Church and Society

Discussion Time:

Re-building Confidence as a Prelude to Healing

Rev Dr Philip Hughes

One of the major issues that the churches face as they seek to find ways of providing a ministry of healing in the community is the lack of confidence in them. The International Social Survey Program surveys of 2009 and 2018 show that the proportion of the Australian adult population indicating they have a great deal of confidence in churches and religious organisations fell in just those nine years from 20 per cent to 11 per cent. In 2018, 57 percent of the population indicated they had little or no confidence in the churches. Previous research has suggested that the levels of confidence are most strongly related to whether people believe that the institution or company is committed primarily to serving its customers or those who come to it for assistance or whether it is more committed to protecting its own reputation and financial resources. Many Australians appear to believe that the churches are most interested in protecting their reputation, their resources and their heritage. This paper will explore the extent to which the lack of confidence is related to the perceptions of the churches’ misuse of power and the extent that it is related to the rejection of the Christian faith: the beliefs and the morals, and, in particular the sexual ethics of the churches and the churches’ own moral failures. Understanding the lack of confidence can provide the starting point for understanding how to re-build that confidence in order to conduct its ministry of healing. The paper will explore some of the potential ways that might happen and what that means for the development of practical theologies.

Bordered by COVID-19 and the EU-27: imagining a theology of global domicile

Rev Assoc Prof Darrell Jackson

The European Union is predicated upon the notion of the free movement of people, capital, and goods, within and among its member states. This fundamental basis of the EU has been sorely tested by the challenge of undocumented migrants crossing the EU’s external borders. More recently, the incidence of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen restrictions imposed upon the free movement of people within the EU. Whilst the latter restrictions do not break EU legislation, they pose a significant existential threat to the nature of the Union. These are accompanied by a growing tide of responses that prioritize the claims of the nation state above all other obligations that might exist, whether under International Law or any remaining sense of moral or ethical obligation. European churches have maintained an active role in refugee advocacy and welfare for over half a century, fostering processes of welcome and integration throughout this period. More recently, these concerns have been matched by a growing awareness of the need for ecclesiology that transcends borders whilst sensitive to their legal and political necessity. This paper will explore characteristic responses of the nation-state to migrants, with reference to the work of Thomas Nail, and contrasts these with a constructive attempt at a diaspora theology that is fit for purpose within the context of the European Union and its member states.

The Relevance of Joseph Cardijn and his Spirituality in a Postmodern, Post Royal Commission and the Synodal Church of Pope Francis

Wayne McGough

Practical Theology is a core discipline to connect biblical studies, church history and systematic theology to make it relevant to the secular, post modern, materialist, consumer world we live in the developed world. The evolving pastoral issues that are continually changing because of social disciplines and praxis have created a large continuum of matters between the previous black and white world of moral absolutes I grew up in seven decades ago. So matters like abortion, euthanasia, divorce, sexual identity, contraception and ecology no longer fit and as a consequence traditional religion no longer provides answers that seem relevant to people who are trying to make sense of lives at a universal or situational level of complex life choices that confront them every day. The situation in Jesus' world was not dissimilar, where authorities in civil and religious government had retreated to regulation and laws to preserve society losing sight of the effect on its people. In our present world the retreat to similar reactionary solutions and leaders is evident in our political and religious institutions. In the post-French Revolutionary world of the nineteenth and pre-Vatican II world of the twentieth century, we waged several wars and revolutions to resolve the right form of government and Church that would respond to these needs. That was the world that Joseph Cardijn was born into and nourished in. His idea of See, Judge and Act, a refinement of the seventeen steps in Ignatian Spirituality he learned in the seminary, was for ordinary laymen who lacked spiritual education. The second part of his genius was to see that the grassroots, ordinary people of God were blessed with the gifts and fruits of the Spirit that they did not recognize and were left untapped by themselves as well as by the broader Church. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries we saw many great religious and lay leaders who understood this, people like Frederick Ozanam, Mary McKillop, Caroline Chisolm and Don Bosco, and the founder of the Scout movement, Robert Baden-Powell. Cardjin came into a priestly tradition where priests served from the presbytery, a tradition which he quickly reversed by greeting workers outside the factory gates and at the train stations, places where a priest was never before seen. He grew up in the era of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who could see that market capitalism left most impoverished and unprotected as they are today under the same market theory. So, beginning with a group of female textile workers who were amongst the most oppressed, he started a group which gave them a sense of empowerment that could influence and change this reality. First step was to see the real world issues of which they were a living part. Second step was to reflect on the Jesus narrative of what he did in a similar position and discern what they were being called to do, then take some form of action about the issue. This was followed by review meeting on their actions which built their sense of self esteem and God-given dignity as human persons, not simply disposable cogs in a machine. That idea came to Australian in the late 1930’s and spread quickly amongst several generations of seminarians and laity which established a broad range of organizations across the country. It is the language of Pope Francis in every document he has published since his election. It was a language he learned in his exile to the northern region of Argentina and being influenced by Helder Camara and his own Jesuit spirituality.