Christianity in Australian History

Christianity in Australian History

Christianity in Australian History THL231 (Bachelor of Theology) is being taught at United Theological College in 2019.

This subject examines the history of Christianity in Australia from 1788 to the present. Drawing upon historical and sociological studies of the Christian churches in Australia, this subject considers the distinctives of immigrant religious traditions and the effects on churches of drought, pluralism, economic depression, two world wars, post-war immigration and exposure to American culture. The subject also investigates interaction between Christianity and Indigenous peoples, and the engagement of the churches in education, welfare, intellectual and cultural life, and politics. That engagement is further considered within the framework of contemporary historical and theological discussion of mission in a post-Christendom context.

Call UTC to enrol for courses in 2018.
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2018 UTC Education Prospectus – Downloadable PDF (2MB)

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this subject, students should:

  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of the context in which British settlement in Australia began
  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of major issues in the development of Australian religious communities
  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of problems faced by religious traditions that came to Australia
  • be able to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the place of religion in the development of Australian communities and their sense of identity
  • be able to demonstrate an ability to engage critically with claims made about Australia’s religious past, especially through examination of contemporary records
  • be able to provide an account of the impact of globalisation and postmodernity on the mission of the church
  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of the major sociological and historical accounts of the role of Christianity in Australian society with reference to empirical research
  • be able to discuss critically the theological and ecclesiological themes relevant to an understanding of mission after Christendom
  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of church-state relations in Australia
  • be able to exhibit a sound level of skills for historical study
  • be able to demonstrate self-guided and collaborative learning, including research, writing and communication skills.


The subject will cover the following topics:

  • themes in, and contexts for, Australian religious history
  • Australian religious historiography
  • religion in a penal colony
  • contesting the place of religion in a new British settlement
  • the impact of Gold Rushes and colonial self-government on Australian churches
  • prosperity, growth, depression and drought as crises for ‘a Christian country’ 1860-1899 CE
  • comparing the impact of World War I and II on religious and church life
  • post-World War II immigration and its impact
  • religious pluralism and other challenges to the contemporary church
  • Australian religion and the quest for a national identity
  • missionary expansion of Australian churches among indigenous peoples, immigrant Chinese and in the South Pacific region
  • relations between indigenous peoples and the churches to the present
  • prominent issues in Australian church-state relations, particularly education
  • assessing Australian culture and society’s engagement with the gospel
  • the impact of secularisation upon religion in Australia
  • empirical studies of congregations – what do they tell us?