2016 Census: Church in transformation

The 2016 Census figures released yesterday show that a majority of Australians (57.7%) still identify as Christian amid a long term trend of falling religious affiliation.

When asked to list their religious affiliation, more than 13.5 million Australians chose Christianity, almost twice as many as chose the No Religion response.

More than 870,000 people – 3.7% of all respondents listed their religious affiliation as Uniting Church. This 2016 figure is down by a total of 195,611 from the 2011 Census – and down from 5% as a total of all respondents in the 2011 survey.

It is the first time in the Uniting Church’s history that the Census figure has slipped below one million, although other major Christian denominations have also experienced drops in membership in line with the generally ageing demographic profile of Australian Christians.

Despite the drop, the result will most likely see the Uniting Church in Australia maintain its position as the third largest Christian grouping in Australia and the third largest religious grouping overall.

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, described the Census result as expected, and spoke of the transformation taking place.

“The Uniting Church is already embracing a future as a welcoming, vibrant, culturally diverse, post-denominational church with the same passion for justice and ecumenism we’ve always had,” said Stuart.

“As Rev Prof Andrew Dutney observed at the 14th Assembly, we mustn’t be so mesmerised by decline that we can’t lift our eyes to see the wonderful thing that the Spirit is doing in gathering the church afresh from the edges,” he said.

“Our Church remains a vital expression of Christ’s mission on the Earth and a source of hope and comfort to the vulnerable and oppressed, and we will continue to work through our congregations and other councils of the Church, our schools and community service agencies to share the good news of Jesus Christ through action and word in the world.”

“The steady increase of people of other faith traditions through migration to Australia also underscores how vitally important our interfaith friendships and conversations are for a harmonious community,” said Stuart.

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