A call to be creative, courageous and hopeful
July 6, 2022
Written by Rev Sharon Hollis, President of the Uniting Church in Australia
The 2021 Census figures released last week reflect a trend for people to be less interested in and committed to the Christian faith and organised Christian churches in particular.
For the first time, fewer than half the Australian population identified as Christian (43.9 per cent down from 52 per cent in 2016) and 38.9 per cent said they had no religion (up from 22 per cent in 2011).
The Uniting Church experienced a similar downward trend, with 2.6 per cent of respondents identifying with the Uniting Church, down from 3.7 per cent in 2016. However, it’s worth noting more than 670,000 people still identify with the Uniting Church.
While these figures point to decline, they are also an opportunity to reset, to re-examine our life as the Uniting Church and to discern the call of the Spirit in the transformation that is taking place.
There is an opportunity to reshape how we see ourselves in the public space. We are one voice among many in the public conversation. We need to develop a deeper theology of living our faith away from the centre of society.
There is an opportunity to listen to those who no longer identify with organised Christian churches. To wonder, with humility, why fewer people are interested in hearing from the church about the Gospel.
It demands a willingness to change those things in our life that hinder people from hearing the good news of love, justice and life that the story of Jesus proclaims.
We have to take seriously what these trends say about the medium-term future of the Uniting Church. We must take steps to rethink our polity, structure and practices to enable us to respond better to declining membership and grasp the opportunities for new ways of being followers of Christ.
The Act2 project began with these questions and thoughts in mind and provides opportunity for us as a national church to do the thinking and discernment that must take place if we are to continue to offer the Australian community the opportunity to be a part of something that is meaningful and transformative.
Most of all, we should not lose heart. We need to be creative, courageous and hopeful about the good news of life in Jesus Christ. Let us seek fresh and new ways to share the story of Jesus, seeking to witness to God’s transforming love in all we do.
READ another take on the Census data from Rev Dr Apwee Ting on how a more culturally and religiously diverse Australia might enrich and expand our life as the Church.