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Recent concern about Islam and Australian values raise the same issues that have been intensely debated in Australian history about Christianity and its institutional manifestations.
The narrowly legal question of church state relations for Anglicans is thus cast in a context of social values influenced by significant lines of continuity with earlier patterns. The situation of the two largest churches might be put baldly in this way.  By and large Roman Catholics grew from being a dissenting minority and they formed attitudes and institutions to sustain their tradition that reflected that position. Anglicans presumed they were the established tradition and more easily collaborated with the broader social developments.  During the last quarter of the twentieth century Roman Catholics have eclipsed the Anglicans as the majority religious tradition. The irony at the end of the twentieth century is that Roman Catholics are struggling to transform their dissenting traditions to their more prominent position and Anglicans find themselves without the theological tools to make appropriate adjustments to their new position.
A lot is at stake in this situation because of the values implicit in our social institutions. Those values were inherited from earlier patterns and have been adjusted over time.  Their serviceability for a modern plural Australia requires not so much their overthrow but their continuing development.  In that process religious bodies need to get their act together on the nature of Australian pluralism and its meaning today.


See how these issues are important in modern Australia.

Australian Pluralism and Religion, On Line Opinion, 8 January 2009

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Bruce Kaye
9 January 2009