Shareholder. I don't run the Company but I do have a sense of ownership. Perhaps we need to restore the sense of ownership and belonging in this changing society we live in

Ken Fuller | 18 October 2012  

Good stuff, though I would like to hear Adrian's views tested by arguments from those of the opposite (traditional) view. Frankly, I don't think it matters if all institutional religion in its present form disappears from the face of the earth, and I'm actually encouraged by the lack of interest by young people as shown in the census, but I think it would be a great loss if the wisdom of the past was lost at the same time.

Ginger Meggs | 20 October 2012  

It sounds like you are being prevented from thinking outside your paradigm as well Janice Wallace... I would say I'm a member of a religion but I never fail to stop thinking and challenging the status quo. Your generalisations are just as shallow as that of the fundamentalist religious people - you claim to know the truth.

AURELIUS | 24 October 2012