At the height of the Brexit debate in the UK a politician, Jo Cox, was slain by a man reportedly shouting “Britain first”. During the heat of the US election campaign the now President of the US, Donald Trump called for a halt to immigration from Islamic countries, sentiments echoed by One Nation’s Pauline Hanson on her return to Australian parliament.
In the new era of Brexit, President Trump and the return of One Nation, the Church of All Nations in Carlton has organised a timely conversation: ‘Who do you say I am: identity, multiculturalism and Christianity in contemporary Australia’. Over the years, reflecting the diversity of Carlton, the Church of All Nations congregation has played host to various Christian communities, from Spanish reformed to Assyrian Christians. These days the congregation parish mission engages with newly arrived migrants from the Horn of Africa (many of whom practice the Islamic faith), and the Sunday service includes people from various cultures, including international students.
Among the questions to be explored at the event are – what are the various Christian perspectives on multiculturalism? Church signs regularly advertise worship services in a language other than English, alongside an English-speaking service. Can this sometimes be a bit of a ‘marriage of convenience’ at the local level? How does the ‘rubber hit the road’ in multicultural congregations, parishes and faith communities? Finally, what is the most faithful way for Christians to engage with debates about migration and multiculturalism in the public square?
Three speakers will discuss these issues with the audience.
Rev Dr Christine Sorensen (formerly of Pilgrim Theological College, now Dean of Formation at United Theological College, Sydney) will draw on her experience of cross-cultural work. She will focus on how we create a community where people are well formed in Christian faith across cultures.
Theologian and academic Rev Dr John Flett, based at Pilgrim, will reflect on a range of important issues including: the fear of the stranger and the nature of hospitality and sanctuary in Christian history.
Matthew Tan is a noted Catholic blogger and theologian specialising in migrant identity and international relations. He is also Adjunct Senior Lecturer of Theology at the University of Notre Dame Australia. He will discuss various ways to view migrant identity. The cosmopolitan view prioritises the cosmetic and culinary. The postmodernist sees cultural identity as fluid and changeable. A Christian theology has the capacity to go deeper and transform the multiplicity with love.
The Church of All Nations is well placed to host this important event. On the same day as the forum a morning service will be held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the congregation, previously known as the Presbyterian and Methodist Co-operation, being renamed Church of All Nations.
The change signified the welcoming of newcomers arriving from Europe who, at that time, were often viewed with suspicion or even hostility.
For details about the event go to: carlton-uca.org/news/event/who-do-you-say-i-am/