Category Archives: Religion

Progressive Spirituality – Link to ABC Broadcast with Rachel Kohn

This week’s Spirit of Things (ABC Radio National) focuses on progressive spirituality. Crossan, Borg, Webb and Scott are interviewed by Rachel Kohn. If you missed the Brandon Scott seminars in New Zealand and Australia here is a chance to catch up on the search for the ‘real’ Jesus.

The ABC’s podcast can be picked up at:–body-and-spirit/5736320

Call for submissions to Assembly: UCA Discussion Paper on Marriage

UCA Discussion Paper on Marriage  and Same Gender Relationships                                 

The discussion paper on marriage requested by the UCA 13th Assembly has been provided by the Doctrine Working Group for distribution and consideration.

The UCA General Secretary has issued an invitation to send submissions to the Assembly by 10 October 2014 so they can be collated and provided to the Assembly Standing Committee for its meeting in November this year.

The following link will take you to the links to pdf copies of the discussion paper and other relevant documents:


Americans and the Bible

Thanks to David Judd for gathering this data. Is Australia different?

The Bible in American Life

This is the title of a very comprehensive and detailed study done by The Centre for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis. It is a 44-page document which can be viewed at A brief summary appears below. The figures are for the USA and perhaps Australia is different?

Scope of the study: This included which versions of the bible, whether the memorisation of passages is encouraged, favourite books and stories, personal reasons for reading, sources of help for understanding and interpreting the bible, religious traditions and the extent to which the internet and electronic devices are used. Some conclusions:

Those who read scripture in the past year: The initial question was whether people had read the Bible, Torah, Koran or other religious scriptures during the past year. 50.2% said Yes, with 49.8% saying No.

Ages of those reading: Not too surprisingly the highest percent was in the over 75s where 56% said they had read scripture during the past year. The lowest was the 18-29 group with 44%.

By region: Again not too surprisingly the highest percentage came from the South with 61% followed by the Midwest with 49%. The West was 44% and Northeast 36%.

Word of God? 45% said they believe the bible is the inerrant Word of God. 46% believe it is the Inspired Word of God while 9% consider that it is a book of fables.

By race: Not a question which arises much in Australia but in USA blacks were the group who read the bible most at least once in the past year – 70% of all blacks. Among Hispanics 46% of them read it, with 44% for whites and 28% for others.

Frequency of reading: Among those who had read in the past year, 78% read at least monthly, 54% weekly and 17% daily.

Which version? Here the results were dramatic with a whopping 55% favouring the 400 year-old King James version, despite the explosion of new versions in the last half-century or so. Second was the NIV at 19%. Continue reading

Comment: Australians losing their religion

Australians steadily losing their religion:

                                                                                                                        Rodney Eivers

The  Courier-Mail of 30th December 2013 noted:

“We love Christmas and spend billions to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ but according to a report Australians are losing their religion.

The number of Australians  reporting themselves as having “no religion” on the census has jumped from one in 250 in 2011 to more than one in five at the most recent census in 2011.

And many of those who nominate a religious affiliation do not participate in religious activities.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics social trends report provides the first in-depth look at the 2011 census data on religion.

Rates of reporting “no religion” have been steadily rising, and Australia is not alone in this – rates are also rising for countries like New Zealand, England and Wales, Canada, the US and Ireland…On current trends “no religion” will be the most popular response in the next census.”


Comment: This report is only telling us what we already know. Opinions will vary as to whether the falling away of declared religion (in the Australian context probably “denomination” rather than religion in its more esoteric sense) is a good thing or a bad thing.  For those of us who, especially from a Christian perspective, believe there is “life yet in the old story” the confirmation of this trend can lead us to ponder where the future leads for institutional Christian religion. John Spong may well be right in his prophecy that “Christianity must change or die!”


We in the Lay Forum would seek to do our bit. We might say that a sub-theme of the Lay Forum is supporting the Uniting Church in adapting to change. People will have different ideas of what that change might comprise.  For some it means becoming more “Christ-centred”.  For others it means “getting back to the Bible”. I fear that retreating in this fashion may make Christian faith less and less accessible to the growing secular community


Statistical projections suggest that Western mainline Protestant denominations may be a thing of the past within 30 years. My own view is that the prospect of surviving, albeit at a smaller numerical level, could come from exposing the current religious constituency to the revelations of modern Bible scholarship and through integrating the general community into participation and initiation of religious activity. An example of this latter process may be seen in the way Christmas is as big as ever but much of the initiation of the celebration is now coming from outside the churches.*


The report by the ABS may be found through this link:

*Rex Hunt in “Cards, Carols and Claus” describes how this has happened in relation to the Carols by Candlelight concerts in the major Australian cities.  Another example might be the growing “religionisation” of ANZAC Day  by young people.