As created a fundamental basis for the development

As demonstrated by census data obtained
within recent years, the religious landscape of Australia has undergone rapid
change since the wake of the Second World War, seeing the nation evolve into
both an increasingly secularized and religiously diverse society. Such
transformation demands that interactions of those practicing different beliefs
sustain a pursuit of peace and social justice, a triumph most efficaciously participated
in by Australian mainstream Christian churches as a means of ensuring their
relevance in an increasingly pluralistic society. Whilst involvements in
interfaith dialogue have helped to create a peaceful multifaith environment, Christianity’s
own denominational differences have been celebrated under an ecumenical
movement. Efficacy also transpires through churches’ attempts in assisting
Australia’s reconciliation with its indigenous people.

 

The post-war period in Australia saw both
ethnic and religious diversification that necessitated reappraisal of
traditional sectarian methods. Christian churches have largely responded to
this change efficacy, imbuing the Australian religious community with a sense
of continuously developing interfaith dialogue through their unprecedented
efforts. The Second Vatican Council’s 1965 document Nostra Aetate which permitted Catholics to participate in dialogue
on equal terms with other faiths created a fundamental basis for the development
of interfaith dialogue in Australia, with Catholic influence extending into more
recent years with Pope John Paul II hosting an interfaith prayer service in the
Domain in Sydney in 1996. Despite Australia’s interfaith dialogue lacking
explicit action of other denominations, the hosting of the 1989 fifth world
assembly of Religions for Peace in Melbourne embodied an effort of all
Christian churches in ecumenically uniting to intensify the Christian approach
towards achieving respect and appreciation for Australia’s shifting religious
landscape.

 

In recent years, Australia’s religious
landscape has shifted on a narrower level through an increasing prevalence of
denominational switching within the Christian faith. Churches have responded to
this change with extreme efficacy through a national ecumenical movement,
despite historical dispute between Christian denominations. Blossoming to life
at the turn of the 19th century, Christian ecumenism was initiated
by Anglican and Protestant churches, the dialogue joined by Eastern and
Oriental churches throughout the 1960s and 70s. Undeterred by failed efforts of
the Protestant Church in the early 20th century, the Presbyterian
Church’s 1945 vote to reopen negotiations with Methodist and Congregational
churches eventuated in the 1972 formation of the Uniting Church of Australia. The
Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane at the time, Francis Rush, pronounced the affair
as “the most significant ecumenical event in Australia’s history”. The
contemporary church is renowned for it’s ecumenical aims, its formation
explained in ‘The Basis of Union’ as their “seeking to bear witness to that
Unity which is both Christ’s gift and will for the church”.

 

In the midst of Australia’s attempt at
reconciliation with it’s indigenous people, Christian Churches have somewhat
responded with efficacy to the changing society around them, as their
connection with Aboriginal spirituality can be inherently problematic. With a great
majority of Indigenous Australians affiliating with Christian churches,
mainstream denominations have attempted to assimilate them into the
institutional church through the forming of an ‘Aboriginal Christianity’. Some denominations
have been fairly successful in incorporating aboriginal spirituality into their
own beliefs and practices; the Assemblies of God Ganggalah Church does not
commemorate Australia Day as a congregation, whilst the Australian Churches of
Christ Indigenous Ministries has become a part of the Churches of Christ Global
Mission Partners, working towards establishing sustainable Christian indigenous
partnerships. However, such efforts have been met by conflicting views, such as
that of Chicka Dixon, stating “For mainstream churches to try to absorb
Aboriginal culture is genocidal. We will lose our traditional ways if they
continue to marry our beliefs into their religious beliefs”, highlighting the
presence of a primitive, seemingly colonizing mindset within contemporary
churches.

 

Ultimately, the response of Christian Churches
to Australia’s changing religious landscape has been efficacious, yet could
still benefit from a more sensitive approach to certain cultural differences.

Interfaith dialogue has proven itself as a progressive response to an
increasingly diverse society, whilst previously condemned differences within
Christianity itself have been mended and celebrated in an ecumenical movement.

Whilst controversy surrounds the efforts of churches in assisting the
Australian movement of reconciliation, it is undeniable that such efforts have
been exerted with good intentions; their negative interpretations, whilst
valid, were not the intended result of attempts to reconcile.