Bishops back new evangelisation initiative

As census figures show that the tide may be turning on church attendance, Australia's bishops are backing a new outreach initiative based on a growing recognition that religious decline is an important national issue.

Archbishop John Bathersby, Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Mission and Faith Formation, who will have oversight of the new National Office for Evangelisation said the bishops are concerned with the decline in the practice of the faith, an bishoips' media statement says.

"The National Office for Evangelisation will give renewed emphasis to the need for the Church to reach out and share the good news of Jesus Christ with all Australians," he said.

"In particular, the program for parishes to reach out, listen to and welcome inactive Catholics back to the practice of the faith is a very important step forward."

The initiative also seeks recognition that the decline in the practice of the faith is an important national issue. It seeks to address this decline at both diocesan and parish levels through training and outreach programs.

Meanwhile, The Age reports that the tide has turned for Australian churches after years of declining numbers, but the problem will get worse before it gets better, according to the authors of a church "census".

The survey, believed to be the biggest in Australia after the real census, reveals that churches are reinventing themselves for the 21st century and that worshippers are happier with church, more motivated and more community-minded than before.

However, ageing congregations - in many local churches the average age is over 70 - were "a huge sword of Damocles hanging over the church", according to the director of the National Church Life Survey, Keith Castles.

"It's like the global warming debate. If we act now it will still get worse before things turn around, and it's the same for the church," Dr Castles said.

But churches were no longer in denial, and there was a creative energy emerging across the denominations, he said.

The survey - previously done in 1991, 1996 and 2001 - last year involved 400,000 churchgoers in 6000 churches representing most large denominations, providing the biggest church database in the world.

Catholic Church backs initiative for inactive Catholics (ACBC, Media Release, 18/5/07)
Flocks are motivated, happier (The Age, 19/5/07)
Desire to help puts new life into churches (Sydney Morning Herald, 19/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Enquiry Centre
National Church Life Survey

200,000 forms distributed in church life survey (CathNews, 7/8/06)

21 May 2007