A recent national survey highlights that culturally diverse parishes are significantly more common in the Catholic Church compared with other Christian denominations.
The National Church Life Survey released its findings that about half (51 per cent) of all Australian Catholic parishes are multicultural.
Dr Ruth Powell, Director of NCLS Research, said Australia has among the highest proportions of multicultural local churches in the world.
“Our latest estimates are that 23 per cent of all Australian Christian local churches can be defined as multicultural, based on the country of birth of church attenders,” she noted.
“This is much higher than the USA, where multicultural churches are only around 14 per cent of all churches. It is against this background that the extremely high figures for Catholic parishes really stand out.”
Dr Powell said it is critical that both church leaders and scholars consider culture, ethnicity and race when engaging with underlying systemic issues – including the importance of diverse leadership.
A research colloquium on 14 March brought together scholars interested in ethnicity and religion, and highlighted 2016 National Church Life Survey datasets available for future analysis.
“Survey forms were provided in 10 different languages and our datasets now have around 80,000 church attenders born outside of Australia, including 56,000 respondents from non-English-speaking backgrounds,” Dr Powell said.
“We hope to stimulate new research among scholars and students in the field of cultural diversity and churches.”
It was shown from the 2016 National Church Life Survey results that more than one-third of Australian church attenders (36 per cent) were born overseas, one of the most dramatic increases in the churchgoing population (up from 28 per cent in 2006).
Of those born overseas, some 27 per cent of churchgoers were born in a non-English speaking country, which is higher than in the general Australian population (22 per cent).
Dr Powell said these latest figures demonstrate that Australian churches, now more than ever, need to be engaged in discussion around how best to be inclusive and empowering of attenders from diverse cultural backgrounds.
“Catholic parishes, in particular, have much to teach us.”