Australian Anglicans and Religious Plurality: Exclusive Theologies vs. Theological Affirmations of Diversity - A Tale of Two Cities


  • Gary Bouma Monash University



religious diversity, Anglicans, religious discrimination, religious vilication, inclusion, multifaith societies


Religious Diversity both within and between religious groups has long challenged Anglicans. The demographics of religious diversity shape interreligious relations. Societies where one group dominates numerically and adds to this cultural domination and state support are very different from societies where no one group dominates. In Australia, Anglicans have been one group among others, sharing state support in the early nineteenth century and civic recognition today. Australian sectarian rivalries of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries occasioned both alliances among Protestant groups anticipating and advancing ecumenism, and bitter anti-Catholic division. Meanwhile internal religious diversity among Anglicans seemed to exceed the differences between them and others. The logic and behaviours of ecumenism were extended by some to Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others; while exclusivist theologies prevailed in other quarters. The demographics of religious diversity are now felt in nearly every city in the world. This is particularly true of Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. This plurality not only enables everyday encounters between people of many faiths, but calls for the completion of the theological work begun by Bishop Kenneth Cragg and others; theological work that moves through mutual respect and recognition of irreducible difference to accepting religious diversity as part of the orders of creation and discerning Jesus’ respect for religious diversity in the Gospels. This article provides data on the Australian experience; recounts the development of interreligious relations through the lens of a comparison of Melbourne and Sydney; and does some biblical and theological work toward valuing God’s gift of religious diversity.

Author Biography

Gary Bouma, Monash University

Gary D. Bouma AM is the UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations—Asia Pacic, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Monash University, Australian node of the Religion and Diversity Project, University of Ottawa and Associate Priest in the Anglican Parish of St John’s East Malvern. He is President of the Australian Association for the Study of Religions. He was Chair, Board of Directors, for The Parliament of the World’s Religions 2009. His research in the sociology of religion examines the management of religious diversity in plural multicultural societies, postmodernity as a context for doing theology, religion and terror, and religion and public policy. He is the author or co-author of over 25 books. Recent books include: Australian Soul: Religion and Spirituality in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge University Press); Democracy in Islam (Routledge); Religious Diversity in Southeast Asia and the Pacic Islands: National Case Studies (Springer); and Freedom of Religion and Belief in 21st Century Australia (Australian Human Rights Commission). His latest book is Being Faithful in Diversity: Religions and Social Policy in Multifaith Societies (ATF). He was awarded an AM for services to Sociology as an academic, to interreligious relations and to the Anglican Church of Australia in 2013.



How to Cite

Bouma, G. (2013). Australian Anglicans and Religious Plurality: Exclusive Theologies vs. Theological Affirmations of Diversity - A Tale of Two Cities. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 26(2), 139–156.