Chaining Australia: Church Bureaucracies and Political Economy

Chaining Australia: Church Bureaucracies and Political Economy

Chaining Australia: Church Bureaucracies and Political Economy

Chaining Australia: Church Bureaucracies and Political Economy

Excerpt

Late in 1983, a document entitled Changing Australia appeared under the aegis of the Australian Council of Churches and the social justice commissions (or equivalent) of the three major Australian denominations - Catholic, Anglican and Uniting. This document was interesting for several reasons. In the first place, it was the first time the four bodies had produced a statement on Australian society (at least one of such length) to which all the bodies had given explicit consent: it was a triumph of ecumenism. In the second place, the document was clearly designed for extensive use in local congregations and small ecumenical groups. This was not a statement merely to be shelved, along with other ecclesial utterances, in the back rooms of church bureaucracies: Changing Australia was clearly intended to be the basis for discussion and consequent action within the church at large. Third, the document was widely circulated. Copies were, we understand, sent to every parish of the sponsoring churches in Australia: Changing Australia aimed to make a splash. Finally and perhaps most importantly, Changing Australia is a radical document. It aims to secure 'broad ranging changes in Australia's economic and political system'. Moreover, it aims to secure these changes on putatively Christian grounds. That is, the changes in Australia's economic and political arrangements that Changing Australia calls for are seen by the authors of document to be required by, and to follow from, a proper understanding of the Christian gospel. For the Christian, the arguments are meant to be compelling.

Changing Australia seemed to us to merit response. Apart from any other considerations, the attempt to link the Christian gospel to a particular political agenda, of whatever ideological hue, raises important questions of legitimacy. Is there a specifically Christian politics? Is one economic system recognisably superior to all others solely on theolo-

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