Good article on the growth of ‘multicultural Christianity in Sydney:

The proportion of Australians declaring they have no religion climbed from less than 1 per cent at the 1901 census to 18.7 per cent in 2006. But Christian churches are not lying down. This Easter, dozens of them have nailed an open letter to the outside of their buildings challenging the atheist academic Richard Dawkins, who is visiting Australia for the Global Atheist Convention starting in Melbourne this Friday. The churches claim serious errors of logic about God and faith by Dawkins, author of The God Delusion.
The open letter questions how Dawkins can dismiss the historical evidence of Jesus and warns of the cruelty of atheist communist regimes. It also asks how Dawkins can write that the universe appears to have ‘‘no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference’’ and then go on to say that religion is ‘‘a significant force for evil in the world’’.
Either way, churches like Quakers Hill are growing, not dying, fuelled by immigration, housing development and religious innovation. As the sign outside declares, it is ‘‘a church for everyone’’ and the senior minister, the Reverend Geoff Bates, is proud of the eclectic range of services on offer.

Secrets of divine women exposed, reporting on the role of women in the origin of faiths.

 Although histories denied this female influence, the protests of churchmen speak volumes. Tertullian writes in the 2nd century of the ‘‘mad insolence of women who have dared to wish to teach’’, the Council of Nimes in 394 outlawed the ‘‘priestly service of women’’, Pope Gelasius rails that ‘‘everything that is exclusively entrusted to the service of men has been carried out by the sex that has no right to do it’’, and as late as 829 AD the Reform Synod of Paris trumpeted ‘‘women press around the altar … indeed even dispense the body and blood of the Lord to the people. This is shameful and must not take place’’.

In Islam, too, new evidence gathered over a period of 25 years by the scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi shows the premier roles women took in the early development of Islam.

The story of women and religion has been one of conflict and denial. But consider this. Of all the images of the human form found in sacred spots between 30,000 and 1000 BC, more than 90 per cent are of the female form. When our ancestors tried to work out what it was to be human they turned to the female for guidance.

And finally, “An angry priest scatters the money lenders“, on the rejection by some US Churches of major US banks.

The banks helped precipitate the financial collapse by selling mortgages to people who could never afford them. When the financial system collapsed they accepted a $US205 billion ($199.2 billion) bailout from taxpayers, but once refinanced they refused to help homeowners by modifying their mortgages.

‘‘I actually went to a meeting in Washington and I said to Tim Geithner [the Treasury Secretary and author of the bank bailout], that he had to make them help, but he said there was nothing he could do. I was astounded,’’ says Father Rien.

But it was the outright fraud by America’s big banks that finally made Father Rien an activist for the first time since he was ordained 40 years ago.

Hardly a good news story, but good to see the Churches acting.