Whither the Australian Anglican Church?

Whither the Australian Anglican Church?

A Divided Church

This week the General Synod of the Australian Anglican Church has been debating what its stance is to be on human sexuality. A vote to affirm the church’s traditional position on marriage was strongly supported by clergy and laity but was narrowly rejected by the bishops. A split is looming, but in this, Australian Anglicans are not unique. In recent decades, Christian denominations all across the West have been dividing along progressive versus conservative lines. Anglican Churches in Scotland and New Zealand have been impacted by this trend. In North America, denominations affected by splits include the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the American Baptist Churches USA.

The trigger in all these cases has been whether the church will endorse same-sex unions. However, the fault lines run deeper than attitudes to human sexuality.

Why Is It So?

Despite appearances, this church division is not just about sex. In One Faith No Longer: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America, American authors George Yancey and Ashlee Quosigk recently argued that progressive and conservative Christians now differ so profoundly that they can no longer be considered members of the same religion. The fundamental issue is different systems of meaning. Progressives value a humanistic, post-Enlightenment ethic of social justice, downplay the idea of exclusive truth, and seek a flexible and inclusive theology. On the other hand, conservatives find their identity in obedience to a supernatural God revealed in the Bible, adhere to a historical theology which encompasses sexual ethics, and emphasise the supremacy of the Bible in forming doctrine.

The tension between these two outlooks was anticipated in Immanuel Kant’s famous essay ‘What is Enlightenment?’ in which he asserted that human beings are progressing. Kant rejected fixed creeds and dogmas when he wrote:

An epoch cannot conclude a pact that will commit succeeding ages, prevent them from increasing their significant insights, purging themselves of errors, and generally progressing in enlightenment. That would be a crime against human nature whose proper destiny lies precisely in such progress.

On the issue of human sexuality, theological progressives stand with Kant, “progressing” and “purging themselves of errors”, while conservatives stand against Kant, holding on to their creeds and dogmas.

This theological division goes much deeper than two previous disputes that are sometimes mentioned in connection with the current divisions: the ordination of women and the question of divorce. It is not inevitable that those who support remarriage of divorcees or the ordination of women will line up in favour of a change in the church’s position on human sexuality. The culturally innovative Australian Pentecostals have long accepted women as pastors but they maintain a conservative Christian position on sexual ethics. Another example is the United Methodist Church (UMC) in the USA, in which theological conservatives are strongly committed to the ordained ministry of women, but are now proposing to separate from their progressive counterparts due to differences in their views on biblical authority and sexual ethics.

It needs to be noted that the terms “progressive” and “conservative” as used here refer exclusively to theology, and not culture. Theological conservatives can be culturally progressive – for example embracing new liturgies or new music – while theological progressives can be culturally conservative.

Assumptions and Facts About Denominational Decline

Much secular commentary has assumed that the conservative side of this divide is doomed to cultural irrelevancy and decline. In fact, the opposite is true, as theological progressivism is everywhere associated with denominational decline, while conservatives thrive. An example can be seen in North America, where the continuing Episcopal Church, which has embraced same-sex marriage, is in steep decline while the breakaway Anglican Church in North America, which maintains a conservative position, is growing rapidly.

In Australia, the contrast between theologically conservative and progressive Anglican dioceses is stark, as revealed in a 2014 General Synod report on denominational viability. At the time of the 2011 census, the conservative Dioceses of Sydney and Armidale had, respectively, 9.7% and 7.9% of census Anglicans in church on any Sunday, while progressive Brisbane and Perth managed to attract to church only 2.1% and 2.6% respectively of census Anglicans.

The current dominance of conservatives at the Australian Anglican General Synod reflects their greater success at retaining and growing their membership. For example, the Brisbane and Sydney Dioceses historically have had approximately the same number of nominal Anglicans as measured by census responses, but by 2011 conservative Sydney had more than five times the overall Anglican attendance of progressive Brisbane.

One of the most striking demonstrations of the dominance of theologically conservative Christianity has been the rise and rise of Pentecostalism. Although Anglicans are sometimes claimed to be the second largest Christian denomination in Australia, they have already been eclipsed in terms of numbers of weekly worshippers by the Pentecostals, who, enjoying a much younger demographic profile, will only continue to increase their share of Australian Christians in the years to come. The advance of the Pentecostals to this dominant position has been astounding: at the start of the twentieth century the Pentecostal movement did not even exist, and its growth has taken place during a period of widespread decline in Christian observance.

Claims and Facts About Representation

Although it has been claimed by progressives that conservative dioceses have stacked the Anglican General Synod by ordaining excessive numbers of clergy, the reality is just the opposite. Australian Anglican conservatives are under-represented, not over-represented, at the General Synod. For example, the progressive Perth and Brisbane Dioceses have two clergy for every hundred worshippers while the more conservative Sydney and Armidale Dioceses have just one cleric for every hundred worshippers. If the Anglican General Synod membership were based on numbers in the pews rather than numbers of clergy, Sydney Diocese could have as much as double the General Synod representatives it currently has.

Sexual Ethics and Denominational Decline

Research reports (1, 2, 3)  published in 2014 by the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) found that younger Australian Christians are generally more conservative in all aspects of sexual ethics than older Australians. Baby boomers, who now dominate in declining churches, held the most progressive views on sexual ethics. For example, in 2014, 97% of young adult church goers aged 20–30 believed that adultery is always wrong, while only 84% of worshippers aged 60–69 believed adultery was always wrong.

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) is not only the most aged and fastest declining major Australian Christian denomination; it is also the most progressive in its sexual ethics. The NCLS research showed that on all issues to do with human sexuality, the aging UCA has the most progressive profile. In 2014, the UCA had the lowest proportions of members who said sex before marriage is always wrong (32%) and adultery is always wrong (80%). In contrast, one of the most sexually conservative groups was the Pentecostals, of whom 98% said adultery is always wrong and 85% said sex before marriage was always wrong. In 2014, only 5% of Pentecostals agreed with same-sex marriage, in contrast to 26% of Uniting Church attenders.

The 2014 NCLS research also showed that lower frequency in church attendance and personal devotional practices, such as personal Bible reading and prayer, was correlated with more permissive sexual ethics. In other words, the less someone practices their Christianity, the more permissive their sexual ethics.

This NCLS research shows a threefold correlation between an aging demographic, liberal sexual ethics and denominational attrition. The figures show that these correlations are not just about attitudes to homosexuality: they extend to all aspects of sexual ethics, including attitudes to sex before marriage and adultery. This is not about any one point of ethics, but about the way biblical faith is translated into Christians’ understanding of ethics. It is about a different system of meaning.

It must be acknowledged that these broad-brush trends cannot account for all individual differences. There are individuals with progressive sexual ethics who hold a more conservative view of biblical authority, and people who hold to more conservative sexual ethics but are more liberal in their theology. Nevertheless, it is the broad trends which will determine the overall trajectory of denominations, especially those, like the Anglican church, whose governance structures are democratic.

How Splits Work

The denominational splits taking place around the world proceed according to the realities of their own particular contexts. The pattern varies, depending on whether progressives or conservatives are dominant. Wherever progressives are dominant, conservatives tend to break away to form new denominations. This was the pattern of the Episcopalian–Anglican split in North America. In contrast, wherever conservatives are in the majority, progressives tend to follow a path not of separation, but of rogue non-compliance, by including and blessing same-sex couples in defiance of global or national protocols. An example was the North American Episcopalian break with global Anglican protocols on same-sex marriage, manifested in the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly gay, non-celibate man, as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Another example is the USA-based global denomination, the United Methodist Church, which has for decades debated requests to change their Book of Discipline, which labels homosexuality a sin. The conservatives in the UMC, although still numerically dominant, have become frustrated with their progressive co-religionists’ defiance of the denomination’s protocols. For example, in 2016 the openly gay Karen Oliveto was elected UMC Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, and continues in office after the denomination’s highest court, the United Methodist Judicial Council, ruled that her election was in violation of church law. Now the still numerically dominant UMC conservatives are moving to split the denomination, to enable progressives and conservatives to go their separate ways. Chastened by the progressives’ non-compliance, UMC conservatives are hoping to enact stronger disciplinary safeguards in their new denomination, to head off the potential for progressive drift in future.

What Will Happen with Anglicanism in Australia?

The fundamental unit in the Australian Anglican polity is the diocese, so ultimately each diocese, together with its bishop, will have to choose its own path. Because of the ubiquitous pattern of progressive decline, it seems unlikely that progressives will ever gain numerical dominance in the General Synod, at least not in this generation. Up to this point, progressive-dominant dioceses have been exercising restraint, to varying degrees, but as they come to terms with the growing conservatism of the General Synod, their consciences will lead them to ignore or modify national Anglican protocols, first through passive resistance in church discipline, and then through open action.

Perth Diocese has already begun to take steps in this direction. In 2013, the Perth Synod voted to recognise same-sex relationships, and in 2019, it varied the national Anglican code of conduct for clergy, Faithfulness in Service, replacing the injunction that clergy should “not engage in sex outside of marriage” with a requirement that they “not engage in disgraceful conduct of a sexual nature”.

Dioceses like Melbourne, which contain significant numbers of both conservatives and progressives, have a difficult road ahead of them. People who have until now avoided this issue will experience inexorable pressure to take sides. Nevertheless, in such mixed dioceses, the longer this struggle continues, the stronger the conservative position will become, due to ongoing progressive decline: in Melbourne, the strength of the conservative position is apparent in the fact that the overwhelming majority of Sunday School and youth group programs are found in conservative parishes.

It seems inevitable that Australian progressive-dominant dioceses will eventually follow their consciences to fully affirm and welcome same-sex attracted couples, even if this is opposed by a conservative majority of the General Synod. As this happens, conservatives will move to provide separate episcopal oversight to dissenting conservative congregations in progressive dioceses. It seems certain that breakaway conservative Anglican congregations will be established inside progressive dioceses, under the oversight of a new Australian diocesan entity sponsored by GAFCON, a global Anglican conservative movement which has supported similar developments elsewhere. Conservatives will feel justified in taking this step, in part because progressives have done such a poor job in fulfilling the mission of the church, as measured by declining attendances. However, the primary justification will be to provide pastoral oversight for isolated conservative congregations.

At the same time, as progressive-dominant dioceses forge their more inclusive path, it seems unlikely that they will be ready to attempt a parallel church-planting movement into conservative-dominant dioceses, so progressives in conservative-dominant dioceses could be left high and dry.

However the details work out, the inevitable end result of these trends will be two major Anglican churches in Australia: a growing conservative church, and a shrinking progressive church.

It Has Happened Before

Nothing about this future should surprise us: it has all happened before. At the height of the Enlightenment, many English clergy and congregations moved away from credal faith, which Kant had rejected as unenlightened, to embrace Unitarianism. Most English Presbyterian churches went down this track. However, over time, the once thriving Unitarian movement in England shrank and shrank until today it is facing extinction. There was a time when Unitarians were convinced they were on the right side of history, but they were not. Contemporary demographic evidence suggests that the liberal–progressive trend in contemporary Western Christianity will eventually meet a similar fate. Kant’s demand for a progressive theology promised a bright future for humanity, but it proved to be little more than a camouflaged blueprint for Christian irrelevance.

What about the 2022 Anglican General Synod Vote?

What are the implications of the General Synod vote this week, in which clergy and laity affirmed a biblical statement of marriage, 70/39 and 63/47 respectively, but the bishops voted 12/10 against the statement?

First, this vote will make no difference to the eventual outcome, which will be division. The UMC spent two decades voting about same-sex marriage, but the issue did not go away.  This is not the first, nor will it be the last, vote at General Synod on marriage.

Second, this vote will hasten the eventual split. Until now both sides have been exercising restraint, but progressive strength in the House of Bishops will embolden progressives to follow their consciences and include same-sex couples at every level of church life. This will trigger GAFCON’s intervention to offer oversight to conservative Anglican congregations inside progressive dioceses.

Third, the vote has made clear the dominance of the conservatives. For every two theological progressives at General Synod there are three theological conservatives. Given the prevailing patterns of conservative growth and progressive decline described above, conservative dominance can only increase in the years to come. It will be in the interests of conservatives not to abandon General Synod, but to use their strength in that forum to influence the inevitable process of division.

Fourth, contrary to reports in the secular media, the fact that around half the diocesan bishops voted against same-sex marriage shows that this issue is not a tussle between Sydney Diocese and the rest of the Australian Anglican church. In Anglican polity diocesan bishops have the power, through clergy appointments, to determine the theological trajectory of the diocese they lead. The House of Bishops’ vote can therefore be taken as an indication that the conservative-progressive divide will split Australia’s twenty three Anglican dioceses roughly in two.

Conclusion

It is said that wars start when one side in a conflict overestimates its own strength and underestimates the strength of its opponents. Russia’s war with Ukraine is a case in point. Anglican progressives have mistakenly equated the change in sexual ethics with past struggles over the ordination of women and divorce. In so doing, they have misread the theological landscape. Furthermore, in assuming that they are on the right side of history, they have ignored the overwhelming evidence that progressive churches are declining while theologically conservative churches – such as the Pentecostals – are advancing. Although this trend has long been obvious in their own denomination and in other denominations all around Australia, and indeed all across the West, they refuse to see it. Instead, they accuse conservatives of unethical power plays, but this only looks like denial, when the reality is that conservatives have been more effective in passing on the faith, and this fully accounts for the declining position of progressives. God has no grandchildren. The painful reality for progressives is that theologically conservative versions of Christianity in Australia have the youngest, most vibrant demographic profiles. Instead of pointing the finger at conservatives, which will not and cannot help bridge the divide, progressives could be confronting the question “Why is this so?”

A structural split in the Australian Anglican Church now seems inevitable. The ideological split is already entrenched, and will not go away. It arises from a deep clash between the values of the Enlightenment and a biblical worldview. The only question is how the schism will play out and how wastefully destructive it will be. The most sensible and forward-looking thing would be an orderly separation, with assets – both human and material – graciously and fairly divided. Yet Australian Anglicans are far from ready for this. Denial about the reality of the situation in which Australian Anglicans now find themselves seems so entrenched that the process of division will be drawn-out, acrimonious and bitter.

In any case, the eventual separation will happen, come what may.

Mark Durie is the founding director of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness, a Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Senior Research Fellow of the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

12 Comments
  • Carolyn
    Posted at 10:16h, 12 May Reply

    Thank you for your Synod discussion.

    “Anglican progressives have mistakenly equated the change in sexual ethics with past struggles over the ordination of women and divorce. In so doing, they have misread the theological landscape..”

    Can you please explain how SSM and marrying divorcees/ordinating women are different categories?

    thanks

  • Nathan Keen
    Posted at 18:38h, 12 May Reply

    We lived in Adelaide for a time and discovered this split which must have started many years ago. What started occurring was the main conservative church conducted a systematic approach to church planting across the suburbs, even where the progressive churches already were. They were absolutely taking off, in terms of numerical growth. The bishop must have been progressive, because they weren’t happy or cooperative, and these conservative Anglican churches had to engage with them for some formalities. I suspect they’d succeed in a heart-beat if they could.

  • Rene Knaap
    Posted at 18:42h, 12 May Reply

    A helpful article, but failed to give due acknowledgment to the classical, traditional Catholic wing of the church, still alive even if much reduced. Certainly, it no longer had diocesan-wide sway. Also, the spilt between progressives and conservatives did not just jump from the enlightenment to the current situation, but played out forcefully over the ordination of women.

  • Jill England
    Posted at 19:23h, 12 May Reply

    Thank you so much for this comprehensive and very readable article.. It was very encouraging to me personally as someone who has suffered betrayal, shock and grief at the hands of the ‘progressives’ in my local Anglican church and Diocese. I am pro-women’s ordination, sympathetic to the need for divorce sometimes in this fallen world and hold to the orthodox Biblical teaching on sexual morality.

  • Fathe Ron Smith
    Posted at 09:53h, 16 May Reply

    Quote:

    “The only question is how the schism will play out and how wastefully destructive it will be. The most sensible and forward-looking thing would be an orderly separation, with assets – both human and material – graciously and fairly divided. Yet Australian Anglicans are far from ready for this. Denial about the reality of the situation in which Australian Anglicans now find themselves seems so entrenched that the process of division will be drawn-out, acrimonious and bitter”.

    This is an argument of ‘Sola Scriptura’ – which is different from the Anglican Way, embracing typically ‘Unity in Diversity – the charism that has allowed the Church to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in bringing enlightenment where there was darkness and the shadow of death.

    Jesus said not one word about homosexuality. He did say something about divorce!

    Why is it that conservative Evangelicals can accept divorce, while yet questioning the reality of a scientifically proven variety in human gender/sexual identity? (H9omosexuals are neither depraved not sick).

    Now schism is a direct contravention of the high-priestly prayer of Jesus: “that All may be One”. Those who embrace intentional schism (on the grounds of ritual purity) may prove to have been more heterodox than all other sinners in the Church. Christ came into the world to save SINNERS – not the self-‘righteous’ – who may not know their need of God. God have mercy on the Church!

  • Mark Durie
    Posted at 10:01h, 17 May Reply

    Father Ron – my comment about the coming division was not an argument from Sola Scriptura, but what I believe to be a realistic prediction based on current realities. Of course division is not a good thing. And of course one of the good things about Anglicanism is you can believe one thing one day, and something else the next. But this has always applied within limits, which are set by the creeds, by scripture, and by the articles of the church, and administered by bishops and church councils. The current dispute is about what those limits should be.
    Also please note, as I pointed out in the article, this dispute is not just about same-sex relationships: it is about differing ideological worldviews. This can be seen in the correlation with changing attitudes to adultery and fornication. These issues tend to align.

  • Mark Durie
    Posted at 10:27h, 17 May Reply

    Carolyn, your question about why human sexuality and not divorce or ordination of women is the trigger issue that divides is such a key one. Many progressives just cannot see the difference, so they underestimate what they are up against. Here are some (very brief) responses:
    – The division is not just about sexuality – it is a different in world views: different systems of meaning. To grasp the extent of this difference and just how deep it goes, I suggest you read One Faith No Longer and grapple with the data and ideas it presents. to illustrate this, a related issue is the concept of unchastity, which has become a difficult issue of church discipline. Should a bishop withdrawn a priest’s license if she or he is living with an unmarried partner? In practice churches which embrace same-sex also liberalise their views about unchastity (the Uniting Church is an example). Why is this so? It is because the deeper issue is the system of meaning that guides the ethical framework.
    – To my understanding what is theologically different about the current crisis compared to the divorce and ordination of women issues has to do with how the Bible is used. There are many theological conservatives who have embraced the ordination of women, and defend it on biblical grounds (I am one). A key point for me is that the domination of men over women is one of the curses of the fall (Genesis 3) which in the Kingdom of God should be healed. Likewise there are solid arguments which can be made for divorce (but not no fault divorce) on a variety of Biblical grounds. The case for normalising homosexuality is much harder to make BIblically. The Bible is a very heteronormative set of texts: it presents heterosexual relationships as the norm. In my experience it is very hard to find someone with a high view of Biblical authority who defends normalising homosexuality on the basis of Biblical authority. This is not the case for the other two issues. Some arguments used are very poor, e.g. pointing out that Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. Another poor argument is playing the love trump card. We all believe in the importance of love. The challenge in living well in the Kingdom of God is how to balance love and truth.
    – One of the mistakes the progressives have made is assuming that the change in attitudes to divorce and to the ordination of women was a victory for the progressive movement and showed its strength. It was only partly that. The reality was that many theological conservatives supported these changes, on Biblical grounds.
    – One of the interesting things about this question you ask is that this point I am making – that a Biblical argument for doing away with heteronormativity is very hard to make  – is readily apparent to theological conservatives, but seems quite hard for progressives to grasp. This reflects the deep difference in their systems of meaning. I think what is happening is that the arguments the progressives use make sense to them in their theological worldview, but they can’t see how weak these arguments appear to someone who holds a different worldview. They are then puzzled by the rejection, and attribute base motives to the conservatives, such as arrogance, homophobia or self-righteousness, as Father Ron does in his comment. This move makes it even hard for the progressives to understand the conservatives, and entrenches the divide. Many Australian Anglicans have been working hard to prevent these forces for division from being dominant, but eventually things must come to a head, and the two systems of meaning will move farther apart from each other.

  • Mark Durie
    Posted at 10:37h, 17 May Reply

    Rene – a good point about Anglicans of the more catholic persuasion.. I deliberately did not present this as an ‘evangelicals vs the rest’ dispute. In North America the Anglican breakaway groups encompass anglo-catholics and evangelicals working together. At the same time there are progressive evangelicals whose heritage and sympathies are evangelical, but whose worldview has become more progressive than conservative.
    In Australia the conservative anglo-catholic movement is not strong. I was raised in that tradition and values many of its strengths, but it is no longer a major force in Australian Anglicanism. Without a conservative anglo-catholic seminary that movement cannot thrive in Australia. In diocese after diocese anglo-catholicism has drifted into high to mid-church progressivism. Why that has happened is worth pondering.

  • Ted Ansell
    Posted at 23:56h, 17 May Reply

    tThankyou Mark for your well-considered and well-presented article on the future of Anglicanism in Australia.
    My early Christian formation was in the Methodist Church of Australia. During the 1940 – 50s the West Australian Conference took a radical departure from orthodox Christian doctrine to embrace the more rational “enlightened” position. The ‘Personality of the Holy Spirit’ was repudiated, the Scriptures being inspired by God was rejected, the deity and vicarious atoning death of Jesus was rejected, the actual return of Jesus to this world as Judge was scorned, the possibility of a God of love allowing His creatures to suffer for their rejection of Him was regarded as unthinkable. Within two decades most evangelical members swelled the ranks of the Baptists, Churches of Christ, Brethren, and Pentecostals. And where if the Methodist (Uniting) Church today? It has become a social arm of Governments investing its resources in the growing ‘poverty industry’.
    And I am now witnessing the same inexorable decline, and hopefully, demise of the ‘progressive, enlightened’ shrinking faction of today’s Anglican system. I have no fear, however, for the conservative element.

  • Paul Nolan
    Posted at 14:02h, 19 May Reply

    Mr Durie has done a remarkable (unintended pun) service in gathering & putting together so much publically-available data to correctly confirm the basis of his view that it is the ‘progressive’ churches within Anglicanism worldwide whose congregations are shrinking, not the ‘conservative’ ones which in fact are growing. One would never learn this from the MSM, in Australia or anywhere else.

    The just-concluded ACA General Synod, as I understand it from various reports, majority-passed a Statement on day three which stands & a majority-passed Petition on day four which stands. Both are positive achievements from a conservative Anglican perspective. On day five (the last day of the meeting) progressives tried, unsuccessfully, to muddy those waters.

    My only regret, as an ancient Anglican myself, is that the meeting ran out of time, thanks to the progs, to debate whether or not such should continue to call themselves Anglicans. Presumably that debate must await the next General Synod.

    I am not in favour of Gafcon setting up alternative diocese(s) under a conservative Bishop(s) as has happened with the church in New Zealand. If the progs want to set up an alternative for themselves, nothing is stopping them. What the next GS must make crystal clear is that they cannot have their cake & eat it too which is what they have done since Caesar changed the Marriage Act in 2017.
    Paul Nolan

  • Marie-Louise Potter
    Posted at 14:56h, 24 May Reply

    Thank you for these helpful insights. With a desire to have positive conversations with “progressives” is there an approach that can be used as a bridge to talk with them effectively?

  • Mark Durie
    Posted at 06:30h, 29 May Reply

    Marie-Louise Potter – that is a very good question. Sometimes people just do not want to talk, but if they do, that is a good thing. I would suggest a very general approach to help you understand how their Christian faith works in all its dimensions. You might ask questions like this: a) This issue of same-sex relationships seems to be playing out differently from previous issues of divorce and ordination of women, which didn’t lead to major division – why do they think this is so? b) How do they work out their theological views: do they place more weight on Bible, science, their personal relationships, tradition, reason etc? c) Do they think that if the church embraces progressive trends in society that more or fewer people will be attracted to join and church and get involved? d) How would they measure the health of a denomination: the census numbers or people attending church on a Sunday? e) Why do they think church attendance has been declining? f) Do they think grace and truth can sometimes be in conflict? Which do they think is more important in living the Christian life? g) What are their views on homosexual relationships, sex before marriage and sex outside marriage? And what is informing these views – why do they hold those particular views? h) What do they think the church should look like in future? i) Do they think all religions are the same? Does it matter what faith you follow? j) Do they pray and read the Bible in their personal life: how does their personal devotional life work? k) Where do they go to church. How often? How is that working for them? What do they appreciate about church which makes it worthwhile for them to get up in the morning? l) Do they think human beings are evolving or getting wiser over time? On what basis do they form such views? k) What do they think are the biggest challenges facing humanity? l) How do they think the future will view us today? l) What do they believe is the most important thing about following Jesus’ way? m) Does prayer work for them? How does it work? In their experience, how does God answer prayer?

    Questions like this need to be asked, not in a haranguing or argumentative way, or with a view to changing their views, but in a curious inquiring way. Try to understand someone’s whole worldview. I don’t think you can gain understanding by just focusing on one issue. If you were to influence someone to change their views, it would need to be a whole world view realignment, not just a change of mind or heart on an isolated issue..

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